Biotech Memes

posted in: Commentary | 7
Birth Control Saves by Mary Mangan via G+.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Pair that picture with some clever text and you’ve got a meme that will be re-tweeted and shared all over the internet until even your grandmother has seen it. Thankfully, there are some great science memes getting made and passed around every day – but there could always be more.

Back in October 2012, Ian Bosdet had the fabulous idea of making journal articles into memes by combining a main idea or quote from the paper with a striking image, with the tag #shareablescience on G+. The idea hasn’t really taken off, even though there are tons of science bloggers out there.

As much as we all love Grumpy Cat, surely more science memes would be better! I propose that each science blogger who writes about a paper  (or other scientific topic) also create a meme image to accompany the post (with a shortlink to the post), and include the #shareablescience tag when sharing via social media. The image will show up when the blog post is shared, and hopefully bring traffic back to the blog.

Bt Cotton Chomp by Angus Catchot via Twitter.

An anecdote from Mary Mangan, referring to the image above: “last Friday I linked to the news article and the paper of this data. It got +9 and 1 share. The new one [with meme image, was posted this Friday at the same time]? +16 and 6 shares.” Of course it’s an anecdote, but it does speak to the power of images to get our attention!

I challenge all Biofortified contributors to add a meme image to their posts! I am not very creative – but that won’t stop me for asking for help from more creative friends when I’m working on a post 😉

Bringing this idea back to Biofortified, you may have noticed there aren’t many meme images about agriculture or biotechnology. The images we see are often inaccurate and designed to fearmonger – like syringes in tomatoes*. Karl started a Biofortified images page with the goal of providing a resource for journalists looking to illustrate a story (we may need to move that to Flickr or come up with a more creative and dynamic way to save images – please share ideas in the comments). Mary started a thread in the Biofortified Forum that encourages collection and creation of memes (again, we need to come up with a better way to store these – back to the GMO Wiki idea?).

Vaccine Dose by RtAVM via Twitter.

One science meme source that  provides what I think could be a great strategy example is Refutations to Anti-Vaccine Memes on Facebook (@RtAVM on Twitter). They simply take a claim made by anti-vaccine folks, create a snarky yet science based statement, and pair it with a shocking, striking, or adorable image. Now, this is a good meme!

Thanks to Adrian Kenyon on Flickr for inspiring this post when your images came up when I was searching for Creative Commons images of seeds on Flickr. These lovely and creative yet inaccurate, fearmongering images are exactly why we need to be working on accurate yet funny images that promote science.

*Seriously, these people need to take a plant transformation class!

Follow Anastasia Bodnar:
Anastasia is Policy Director of Biology Fortified, Inc. and the Co-Executive Editor of the Biofortified Blog. She has a PhD in genetics with a minor in sustainable agriculture from Iowa State University. Her favorite produce is artichokes!