Science Is Vital campaign

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A draft narrative of the Science Is Vital campaign from a digital engagement perspective. For more information please contact @scienceisvital @jennyrohn @rpg7twit or @shanemcc

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  • This is a draft presentation that tells the story of the Science Is Vital campaign from a digital engagement perspective. Notes, statistics and photos have been collated by Shane McCracken (@shanemcc). All errors and omissions are my own. Please correct them. The story is from an engagement perspective. It doesn’t fully acknowledge an enormous amount of work done on the political side of the campaign and credit is due to CaSE and Evan Harris. It also ignores the enormous amount of media work done by Jenny Rohn and an excellent, supportive group of journalists.

    This presentation is licensed to share under a Attribution, Non-Commercial Creative Commons Licence.
  • The campaign started via a blog post written by Dr Jenny Rohn. “Sod it. Let’s march on London. Who’s in?” She published it at 15:25 on September 8th 2010. As expected she also tweeted a link to her Twitter followers. There was a swift and positive reaction on Twitter.
  • Seven minutes later Jenny realises that she has no idea how to go about doing what she’s just proposed.
  • But less than 30 minutes after the original post was published the first two members of the core campaign team had volunteered to help. By the end of the evening 7 people had put themselves forward to help out. Only one more person joined the core team a couple of days later. The speed at which the most committed joined up is phenomenal. Some of them, such as Evan Harris and CaSE , were already trying to get something similar off the ground and saw this nascent movement had potential. Others liked the sound of what Jenny was proposing and wanted to help.
  • Another few hours, and by 9.30pm a Facebook group had started and the name ScienceIsVital agreed. Although at this point No More Dr Nice Guy was the more prominent message. By midnight 150 people had joined the group. Facebook is an extremely quick way of building numbers by virtue of mass invitations and ease of joining. It can build momentum quickly and that is very useful, but it does seem to have weaker ties and generates lots of noise (as opposed to signal).
  • To demonstrate that point. Within 24 hours there were over 500 members of the Facebook page but the chaotic nature of Facebook meant that whilst an enormous amount of energy was created, much was also dissipated in minor discussions.
  • On the third day the name of the campaign was agreed and a domain purchased. There was a question of whether to use .org or .org.uk – it was felt that the .org.uk would create more of a focus on this being a campaign about UK science. An offer was made to host the site on a dedicated server (as opposed to a VPS) which gave more control, performance and bandwidth which probably came in useful later on.

