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Outreach, activism and persuasion at ScienceOnline2012

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Much of science communication is not trying to be “objective” and present “both sides”, but rather is an attempt to educate, inform and persuade, sometimes working against the forces of pseudoscience and quackery. We have a series of sessions helping you navigate these waters.

You Got Your Politics in My Science (discussion) – John Timmer and Stephanie Zvan

Like it or not, anyone involved in communicating science will end up facing decisions about where the boundary lies between basic reporting and advocacy. Some scientific findings, like those surrounding the safety and efficacy of vaccination, call out for public education and political action. The U.S. government is the largest source of funding in many fields, which inextricably links science to policy decisions. And this year sees a U.S. presidential election in which there are stark differences in the acceptance of basic science between many candidates. Where is the boundary between informing about science–including its attendant politics–and advocating? When is advocacy appropriate? Is it even possible to avoid it? And how can staking out positions on issues unrelated to science (perhaps on Twitter or Facebook) influence how your professional work as a science communicator or scientist is perceived?

Networking Beyond the Academy (discussion) – Nancy Parmalee and Summer Ash

So you’ve been at the bench for a decade and now you’d like to branch out. Is your passport in order? Do you speak the language? What is the exchange rate for academic currency? A discussion of transferable skills, cultural and linguistic differences, and navigating a different world. Topics of interest: staying abreast of happenings  outside of the academy, using your network to find opportunities, figuring out how to be great once you get there.

Covering Political Neuroscience in the Blogosphere (discussion) – Chris Mooney and Andrea Kuszewski

Recent research suggests that liberals and conservatives differ, in a measurable way, in brain structure and function. Yeah. Think about that. This work is far from phrenology, but interpreting its meaning is difficult and contentious. And indeed, given the massively controversial nature of this research, how can science bloggers contribute measure and sanity to the discussion of it? What caveats are necessary? What declarations are supportable? For it is not like this work is going away. Rather, we can expect more and more of these types of studies—of political phenotypes, of bio-politics—to emerge.

Citizens, experts, and science (discussion) – Amy Freitag and Janet Stemwedel

This session hopes to explore the “third wave of science” or “democratizing science” as we move beyond recognizing trained scientists as the sole source of authoritative, objective expertise. We will discuss some examples of how citizens can get involved in the scientific process – both in terms of where in the process (idea generation through analysis) and how (web access, in the field, etc.). Finally, we will cover what ethical questions must be addressed as this movement towards participatory science broadens.
- use of the web as a citizen science tool for data collection and beyond
- including citizens in the scientific process from idea generation to analysis and outreach
- ethics (who gets credit/authorship, where do you publish, etc.)
- Academic rewards for participating in participatory science
- conversations on blogs as early review
- who qualifies as an “expert” and what criteria do we use

Blogging Science While Female (discussion) – Christie Wilcox and Janet Stemwedel

The session on women in science blogging at Science Online 2011 sparked internet-wide discussion about sexism, discrimination and gender representation in science and science blogging. Now here we are, a year later. How have we, as a community, faced the issues brought up by last year’s discussion? What has changed? What have we learned, and what challenges still lie ahead? Moderators and attendees will assess the current state of women in the science blogosphere and discuss the best way we can support and encourage gender representation in science blogging.

Understanding audiences and how to know when you are *really* reaching out (discussion)- Kevin Zelnio and Emily Finke

Who is your audience? Do you write for anyone who will listen or do you target specific groups? How do you know you are reaching anyone? How do you address audience ignorance without making your audience feel ignorant? This session will explore taking a science communication pluralism approach to maximize the number of audiences we can reach. Some writers want to reach other scientists or professionals in their fields, some view their online activities as “broader impact” or outreach, while others write for publishing outlets and others write for whoever pays attention! Audiences are segregated by age class, geography, career, background knowledge and other random interests and often use widely different social networks for finding, aggregating an sharing content. How can we manage the balance of voice, scientific accuracy and tailoring content to appeal to a wider variety of audiences? How can we best communicate to different audiences without making anyone feel either ignorant or bored? Let’s discuss how science writers craft their content to cater to more than one audience, how they can address lack of basic background knowledge, how social networking is utilized and can be further harnessed and whether social media (and which types) make any difference in pimping your content out for a broader reach. What are the appropriate metrics to measure impact across a diverse array of audiences and more importantly what metrics do we need that are currently not available or accessible on freely available web stats software?

Broadening the Participation of Underrepresented Populations in Online Science Communication and Communities (discussion) – Danielle Lee

How are you using your skills in online communication to engage students and/or fellow scientists from underrepresented groups? How do you feel about the unusual digital divide: while texting is used more by underrepresented groups, does that compromise writing skills? How can non-minority allies cultivate and retain minority students into the sciences? Are credibility and authenticity necessary for mentoring minorities? Women scientist bloggers have been increasingly successful in creating a supportive online community that addresses their needs – what are the challenges for scientist-bloggers from underrepresented groups? More generally, and in the spirit of Dr. King, how has the web been used for nonviolent protesting and influencing culture?

