Communication – it’s a Science too? SciComm Officers Forum 2010

Outside of events organised by and for ASC members, it seems that professional development opportunities specifically targeted at active science communicators are an emerging area. I was lucky enough attend the National Science Communication Officer’s Forum in Melbourne last month, as the recipient of an ASC-supported free pass.

The focus of this two-day forum presented by Liquid Learning was to provide attendees with the opportunity to share tools and approaches for the development of communication strategies within the workplace and greater community. The majority of invited speakers held senior communications roles, predominantly in public institutions, and the focus of the talks was on themed case studies. The lengthy presentation format (45 mins for talks, 15 mins for questions) leant itself towards meatier detail. The forum also provided an excellent opportunity for scicomm officers to network on a national level, where the majority of attendees appear to face similar problems in their roles and workplaces. Networking was a strong focus of the conference setup, with a generous amount of time provided.

It was interesting to note that several talks, as well as the roundtable discussion on the final day, brought up issues that the majority of science communicators are grappling with on a day to day basis – noting that there is little data on the effectiveness of scientific communication and that the need for meaningful evaluation of scicomm outcomes is a driver for the discipline as we understand it.

This forum provided an excellent opportunity for attendees to engage with peers as well as to hear a little about the practice of science communication research and the implications it may hold for the field in the future. It would be interesting to see if future Forums alter their format slightly and focus more strongly on specific examples of the effectiveness or otherwise of new campaigns or novel strategies outside of the currently understood mainstream comms approaches. I would strongly recommend this Forum to early career science communicators working in public institutions, although others may also find it valuable.

More info about this conference can be found at:
http://www.liquidlearning.com.au/documents/SCO1110/SCO1110_I.pdf
or I’d be happy to field any questions (as a random attendee!) – gillaan [at] gmail dot com