    Facebook membership continues to grow as more and more people become aware of the campaign. The core team members grows to 8 – interestingly despite many people offered to help on specific tasks (and that help was vital) no more people committed themselves to the core team. The core came from the initial blog post and tweets promoting it rather than any further campaign activity.
  • The twitter account was opened on the 10th and by the end of the next day 250 people were following. It is a smaller group than Facebook but because of the more work & politics orientated aspects of twitter it is arguably more influential.
  • Already growth of the Facebook group is beginning to tail off, whilst Twitter grows linearly.
  • Strangely (in some respects) it is a full week before the first physical meeting or the core team takes place (photo is actually from a later gathering). “In the old days” a campaign wouldn’t have started until the core group had their first planning meeting. In today’s world where social media spreads word and aids communication the physical meeting is a very important milestone but no longer the first action. At this point we’ve also started to archive the #scienceisvital hashtags. http://twapperkeeper.com/hashtag/scienceisvital
  • The physical meeting gives the campaign some impetus. It was the first time that the political side of the campaign was fully shared. It started to become much more real. There was a sense of no turning back.
  • Use of #scienceisvital gathers speed starting to build the brand of the campaign.
  • The second physical meeting swiftly followed as the campaign gathers more momentum. More people join in. A logo is professionally designed and crucially a date for the rally is announced, cautiously. The team also start using Basecamp for project management enabling good communications between all members of the team between meetings.
  • It had always been part of the plans to have a website and ePetition as the focal point of the campaign. Despite having a server with Wordpress installed and ready to go we had decided on a bespoke design, and without the skills on the team we were reliant on a volunteer to code the site. During this time progress was being made in other areas regarding celebrity endorsement, economic arguments, petition text and the organisation of the rally. But with little outward facing activity our social media continued to rise but no longer exponentially. Until the site launched that is.
  • September 23rd was a big day for the campaign. We launched the site and petition and this gave our followers something to do. They tweeted about and signed the petition. Within hours over 1,000 people had signed.
  • This was driven by a number of things. Our announcements on Facebook, & Twitter of course, but also through high-profile tweeps such as Prof. Brian Cox. It was also a crucial moment as we emailed a group of student union leaders and heads of science faculties using a list pulled together through crowd-sourcing with our twitter followers and a large google spreadsheet. At one point we had over 20 people simultaneously contributed to that list. This was the point when we broke out of our social media network and into wider real world networks based on places of work and study.
  • A day later and we have 1,000 more signatures on the petition than we had members of the Facebook group. This transformed the campaign from being a wide group of contacts and friends into something much much bigger.
  • The following days were aimed at driving sign-ups to the campaign and very importantly urging people to come to the rally which we were desperately organising behind the scenes despite a painful lack of experience in this field.
  • Over this time we were reaching out to the media, to bloggers and crucially to other organisations to support the campaign. Over 32 organisations officially support the campaign and will have emailed and paper mailed their members about the campaign and rally. University departments, Provosts and Vice-Chancellor were mentioning ScienceIsVital in newsletters and the effect of this was now filtering through. It took time to happen. Newsletters have a publishing cycle and don’t happen as quickly as social media, but once they are out the impact can be enormous as the graph shows.
  • We fast-forward another week – 4 weeks since Jenny’s blog post and 2 weeks since the site was launched and we are in the week before rally. People have been signing up to the petition faster than ever. In one day we received nearly 2,000 signatures. This was after sending an email (using Mailchimp.com) to the 14,200 people who had already signed up. That day the website received over 9,000 visits, viewing nearly 35,000 pages – a record for the campaign so far.

    This is also the first time we actively sought donations from our supporters – a potential mistake – we should have been asking from the outset to cover costs of developing the site, paying a professional events organiser etc. The response however has been excellent.
  • The run up to the rally created a lot of excitement and interest in the campaign. Campaigns need moments to drive interest. They need to provide supporters with opportunities to do real things.

    On the eve of the rally we had over 20,000 people signed up on the petition. We emailed to remind them about it at 4pm on the Friday afternoon. There was very little noticeable effect online. It was probably too late in the day…
  • But at 13:55 on the Saturday as swarms of scientists came strolling up King Charles Street wearing white lab coats and carrying amusing placards, many of them home-made, we knew we had started something special.
    It struck us that so many of the people there had not been on a demo in the last 20 years or ever before. The crowd were funny, polite and even picked up their litter afterwards. They were spontaneous, patient and disorganised. They looked like the grassroots scientists that they were. Contrast the photos from the ScienceIsVital rally (http://www.flickr.com/search/?w=all&q=scienceisvital&m=text) with those from the more recent demonstrations outside parliament where the demonstrators came across as aggressive, organised by Unions and bussed in.
    Part of the success of the campaign was that we managed to get NOT-the-usual-suspects activated.
    The day of the rally also gave us the most tweets using the #scienceisvital hashtag – over 2,000. We of course, were oblivious to this being too busy with the rally itself.
  • A few days later and another important facet of the campaign came to fruition. We had been encouraging supporters to write to their MPs. We know many did. We also asked them to come to the House of Commons and lobby their MPs in person. Over 100 supporters filled Committee Room 10 and heard Prof Adrian Smith read a depressing statement from Vince Cable who was at the time giving a statement in the Chamber on the Browne Review of Higher Education funding.
    About 20 MPs came to see their constituents. Special kudos to Jeremy Corbyn who turned up after the lobby had finished but had the great grace to take Della Thomas, one of the hardest working team members for tea and scones to hear what she had to say. Special shame to Simon Hughes who despite being the MP of the founders of the campaign didn’t respond to letters or requests to attend the lobby. A couple of minutes after we finished he did pitch up to the next room for a different meeting without even checking to see if his constituents were still there.
  • One more thing is very apparent on the charts. Sign up to the petition was rocketing. We had over 7,000 signatures in 2 days. The reason. We create a “moment”. We had to print the petition to deliver in order to deliver it to Downing Street. Whilst the signature was being delivered the team got a message from David Willetts’ private office asking if they could meet with him. They found time in their diaries for a “positive and productive” meeting.