Science Communication, Risk Communication, and the role of Social Networks (discussion) – David Ropeik

As important as it is for science communicators to provide clear, relevant, accurate information, people’s views about climate change or vaccines or genetically modified food or chemicals or nuclear power, or so many other health and safety issues, are a blend of conscious reasoning about the factual evidence, and subconscious emotional interpretation of that evidence. The subjective nature of risk perception, which shapes the choices people make as individuals and together as a society, raises unique challenges and ethical issues for science communicators. At a time of rising science denialism, as researchers in Italy face manslaughter charges for how they handled risk communication around the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake, with the debate about climate change raging, this is a critically important issue. Topics to explore include: Why do people’s fears so often not match the evidence? What is the ethical obligation of science communication about risk? What is the latest research on risk perception? How can we integrate this research into science communication training? How does social media amplify or attenuate perceived risk?

Blogging to save the world: Conservation biology and social media (discussion) – David Shiffman and Neil Hammerschlag

Students, researchers, and staff from the University of Miami’s RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program will discuss how their lab uses social media tools to educate people about the marine environment and how they use these tools to encourage science-based conservation policies. The discussion will include using Twitter to teach ‘introduction to marine biology lectures’ online, webinars and other free online resources for educators, a ‘virtual expedition’, and more. Additionally, the speakers will share their personal experiences using social media to generate support for conservation-friendly policy changes using petitions, encouraging people to contact policymakers directly, and other techniques. We will also discuss the strengths and weaknesses of social media technology as it applies to conservation biology in general, as well as the future of these tools for this purpose.

Science writing in and for developing nations (discussion) – Grant Jacobs and Madhusudan Katti

To what extent might good science coverage improve the lot of the so-called ‘developing’ nations, what practical steps might help achieve this, what are the needs of science writers/journalists in those locations, etc. This topic may seem to clash with the demographics of those attending scio with most attendees coming from North America, the UK & Europe, but it’s topic that appeals to a wish to improve the lot of “developing” nations. It also appeals in that I’ve seen so little discussion of science writing/journalism in developing nations. I’m taking ‘developing nations’ very loosely here to allow for examples from nations that might be considered further developed than the poorest of the poor. In Western nations we rally against pseudoscience and poor reporting of science. For developing nations these issues run deeper. Would it be idealism to aspire to shift the mindsets of those in pivotal positions in those nations? Mindsets are, in many respects, the hardest thing to shift and practical initiatives can come to nothing if the will and want to use them isn’t there. Would these nations be helped by media there showing “heroes” in sound science and practical science-based applications? Is there a gap in who traditional media reach (think of low literacy in these nations) – would alternative communication be more effective? (Travelling seminars, perhaps?) What case examples might serve as prototypes? What organisations will, or might, support ventures like these?

Can Democracy Still Work in the Age of Science? (discussion) – Shawn Otto

Jefferson’s central idea of democracy is that “whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.” Jefferson thought it required “no very high degree” of education for people to be well-enough informed. But what happens in a world dominated by complex science? Are the people still well-enough informed to be trusted with their own government? Why or why not? Today, science is under political attack like never before. At the same time, science impacts almost every aspect of modern life, and is poised to create more knowledge in the next 40 years than in all of recorded history. Can we expect attacks to increase or lessen? Why is this happening? Why is it so much worse in the United States than the UK or EU? Why are people the world over protesting against both autocratic and democratic governments? Can democracy survive the rush of science? We’ll compare strategies scientists and journalists can use online and off to manage these emerging science challenges – together with a world of unsolved legacy environmental science challenges – for science and better public policy.

Learn more:

Homepage
Blog
Planning Wiki
Draft Program
See who’s registered
Waitlist sign-up
Facebook page
FriendFeed group
Tumblr coverage blog
Google Plus official page
Google Plus circle of participants
Twitter account
#scio12 hashtag
Twitter repository
Twitter list of participants
Previous conferences
Nice things people said about ScienceOnline2010
ScienceOnline2011 on YouTube
ScienceOnline2011 on Flickr
ScienceOnline2011 official recordings

Previously in this series:

What is: ScienceOnline2012 – and it’s coming soon!
ScienceOnline participants’ interviews
Some updates on #scio12, #NYCscitweetup, Story Collider and more.
Updates: ScienceOnline2012, Science blogging, Open Laboratory, and #NYCSciTweetup
ScienceOnline2012 – we have the Keynote Speaker!
Mathematics – Algebra and Statistics and more – at ScienceOnline2012
Information, data and technology at ScienceOnline2012
Health and Medicine at ScienceOnline2012
Education at ScienceOnline2012
Movies and Video at ScienceOnline2011
Sound and Music at ScienceOnline2012
Visual Communication at ScienceOnline2012
Submissions for the Cyberscreen Science Film Festival are now OPEN!
Scientists and the Media, at ScienceOnline2012
Writing, narrative and books at ScienceOnline2012






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  1. 1. Bonnie Nordby 12:17 am 11/24/2011

    An old book title pops into my mind. “Persuasion and Healing”. As a nurse so much of what I do and be involves persuasion. Even now when I don’t have a “job” nursing is stil my work in life. As a former public health nurse I take those skills of persuasion to the level of my communities. How can small measures of outreach impact healing at multiple levels? Healing Healers and the Health Care System. Healing myself or maybe persuading myself first is key then it seems to flow effortlessly. Writing is a newer form of persuasion for me. I am so use to reading the infinite sensory cues I take in and give out when I am with an individual and when I am working with a group. Thank god I learned to type.

    Link to this

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