Just before christmas we finally secured funding for a new project that has been in the making for a very long time. Itâ€™s called â€žSignificant Details â€“ Conversations with Women in Scienceâ€œ and will be a series of video interviews with female scientists. About their career, their daily work, their experiences with science. Very simple, really, but already great fun, certainly for me at this point, because right now I am traveling the country meeting all these amazing people while trying to put together an as varied ensemble of female scientists as possible.
Women are under-represented in science in most countries. Numbers are increasing, but slowly. Last year, a study by LÃ¼nenborg and RÃ¶ser showed, that in Germany female scientists also go strongly under-reported in the media.
Representation in the media is important, though. Not only for the individual scientist, to increase her visibility and reputation, but, much more, for the rest of us, because it helps us, as a society, to adjust our perception of how science is done and who is doing it.
As LÃ¼nenborg and RÃ¶ser point out: media representation is especially relevant with regard to leadership positions, in science and elsewhere, because most people have no or very little personal experience with these. So their opinion is formed mostly through the media. And one of the prevailing opinions about scientists is that they are male. Which somehow sticks in our heads, male and female alike, with all its undesired consequences.
The seed for this project was planted almost four years ago when I visited Science Online in North Carolina for the first time, a vibrant, dynamic and hugely original meeting of scientists, communicators, journalists, librarians, artists and many more, all related to science and the online world inÂ one way or another.
At the time, I was still mostly working for television and had just begun to make my first careful steps into the world of online science communication. The newspaper crisis then was still in its early stages and the iPad little more than a rumour for most. Podcasts, however, had been around for a while and been used for science communication quite successfully. Microbesâ€™s World Meet the Scientist with Carl Zimmer, Coast to Coast Bio Podcast (now closed), and Point of Inquiry are some of the earliest I remember. At Science Online they appeared as a given, a highly efficient tool in any science communicatorâ€™s box.
They were all audio, though, which I, as a filmmaker, always found a little sad. But I was immediately taken by their informal, direct and authentic way of talking to scientists and about science.
Back in Germany, it took me a while and some detours, and I am really glad that I now have an opportunity not only to add some video to the podcast world, but also to help increase the visibility of women in science.
All interviews will start from a specific object, a â€žsignificant detailâ€œ from the womenâ€™s scientific life. They can be scientific objects or something completely off-topic that is related to science only by the womenâ€™s experience. From there, each conversation will take its individual course. No standardized questions, but a number of common themes, most likely. Fairly personal in tone, more portrait than presentation, more process than breakthroughs.
Finding the objects can be a bit tricky, but it seems worth the effort. So far, we have a bag of hazelnuts, a wisdom tooth, a musical clock playing â€žLa Palomaâ€œ and a vacuum coated Edelweiss. And a bag of good stories to go with them. Youâ€™ll see.