Wow, a couple of lost weeks changing email addresses and moving continent and look what's going on on the ASC list, whew. Life!
Over a few years of coordinsting NSW branch I have thought long and hard about how to give members value for money when we consistently had single figure attendance at events. And we actually accrued cash but couldn't find enough volunteers to work out ways to spend it. :-)
Part of the reason i think is that a lot of members are not 100% communicator, it might be only small part of their job, so its not a priority to avail themselves of everything we offer. But every now and then they might dip into the list, attend an event or be inspired by the fact that there are othef people out there doing what they do.
Science communicators are a very varied bunch, some journalists, some staff writers or PR or educators or museum staff. We can't please em all at once. But I agree with Susan , communication about communication is the point of the organisation. This can be a formal 'event', or in a less formal way, finding others to share with and learn from - aka Networking - whihc can be scary, hard to achieve effectively, or annoying sometimes , but career-transforming when it comes off. The conferences for me (especially my first one in coolangatta) have been absolute highpoints for me.
So I think the role of the organisation is to provide a framework for those new to the game, and to connect people so they can gain professionally. How best to achieve these things are the challenges before us!
There's another question about advocacy to be answered too, do we have enough clout to achieve anything?
Just wanted to throw in a few things about conferences from my experience to help add more context to the stuff being batted about on the list these last few days.
I've been attending and speaking at conferences around the globe for 16+ years, most Sci comm related, and I have seen that:
1) In every single case, unless specifically invited or contracted to deliver a keynote, or their mere presence clearly would boost attendance, speakers paid registrations fees and also covered their own travel and accommodation. Every single case. The closest equivalent to ASC would probably be PCST conferences, and this is certainly the way it happens there.
2) I've never been to or been part of organizing a conference where there weren't (usually many) more people vying to speak than spaces available for them. Given point 1, it seems to me that's a solid sign that many people/organizations see value in speaking at conferences...
3) I have never been to a decent (or even crappy) national or international conference that's cheaper than the ASC conference. In fact the only really cheap conferences I'm aware of have immense industry backing. For example, medical conferences subsidized by pharmaceutical companies.
Yes, I'm fortunate in that conferencing is part of my job and so covered by my employer.
Yes, that's not the case for everyone.
But, I imagine if my employer wasn't paying and I still felt our conference might be useful to me, I'd probably take the 2 years between each ASC event to put the cash aside. Twenty, maybe twenty five bucks a week over the 100 weeks between conferences should cover it pretty well I'd say...
Dr RG Lamberts
Australian National Centre for Public Awareness of Science
A Centre for the National Commission of UNESCO
The Australian National University
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