The idea for the @52CitScientists account sprang from a conversation between Mar Dixon and Darlene Cavalier. Soon after, they enlisted Zsófi Szendrei to grow the account and make it a success. You can find @52CitScientists on Twitter and Instagram.
Mar Dixon is a self-described “troublemaker for sectors who need a kick up the bum.” SciStarter has a unique connection with her, because Mar Dixon is sister to Darlene Cavalier, SciStarter’s founder!
When SciStarter interviewed her, she was preparing for “Ask a Curator” Day, one of the many events she orchestrates. With this particular event, Dixon works to get institutional actors, like curators, in dialogue with members of the general public. She hopes that a take-home message from the event is that curators and scientists are people, too.
Dixon lives and works in Shropshire, England as a consultant in digital/social media and audience development, aiming to positively disrupt the culture sector.
Though she emphasized to SciStarter that she respects and understands the traditional modes of academic and science communication, she also stressed that new ways and methods need to be implemented alongside the journals and old-style communication process. “Academics need to go to free events like hackathons to understand the questions that people ask.”
This raises the question: how did Dixon get into this whole business? “I planned one event, and then others followed.”
Dixon seeks to get more people into museums and the culture sector, especially into the small- and medium-size institutions. One way she does this is by connecting people from under-served populations directly with the museums through targeted programming. One example Dixon gave sprang from her “DrinksThing,” a monthly event she hosts for Londoners to socialize. A mom whose children had just been diagnosed with autism connected with a museum person at the event, and they soon executed a brilliant idea: they created days for museums to reach out to families with autistic children. These days consist of small but meaningful interventions, like plotting safe, quiet routes for kids who can be overstimulated when they go to museums.
Dixon’s mission to make museum and academic spaces accessible doesn’t stop at public events. To fight communication barriers, she also takes to social media with viral hashtag campaigns. One example is #museumselfie, which aims to inspire fun in museums and thus hopefully stimulate accessibility and learning.
That being said: what is @52CitScientists?
@52Museums inspired @52CitScientists. The premise of @52Museums is simple: for each of the 52 weeks of the year, someone connected to a museum will take over the account, tweeting or instagramming about whatever they want as often as they want. Dixon created @52Museums as a way to give museums permission to break the rules – giving them the freedom of a new voice while still promoting their museum and their brand.
Dixon says that her mom prompted her and Cavalier to collaborate on @52CitScientists, because Mom wanted both daughters to work together even though they were an ocean apart. Their mom saw similarities between her daughters’ work; Cavalier built up the science community while Dixon built up the culture sector.
Dixon sees @52CitScientists as a way to put citizen scientists, regular people who are science enthusiasts, in conversation with each other and with traditional scientists. Her vision for @52CitScientists is for it to have diverse and different “hosts” each week; anyone can do citizen science, and anyone who cares deeply and wants to foster citizen science outreach can take over this account. Perhaps, someday, a student from Mumbai could take the account for a week, then handing it off to a retiree from Orlando.
To ensure that the account is a success, Dixon and Cavalier work with Zsófi Szendrei. Szendrei is the perfect person to manage this account. Though she confessed to SciStarter that she worried at first about not being a “proper” citizen scientist, she soon learned that this was precisely why she is a good ambassador: all she had to be was an enthusiastic participant in citizen science, rather than having any set “credentials,” to effectively open the door to others.
One message Szendrei wishes that she could communicate to all prospective citizen scientists is that their long-time hobbies could be ripe for citizen science. From the age of 6, she has collected rocks, which led her to geologically-focused citizen science. “To all potential citizen scientists, don’t be scared, because there are no rights or wrongs. Citizen science isn’t about grades; it’s about life. It bridges the gap between school and the big picture.”
Szendrei’s background is impressive. She just completed her MA in Events and Experience Management, and has an extensive background in acting, arts, and design. Currently, she works with Mimbre, an all-female contemporary circus and acrobatics company that is devoted to social justice work. Like Dixon, Szendrei is based in London.
Now that she works with @52CitScientists, she hopes to increase the reach of the account. As a Hungarian who grew up in Asia and went to school in Scotland, Szendrei wants the account to be truly global and spread outside the United States and Europe, and she wants it to continue for as long as possible – potentially forever! She anticipates great longevity for the account, because, as she told SciStarter, “For whatever you’re interested in, you can find citizen science.”
What is one thing Szendrei wishes she could do with the account? “I wish I could add more weeks to the year so more people could participate!” Want to spread the word about citizen science? Message @52CitScientists on Twitter about taking over the account for a week.