June 22, 2012 at 2:05 PM ET
Doing smackdowns on stupid online videos could be a full-time job, so it's a good thing that so many other people are willing to take on the task. What's not a good thing is the video done up for the European Commission's Women in Research and Innovation initiative, which has high-heeled models glamming it up to tout science as a "girl thing."
Not that I'm against high-heeled models, but as a teaser to highlight women in science or get girls interested in science careers, it earns a strong thumbs-down. After weathering the bad reviews on the Web and Twitter for hours and hours, the European Commission shut down access to the video and tweeted, "OK, scientists, we heard you."
The campaign in general isn't a bad thing. This quote from the Science-Girl-Thing.eu website hits the right tone:
"Want to save lives? Keen to find out what’s lurking in the nether regions of space, or in the deepest ocean trench? Passionate about the environment? Do something about it! The next great discovery could be yours, so come and take up the challenge.
"Did you know that girls do as well as boys in science and maths at school but many more boys go on to further study science, technology and engineering? So girls, remember: you’ve got what it takes.
"Science needs your ideas, your inspiration and your passion — science needs YOU!"
It's just too bad that one video spoils the mood. Now I'm waiting for the parody video, "Science: It's a Guy Thing," which will have Chippendale male dancers strut their stuff while a bespectacled woman looks up from the microscope.
For a selection of the smackdowns, just sort through the Twitter tweets that include the #sciencegirlthing tag — or, as a balancer, the #realwomenofscience tag. Both of those tags have risen to Twitter's list of top trenders. This Skepchick posting by my blogging colleague, Noisy Astronomer Nicole Gugliucci, provides a great survey of the pluses and the minuses. She includes this video that covers the positive side of the ledger. Like the awful teaser video, it's part of the "Science: It's a Girl Thing" video gallery.
Update for 2:15 p.m. ET: The tweets from European Commission spokesman Michael Jennings suggest that he thinks the campaign's evil plan is working: "Hope was to get young people onto site. That seems to be happening! ... Lots of comments on #sciencegirlthing vid. 45 seconds of fun for launch to grab attention. Not central to main campaign."
Update for 5:45 p.m. ET: The original teaser video has been taken down, but of course you can still find an archived version on YouTube. The Science-Girl-Thing.eu website features a different teaser trailer, and the European Commission's communication department says this in a Twitter update: "OK, scientists, we've heard you and we want to keep hearing you. Help us build a list of #realwomeninscience: https://t.co/A2LX24ym." That shortened Web address points to a list of Twitter accounts for female scientists. More than 100 women are on the list so far, and it's growing by the minute. Now, that's a good thing.
Update for 7:05 p.m. ET: Twitterers are tittering over tweets with the #scienceboything hashtag, but I'm still waiting for the "Science: It's a Guy Thing" video.
More about women in science:
Alan Boyle is msnbc.com's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the log's Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.