    At this point the team were extremely tired and we felt we had done what we could to tell the government that ScienceIsVital.
  • Over the next few days without “moments” the campaign trundled along.
  • Until the evening before the Spending Review news started leaking out that Science research funding was to be frozen rather than cut. With some expectations of 30% cuts this was felt to be as good a result as we could have hoped for. It was a decision that was made by the Treasury, under pressure from Cable and Willetts, who were under pressure from many people, but as the headlines, words in parliament and reports indicate the ScienceIsVital campaign played an important part in creating that pressure. The campaign managed to get a normally shy & retiring science community on the streets, got them signing petitions, writing to & lobbying MPs, and talking to journalists.

    And it worked.
  • Science Is Vital campaign

    1. 1. Science Is Vital Campaign The story so far
    2. 2. September 8 15.25
    3. 3. September 8 15.32
    4. 4. September 8 15.51 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 7-Sep 8-Sep Core team members Core team members
    5. 5. 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140 160 7-Sep 8-Sep Core team members Facebook Group Member September 8 21:26
    6. 6. 0 100 200 300 400 500 600 7-Sep 8-Sep 9-Sep Core team members Facebook Group Member Twitter Followers September 9
    7. 7. 0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 900 7-Sep 8-Sep 9-Sep 10-Sep Core team members Facebook Group Member Twitter Followers Tweets with #scienceisvital September 10 http://scienceisvital.org.uk http://www.flickr.com/photos/torkildr/3462607995/in/photostream/
    8. 8. 0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 900 1000 7-Sep 8-Sep 9-Sep 10-Sep 11-Sep Core team members Facebook Group Member Twitter Followers Tweets with #scienceisvital September 11
    9. 9. 0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 7-Sep 8-Sep 9-Sep 10-Sep 11-Sep 12-Sep Core team members Facebook Group Member Twitter Followers Tweets with #scienceisvital September 12
    10. 10. 0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 7-Sep 8-Sep 9-Sep 10-Sep 11-Sep 12-Sep 13-Sep Core team members Facebook Group Member Twitter Followers Tweets with #scienceisvital September 13 Photo by Della Thomas
    11. 11. 0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 1400 7-Sep 8-Sep 9-Sep 10-Sep 11-Sep 12-Sep 13-Sep 14-Sep Core team members Facebook Group Member Twitter Followers Tweets with #scienceisvital September 14
    12. 12. 0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 1400 1600 7-Sep 8-Sep 9-Sep 10-Sep 11-Sep 12-Sep 13-Sep 14-Sep 15-Sep Core team members Facebook Group Member Twitter Followers Tweets with #scienceisvital September 15
    13. 13. 0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 1400 1600 7-Sep 8-Sep 9-Sep 10-Sep 11-Sep 12-Sep 13-Sep 14-Sep 15-Sep 16-Sep Core team members Facebook Group Member Twitter Followers Tweets with #scienceisvital September 16 Rally set for 9th October http://www.golden-p.co.uk
