Scientists can bring their knowledge and expertise to help campaigns. They can also use their status in society as ‘trusted messengers’, to add weight to evidence.
Groups of scientists are often also active within their own institutions and specialist organisations. This guide explores how you can use your scientific background as an activist.
This article was written by Activist Scientist Hub during “The International Rebel Assembly”.
Play to strengths as scientists - focusing an action
If you’re part of a bigger movement, think about what you bring to the party that’s different.
Who are you targeting with your action?
Targets may or may not be science-specific; be clear about why you are challenging them as scientists_._ For example, targeting policy makers because they are failing to implement policies that are inline with scientific consensus.
While you’re designing your action, try to use your scientific understanding, but also your status as objective scientists who’ve committed to active resistance. Make sure both these aspects are clear to immediate witnesses in real time, and in any media coverage.
It helps to have some facts or scientific basis to back up your specific action - something to both display visually for media photos and as a talking point if interviewed. For example, protesting outside a government building responsible for licensing a new oil field because a recent environmental report confirmed that new oil extraction is not inline with net zero initiatives. A few shocking stats are very handy, but you only need one or two at most - too many numbers or ‘jargon’ can cause the message to be lost!
As one element in an larger action
Consider what you can offer as scientists, as well as being ‘boots on the ground’. Make sure others in the action understand this; not to plead special status, but to take advantage of opportunities you might not have thought about yourselves, and to deal with how others in an action view and interact with you as a scientist and “expert”
Present yourself as a Scientist during Actions
Importance of wearing a white lab coat
When you participate in an action, it is important that you are visually identified as a scientist for several reasons:
For members of the public to easily identify you as a professional they can ask questions to
For creating a visual impact on photographs
You might have never worn a lab coat or have not worn a lab coat for years and therefore you might be reluctant to wear one or might even feel like a fraud. Don’t. White lab coats are the symbol representing scientists. Think of it like holding a banner.
Think also of supplementing the lab coat with a patch saying “I am a scientist” and/or your specific field or job. [Add example, Doctors using ‘GP’ and ‘Physio’]
Photo credit: Crispin Hughes
If you get arrested, there is no ambiguity about the fact that the authorities have decided to arrest scientists
“A picture is worth a thousand words”. Think all the time about the visual of your action. You might want to hold a placard explaining clearly why you are taking action or to have a short slogan attached to your lab coat (back and front). So every photo of the action is self explanatory.
Photo Credit: Garreth Morris
Photo Credit: Andrea Domeniconi
Think also of having a unified “look and feel” for all your banners that amplifies the professional look. In practical terms this can be in using the same typeface and colour scheme.
Photo credit: Crispin Hughes
If you have multiple scientists in your movement and are participating as part of a larger action, it can be much more impactful to stay together so you are seen and photographed as a group of scientists. A group of people in lab coats (especially with a unified look) stands out more than a singular scientist in a crowd.
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Building your scientific resources and arguments
Activist scientists play a critical role in interpreting science for an activist movement and presenting scientific evidence and its meaning in a clear way to others. As scientists we are trained to speak only about things we are really knowledgeable about. However, as a spokesperson in a campaign, you may have to speak about, for example, atmospheric processes when your scientific background is in plant ecology. Coming together and working with activist scientists in different specialisms is important. Together, you can share and discuss the rapidly growing natural and social science literature relevant to your movement, and get help in understanding unfamiliar areas. With your interdisciplinary group of scientists, you can use a social media platform like WhatsApp to create a group. Here members can post the latest relevant scientific publications and share press coverage and debate about them. You can use this as a platform for building an understanding, by asking questions of your group, e.g. “Does anyone have a quick summary of the pros and cons of carbon capture technologies?”. You may find it useful to create a few groups in order to keep discussion focused and helpful. For instance, you could create a group for just sharing and discussing new scientific publications relevant to the movement, focused on understanding the significance and quality of research evidence. Then, you could create another group for broader discussion on how that science should be interpreted and presented, such as the question above, or how it is being used by the media, policy makers and others.
