Welcome to the fifth post of the series. On this occasion, we have decided to remain far from our silo of social anthropologists to have an interdisciplinary conversation about ‘scientific dissemination’ with the project Eres Ciencia. Eres Ciencia (Spanish for “You are Science”) was created in 2018 by Maite Pérez Cidoncha, a biochemist and virologist with over 13 years of research experience, both in the UK and overseas. Since its establishment, Eres Ciencia has been promoting science knowledge, paying particular attention to engaging with Spanish-speaking women and children.
Ricardo: Let’s start with the name Eres Ciencia. When and why did you come up with the idea of Eres Ciencia? Do you believe that we are, as academics, sometimes hidden in our university departments and research centres?
Maite: It was at the beginning of 2018 when I was thinking of creating Eres Ciencia. In that moment I was trying to define how and what I wanted to transmit with the project, and the values and philosophy behind it. From the very beginning, one of the main ideas that I wanted to transmit is that science is everywhere. It is something that touches all of us. I don’t believe in the classical separation between arts and science. I think it doesn’t make any sense. In the end, science as arts is part of our culture as humans. I think that the name Eres Ciencia (“You are Science”) summarises quite well that idea and I was lucky enough that nobody was using it online or in social networks. Sometimes the good names are taken.
About the question if academics are sometimes hidden in the university departments and research centres, sadly the answer is yes. We are focused on our experiment, in our research, and sometimes it is hard moving out from there. On the other hand not every scientist has to know how to communicate effectively his/her work to society and that’s ok. That’s why science communicators exist. Nevertheless, I think it’s necessary that universities, research centres and organizations make a real effort to transmit that knowledge to society. I feel that there has been a huge improvement over the last few years to make it happen. The UK was always on the top, but I can see that Spain is also running in a good direction and that makes me happy.
Ricardo: Today, English is increasingly considered to be the ‘global language of science’ and researchers from around the globe have little incentive to publish in other than English. Do you believe that this is one of the reasons for the scarcity of scientific dissemination resources in Spanish?
Maite: Of course that doesn’t help, but I believe the problem has deeper roots. I think it is more related to the scientific culture of the different countries and the amount of people working in science. For example, in the UK traditionally there was science everywhere: in radio, TV, press, books… All the schools visit science museums and make science experiments. That helps to improve the science culture of the country and increases the amount of scientific resources in the language as well.
Another important factor is the number of people that have a science degree and/or work in science. When this number is higher you also have more people that work specifically in science dissemination or that want to create that kind of material in their free time.
And also we shouldn’t forget how much money a country invests in science. When this number is higher the amount and the quality of the science dissemination material increases as well – making the general public demand more too. It’s like a snake biting its tail.
Fortunately this is something that’s improving in Spanish. The 3 factors are getting better and you can feel how in the last 5 years there is a boom in science dissemination projects from Spain and also from South America.
Ricardo: Regarding your target audience, are there many differences depending on the social media and/or social networking service used?
Maite: Yes, of course. Every social media has its own public. For instance, it’s a different audience on Twitch or Tik Tok (normally young people and teenagers) than on Instagram or Twitter. I think the key is to bear this in mind when you start any kind of communication project. Know your public well: what their interests, habits and likes are. One thing I realized when I started Eres Ciencia three years ago is that the majority of science dissemination projects were on Twitter and or YouTube. Both are great platforms, but if you see the official statistics, the majority of the public is white, young males. Traditionally it wasn’t the platform in which women or families feel comfortable. Of course this is never 100%, but you just have to read the numbers to see that trend. Knowing this made me realize that if I wanted to speak to women and children I should go to the networks on which they hang out.
This has changed a lot since Eres Ciencia appeared: In the last 2 years you can see a huge rise of new science dissemination projects in many different social platforms (Instagram, Twitch, Tik Tok…) And with the pandemic this trend has increased. That’s wonderful. In the end we need many different ways to spread the same ideas to as many people as possible.
Ricardo: Can you tell us a little bit more about the podcast La Lupa Sónica?
Maite: La Lupa Sónica (The Sonic magnifier) is a science podcast for kids in Spanish. It’s a project that came out last spring and in which I’m involved. Xaviera Torres and I are the persons behind the concept, scripts and voice, and we are lucky to have Carlos Bricio in charge of the sound design and audio production.
In languages such as English or German there are a plethora of wonderful shows about science. But there are almost no children’s podcasts in Spanish, and even fewer about science. We thought, “That’s a pity”. Podcasts are an ideal format for storytelling. They are accessible, entertaining, can be listened to anywhere and also keep us away from the screen for a while. That’s how La Lupa Sónica was born. We wanted to create an interesting, fun and quality podcast about science for the whole family to enjoy.
The first season has had a great response. The families tell us that they like it a lot, that the little ones have a great time and that they are hooked waiting for the next episode to come out. We are really happy about that. That was the impulse we needed to prepare the second season that is coming out in October.