All good things have to start somewhere. ScienceOnline San Diego is finding that “somewhere” right now. We have a core group of scientists/science communicators who are engaging each other and the public through various online media. We’re all interested in promoting science. Now, how to organize ourselves so that we make forward progress, together?
That was the big question at our lunch Tweetup last Tuesday at Caroline’s Café down at Scripps Institute of Oceanography. Much of the talk at the lunch table circled around what our mission should be, and where we should focus our efforts.
As far as the mission goes, nothing is set in stone. In general, people seemed interested in engaging in outreach/education. There were two branches to this, one being outreach to the existing life science community. The other being outreach to the general public, which includes informal science education.
Along the lines of outreach to the life science community, it remains to be seen how much we will do online versus in person. We could co-host conferences, possibly dovetailing with existing networks such as SDBN. Some topics, such as those involving communication, would interest both online and “traditional” audiences. We could also host online events that make use of our local resources (people) through Google On Air. These have the advantage of being less expensive and reaching a broader global audience, but may miss the local community.
On the education front, we batted around the idea of trying to tie in with established local outreach events, such as the San Diego Science Festival. Maybe we could help create more online “noise” from participants and raise awareness about the ever-present online scientific community. We also pondered what kids think about these days, and wondered if we could create or promote media that would be interesting enough for a younger audience to re-tweet. Which brings us to a bigger question: how do you spark online science conversations among any age group? If we can mine information to learn how people connect online, and what sort of science information they are sharing, maybe we can be more effective.
To borrow a term from viticulture, every ScienceOnline satellite has its own terroir. One of our goals is to capitalize on the SoCal specific resources that are uniquely ours. San Diego was just ranked the #2 life science hub in the US. We have several major research institutions, a booming biotech sector, a fledgling Open Science center, local science museums and parks, and a growing number of people using social media to talk about science.
With so many great resources, our mission and activities will probably seem obvious when we look back from the #scio14 conference. Till then, we’ll take it one Tweetup at a time.