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TEAM SCIENCE Building Better Science Activists

with Insights from Disney, Marketing, and Psychological Research

Team Science is fighting a very odd war. It is won only when most people we see as “against us” voluntarily choose to join us. Here are ideas on how to get more people to join us, drawing from the worlds of marketing, my previous employer Disney, and psychological science.

Let me start with a secret: although I am a scientist, in my life I have denied, ignored, and generally resisted a lot of science.

In high school, I denied science when a doctor diagnosed me with hypoglycemia. I did it because I simply wanted to keep drinking that sugary Starbucks Frappuccino.

In college, I was unmoved by science when I took a class with a Nobel Prize–winning climate change scientist. In this case, I believed the expert’s scientific evidence, but I failed to start behaving more environmentally.

With my hypoglycemia, only when the doctor caringly reassured me that my diet would be tasty and “cool enough” did I start letting myself believe I had a scientifically identified problem.

And regarding the environment, I did change my behavior but not until years later when I met an attractive British geologist. She was environmental and had a great accent, so I became environmental. It was as simple and shameless as that.

When the geologist came over for a first date, she asked me where the recycling bin was. So I turned a cardboard box of notes into a bin with the line, “I just have a cardboard box because as that triangle says ‘reuse before recycle.’”

Being aware or educated did not change me. Even though I knew “that triangle,” even though I had heard about climate change for over ten years, and even though I had taken a ten-week course with a climate expert, I had yet to change. But just ten minutes into a first date with a hot geologist, I was an environmentalist.

We Need This Marketing Stuff

This article does not ask Team Science to forgive or condone people who are like me. Nor does it say that we should stop with more aggressive tactics. Those are important and should remain. This article is simply about getting more people onto Team Science.

In this article, I want to put into laser clarity: Team Science will lose if we don’t deal with the basic human forces that lead to resistance. Thus to win, we need to borrow more techniques from Disney and marketing.

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TEAM SCIENCE: Building Better Science Activists with Insights from Disney, Marketing Conspiring for the Common Good A Stegosaur Carving on the Ruins of Ta Prohm? Think Again