This month, SoNYC, our monthly discussion series in NYC about all aspects of communicating and carrying out science online, turns one! We’re hosting a party on May 2nd to celebrate, and to warm up we’re taking a look back at all the SoNYC events from the past year.
SoNYC is co-organised by Lou Woodley of nature.com, John Timmer, Science Editor at Ars Technica and Jeanne Garbarino and Joe Bonner at Rockefeller University. We follow a rotating 3-month editorial cycle to ensure we cover all angles of science online:
In month 1 we cover topics relating to science communication and outreach. Month 2 focuses on online tools for scientists, including digital publishing and month 3 of the cycle looks a “implicational” issues such as legal and policy discussions.
In this post we round up all of the SoNYC events around science communication and outreach. You can read the recap of the events from the review of those that focused on online tools for scientists and digital publishing here and the implicational issues – legal, policy and community here.
Courting Controversy: how to successfully engage an online audience with complex or controversial topics
The very first SoNYC took place on Weds 20th April 2011 and asked how to successfully engage an online audience with complex or controversial topics. Questions such as; “How do science communicators can help ensure that accurate information rises above the noise?” and, “What are the challenges faced by experts who attempt to reach the public directly?” were discussed. The panel included researchers who have engaged the Press and the public about climate change, vaccines, and the perception of risk:
- Ken Bromberg is the director of the Vaccine Research Center at the Brooklyn Hospital Center, and has made frequent appearances in the media to discuss vaccine safety.
- David Ropeik is a former journalist who now lectures and consults on risk perception. In recent entries at his blog, On Risk, he has tackled vaccines and nuclear safety.
- Gavin Schmidt is a climate researcher at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and a driving force behind the RealClimate blog. His public outreach efforts have included an appearance on the Letterman Show.
You can find a write-up and Storify summary from the event here and below are a few of the key messages from the online discussion:
Reaching the niches: connecting under-represented groups in science
The fourth SoNYC event took place on Wednesday 24th August. The topic for debate this month was how do we reach and connect groups that are underrepresented in science? Women, minorities and researchers in developing economies often face challenges when integrating into the scientific community. It can also be difficult for researchers with a niche interest to find and support each other. Groups such as teens often fail to view science as interesting or significant in its own right and have poor access to reliable, engaging scientific content.
The panel looked at how minority networks form and develop both online and off, and discussed the targeted efforts to reach communities that are underrepresented or disinterested in science:
- Khadijah Britton is the founder of BetterBio, a non-profit focused on helping minority communities connect with science.
- Meghan Groome is director of the NY Academy of Science’s K-12 Education and Science & the City programs.
- Dhiraj Murthy is an assistant professor at Bowdoin College, where he studies the use of social media tools within minority communities.
- Nancy Parmalee, a graduate student at Columbia University, will talk about how forming online communities have advanced her research.
- Daniel Colón Ramos is the director of CienciaPR, a group dedicated to promoting scientific collaborations and literacy in Puerto Rico.
- Bernice Rumala is co-chair of Rockefeller University’s Achieving Successful and Productive Academic Research Careers (SPARC) initiative.
In the build-up to the event, we also ran some guest posts here on Of Schemes and Memes by scientists representing minority or niche groups. Our first installment from SoNYC co-organiser Jeanne Garbarino, also a Postdoc at Rockefeller University, considered some of the underrepresented groups within science. In our second installment, Mónica I. Feliú-Mójer discussed her role as the vice-director of Ciencia Puerto Rico, a non-profit, grassroots organization that promotes science, research and scientific literacy in Puerto Rico. Our third post was from Subhra Priyadarshini, editor of Nature Publishing Group’s India portal who talked about life for scientists in India. In our forth post we heard from Satoshi Uchiyama, a Japanese researcher working abroad, as he details his career hurdles and visa issues. In our last post, we heard fromAmanda Adeleye, a medical student who reveals that the glamorous world of cheerleading can mix with science.
Find a write up and Storify summary from the event here and a few of the take home messages from the online discussion below:
On Thursday 8th December 2011 the seventh SoNYC took place and the topic for debate this month was, “Matching medium and messengers to meet the masses.” Reaching an audience that’s already interested in science is a relatively easy thing to do. Reaching a broader audience, however, can be a serious challenge. The conversation looked at when and how scientists and science communicators should highlight science issues to the general public.
The panel had experience communicating with audiences from young kids to policymakers, and discussed what they have learnt about using different spokespeople and platforms to get their message out:
- Darlene Cavalier is the woman behind the Science Cheerleaders.
- Jamie Vernon, a science policy analyst.
- Molly Webster, lead producer for live programming at the World Science Festival.
- Kevin Zelnio is Assistant Editor and Webmaster for Deep Sea News and a freelance writer.
For more information, you can find a write up and Storify summary from the event here and below are a few of the take home messages from the online conversation:
Beyond a trend: enhancing science communication with social media
On Thursday 17th February the ninth SoNYC was a special event for Social Media Week. We teamed up with the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) and the topic for debate was social media. This month’s SoNYC wasn’t held in the usual location at Rockefeller University, but at the AMNH:
As a communications tool, social media is an undeniably effective way to enhance your message. But within the science realm, top communicators – both academic and professional – strive to use social media for something greater: to engage the public in a conversation about science. The panel included scientists, communicators, and educators who use social media tools to find creative, collaborative, and engaging learning opportunities:
- Ruth Cohen, Director of the Center for Lifelong Learning at the American Museum of Natural History
- Ben Lillie, the co-organizer of The Story Collider, which tells science stories by combining verbal narratives with podcasts, Twitter and an online magazine
- Matt Danzico, a BBC journalist who conducted a 365-day blog experiment called “The Time Hack” looking at how we perceive time
- Carl Zimmer, a science journalist whose latest book, Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed, is based on feedback he received on his Discover Magazine blog when he asked the question: are scientists hiding tattoos of their science?
- Moderator: Jennifer Kingson, day assignment editor, Science Department, The New York Time
In the lead up to Social Media week, we ran a series of guest posts here on Of Schemes and Memes, recounting experiences where social media has been a key part of a science education project. To start the discussions, Dr Alan Cann from Leicester University gave us an academic’s viewpoint on how social media can be used as part of the curriculum. Next we heard from Ben Lillie, co-founder of The Story Collider, revealing how social media can also be used to tell a science story. We then took a look at the, “This is what a scientist looks like” initiative, interviewing writer and multimedia specialist, Allie Wilkinson.
Take home messages
All SoNYC events are live-streamed and the videos are archived so that anyone can follow along, whether you’re in NYC or not. We also tweet enthusiastically on the #sonyc hashtag and create Storifys of the online conversations around each event. Recently, we’ve also been providing preview posts for each event, where we start to explore the month’s topic in advance of the in-person discussions. Search our archive of blog posts to find out more.