NC – ScienceOnline Together, Wrap-Up

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March 2, 2014 by Dr. G

Click on the hashtag #Scio14 to view all of my posts from ScienceOnline Together.

It is going to take some more time to process all that I have learned and hope to explore now that ScienceOnline Together has concluded.  But as I am already in my next location for my next conference (the adventure of back-to-back meetings!), I thought I would get some of my initial and overarching thoughts down from my time in Raleigh.

(1) Diversity of attendees  —  When I go to my typical geology conferences each fall (Geological Society of America and the American Geophysical Union), the conference is attended by… well… geologists.  At this conference, the 400 attendees came from across the globe, from locations such as Canada, Australia, UK, Germany, and Saudi Arabia.  And the careers that the attendees had went well beyond the broad titles of science journalists and freelance filmmakers.  In one session, someone shared that she write about the latest discoveries at St. Jude Children’s Hospital.  One morning at a CONVERGE session, I sat next to a veterinarian that was looking for ways to communicate to pet owners to be pro-active with preventative actions to ensure their pets stay healthy.  And of course, the science librarians were there to represent!  This diversity is something that I value and benefit from – to me, these are new voices in a new audience.

(2) Social and respectful attendees  —  Along with the diversity, the attendees were incredibly talkative, friendly, and supportive.  At this conference, as soon as you sat down to eat or before a session started, someone was always walking up to you to introduce themselves and saying, “so, what do you do?”  This question never got tiring and it was always interesting to see people’s reactions when I said I was a college professor looking for better ways to communicate science to my non-science majors in my courses.  From when I first got on the bus to shuttle from the hotel in the morning to even in the hotel elevator, the conversations never stopped, and they were never negative.

(3) A code of conduct and harassment policy  —  We were provided a very thin program for the meeting that listed the session titles and times, and had adds from conference sponsors.  I’m absolutely fine with that, as it saves paper, and the schedule was great to work with!  I know of several scientific organizations that have established a code of conduct for conference attendees, but ScienceOnline also developed a harassment policy, and both were printed in the program book and on the conference website.  Having these policies developed and widely accessible is necessary and what I would call a great first step.  Although I did not witness any violations of either statement, this seems to be a topic that conference attendees want to speak about more.  Students, be very aware that at the professional level, immature, insensitive, and irresponsible behaviors and comments are not tolerated.

(4) (Mis)match of titles and session descriptions  —  Many of you students have taken classes with me about the importance of writing a good title and what it represents.  I was pleased that the majority of titles did match the session description and reflected what was discussed in that session.  But there were times when the match did not occur – not even close.  I could point the finger at the session moderator, but the finger should also be pointed at the audience for not getting the topic back on track and allowing it to stray too far.  This is one of the “risks” of having an unconference format that allows for such flexibility during the session time.

(5) Session I couldn’t get to  —  … and there were many!  Because of the mismatch of titles/descriptions/actual discussions, I was disappointed that I chose some sessions over others.  The sessions that discussed video seemed to be incredibly positive and popular among attendees (lots of chatter!).  The session on Fighting Burnout (#sciohope) seems to have been an incredibly powerful session, and I hope it is repeated next year.  Of course, there is never going to be the “perfect” conference schedule where sessions you want to go to are offered at the same time – that is expected!

(6) Inspiring keynotes  —  The morning CONVERGE sessions were just incredible and inspirational.  And there were several tweets where people said they feel so “inadequate” when they hear about the impact others are making – “others” that are even younger than us!  I have not attended such an impressive collection of keynotes at any conference ever before.  I am going to sharing what I saw and learned with colleagues and students for a long time – which is one of the impacts a CONVERGE session should have.

(7) Opportunities beyond  —  There are many projects and opportunities to follow up with, all of them very exciting!  I know I want to submit a blurb to the MySciCareer website, I want to look in to the @realscientists Twitter account and see if I can tweet for a week (maybe when I’m out to sea), and I hope to start some guest blogging with an organization (hint is here).  This is just the tip of where I am looking to expand my involvement in science communication!

(8) PowerPoint karaoke  —  I can’t believe I missed this social event!!!  When is the next one???

But now that the conference is over, does this mean we stop thinking and talking about conducting, sharing, and communicating science on the web, or in person?  The answer is clearly no.  See this blog post from one of the attendees and her thoughts.  I think all of us feel/know that we have more work to do.

And if I ever need a quick refresher or visual overview of what happened in some of the sessions, Perrin Ireland from NRDC has uploaded photos in Flickr snapshots from her science scribing.

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