,Date: April 19th, 2022

Guest Skeptic: Sarah Mojarad is a Lecturer in Advanced Writing, #SciComm, & Mis/disinfo topics • Kavli Fellow • Reed Awardee.

Sarah Mojarad

This is an SGEM Xtra episode. When planning a brief trip to Los Angeles for the EMRAP One Conference, I remembered that Sarah is from LA. I thought to myself, perhaps she would come on the SGEM as a special guest. I’m happy to say Sarah graciously accepted the invitation.

We recorded the episode sitting outside on the patio at the Luskin Conference Centre. It is an example of how twitter can be a great way for making new friends.

When I reached out to Sarah for a topic for the podcast she suggested five tips for science communication (SciComm) using social media. She shared with me a short YouTube video she had made for students interested in SciComm. We based our discussion on that video. It is clearly not an exhaustive list of tips but it did serve as the basis of our discussion. You can hear our conversation on the SGEM Xtra Podcast.


Five Tips for Science Communication


Tip #1: Be Yourself

I think this is such an important piece of advice. Authenticity really resonates with people. One of the best compliments I received recently was from a wonderful dental student named Ellie from Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry. We met at an Interprofessional Educational event, and she said it was so great to meet someone IRL who is so much like their twitter feed.

Follow me and you will find out I am a huge advocate for evidence-based medicine (EBM), love Star Trek TOS, have a dog named Loki the Dog of Mischief, upset other physicians like neurologists when discussing the evidence for tPA in acute ischemic stroke, I think the 80’s is the best era for music/movies, and have been known to play BatDoc at times.

Tip #2: Don’t’ Be Afraid of Failing

Another great tip. One of the best presentations I gave was about my many failures. The joke was that first grade was the longest two years of my life because I needed to repeat grade one. I failed to get into medical school the first time. I felt guilty and inadequate when I could not complete my orthopaedic residency. These and so many other “failures” that cause a lot of pain over the years.

However, as Maya Angelou said: “Without defeats, how do you really know who the hell you are? If you never had to stand up to something – to get up, to be knocked down, and to get up again – life can walk over you wearing football cleats. But each time you do get up, you’re bigger, taller, finer, more beautiful, more kind, more understanding, more loving. Each time you get up, you’re more inclusive. More people can stand under your umbrella.”

Tip #3: Find A Mentor

I have had many mentors over the years. These include amazing people like: Dr. Kirsty Challen, Dr. Andrew Worster, Dr. Dara Kass, Dr. Michelle Johnson, Dr. Rick Bukata, Dr. Chris Carpenter and many, many more people who have helped me get where I am today.

Sir Isaac Newton

Tip #4: What Do You Want to Say?

What is your message? Do you have a story, a narrative or goal in mind? My goal for the SGEM is to provide structured critical appraisals of the recent literature and probe it for its validity. We are trying to cut the knowledge translation window down from over ten years to less than one year using the power of social media. Ultimately, the goal is for patients to get the best care, based on the best evidence.

Tip #5 How Do You Want to Say It?

I want to make critical appraisal, clinical epidemiology, and biostatistics fun, engaging and exciting. I try to do this with 80’s music, memes, twitter polls, the keener contest, and other things.

I learned a lot from Ross Fisher and his P Cubed Presentation initiative on how to create better presentations.

I really like the way Melanie Trecek-King from Thinking is Power does her SciComm. She has a great educational approach and posts some useful tools for critical thinking like the FLOATER acronym.

I’ve also learned from Dr. Brian Goldman to be more kind online. It follows the Spinoza philosophy of not ridiculing or bewailing or scorning people on twitter but rather trying to understand them.


Some Dangers of SciComm


Mansplaining

I’ve seen a lot of women mansplained on twitter. For those who do not know mansplaining is a pejorative term meaning “to comment on or explain something to a woman in a condescending, overconfident, and often inaccurate or oversimplified manner”. It is often done by a male  layperson to a woman who is an expert in the field he is mansplaining to her.

Examples include experts like Dr. Jennifer Gunter on gynecology, Dr. Megan Ranney on the science of gun safety, and Dr. Michelle Cohen on gender equity in the house of medicine.

Harassment
There was a recent disturbing article published in Science about scientists who have spoken out during this current global pandemic and have been threatened. The title of the article was In the Line of Fire. It talks about how COVID has increased the harassment of scientists who speak publicly. Their survey reported that more than one-third of COVID researchers experienced harassment.


Final Thoughts from Sarah


Social media based SciComm is a worthwhile endeavor. Understanding the landscape can help you minimize distractions. And maximize the benefits.


The SGEM will be back next episode doing a structured critical appraisal of a recent publication. Trying to cut the knowledge window down from over ten years to less than one year using the power of social media. So, patients get the best care, based on the best evidence.


Remember to be skeptical of anything you learn, even if you heard it on the Skeptics’ Guide to Emergency Medicine