Thanks for the well articulated response Kali.

I would like to attend this year, but have another conference and can't afford the two.

However, I would be interested in paying for online access so I don't miss out on hearing some great presentations.

A suggestion would be to have 'online watch parties' as done by Science Online early this year. This means you can get together with a group of ASC members and watch the events online and then have a small group to chat about the issues with. I hosted one of these parties across a couple of campuses in Victoria which I thought was a great success. 



Dr George Aranda
Research Fellow Science Education
Faculty of Arts and Education

From: Kali Madden <>
Date: Monday, 18 November 2013 11:27 AM
To: JCribb <>
Cc: ASC Lists <>
Subject: Re: [ASC-list] What ASC members want re conferences

Hi All,

It hardly seems possible to write a brief response to all that has been shared here given that I have been digesting all these views (not new, and all valid) since my first involvement with the organisation in 2005.......

My short immediate answer is that we can put a new registration item on the conference registration form for *livestreamed* attendance to the conference.

If you wish you could participate in the conference remotely, then a livestream should assist you with that.

If enough of you purchased this livestream attendance we could afford to put on crew and film/stream the media.

If we did not reach a minimum target of remote attendees we could not afford to do this.

If too many of you chose livestream attendance *in place of* physically attending, we would not be able to afford to run the conference at all.

At that point we would need to consider series of events through time as Julian has suggested.

It is a fine and delicate line and it is the ASC who puts itself at risk to walk it.

NOTE: We would need enough people to register to make this financially viable - probably around 100 people at $200/ticket and this would cover the filming of all sessions in the main auditorium only. The recorded media could be made available afterwards.

How about I put something on the registration form and see how many of you are interested enough to pay for remote attendance and then we can make a decision about whether that will be viable or not?

I have been enjoying these conversations, the many varied perspectives, the experiences shared, the disgruntlement pointing to a desire for new ways, the positive reflections on what the ASC has already given and the insight into what it might take to bring the organisation into a more mature version of itself.

I think this conversation is about looking for ways to become more aligned with the current needs of a very diverse geographically distributed group.

Very little that is being discussed here is new, it seems to circulate around and around year after year, though the intensity of the discussion appears to be more than I recall witnessing in the past.

>From memory the conference in 2010 was a little profitable and in 2012 more so, but the profit doesn't seem entirely true to me because many hours are donated by only several people. This means the profit for the ASC is usually accomplished on the back of one or more individuals giving up their life for 6 months to make that happen. In both cases I think it was not until the week or so before the conference that we knew whether we were going to break even or not, let alone make a profit in exchange for all the work and risk involved.

Each of our former Presidents put an extraordinary amount into those conferences and Tim Thwaites, Jesse Shore, Rod Lamberts and now Claire Harris ought to be highly commended for the energy they have put in to these events.

Despite the price gripes, we have received much positive feedback from many people who are moved, connected and matured professionally by these events and will continue to be, so long as each conference can find enough volunteers willing to step forward to make it happen.

As Niall, Tom and others have pointed to, there is also something powerful in bringing a group together to interface with each other and related areas, as well as with key influencers not normally involved in our day to day affairs. This is valuable for the industry itself, and the relationships formed by doing this can have beneficial flow on effects. Our conferences provide that opportunity.

>From memory, around 250 - 300 financial members register to attend the conference. From a paid subscriber base of approximately 450 that is a fairly high turn-out which would seem to indicate that the conference is a key drawcard for many paid members.

Remember too that although ordinary membership is $88, a good proportion of members are students or associate members who pay only $35 for the privilege.

Since my involvement with the ASC in 2005, what does appear to be changing is that it appears that people are increasingly economically squeezed. Costs appear to be going up year in year out but many salaries do not seem to match the cost of living. It has seemed to me that many more people are squeezed for both money and time than previously, and that there are fewer volunteers willing and able to keep the branches invigorated. There is also a natural rolling wave effect anyway with charismatic individuals moving in and out of branches at various times, but overall it *appears* that it is harder to sustain a geographically disparate volunteer-led organisation in these times.

I too have been following lists and ideas about the value of membership in these times ("membership is dead") and wondering what really brings us all together anyway. The truth is that the ASC continues to serves a strong connector role for all those who identify with making science accessible.