In your group of scientists, you may want to develop agreed positions on a particular science-related issue, and an agreed way to talk about them. Your group doesn’t need to be a cult, but it’s important to be consistent and not contradictory when engaging non-scientists. A ‘party line’ might seem unpleasant to many scientists, but that’s exactly when you can step back from opinions, into peer-reviewed science.
To help with the next step of communicating science, you could consider making briefing documents, written by members who are experts in the relevant fields. This can feature a few key facts and talking points you can use, particularly if the focus is outside of your expertise. An example of this, from Extinction Rebellion, is the report, Emergency on Planet Earth, which summarizes and evaluates the scientific evidence for climate change and its physical and social consequences.
Preparing and making presentations
Some scientists do this as part of their job anyway; but activism is different.
And many of us are in bubbles that have their own priorities and assumptions. Think about who you’re addressing, and what theirs might be.
Audience - non-scientists?
Scientists have various identities in public opinion, from trusted objective honest folk uninterested in money, through to mad fiends with no emotions who want to bend the world to their will, or just swotty geeks who do complicated stuff other people can’t understand.
Who is your audience, how might they feel about ‘Scientists’, not just your campaign and/or your action? On what territory can you ‘meet up’?
Think about what is likely to matter to your audience. What makes them feel good about themselves, what are they concerned about or frightened of? Consider that some of them will already be concerned about the issue you’re working on, and feel unheard.
As scientists, we are trained to deliver data very effectively to other scientists in our fields. However, giving a lecture as a scientist is very different to giving a speech as a scientist activist. The value of being a scientist speaker is the credibility you bring as a trusted messenger, and while your understanding of the research is invaluable, listing data, figures and graphs is unlikely to inspire your audience.
Here are 6 key things to consider when writing a speech:
Choose one message
You will never be able to communicate all aspects of the issue you’re talking about in one speech and, if you attempt to, you will certainly overwhelm your listeners. Choose a key message that has personal meaning to you; your passion will come across if your message is close to you. Your aim is to convince your listeners that your key message is important, so that key message should be simple with compelling arguments. You want to maximise the digestibility of your talk, so resist the urge to over-complicate.
Tell a story
Any good speech has a narrative flow; the conclusion to the story is the key message you want your listeners to take away from your talk. Start by thinking what your key message is and try to make it as simple as possible (see point 1). The introductory section of your talk should introduce that key message and then the bulk of the talk should lay out information and arguments supporting your key message (you can be indirectly referring to your key message here). The conclusion then allows you to recall your key message in light of the arguments you have made. People process information best in a “story-form”. Think of how a classic fairy tale is structured: the framing of the problem (“What is my key message?”), attempts to approach the problem (“Why is my key message important?”), the resolution of the problem (“This is why I chose my key message and why it’s important”). As in fairy tales, the conclusion of a speech should call back to the beginning (children’s stories often begin with a transgression of a moral behaviour, which at the end is revealed as the key message of the story). This simple form makes complex messages easily digestible as it’s a format our brains are tuned to understand.
This happened and this is how it felt
Any scientist is told throughout their career that they should be a dispassionate dispenser of unbiased facts. Emotion and our personal experiences are not things we would naturally discuss in a speech, which is exactly why it has so much power. Personal and emotional stories from scientists tend to stun listeners, who also buy into the dispassionate scientist archetype. The implication is that your message is so important, that you have dropped your socially prescribed role of being unemotional. It is an excellent way of grabbing attention and emphasising the importance of your message.
Pause for thought
This is important in both the writing and delivery of any speech. Again, where we choose to pause in a speech is very different to those you might plan in a lecture. Pauses in a lecture usually allow people to analyse figures or key data. However, pauses in a speech can be a powerful tool to convey emotion, conviction and can be used to regain lost attention. Pausing can be particularly impactful when following an emotional statement. Counting to 5 in your head after saying something with emotional impact not only allows listeners time to process, it also gives the impression that what you just said affects you emotionally, which relates to point 2. An uncomfortably long pause is also an excellent tactic for getting people to pay attention to you; people instinctively give their attention to unusual situations! Pausing can also be usual after you have delivered a key fact or argument. It gives the listeners time to process and emphasises that what you have just said is important, making them more likely to remember it.