    14. 14. 0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500 7-Sep 8-Sep 9-Sep 10- Sep 11- Sep 12- Sep 13- Sep 14- Sep 15- Sep 16- Sep 17- Sep 18- Sep 19- Sep 20- Sep 21- Sep 22- Sep Core team members Facebook Group Member Twitter Followers Tweets with #scienceisvital Petition signatures September 22
    15. 15. 0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500 Core team members Facebook Group Member Twitter Followers Tweets with #scienceisvital Petition signatures September 23
    16. 16. 0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500 Core team members Facebook Group Member Twitter Followers Tweets with #scienceisvital Petition signatures September 23 1,100 university contacts
    17. 17. 0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500 3000 3500 4000 Core team members Facebook Group Member Twitter Followers Tweets with #scienceisvital Petition signatures September 24
    18. 18. 0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000 7-Sep 8-Sep 9-Sep 10-Sep 11-Sep 12-Sep 13-Sep 14-Sep 15-Sep 16-Sep 17-Sep 18-Sep 19-Sep 20-Sep 21-Sep 22-Sep 23-Sep 24-Sep 25-Sep 26-Sep 27-Sep 28-Sep 29-Sep Core team members Facebook Group Member Twitter Followers Tweets with #scienceisvital Petition signatures September 29
    19. 19. 0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000 8000 9000 7-Sep 8-Sep 9-Sep 10-Sep 11-Sep 12-Sep 13-Sep 14-Sep 15-Sep 16-Sep 17-Sep 18-Sep 19-Sep 20-Sep 21-Sep 22-Sep 23-Sep 24-Sep 25-Sep 26-Sep 27-Sep 28-Sep 29-Sep 30-Sep Core team members Facebook Group Member Twitter Followers Tweets with #scienceisvital Petition signatures September 30
    20. 20. 0 2000 4000 6000 8000 10000 12000 14000 16000 18000 20000 8-Sep 9-Sep 10-Sep 11-Sep 12-Sep 13-Sep 14-Sep 15-Sep 16-Sep 17-Sep 18-Sep 19-Sep 20-Sep 21-Sep 22-Sep 23-Sep 24-Sep 25-Sep 26-Sep 27-Sep 28-Sep 29-Sep 30-Sep 1-Oct 2-Oct 3-Oct 4-Oct 5-Oct 6-Oct Core team members Facebook Group Member Twitter Followers Tweets with #scienceisvital Petition signatures October 6 14,200 Petition signatories
    21. 21. 0 5000 10000 15000 20000 25000 8-Sep 10- Sep 12- Sep 14- Sep 16- Sep 18- Sep 20- Sep 22- Sep 24- Sep 26- Sep 28- Sep 30- Sep 2-Oct 4-Oct 6-Oct 8-Oct Core team members Facebook Group Member Twitter Followers Tweets with #scienceisvital Petition signatures October 8 20,568 Petition signatories
    22. 22. 0 5000 10000 15000 20000 25000 30000 8-Sep 10- Sep 12- Sep 14- Sep 16- Sep 18- Sep 20- Sep 22- Sep 24- Sep 26- Sep 28- Sep 30- Sep 2-Oct 4-Oct 6-Oct 8-Oct Core team members Facebook Group Member Twitter Followers Tweets with #scienceisvital Petition signatures October 9 Photo by ShaneMcC
    23. 23. 0 5000 10000 15000 20000 25000 30000 35000 Core team members Facebook Group Member Twitter Followers Tweets with #scienceisvital Petition signatures October 12 Photo by Stephen Curry
    24. 24. 0 5000 10000 15000 20000 25000 30000 35000 40000 Core team members Facebook Group Member Twitter Followers Tweets with #scienceisvital Petition signatures October 13 Photo by Joe Dunkley
    25. 25. 0 5000 10000 15000 20000 25000 30000 35000 40000 Core team members Facebook Group Member Twitter Followers Tweets with #scienceisvital Petition signatures October 19
    26. 26. October 20

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