An intense 4 weeks: The anatomy of the Science is Vital campaign
Concerned scientists start a campaign to fight cuts in science funding in the UK. The Science is Vital Campaign was born. Shane McCracken-Gallomanor speaks at the PLACES Training Workshop on social media in Birmingham, UK.
Creating a Moment
Day one- a scientist decides to do something about the cuts. She calls on scientists to meet and discuss the cuts and how to protest. By the next day, 150 people had joined the group which was promoted through Facebook and a blog. The network was off to a big start - Facebook is a great way to bring people together and build on momentum. http://scienceisvital.org.uk/
Five days later, over 1,000 people had joined the Facebook group. Twitter was also used to bring new people on board.
A rally was set for 9 October 2010. Nobody in the planning committee had ever organized a rally. The approach was quite naive at the start. Organizers elected to use Base Camp software to focus a plan - this is more effective than using Facebook in some cases. http://basecamp.com/
The campaign needed a website to keep people's interest going. Followers needed something to talk about and something to do. This meant breaking out of social media - there is sometimes an "echo chamber" effect to social media where you end up communicating to people who already know who you are.
Organizers built a list of 1,100 Deans and student union figures and notified them about the campaign and rally over email.
Three weeks after the start of the campaign, the website was launched along witha petition which was also promoted via Twitter. The number of followers increased in response: 14,200 people signed the petition to stop cuts to science funding.
The objective of an online campaign is to get people to DO something. Think about Barack Obama's presidential campaign which prompted many young people to go out and vote. This campaign's social media thrust is considered to be a template for success online.
Scientists dressed in their lab coats appear with plackards on the street. King Charles street in London was blocked with scientists in the street. Police cooperated and watched over 2,000 protestors. There was a lot of positivity in the message. It was about science is vital- not "stop cuts to science research." It was instead a focus on how science makes a valuable contribution to the British economy.
The BBC reported on the rally with the headline, "Scientists hold rally over spending cuts in London" www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11508105
The petition online continues to gather signatures and Twitter followers increased: 35,000 signatures were printed out and delivered to Parliament in London. The government halted the spending cut of 30% and the situation ended with a cash freeze - not ideal, but certainly better than what was originally feared!
Scientists who had never campaigned or rallied before managed an astounding success on their first try. They did it through networking on social media. They built a core group of eight people to start and then energize others by using digital tools. They rallied around a message - "science is important and should be recognized as such." This was a major motivator for everyone involved and created the momentum needed to make a difference.
Key Messages: Keep it positive
- The campaign focussed on economic benefits of science and research - NOT a focus on "saving science jobs"
- A positive message - "science is vital" - NOT "stop cuts to science"