Eighteen days ago we announced the formation of the Science Action Network, in conjunction with Understanding Animal Research (UAR), which aims to encourage and enable scientists to respond to animal rights misinformation across the internet. We recently wrote a post explaining why such actions are important, saying:
[I]t is important to comment on these stories [involving animal research] in order to (a) show editors and readers that the public is not against research; and (b) to ensure that ridiculous claims (e.g. “we don’t need animal research, we have other methods”) are challenged and debunked for the casual reader.
So what has been the effect of this campaign, less than three weeks from its start. In the last week alone we have had over 50 tweets including the #ARnonsense hashtag, mainly (but not exclusively) from @animalevidence (UAR) and @SpeakofResearch (SR).
Why does it matter? Presumably the pollsters have made up their mind. However, when others do look at the poll (or indeed search for polls to assess public opinion) we do not want them seeing some small poll and come to the false conclusion that the majority of people are against animal research. Depending on how one asks the question, support for animal research tends to be between 55% and 80% in the US.
However, we should also accept the power of animal rights social media when 88% of one poll rejected the use of animals to develop cancer cures. But perhaps more important than the end poll result is that both polls have (some) measure of balance in their comments section – something which previously would have been a catalogue of replies about the cruelty of researchers. The comments section may often take more time to engage with, but rarely much – many things can be signed in using OpenID including using Facebook or Google accounts. Yet such comments sections are crucial to debunking the myths about animal testing that circulate the internet.
The early success of the Science Action Network can be seen in that most easy-to-access comment sections (where you don’t need a long sign up process) seem to change from mostly against to mostly for animal research after someone has flagged it with the #ARnonsense tag. However many letters still go unanswered in local papers, and we urge scientists to take the two minutes needed to send a quick email off to those newspapers.
So what can you do?
1. Make sure you are regularly checking #ARnonsense on Twitter (can be done without a twitter account). Look back over the last few days of tweets and follow some of the links to find comments in need of reply (also follow @SpeakofResearch and @animalevidence)
2. “Like” and share our articles on our Facebook page – there are regular “attacks” by groups of animal rights activists claiming that all research is rubbish and that researchers use animals for fun. It is important to “like” positive comments and reply to rubbish ones. Please share our messages – we do a Monday update on the previous week, and Thursday target list of #ARnonsense. Also spend a little time on Understanding Animal Research Facebook Page as they also update with #ARnonsense each day.
3. Get more friends involved – tell them about the Science Action Network – challenge them to spend 5 minutes per week debunking animal rights myths.
4. If you see some animal rights misinformation – please mention it on Twitter or Facebook – it doesn’t matter if we’ve already mentioned it. If you do so on Twitter – remember to use the #ARnonsense hashtag (just write “#ARnonsense” at the end of your post)
#ARnonsense – if you haven’t done your share this week, here’s a couple in need of reply:
An article in News 1130 (Vancouver) which had activists claiming that research can be replaced by DNA chips needs comments. People have already begun to counter this – we need more!
A letter from the Oxford Mail needs some comments (if US) and reply letters (reply via http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/contactus/letters/) to explain that we share a huge genetic and physiological similarity with animals, and that alternative methods cannot replace all animal experiments.