Storify is closing and over the coming weeks, I will be migrating my posts to my blog. This is an archive of my article first published on Storify on 23 February 2017. It is the first of two posts presenting content analysis of the March for Science social media posts on gender equity and diversity. These materials supported research for two publications on Latino Rebels and Diverse Scholar.
This is a chronology of diversity statements from the organisers of March for Science DC from 24 January to 13 February 2017. For comparison, I also include other administrative messages that give a sense of how the early organisation of the march evolved.
Immediately following the Women’s March on 21 January, and in response to President Trump’s science policies in the USA, March for Science (MfS) emerged from a series of social media conversations. The ScienceMarchDC Twitter account was set up on 24 January 2017.
Within the first couple of days of the Twitter and Facebook profiles being established, the March for Science follower count ballooned from a couple of hundred people to several thousands. By the 13 February 2017, the Twitter account had amassed over 323,000 followers, their public Facebook page accumulated 348,000 likes, and the private Facebook community has over 827,000 members.
The issue of diversity has been a principle concern among scientists who have been following the evolution of March for Science.
I use the term diversity because this reflects the language of the March for Science organisers, however diversity has a specialised meaning in the empirical literature. Diversity refers to the variety, balance and disparities that we study across the natural, physical and social sciences. The study of diversity is not simply about acknowledging differences. It is also the critical reflection of how we come to understand and value these differences.
In the scientific literature, diversity encompasses issues of equity (barriers, issues and solutions to structural disadvantage); access (opportunities and impact on participation by underrepresented groups); and inclusion (valuing and respecting differences).
When the March for Science Twitter account began engaging with the public, it quickly became apparent that the organisers of the march may lack experience on equity, inclusion. In particular, the issue of intersectionality was lacking from communications. This is the recognition that gender and race mutually affect experiences of inequality, alongside other issues like homophobia, transphobia, class and ableism (discrimination against people with disabilities).
In response to these critiques, the March for Science organisers released a diversity statement that went through a couple of iterations. First published as a general statement on the homepage of their old website and then as a post on Facebook. The latest revised statement was published on their new website on 29 January 2017. Their public Facebook page was established two days later, with the first post published on 27 January 2017.
Diversity statements on Twitter
During the three-week period under review, the March for Science Twitter account had published around 1,500 tweets.
There have been 14 tweets that directly address the diversity plans for March for Science. These are largely apologetic in response to critiques about the lack of clarity on the objectives of the march as they relate to diversity. There are also messages of contrition for tweets that otherwise reproduce inequity or exclusion of underrepresented scientists.
Diversity statements on Facebook
The March for Science published 78 posts in the period under review, from late January to mid-February 2017. There have been less frequent communications on diversity on the public Facebook page. During the period reviewed, there had only been two direct posts addressing diversity. These posts met vocal opposition from followers, although there were also positive responses. Most of the people commenting are members of the public, and few people identify themselves as scientists in their replies to the diversity posts (analysis forthcoming).
The interesting dynamic on Facebook is that there is demonstrably less interaction between the social media managers and their followers in comparison to Twitter. On Twitter, messages reference specific users who have shaped the thinking of organisers on diversity issues. This is not the case on Facebook. The nature of Twitter, which encourages acknowledging individual users likely impacts on this pattern.
Twitter also provides an easier way to track conversations, as retweets, mentions, quotes and the spread of ideas are easier to track in one easy glance at the dashboard. This may make patterns of critique more immediate.
Administrative updates on Twitter
There have been a high number of public messages about the coordination of the local marches, development of the website, and the growth of March for Science followers.
Administrative updates on Facebook
There have been 21 administrative updates on the public Facebook page. These are a mixture of short progress reports on the website and the event date, as well as coordinating volunteers. The are a handful of longer posts that discuss the mission and goals of the march.