We (the branches, the executive, members through time) have also bandied around various technological solutions as proposed by Julian below. These too of course cost money, and money would need to be found to fund them.

There are many ideas and not many bodies available to make them happen, or to step up and take a leadership role to make them happen.

Remember that we have an AGM in a couple of weeks and the Presidency is *vacant*.

Who will be the person to step up and lead the ASC into the future?

Best regards,


On Mon, Nov 18, 2013 at 9:10 AM, JCribb <> wrote:

Please can we seek a solution?

As a self-employed member of ASC, Id like to explain that not only do I
have to pay the conference fee, but also the travel, accommodation and most
of all, time lost from my business, which adds up to quite a few thousand
dollars, which is why I dont get to as many as Id like. Plus I suffer
increasing angst about burning jet fuel - and the legacy it leaves for
coming generations. Maybe there are others in the same boat.

I would therefore like to propose that, for the benefit of those of us who
cannot attend every conference - and to limit the evident divisions which
are now emerging between those who can and those who can't - we start acting
like communicators and come up with a conference structure that is, at
least, partly online and thus accessible to everyone all around Australia.
We are, after all, a national body.

Or, if not a conference, then a regular series of online seminars on topics
of professional interest given by our most experienced members.  That way
they can mentor and advise younger communicators, and we can all share
knowledge, advice and helpful ideas.

These could be run as virtual teleconferences, or as skype conferences,
whatever is most economical and effective. They could last an hour but be
followed by email and online discussion and debate. The presenter could
maybe provide a short paper as a 'blog', for the benefit of those who can't
make the seminar itself, followed by debate as on The Conversation or ABC

I feel a structure like this would embrace more members, share professional
knowledge and experience more widely and show that ASC is here for everyone.
This is, after all, the 21st century and maybe we should be using its
enabling technologies a bit more...

I've been giving quite a few lectures and seminars using this technology (eg
New York, NZ, Karratha, regional Victoria) without leaving my desk in
Canberra, and it seems to work quite well, including the Q&A.


Julian Cribb FTSE
Julian Cribb & Associates
ph +61 (0)2 6242 8770 or 0418 639 245
Skype: julian.cribb

-----Original Message-----
From: ASC-list [] On Behalf Of
Mobile Science Education
Sent: Sunday, 17 November 2013 9:36 PM
To: 'Niall Byrne';
Subject: Re: [ASC-list] Let's see what ASC members want re conferences

A thought out reply to the below will be coming later; work comes first.

But I must quickly ask Niall: which part of Nancy's email would you consider
an over-reaction? The part where she shows herself willing to engage in
discussion, or the part where she suggests a vote?

I absolutely did not expect people to be okay with criticism - no one likes
it, and we're all only human. But what I did expect was some actual
rationality and professionalism. What I, and the others who have commented,
have gotten instead is a disproportionate amount of issue dodging, changes
of subject, condescension, defensiveness and snark. Cut it out - it's not
deserved, appropriate or welcome.

And could those of you who don't have to pay your own way stop handing out
unsolicited budgeting advice to those who do? Assume we have dutifully put
aside our pennies over time - at the end of the day, after gathering a large
sum of money in one place at one time we then have to decide if there are,
in fact, better things to be done with that large sum.

I know that there are plenty of people reading this list who are no longer
members of ASC. I would love to hear from you - why did you leave?


Lee Harrison
Mobile Science Education
0430 588 757 or (08) 8395 9586
PO Box 556, Ingle Farm, SA 5098

-----Original Message-----
From: ASC-list [] On Behalf Of Niall
Sent: Sunday, 17 November 2013 1:37 PM
Subject: Re: [ASC-list] Let's see what ASC members want re conferences

Dear Nancy,

I don't think we need to overreact to a few individual criticisms on the

We know that the conferences are valuable because many if not most of our
members attend them and we get a spike in membership when we hold them.

And they're not funded by membership fees. I'm not up to date with the
finances but I expect that our (small) membership fee does little more than
cover the cost of running basic infrastructure - admin, book-keeping,
website, newsletter plus capitation for branches.

Almost everything else is the work of volunteers or self-funded.

Someone comes up with an idea and a group of people volunteer to organise it
and/or find someone to fund it and/or organise it.

