This post is woefully overdue (Anton: mea culpa), but we certainly want to record and reflect the amazing convergence of ideas, efforts, resources and funds that made the annual ScienceOnline conference possible. ScienceOnline2012, the sixth annual conference, was the biggest, longest and most intense yet, and so we have many individuals and organizations to thank. (We thanked the sponsors of ScienceOnline2011 here, ScienceOnline2010 here, ScienceOnline’09 here, the second event here and the first event here.)
Number six was a year of growth.
Our fifth annual conference, ScienceOnline2011, had been another resounding success. Just days after that one had wrapped up, we had a date and a new venue confirmed, courtesy of Matt Shipman and his colleagues at North Carolina State University. Knowing that they’d be hosting us in the spacious McKimmon Conference Center meant that we could spend the rest of the year planning for 450 people – up from 300 at ScienceOnline2011 – to join us Jan. 19-21, 2012 for ScienceOnline2012.
But, Bora and I knew, before we could get to 450, we needed to get to 3.
We needed another co-organizer, and Karyn Traphagen, who had been a huge help for scio11, was just the person. She lives nearby (she’s in Durham County, I’m in Orange County, and Bora’s in Chatham County), she has an interesting science background, and she was glad to be asked to lend even more of her unpaid time and creativity to ScienceOnline2012. She has become an amazing partner — and the first executive director of the new ScienceOnline, a nonprofit organization to support the greater ScienceOnline community. But more about that at the bottom.
By October, the wiki program suggestions page was full of great ideas for sessions, a new website was up, sponsors were responding, and the word was out: registration would start Nov. 1 (2011) at four specific dates and times, with 100 seats up for grabs each time. That first registration session opened and closed in less than 3 minutes:
Update: first #scio12 reg was at 12:00:42, final at 12:02:56
A new venue, more people, and a third organizer. ScienceOnline2012 promised to be bigger and better. But our goal remained the same: facilitate a meeting in which online conversations could be continued face to face, thereby helping to build the greater community of science communicators, educators, journalists and researchers.
Seems we – a collective we, for you’ll see below that the conference is truly the result of a community’s effort – succeeded again. The long list of blog and media coverage, and some 30,000 tweets using the #scio12 hashtag, serve as record of that.
As he did last year, (in Scattered reflections on Science Online 2011), Ed Yong was one of the first to publish a post-event report, Scattered reflections about ScienceOnline 2012 (#scio12). He nailed the three key elements to a great conference, including this important one:
Three: you equalise everything. This seems to be an emergent property of the above elements: the unconference format, the fact that delegates plan their own programme, the familial feel of the thing. Through all this and more, ScienceOnline takes a rugged career landscape and, with one deft flick of the wrist, shakes it flat. Pulitzer winners rub elbows with recent grads. Noobs sing karaoke with award-winners on backing guitar. New York Times journalists apply temporary squid tattoos to the foreheads of the scientists they write about (Carl, I look forward to seeing the disclosure statement the next time you write about Jon’s work).
Reading that, and all the other thoughtful posts that followed, we knew that the little idea we’d conceived over coffee one day in 2006, and nurtured in the years since with chats over coffee or slivovitz or via late-night gchat, was building ever stronger on the energies of thousands of people (not just the 450 who attended).
That energy was brilliantly captured in this music video by Carin Bondar:
So, as is tradition, we raise our glasses to all those who made ScienceOnline2012 possible. Please help us thank them by clicking through to their sites to learn more about each person or organization.
After four years at the Sigma Xi Center in the Research Triangle Park, we were invited by North Carolina State University to take up residence in the McKimmon Conference and Training Center. With more than 34,000 students and nearly 8,000 faculty and staff, N.C. State is a comprehensive university known for its leadership in education and research, and globally recognized for its science, technology, engineering and mathematics leadership. It was the perfect place for us, and we owe a huge round of thanks to Matt Shipman, who works in the News Office, for his advocacy on our behalf. Thanks also to Chancellor Randy Woodson for kicking off the conference with an official NC State welcome; he then refused to leave until he’d gotten his hug from Bora!
Our institutional partner
Duke University (where I’m employed as communications director for the Department of Medicine), served as conduit for our donor funds. We had a good contingent from Duke among the attendees. The Duke Institute for Brain Sciences, which advances interdisciplinary research and education that transforms our understanding of brain function and translates into innovative solutions for health and society, also chipped in at the last minute.
Because of the year-long online excitement about ScienceOnline2011, we were able to attract repeat and new sponsors. They generously helped us grow the conference. See their collected logos on the Sponsors page, and learn about each below:
Burroughs Wellcome Fund, an independent private foundation dedicated to advancing the biomedical sciences by supporting research and other scientific and educational activities, repeated its support of our conference for the sixth year in a row, and also offered an additional $5000 in matching funds. Russ Campbell, communications director, is a great supporter of ScienceOnline, and we’re grateful for his friendship.
The National Association of Science Writers, which helped underwrite scio11 livestreaming, was back with funds to support travel grants for undergraduate and graduate students, and also enough copies of A Field Guide for Science Writers so every attendee could take one home. Our thanks to Nancy Shute, Tinsley Davis and Robin Lloyd and all of the NASW membership. (Note that the NASW annual meeting, called ScienceWriters2012, will be held in Raleigh Oct. 26-20, 2012, and we’ll be delighted to volunteer with that venerable meeting.)
