April 8, 2023

Science Talk ’23 – a meeting for science communicators

Posted by Laura Guertin

Tall science that says ASC - Giving Science a VoiceThe Science Talk conference is one I’ve been keeping on my wishlist of conferences to attend. I’m always on the lookout for meetings where I can learn new perspectives and hear voices from outside my current sphere of connections. And when I saw that this year’s Science Talk ’23 would include speakers from NPR, NASA, AAAS, Sigma Xi,, and AGU (just to name a few!), I submitted my own abstract to join the conversations.

Science Talk is the annual meeting from the newly-renamed, all-volunteer run Association of Science Communicators (ASC). Held annually since 2017, this year’s hybrid in-person/online meeting met in Portland, OR, with over 325 people in attendance from multiple nations across the globe. The name badges and Whova app reflected the positions people worked in, ranging from graduate students and university publications offices to those freelancing in science communication to digital producers. This cross-section of people from different backgrounds that connect to different audiences made for rich discussions and sharing.

The conference keynote speakers – wow! University of Utah’s Nalini Nadkarni started us off with the idea of tapestry thinking. She reminded us that people will engage with that which they already value, and that it takes time and patience to have impact. But even small interactions are good, and those portals of engagement can be from what you get painted on your fingernails to the images you have displayed on your laptop screen on an airplane. The conference closed with a keynote by Tamara Krinsky who works at the intersection of science and pop culture. I think all of us were envious of her stories and video clips interviewing the MARVEL actors on the red carpet(!). Her review of the impacts from Hidden Figures and the Scully Effect (X-Files – thank you Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Media for this report!) were important highlights and a call that, “we need to culture the crap out of science communication.”

Every session was actually a highlight for me! I learned so much from NASA’s Webb Telescope Media Team on what went into the coverage before/during/after launch. There was an incredibly powerful panel (that turned very serious) from female epidemiologists and their experiences on social media during the pandemic. Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) shared an exciting look at their program All Science, No Fiction. I was inspired by the work of Project SCIENTIA and how they are advancing science communication in languages other than English. The innovative, collaborative approach of ASC/Sigma Xi’s #SciCommMake program yielded multimedia messages communicating scientific evidence to their target audiences (check out the postings on their website!). Other sessions covered tips for scientific illustration, how to add audio to text news stories, tips on how to engage your audience… and did I mention the amazing Pamela Pelletier (AGU Voices for Science alum!) and how she generated visual science storytelling through burlesque(???)

I presented a poster – well, a quilt, actually. I brought my Blue Skies and Cloud Cover at Sea data visualization quilt and discussed the quilt collection I’m creating from JOIDES Resolution Expedition 390. The reaction was so positive, and it was great to be able to discuss science storytelling via quilts with a new audience. (*Nothing wrong with sharing my quilts with my science colleagues and friends! But the reason I’m using quilts is to introduce new audiences to scientific ocean drilling and what we still have to learn about our ocean – and based upon the conversations at the Poster/Art session, I was successful!)

It’s still going to take some time to process all that I learned in just the short time of Science Talk ’23. And I know I will be able to incorporate some of what I’ve learned in my upcoming outreach events as well as engagement projects for the students in my geoscience classes. I look forward to seeing this conference continue to grow and to expand in the future – and adding the date for next year’s meeting to my calendar as soon as it is released!


logo for Science Talk '23 conference