Nate Dorr 28 June 2017

The X X Files Series Pays Tribute to Women in Science


Scientists hardly fit into any particular archetype or subset of the population. At my old lab, for instance, you'd often have nearly as many backgrounds represented as members of the department at any given time.

Science is a universal language.

So it's surprising that certain scientist stereotypes persist in the popular imagination. And natural that Science Magazine would turn to broadening those representations a little with their fantastic XX Files video series.

Largely the handiwork of Sarah Crespi and Nguyen Nguyen, the series turns the spotlight on just a few of the many remarkable women conducting fascinating research in labs across the country.

The areas of study, and techniques, are equally wide ranging, even amazingly so, from casting of unique animal genital structures, to drone-based microbiome sampling, to cancer-sniffing dogs.

"What someone does every day as a scientist is incredibly variable," Crespi told us. The timing of the series was also motivated by the success of hashtag #ThisIsWhatAScientistLooksLike meant to go beyond the stereotypes and focus on many women scientists. "I thought that was something we could build on and explore."

XX Files: Scorpion Hunters

XX Files: Expert Dreamers

What makes the series so compelling is not just its choice of scientist-subjects, but that the work they're doing covers a mind-bendingly broad range of strange and wonderful lines of interrogation, covering fields you probably didn't imagine existed.

There was clearly no shortage of stories to chose from. Of course, the team was well positioned to find the best leads through Science Magazine's network of news writers, editors, contributors, and social media connections. Searching out the most exciting leads also took a lot of active research: Crespi looked into her favorite subjects just to see who might be at their cutting edges right now. 

XX Files: Animal Genitalia

XX Files: The Humpback Microbiome

The scientific process, of course, operates the same way whoever is doing it. But did putting together this series allow its creators to notice any surprising trends?

Not at all, Crespi told us. In most cases, gender didn't even come up, as it was irrelevant to the scientific questions being investigated. "When we did ask," she said, "we ended up with as many different answers as we had subjects."

Nine fascinating, dynamicly-edited episodes deep, the series is on hiatus. Let's hope that the team finds a new sponsor, and launches a new season, soon.

Watch six videos from the 'XX Files' series exclusively on Labocine.

XX Files: Haptics Tactics

XX Files: Listening to The Universe

About 'XX Files' Creators

Sarah Crespi is Senior Multimedia Producer at Science and host of the Science Magazine Podcast. Nguyen Khoi Nguyen is a Science Multimedia Editor, Science/AAAS. Together they created Science’s two web series: “XXfiles” and "We Don't Know."

For the series, Sarah's focus was on science communication, interviewing, and audio production and Nguyen was responsible for camera operation, editing, motion graphics, and composition of the scores. They are part of a larger team at Science that also produce and edit weekly videos on research, news, and features for Science’s website.

More about the series at:

The interview was conducted by Nate Dorr, the Director of Programming at Imagine Science Films.

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