2019 Alinta Energy – CEF Alumnus of the Year Lee Constable is utilising her background in science and science communication to spread positive messages – as well as engage the audience in what’s reported – on social media during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.
Lee currently hosts a children’s science show ‘Scope’ on Network 10, started a youth-run podcast ‘SoapBox’ and has written a kids book called How To Save The Whole Stinkin’ Planet. While living in the city currently, she maintains a connection with the country, and the Harden community where she grew up.
- Please explain what inspired you to get so involved via social media (especially your Instagram stories) and media in general with the themes of busting myths for communities (at all levels) in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic?
As someone working in TV, entertainment and education, I’ve always used social media to connect with people about science topics or even just for fun. But given the confusion and fear I saw come out of this pandemic, it seemed more important than ever to reach out to audiences through social media to get reliable information about COVID-19.
Social media can be a place where misinformation spreads, and often it is because people are well-meaning and looking for direction to help them make informed decisions while others capitalise on that by spreading misguided views. In this scenario that effects everyone so I really wanted to put my hand up and put my science skills to good use helping people sort the myths from the reliable stuff.
- What has the reaction been to your contribution?
I have had a really positive reaction, especially on Instagram where people have been getting involved in my Instagram story Q&A sessions to let me know what they are confused about or claims they would like to fact-check.
But from that, this has also been a really great way to connect with people on another level to share our hopes and fears and to create a sense of community online where we can show solidarity and compassion. Our mental health matters as well as our physical health so that has been a really important part of the reaction I have had.
- What positives do you hope we can take away from this crisis – eg. from isolation?
I hope that many of the things we take for granted in the country like looking out for your neighbour, helping others in the community and sharing our problems and solutions will now be something we see more of in the city. I hope people can continue to see themselves not just as part of their local community, but remember that we are also part of a global community that means we face global problems but we can also come together to create global solutions. That is a real positive!
- What especially has resonated with your audience?
I have found that people getting in contact with me to ask questions about the science are just as happy to know when the answer is ‘this is a completely new virus so even the experts are trying to find out the answer to that question right now’.
People don’t always expect there to be an answer to everything – that’s what science is about after all, seeking answers! I have found that people have been grateful that someone has taken the time to go through step by step and explain in simple terms why some aspects of this pandemic are so complex and why there are grey areas and not just black and white. It has been really wonderful to engage with people in this way because I think science is too often presented as black and white.
- What have you learnt scientifically and as a general member of society?
I have learned that I have more power to make a positive difference in the world than I thought, even if it’s from my couch! Apart from learning so much more about virology and epidemiology, I have learned more about how I can grow and develop my skills as a science communicator, from TV presenting to social media posting. These are all legitimate ways to connect with audiences and share information!
In fact social media allows for something that being a TV presenter doesn’t and that’s two-way communication. I have really valued getting to know the hopes, wants, fears and senses of humour of my online audiences and I really look forward to seeing where this online community I am building goes!