21 August 2017

Scicomm & scipol are becoming integral parts of conferences

Posted by Shane Hanlon

By Shane M Hanlon

Story Collider Artistic Director and me telling science stories (or at least she is). Photo credit: Stuart Pollock

Last week I attended the annual Ecological Society of America (ESA) meeting. I’m an ecologist by training to this used to be my go-to meeting. I was there this time for a Story Collider show (my other job) but also to represent Sharing Science in various scicomm events/functions.

My last ESA meeting was in 2014 in Sacramento. The year prior was Portland and that meeting was especially memorable for me for a couple reasons. I was nearing the end of my PhD and was leaning towards leaving academia for policy/communication. I attended my first scipol/scicomm session ever at a scientific meeting, and frankly, it blew me away. That session was the catalyst for what turned into my transition out of academia and into the world of policy/communication. Interesting, later at that same meeting I was accosted by a senior PI who told me that leaving academia was a mistake. I didn’t listen to them. So I thought that returning to ESA, in Portland, would be a mixed bag. It was not. It was amazing.

IN the years since I last attended an ESA meeting, scicomm & policy have become front-and-center themes of the meeting. The opening plenary was on science policy. There were entire sessions devoted to scicomm and engagement. Numerous workshops provided skills-building lessons on storytelling, communications, using improv in science, and more! The Story Collider show was one of the most well-attended conference gig ever! Attendees were hungry to scicomm, and the great thing is that this seems to be a trend.

More and more societies are realizing the importance of scicomm, policy, and engagement. That’s what the Sharing Science program is all about (we’ll be back at AGU17 this year with our own room and an entire week of programming)! I can say I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen so far and hopeful about what is yet to come.

Shane M Hanlon is a Senior Specialist in AGU’s Sharing Science Program