Easy on the numbers
A common trap for scientists is to think that throwing more data at an argument is always beneficial. While having a handful of strong facts is definitely useful, endlessly listing them will only ensure that your listeners remember none of them. Make the most of the key facts that you want to use; pause after them (see point 4) and maybe even repeat them (not endlessly!).
While related to point 3, personal sacrifice can be an excellent way to convey your emotions around your message. These can include your sacrifice to join a movement, risking your standing with your peers or sacrifices you’ve made in your life to support your cause. This is also important as humans are very sensitive to the concept of unequal losses, so if you are communicating something that involves your listeners giving something up or changing their behaviour, showing that you have made sacrifices can make them more amenable to your message.
Finally, invite questions and be prepared for difficult ones. A common public perception of scientists is that because we’ve trained to be scientists, we therefore know about all areas of science. Be honest and open. If someone asks you a question which is outside your sphere of expertise, tell them what your field is and then what your understanding is of the topic they’re asking you about. You can also explain that whilst this is not your field, you have been trained in the scientific method and can vouch for the validity of the science you are promoting at that action. Also think of ways to pivot and relate it to something in your field (and your understanding) in a way that still supports the action. For example if you are a physicist and someone asks you a climate-related question, you could respond “I’m not a climate scientist, but I do know about planetary albedo - and if we continue to allow sea ice to melt this decreases albedo and contributes to further warming…”.
Using facts and figures effectively
You will want to use facts and illustration, in your presentations but also in other actions, where you will be creating signs, handing out printouts or giving interviews. For all of these, here are some tips:
Make sure they’re easy to see and/or hear. Be sparing.
Your audience’s ‘attention economy’ is probably already stretched quite tight. If you’re speaking and the data are important, give them a text-based visual backup, too. Label axes clearly, specify what units you’re using. (Creative visualisation has its own sections, here and elsewhere.)
Make sure they’re relevant
Some facts & figures can stand alone. For example, the concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere in 2022, as compared with the last few million years.
But that’s rare; resist the temptation to use data for their own sake. Make sure they’re part of a wider argument, or narrative thread.
Make them relatable
Comparisons can run away with themselves, with units like swimming-pools for volume, or elephants for weight; but some accommodation for non-scientists is often helpful.
Make people want to know more
Exhaustive datasets are exhausting, full stop. But your campaign will likely benefit from heightened curiosity, not indigestion.
Give yourself some choices
Do this especially with printouts and signs. Unless you can predict and know your ‘audience’ really well, take the time to have more than one avenue to pursue – especially if you’re doing outreach in person. Then members of the public can feel listened to, if you genuinely respond to what they show more interest in.
Using demonstrations to communicate science
A fantastic way to both learn about and communicate scientific concepts is through the design and presentation of demonstrations. It boils down a complex and largely unfamiliar field of science into basic principles that are familiar to all scientists. In this way, experiments can be a great way not only to present to the public but to learn how to present on a subject where you are not an expert.
How do you go about condensing the key messages you want to convey in an experiment? A lot of it is down to your unique style and imagination, but here are some tips to get you thinking:
Both the age demographic and the size of your audience are important factors to consider. A younger audience of mostly children will respond best to quick-form and exciting experiments, whereas an older audience might be prepared to stick around for a bit longer. If you are presenting to a large group, you will have to consider the visibility of your setup and whether the impact can be seen/heard by everyone watching.
What are you trying to say?
Consider the message you are trying to put across; there are any number of experiments you could do, but keep your key messages at the front of your mind. Just because you can do an experiment, doesn’t mean you should; you don’t want your message to be lost in a deluge of experiments!
A fantastic way to capture the public’s attention (at any age!) is to create a competitive element to your experiments. That can be as simple as asking audience members to guess the outcome of an experiment or involve more direct participation (e.g. not all experiments have to involve test tubes, you could try making a board game for audience members that demonstrates your message).
You can try this at home!
Creating experiments is a great way to engage with educators, who are often looking for new ways to explain complex issues. Creating an “Experiment Pack” for people to take away gets your message to an even wider audience.
