The Science Hour, XpressionFM at the University of Exeter
This project came about from a team working on a female scientists’ special for their radio show (The Science Hour on the campus radio station, XpressionFM at the University of Exeter) and thought that they should do something different for it. A card game of some kind was suggested, as it could be played on air, but was also something that listeners could engage with.
The result is a comparative card game based on the scientific achievements of 32 women across maths, physics, chemistry, biology and geology, released online and also being sent to schools in physical form. Designed in-house, the female scientists are rated out of 10 in four fields: innovation, impact, obscurity and badassery. The cards also feature a short summary about the works, achievements and lives of the scientists. The cards are available on Imgur here.
The team wanted to use the cards to show schoolchildren (in particular girls) that there is a huge heritage of female scientific achievements that they can join, and that they shouldn't be put off doing science because it's 'not for girls'. They wanted to challenge the societal stereotype of science purely being for men, and to shed light on the accomplishments of female scientists throughout history.
The team are currently trying to secure funding to have the cards printed professionally. The hope is to have several hundred packs printed which can be sent out to schools or teachers who request them. In the meantime, teachers (or anyone else) can download and print the packs themselves.
The public release of the cards (via Imgur) enabled immediate feedback from the general public. This was largely positive, though with some criticisms. In particular there was criticism from several users on Reddit for use of the word 'Badassery' – citing that their schools would never allow this kind of language to be used. As such, this will be changed to for the print edition. Criticism was received about the inclusion of Margaret Thatcher – who received a PhD in chemistry from Oxford – and so she will be replaced by a card for Hedy Lamarr for the print release. Should the project run again, political figures would be avoided.
The project worked because of clear and regular communication between its small team, and because of the established links to the online press (notably on Twitter) and the university's press office. The team found that the most effective way to gain press attention was to contact potentially interested parties directly, and make it as easy as possible for them to share the project – in some cases actually writing out a tweet for them. One problem which became apparent just before release, was that of copyright of the pictures used. Initially the images which were thought best were chosen, without checking the copyright. This was pointed out by university staff, and the project team then re-selected images for each scientist which were in the public domain.