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The Diversity Program Consortium engaged scientists across social media for its #FaceOfScience campaign on Wednesday, May 26, 2021. The campaign celebrated the research training community by highlighting the individual trainees, staff, faculty and leaders who make up the scientific research workforce. Several institutes and entities within the National Institutes of Health participated, including the main NIH social media accounts.
The campaign’s premise was simple: write the hashtag #FaceOfScience on a piece of paper, take a photo holding it, and post it to social media. Participants were invited to also share what they loved most about science, if their research was personal to them, and how they felt they enhanced science.
“I love research because I get to combine my passion for learning with critical thinking and creativity to tackle real world biomedical issues focused on improving healthcare,” a post from the NCI Clinical and Molecular Pharmacology Figg Labs shared. The post included a photo of the quoted scientist holding a lab test tube with #FaceOfScience written across it.
Leadership across different NIH institutes also participated, including Charlene Le Fauve, Ph.D., who serves as the Senior Advisor to the NIH Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity (COSWD). Le Fauve shared about the personal inspiration for her research through a post on the NIH COSWD’s social media account.
“As a child I learned that my favorite cousin was ‘not well’ and ‘chose not to grow up.’ I later learned he had schizophrenia and substance use disorder. My research focused on causes and treatment for people like him.”
The NIH shared the campaign’s promotional post on their social media accounts. The post featured Paulo Sitagata, a Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity program alumnus from BUILD PODER at California State University, Northridge. Sitagata was part of the first BUILD PODER program cohort in 2015 and the first of its alumni to earn a doctorate in physical therapy from Northwestern University.
Sitagata said he was overwhelmed when he saw his face featured on the NIH’s Instagram account, only two posts away from another post featuring former U.S. President Barack Obama and Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“That was pretty mind-blowing,” Sitagata said. “I mean, who would have thought six years ago that the NIH would be using me for anything?”
The idea for the hashtag campaign came from the DPC Coordination and Evaluation Center’s (CEC) communication team. In March 2021, the CEC launched their Enhance Science project with an original video series called Face of Science that highlighted 10 undergraduate students participating in the BUILD programs at 11 institutions across the nation.
“Who gets to be the face of science? That’s the question we started with when we began this project,” said Hansook Oh, Co-Director of the CEC’s Communication and Dissemination Core and executive producer of the series. “We’re trying to actively shape the image of ‘scientist’ so that people from all backgrounds, with different identities and intersections of experience, can see themselves when they imagine what a scientist looks like.”
The 15-video series was produced by award-winning creative professionals: producer and editor Jameelah Nuriddin, director Alethea Root, and composer EmmoLei Sankofa. The creative team recently shared their perspectives on a virtual panel at the 2021 DPC Annual Grantees Conference.
The series was filmed at the 2019 ABRCMS conference in Long Beach, California, before the COVID-19 pandemic. Oh said the timing of the series release and social media campaign gave an added purpose to the work of Enhance Science.
“During a time of remote work and social distancing, when many scientists were unable to do their regular work because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s so important to use art to support the scientific community,” Oh said. “It is inspiring to see people engage because it takes courage and hope to put yourself out there in this world to make such a bold statement—I am the face of science.”