It all comes back to you
Condensing a complex and unfamiliar topic into simple experiments also gives you a way to link the science back to your area of expertise (e.g. an experiment might involve a process that you also see in your area of research). Not only does that help you to build your understanding from a familiar starting point, but an audience will also pick up the little confidence boost you get from talking about what you know!
Avoid breakable apparatus like glass beakers, it usually ends badly. Also, in general, avoid bringing anything to an experiment-based action that you wouldn’t mind losing.
How scientists can use social media
Social media is the easiest method of talking about what a group of activist scientists has been doing and of bringing science into more general conversation. This section will talk about what can be presented and how. There is more detail on each of the platforms in other sections in the handbook.
Social media currently has three functions - to publicise actions, to share information (and refute disinformation) and to enable activists to work together. It can make activism much more inclusive: it means that those who cannot attend in-person events can be involved. It’s a place to present the photos from your action (plan them!) and to publicise future actions. Once an action has drawn people to a social media feed, it provides an opportunity to inform them about your cause and about what you plan to do next. When sharing information about new scientific output, it is especially important to check your sources and to make any ambiguities transparent.
Social media can provide an alternative way of speaking out that embeds greater inclusivity. For example, Digital Rebellion has shared actions such as letter writing campaigns to support in-person protest from Extinction Rebellion UK and at the Science Museum. Twitter is especially effective at amplifying the voice of activists from all around the world. Science activism channels benefit from this.
Care must be taken: it can be emotionally taxing when the boundaries between activist life and personal life are blurred (see any resources on preventing burnout). Having a group of scientists contributing helps reduce workload. Local laws could mean that sharing information about actions and protests is unlawful.
This currently lets us set up groups and pages. Pages work well as broadcast, so far a good place to publicise actions taken, science updates. Private groups can be useful for organisation: people here have been “allowed” into the group but this cannot be viewed as a secure space for discussion. A group of people can be given admin rights for both pages and groups. In general, Facebook is accessible for much of the world. A stable combination seems to be a page attached to a private, moderated group. Remember that not everyone is a Facebook person, for ideological reasons; make sure it’s not the ONLY source for participants or visitors to your group.
Facebook lets you set up “events”. These don’t have to be hosted on Facebook at all, and can have a link to any other platform in the event description. Any facebook users who are interested can then click the appropriate button and will get a reminder that it is happening.
Facebook is also useful for livestreaming, and the event link can be shared elsewhere. When the stream is finished, the video is usually automatically available, which is useful.
Slightly younger audience mainly than Facebook, but the same parent company (Zuckerberg’s Meta). There are two types of posts: “Grid” posts, which add to your profile, and “story” posts, which disappear after 24 hours. Your grid is what people will see when they click on your profile, so make this look like it’s clear as to who you are and what you are about. Some consistent branding of your posts can make your grid look professional. Note that you cannot edit your grid posts after posting them and they cannot include clickable links.
A broadcast format that allows responses. Exposure is increased by gaining followers. A wider range of people seem to use this platform (journalists in particular seem to like Twitter). Be aware that it can end up as an echo chamber of self-reinforcing beliefs. But to take advantage of this, make it easy for people who like your message to share it - include links and/or other resources in your tweets, especially if there’s an action you’d like readers to take.
A short video broadcast formal that can end up with very large exposure. It takes a different skill set to generate impactful content for this platform.
A ‘professional’ format most used in certain commercial sectors. It seems to be useful for following individuals in specific sectors.
How to get started
Often the hardest thing is the first step. Hopefully it’s clear that any scientist activist group is likely to want you to join. Whether you turn up in person, or connect online, the best way to find out is just to engage somehow.
Below you’ll find an entry on organisations of activist scientists, on different topics. If there’s not a branch where you are, they may be able to provide materials/a model to adapt. If your interests are not covered then why not reach out to members of an existing organisation to see if some members would like to join your new group.
Organizations of activist scientists
Scientists’ Warning (UK/US)
Is there an organization that ought to be listed here? Do add it!
How to recruit other scientists
You may be the only scientist in your institution that seems interested in activism. How can you get other scientists involved? It’s important to note when approaching anyone about activism (who isn’t currently active) to not impress that you know-it-all, and don’t affect moral superiority. Meet people where they are, and be open to a two way discussion. Most people are already concerned about the climate and ecological emergency and want to be part of making change happen – but it’s often not clear what that means in practice.
Asking For Participation
One way to start involving others is to ask for help. Asking for a small, very do-able action in support of something uncontroversial that brings up your issue – for example, adding comments to a brainstorm on how an issue is impacting your institution’s effectiveness now/in future. It might be met with refusal, but if and when another scientist contributes in this way they’ve already ‘invested’ and begun to think about your topic.
You could run a survey amongst your colleagues to highlight an issue - for example, getting everyone to anonymously self-report how many flights they take per year. This gets people to self-reflect, and then you can release the data - example, sum up how much CO2 the department or company produced with flights alone - then use this as a vehicle for further discussion. Consider even hosting a lunch-time talk to reveal your findings, so you can get an in-person conversation going and segway it into a discussion about your cause and what can be done!
Invite and Engage
You could also invite people to a general talk or event, preferably one where it’s likely to be a good atmosphere and there is plenty of opportunity to learn about your cause or movement. If possible, you could also give a talk yourself and invite them along so you can tailor the content to appeal to them. You could also do a small fundraiser, selling home baked goods in the office or asking for sponsorships for a walk or run to raise money for a charity connected to your cause and use this to start engaging in conversations and see what people think.
It’s important to mention why you believe getting involved in action specifically as a scientist is important to you, and the value you believe this brings to a movement - as this can inspire others to consider their own position. But make sure to not be judgemental or pushy - just because someone may not want to engage doesn’t make them a bad person, and you don’t want to push anyone away who’s not quite ready or comfortable with activism. Scientists especially may have particular hang-ups about how it could affect their career or perceived ‘impartiality’. Be open minded and listen to their thoughts and concerns and remember that everyone’s opinions and feelings are valid, even if you disagree, and always be respectful but state your own case with conviction. If someone is sympathetic but hesitant, keep having small conversations about it, try to gently address their concerns and share/demonstrate your participation in action so they can see what it looks like and all the positive aspects.
Visually Invite Questions and Interest
If you can, wear or display something which shows your involvement in activism - a sticker on a laptop, a flag on your desk, a themed Zoom background for meetings etc. If someone is interested, they’re likely to ask about it and you can start that conversation. Seeing someone in the same career participating openly in activism can be that push someone else needs to be empowered to engage, and you would also be flagging yourself as someone they can ask questions and provide an easy ‘way in’ to action groups and getting involved themselves.
Pick Out Potential Allies
Approach people who are doing things which might suggest they are interested in or care about your field of activism - e.g. for environmentalism, the people going for the vegan food or the people offering to re-use things. Or for LGBT rights, the person who puts their pronouns in their sign-off in their emails.
You can also offer to do things and see who agrees and joins you - for example, announcing that you plan to take the train rather than a flight to the next conference and asking if anyone else would like to join you.
The value basis of activism
Facts and evidence are the foundation on which we know action is needed, but it is our shared values that bring us together to work for change. It’s worth asking people what concerns they have and being open about why you are involved in activism. It might be frustration at the lack of government policy, anxiety about the future, or hope that things can be turned around. Either way, the human and personal side of activism is as important as the data.
Getting scientific institutions to take on an issue
Scientific institutions and societies will have a remit to themselves – and maybe to bodies like the Charities Commission (in UK). Find out what it is, and weave your issue into it.
For example, the Royal Society of Biology in UK claims to integrate equality, diversion and inclusion in everything they do, and to have a vision ‘of a world that values biology’s contribution to improving life for all’.
Clearly these statements can be called upon to support various progressive movements – give their own language back to them in supportive, positive ways.
Show how your campaign can help them fulfil their obligations.
How to engage an academic institute on your cause
Many scientists may find themselves working for or affiliated with academic institutes like Universities and Research Centres. These are fertile ground for recruitment and places where you may want to influence change in regards to policy and internal cultures. They are places of research and learning, so often cultivate individuals with open minds and progressive ideas. Institutes themselves often claim to be progressive and forward-thinking, meaning that they should be more receptive to progressive change. Students are also a demographic that are historically engaged in activism, are generally very receptive to activist causes and learning new things - especially coming from a scientist or expert in an academic field.
How to form a University action group
Do your research
First step should be to determine what you want changed and why - and as someone in academia or research, it will greatly benefit and legitimise your cause if you have data to back up your ideas. If there is no data readily available, you could also launch a survey amongst your colleagues and/or the students. For example, if you think your institution needs to reduce air travel you could launch a survey of how much the faculty in your department flies and calculate the CO2 produced. This will both give you data to back up the need for your cause and get those surveyed to begin thinking about your topic. Find research on the topic, and if possible research that relates your topic to universities themselves. For example, ALLEA Report: Towards Climate Sustainability of the Academic System in Europe and beyond, Academic aeromobility in the post-pandemic future: report on what is needed to catalyse action to retain low levels of flying.
Explore if there are any pre-existing groups or societies at your institution that may be sympathetic to your cause or have overlapping interests - universities tend to have many societies both student-led and amongst faculty. Reach out to them! You may find allies who wish to help you form your group, support you or signal boost your group and actions/events. Talk to colleagues and other students and see if you can find people interested in your cause. Many universities have already declared climate emergencies - if yours is one, then this enables you to ask how this is being acted on; if not, then why not? https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/frsus.2021.660596/full
At this point it’s a good idea to launch a meeting or a talk - this is much easier to do once you have at least a small number of guaranteed interested parties. You could get a speaker who’s an expert on the topic of your cause - or yourself! - and host a talk in order to attract and recruit people to your cause or new group. Put up posters to advertise this, and speak to those related groups/societies you identified earlier and invite their members and perhaps a signal boost on their social medias and channels. Book a room for this, and make it accessible for both staff and students. Use the talk to advertise your new group or cause and ask people to sign-up if they're interested - creating a WhatsApp group, FB group or even just a mailing list to connect everyone is advised.
Meet Up, Make Plans
Once you have interest, arrange a first meeting and get talking about what you specifically want to achieve with your group - whether it’s getting a change of policy from your department or raising awareness of your cause on campus. Welcome everyone’s ideas and visions, try and come to a consensus and make a firm goal. Then start laying out your plans.
The ExPlane toolkit is a guide to changing travel policy at universities, but the basic principles can be applied to any university-based cause or campaign.
How to influence policy at an academic institution
This is extremely tricky to do as an individual - and much more likely to succeed if you are able to do this as a member of a group or board. Like with any campaign, you also need to determine who precisely has the power to implement the changes to policy you wish to see. [Insert reference to power mapping or reference to another page on the Activist Wiki which no doubt covers this]
Determine if a board or society is already set up to address issues in the vein of your cause - like a Diversity or Sustainability group or board - and see if you can join or bring your issue to these individuals. Otherwise, you can form your own group - see ‘How to form a University action group’.
How to engage students and faculty at an academic institution
Universities are a great place to engage people on causes - and as a scientist you are in a prime position to do so. Academic institutions are places of learning and research, so students and academics are more likely to have open minds and a willingness to learn more. If you are a member of faculty this also puts you in a trusted position to educate and inform.
Give a Talk or Seminar
Arranging a talk or seminar via an existing group within an academic institution can be a relatively easy way to gain access to a large and diverse audience (e.g. women in science groups, student union clubs etc.). Making your message relevant to different interest groups can also be a powerful way to create a collective message and vision in your institution. Tailoring your talk/seminar to each group, therefore, can help you to expand your reach and the number of people who will be receptive to your message.
Host a Discussion or Debate
Hosting a discussion can be as simple as arranging an informal lunch to have a chat on a subject or booking a seminar room and having a structured and mediated debate.
How to combine activism and your career
Scientists may often feel a hesitation to mix their activism with their work, but when a cause is important enough to you and to wider society as a whole it can be greatly beneficial to do so. You can try and influence your company, institution or field to bring about positive change. Being a scientist and being publicly involved in a group or cause also lends greater legitimacy and normalises activism from the prospective of the public and your colleagues - and can allow you to recruit from your work circles.
Part 1. In academia
Most scientific workplaces now have sustainability somewhere on the agenda. Find out what boards or groups feed into the sustainability work. Find out who appoints members to this group and talk to them directly. Ask to be on that board/group.
Emissions data is required
If emissions are not yet measured, vocalise that someone qualified is needed to get this data. Step one is to understand what are the biggest sources of your emissions so that effort can be focused for the biggest impacts. For example, it will be far more impactful to determine how to reduce shipments from around the world to your workplace rather than focus on washing out yoghurt pots. This will be worth the energy and time commitment. Your experience in the labs can inform how we can change working habits and support bigger emissions reductions this way.
Use your activism to motivate
Once on that board/group - push them with real examples of what is happening in the climate and ecological emergency (CEE) and what issues you are involved in raising outside of work. This can expose people who are less engaged, to positive examples. This can be motivational and can help embolden decision makers to take action. For example, if you work in research into human health, citing the oath that doctors take to ‘do no harm’ can help to inspire similar feelings and responsibilities in adjacent research.
Greenwashing and virtue signalling will be a big risk and needs to be called out by someone. This person can be yourself and others who care that actions match words. Keep at it.
Work the cost savings angle
Data on a sustainability action being cost saving or cost neutral can help to get management on board with a ‘yes’. For example, turning down -80C freezers to -70C will save roughly 33% on energy usage and reduce costs. Sharing more means consuming less. This is both cost saving and emissions saving.
[I have lots more for here but it is very specific info - prob not appropriate?]
Highlight any other co-benefits
For example, for climate activists - changes which reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions often have multiple benefits. For example: meetings which are online can be accessible to a range of people who have mobility issues, caring requirements, or are living around the world. So online meetings can be more accessible and more inclusive and diverse than an in-person meeting. Of course, this example works the other way around too!
Opt out versus opt in
All workplace actions need to be ‘opt out’ instead of ‘opt in’ - for example, make travelling by train the default option for journeys of less than say 5 hours, with special permission required to fly instead. This is in order to combat the inertia of continuing as we are. Keep saying this until it is heard. People change habits when the rules or regulations change.
Influence adjacent organisations
Ask questions – ask funders, conference CEOs, professional orgs if they have considered making their work more sustainable with a specific ask.
Conference CEOs - Can we keep our international meeting hybrid? Why not? (The economics don’t allow it – hotel room filling is required to get the convention center for free). But this business as usual approach decreases diversity, equality and inclusion of our scientific conferences. We need to keep saying this. We need to campaign on this.
Funders – Do you want us to reduce our impact on the environment? Would you be willing to add conditions that must be met to receive your funding?
[JuliaBH - things Scientist Rebellion have done]
Suggest a talk from your organisation - it can be accepted!
Prepare flyers to distribute
Add slides to your talks
Add slides to your lectures
Part 2. In private industry
[This is a stub: please expand!]
Much of the content in Part 1 is directly transferable. As experts in their working domains, scientists can have a disproportionate opportunity to speak out in their workplace. Whilst it can be intimidating to step beyond the scope of your contract, it can pay off. As companies want to appear ‘green’, there are more opportunities to propose positive changes.
Opportunities as a scientist in a non-academic workplace could include:
Raising the Climate & Ecological Emergency as something that needs planning for whenever it is appropriate. For example, https://www.starlabgroup.com/GB-en/dead-planet
Bringing alternative technical solutions into the discussion. For example, personal interest in alternative material types being considered for a product.
Seeking opportunities for energy efficiency. The Institute of Mechanical Engineers has produced a widely applicable ‘hierarchy’ of opportunities that are worth referencing.
Collaborating with like-minded people, either within your employer or through outside groups.
Seeking your own professional accreditation, such as a Carbon Literacy accreditation (UK), as an individual - then talking about it.
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