At this time last year I was quite uncomfortable about the idea of participating in #365scienceselfies, but still, I agreed to give it a go. I thought it was worth exploring as a different kind of science communication, to show what scientists look like and what we do. I never once thought I’d actually reach the nominal target of 365 selfies, but I was quite surprised to find that I shared 197 selfies during 2016. That’s more than I had expected. If you want to see them all in one place, I made a Storify of my #365scienceselfies posts.
I was very consistent with posts during the first half of the year, only missing the occasional day, but there were more gaps between posts later on. In July and August I spent a few weeks in-between jobs, and a combination of travel and enforced vacation left me feeling less enthusiastic about taking science selfies. Subsequently I’ve been juggling a few different sets of responsibilities and found it a lot harder to remember to take photos when I was actually doing something interesting and sciencey.
As a quick summary, of the 197 selfies I posted, 29 were taken in a lab and 50 with a computer. Sadly I didn’t really do any fieldwork this year, but I did include a few photos from hikes and bike rides. I took 36 selfies at meetings and talks (lab meetings, workshops, seminars, phone meetings…). Other people (colleagues, friends, family) featured in 45 photos and my dogs managed to “sneak” into 8 pictures. Strictly speaking, just under a third of my selfies didn’t actually feature me doing my job, although many of these were work-related, for example those taken at work functions. Finally, it won’t be a surprise to anyone who knows me to discover that 31 photos featured a cup of tea (or in a couple of cases, coffee).
My favourite selfies of 2016
My favourite of my own science selfies from 2016 is this one of me working in the DNA extraction area of the Wildlife Genetics Lab. I absolutely love the view from the lab windows – the trees outside are always full of birds and insects, plovers nest on the roof of the building across the courtyard, and you can watch the weather rolling in from the hills. I always find it very calming when I’m concentrating on tricky labwork. I’m going to miss those views terribly next year when I start a new job.
One of the best and worst things about a career in science is that you meet and work with interesting people from all around the world. Best because you get to make great friends. Worst because those friends then move to other towns or countries for their next jobs. So my other favourite selfies capture some of those moments shared with my science friends – here are a few of them:
I also chose my favourite selfies taken by my WildlifeSNPits colleagues Emily and Stephanie.
I chose this photo of Emily because I can totally relate to carrying unsavoury samples like rat skulls on public transport! I bet nobody who saw her face on the train that day would ever have guessed what was in the bag 🙂
I chose this photo of Stephanie because I love learning about her work with camera traps and citizen science around the globe, and she looks really happy to be there doing interesting work in an interesting place.
What I liked about #365scienceselfies
Despite my initial concerns about #365scienceselfies it has been a fun project, although I’m not really sure whether it has been a science communication success or not. I have had quite a bit of positive feedback through Twitter and Instagram, and perhaps a few of my non-science friends understand a bit more now about what I do. I have also enjoyed following some of the other participants and learning about what science careers look like in other fields and other countries (and learning more about scientist hobbies too!). But I’m still not entirely sure who the target audience was for #365scienceselfies (as a whole endeavour, rather than just my photos) or whether the posts really reached those people.
On a personal level, I’ve enjoyed looking back through all the photos I took and remembering the highlights of the year. In some ways 2016 has been a very difficult year for me (I’m writing this on Dec 31st – here’s to 2017!) so it has been nice to remember the good moments in the lab, the wins with analyses and papers, and the fun and adventures I’ve shared with friends.
What I disliked about #365scienceselfies
Seeing my face grinning back at me every time I looked at my timeline. I’m quite happy to be photographed, but having so many pictures of myself seemed rather excessive. I quickly found a way to get around this, by including some selfies featuring just my hand (also a much less disruptive way to sneakily take selfies during seminars) or by cropping or partly obscuring my face to draw attention to something else in the frame (a book, paper, cup of tea, wine glass…).
Also, as Emily noted, #365scienceselfies is very much a highlight reel, so it doesn’t provide an truly unbiased overview of a career in science. There were many boring days where I spent far too much time staring at a computer, and selectively chose to photograph the one fun thing that happened instead. Some other aspects weren’t included because it is just too hard to take selfies in some lab situations. And on some really bad days there was no way I was in the mood to share.
Would I do it again? Maybe… but I’d like to go into it with a clearer idea of the overall project aims for science communication and a better idea of the audience I’m trying to reach.
Other posts in this series: