My #scienceathon day and what I learned raising money for a women's science network

What it's like to be a research scientist


  1. I recently took part in the Earth Science Women's Network "science-a-thon" fundraiser, where over 150 scientists all over the world gave play-by-play snapshots of their days over social media. As I shared what it's like to be a research scientist, I also asked for donations to support the ESWN, a peer-mentoring group for women in all earth-related fields of science (from ecology, my field, to geology, atmospheric sciences, you name it). Their goals go from career development and networking to teaching scientists to better engage with the public and with policymakers.
  2. There's still time to contribute to my fundraiser - there isn't a deadline for contributions - so if you read this and feel like it's an important cause (like I do!) please click over and make a small contribution.
  3. I have been fairly humbled by how many people chipped in to my fundraiser, and how much money they raised. One person I don't even know contributed! Thank you, thank you, thank you to all. We scientists really appreciate it!

    Before starting the fundraiser, I was actually incredibly nervous. I hate asking people for anything - heck, I hate asking my own parents for money, to the extent that I made my life unnecessarily hard for myself several times to avoid doing so - so that was one thing. I also wasn't sure whether people would care. My non-scientist friends, what was in it for them? Would my impassioned plea to help me fund a network to provide better opportunities to women get through? I explained that after starting my bachelors degree at Dartmouth College, I got a few incredible opportunities through luck. And I was privileged to be at an institution where people pointed me towards the right resources and helped me apply for my first small grants. I think that everyone should have those opportunities, and it shouldn't come down to random encounters or knowing the right person.

    I wasn't sure if that message would resonate, but it seemed to, which was a huge relief. Every time I got an email notification that someone had contributed to my fundraiser, I felt giddy with happiness.

    Here's what one of the fundraiser's organizers, Tracey Holloway, said about it in an email to us scientists:

    "This has been our first fundraiser as a 501c3 non-profit, and it has been moving to see the generosity of scientists and supporters over the past few weeks... Our #1 goal is to meet an endowment 'challenge grant' from the Madison Community Foundation: if we get to $50K, we will be matched with $25K. If we get to $100K, we will be matched $50K. Our goal is to meet the $100K target by the end of 2017 (we are required to meet it by October 2018, or else the match will disappear). Revenue from the endowment will 'keep the lights on' for ESWN initiatives, which already serve both women and men in a wide range of STEM disciplines. Once we meet the $100K goal... we want to engage the public, expand the type of public outreach exemplied by Science-A-Thon, and take action to reduce the hurdles that limit the diversity and innovation of science."

    Wherever we were posting our pictures and notes, we used the hashtag #scienceathon. Throughout the day I checked the hashtag on Twitter to see what other people were up to - and it was really interesting, for a number of reasons.

    First, I'm fairly active on twitter and see a lot of discussions about ecology and evolution. This exposed me to a lot more science from people just bit further outside my field. It was fun to engage with a slightly different science twitter instead of all staying in our own silos.
  4. Secondly, some of the other posts inspired envy. At this point in my PhD I'm basically just sitting at a computer doing statistics and writing manuscripts. But other people were posting amazing pictures from the field and some really cool places.

    It was also interesting to see how many of us had similar parts of our days. Whether in the field or in the office, nearly everyone posted a picture of coffee! And of eating lunch with their friends. All of the parents posted pictures of their kids, whether it was picking them up after work or having dinner with the family. Lots of people posted photos of hobbies that they do to maintain some balance in their life.

    All of this made me feel like I was, indeed, part of a bigger science community, and that made me feel pretty warm and fuzzy.

    So, I'll take you through my day, and scatter some of these interesting parallels into my timeline as well.

    My day started as usual, sort of. Sometimes I go running in the morning, but on this particular day I just rolled out of bed and had breakfast before heading to work.
  5. Considering that I'm just drinking a cup of coffee, this tweet got a surprising amount of interest - nine likes. Maybe because of the joke about the news?

    My coffee definitely wasn't as good as these scientists':
  6. After that, it was off to work. If the weather is bad or I have a lot of stuff to carry, I take the bus. Otherwise, I try to bike to work. As an environmentalist it's fantastic to live in a place where there's really not much need to own a car.
  7. Then, well, work.
  8. Whew, by 11:30 it was time for lunch. Writing can seem like a never-ending task, but on this day I had made myself a checklist breaking down the tasks related to this manuscript. By lunchtime I had checked off two of them: making a figure of my species distribution and adjusting the colors in Illustrator so that it matched my other visuals, and making a variance partitioning chart aggregating my different explanatory variables into some broad categories. I felt like I deserved a good lunch!
  9. After that, it was back at it.