Last week I had the joy of attending a Q&A with Ann Merchant to learn more about the Science & Entertainment Exchange. Merchant, the deputy director for communications at the National Academy of Science helped launch the Exchange in 2008.
The Exchange is a place where anyone can receive free consultation from a scientist. Most of their “clients” are Hollywood writers looking to make their scenes more realistic. They have helped with the Avengers, Castle, Guardians of the Galaxy, small indie films, novels, and more.
They place a large emphasis on “inspiring not accuracy”. For example, the Exchange made the suggestion to change Jane Foster’s occupation in Thor from nurse to astronomer. While this helped make more sense of how Jane met Thor, it also helped show the general public a young female in a scientific career. For too long the only scientists on tv were “stale, pale, and male”. We are now getting to show diversity and help more children see themselves as scientists one day. The NAS has also asked Hollywood to help spread messages for them. Adding sentences in shows like Grey’s Anatomy that women with HIV can still have healthy babies is a simple, effective teaching opportunity for a wide audience
All scientists are welcomed to be consultants. Their main concern is that scientists can communicate with the public and are non-judgmental. No suggestion from Hollywood is stupid, just uninformed (which is why they are seeking consultation). If you are interested in getting involved with the Exchange you can find more information here. I personally am so excited Hollywood is trying to be more accurate and aware of the messages they send.