Media Cares Foundation, SciencePodcasters.org, Brain Science Podcast and Double X Science also provided grants for student travel stipends, as did many of the attendees during registration, adding extra to their registration fees. We’re especially grateful to Ginger Campbell of Brain Science Podcast for hearing our call in our final hours of planning; her donations helped us bring a student all the way from Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.
Scio12 featured a big open space that we dubbed the cafe (see a photo). It’s where we had our coffee breaks, books and swag, comfortable chairs for resting, tables for blogging, and other fun stuff. Karyn’s creativity made this place pop, and the sponsorship of Futurity, Promega and Thermo Fisher Scientific helped pay for the coffee and snacks. Thermo Fisher Scientific is a corporate leader in serving science, enabling its customers to make the world healthier, cleaner and safer. Futurity features the latest discoveries by scientists at top research universities in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia. Promega is a leader in providing innovative solutions and technical support to the life sciences industry. Mendeley kicked in funds for the buckets of M&Ms dispensed in the cafe.
Chemical & Engineering News, a weekly magazine published by the American Chemical Society with a blog network of its own, provided a grant to pay for the custom-printed notebooks (Scout books this year) that were stuffed with science scout badges and other fun and useful conference information.
The National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, which facilitates broadly synthetic research to address fundamental questions in evolutionary biology, repeated as a sponsor by providing travel grants to two winners of their evolution-blogging contest (learn more here).
Public Library of Science, which has been with us since the beginning, provided coffee mugs and cash for dessert at the banquet. The Friday banquet featured seven science stories, and we’re so grateful that Chris Gunter, David Ng, Janet Stemwedel, Scott Huler, Marie-Claire Shanahan, Bug Girl and Ben Lillie shared their stories (follow that link to hear the stories and find links to each storyteller online); the banquet was emceed by our friend Jeff Polish of The Monti .
The conference program kicked off with an interesting and inspiring keynote by Mireya Mayor; listen here. Then, over Thursday, Friday and Saturday, more than 150 individuals participated as session moderators, discussion leaders and blitz demonstration presenters. Without them, there would be no ScienceOnline, and we thank them for their program suggestions, ideas and proposals. See the official ScienceOnline2012 wiki. Joanne Manaster and Carin Bondar once again gave us the Film Fest awards. Perrin Ireland and others livescribed many sessions, and it was great to see people gathered around the colorful posters in the cafe after each livescribed session.
Find photos, session videos, Storify boards and a lot more on the scio12.com tumblog.
The generosity of our sponsors, noted above, also helped us pay for boosted wifi at the McKimmon Center, again provided by SignalShare, which has been streaming stellar service to our conference for the past few years.
Science lab and museum tours, and #SciInk
We sent groups for lab tours hosted by the Duke Lemur Center, NC Museum of Natural Sciences, Museum of Life and Science, Forensic Anthropology Lab, Constructed Facilities Lab, Pyroman and MIST labs and a nature art and photo walk in the JC Raulston Arboretum.
Books, get your science books
In the cafe, we perused tables filled with copies of 36 books recently written by our attendees. These books were then given away in the book lottery, and we were delighted to see that many were devoured on plane rides home. Many thanks to the publishers who provided these book titles, including Random House for giving everyone a copy of The Power of Habit.
And, out of a ScienceOnline2012, a group teamed up to give us Download the Universe, the science ebook review.
The Rob Dunn Lab donated cash for prizes at the Sci-Art Show, organized by Glendon Mellow. Yes – in addition to discussions about science and science communication, ScienceOnline2012 had art, stories, comedy, music, dancing. An open-mic night, sponsored by Charles Duhigg and organized by David Kroll and Kevin Zelnio, filled a Raleigh bar with crooning scientists. Science comedian Brian Malow entertained us at lunch one day.
Logistics and our volunteers
Dawn Crawford and Brian Crawford served as logistics and volunteer coordinators, Katy Chalmers was similarly indispensible, and Russ Creech captured some amazing images. Maggie Pingolt was our official photographer, Nadja Popovich provided podcasts, and Rachel Nuwer, Marissa Fessenden and Tanya Lewis blogged from various sessions.
Many others volunteered throughout the event, and we’re grateful to everyone who lent a hand.
Bora Zivkovic is the blogfather, an indefatigable supporter of science, science writers, students and so many others. Karyn Traphagen is the creative light that came into the ScienceOnline fold and brightened our future, giving us the amazing leadership we needed to make this effort into an official nonprofit organization that supports the greater ScienceOnline community. Watch the ScienceOnline Near You page over the next few weeks as it blossoms with satellite meetups – already they’re meeting in Seattle, Vancouver and the Bay Area, and soon in a dozen other cities across North America, in Australia and Europe – and regional conferences and special events such as ScienceOnlineTEEN.
ScienceOnline is a community, and a vibrant one at that. The names above are but a fraction of the many individuals who make this a large and growing family. Our thanks – hugs and handshakes, too – to every one of you.
And, finally, our thanks for the collection you took up at the end of ScienceOnline2012; we appreciated the cash, which we’re using to enjoy much-needed date nights with our respective spouses, who nurture us through the long months of planning for conference: Catharine Zivkovic, Mark Traphagen and Erin Zuiker.
And for those who stayed through to the end of the credits
Soon after ScienceOnline2012, Kevin Zelnio inspired an amazing outpouring of #Iamscience stories, which you can see in the movie below.