And this is likely to always be the case. We've had 400 to 600 members for
most of the past 20 years. I reckon that with a lot of work we could get
that to say 1,000 but it would be hard work. Our sister organisation in the
US - the National Association of Science Writers has 2,600 members although
it's also a bit more specialised as its name suggests.

The conference happens because a group of members come together to make it
happen. The atheists conference is not a good comparison. In the ASC we're
generally organising things for ourselves, not for a wider audience. It's a
professional conference, not an ideas conference appealing to a wider

It's a debate we had in the Vic branch a few years ago. Did we want to
organise small events for ourselves or large events for the public. My
answer was we exist for ourselves. The ASC isn't a science advocacy
organisation though it members may be. It's an introspective organisation
for people who to a large degree are looking outward during their work but
want also to share ideas with their peers.

Sue, similarly the ASC conference isn't a conference of 'invited speakers'.
It's a self-organising community. We all chip in and organise sessions. None
of us should expect to be paid for those sessions or subsidised for
attendance. It's different to our professional work when we may expect
payment. It's a cost of doing business. For me participation in the ASC
conference provides training, business development and networking. It's
cheap at the price.

One thing that is worth exploring is the idea of self-organising chapters.
If Lee doesn't like the service offering at present in particular the lack
of education focus, then he might be encouraged to organise a chapter
dealing with that. I might similarly be interested in organising a chapter
more geared to journalists. And the national exec might be willing to put
seed money into these kinds of activities?

The bottom line. We get the ASC we're prepared to volunteer to work for.


Niall Byrne
Creative Director
Science in Public
82 Hudsons Road, Spotswood VIC 3015
PO Box 2076 Spotswood VIC 3015
03 9398 1416, 0417 131 977
Twitter scienceinpublic
Full contact details at

-----Original Message-----
From: ASC-list [] On Behalf Of Nancy
Sent: Sunday, 17 November 2013 1:01 PM
To: Mobile Science Education;
Subject: [ASC-list] Let's see what ASC members want re conferneces

Hello Lee,

It is fascinating to hear such diversity of opinion. We don't usually hear
so much diversity on the ASC list and this discussion is really forcing me
to think about why I am passionate about ASC and what it provides that I

One argument against holding the conference is that members who do not go
are subsidising members who go. Personally, I don't mind part of a very low
professional membership going to support things that I don't always use. It
is part of supporting the community at large. But there are obviously
differences of opinions here and it would be good to get a more accurate
view of what the majority of members want.

out what the majority of members want? Our AGM is coming up. If it is not
too late (constitutionally) to have a vote on this at this year's AGM, I
suggest we put whether or not ASC should continue to organise biennial
conferences on the AGM agenda for a vote.

SARAH: You may be able to advise how to put a motion for vote at the AGM
along these lines. I'm happy to move a motion if that's what is needed.

NB: Members who can't get to the AGM can vote by proxy.

(The next conference would be 2016 if we follow our pattern. Personally I
would suggest shifting the next one so that it is out of sync with PCST
which is also a biennial conference. That way, the main international
science communication conference and the main national one would be in
alternate years.)

To reiterate why I think the ASC conferences are vital, I want to address
their value. Many of us have highlighted the value that the ASC conferences
has had for us personally. Some conferences are more valuable than others.
The value of any particular conference is highly personal since it depends
on where one is in their career, what new things are learned, existing
networks that a face to face conference provides an opportunity to catch up
with, etc.

It is a juggling act to plan the ASC conference. We are trying to provide
learning experiences for early career communicators, opportunity for
extension of skills and knowledge for those of us who have been in the game
longer, pushing along the theoretical base of our profession, networking
opportunities for all and with any luck some inspiration and motivation to
keep us all going. Those are our objectives. Some we'll hit; some we'll

If ASC used the strategy to not have conferences until the membership base
grows, we would be unlikely to have conferences in the near future. ASC has
worked to build its membership since its conception. ASC could be bigger
than it is now but seems likely to always be a relatively small
organisation. Phil Dooley listed some of the main reasons - many members are
communicators AND something else. ASC is likely to be one of a number of
organisations to which they belong and may not be their primary community of
professional interest. Regan made that point as well.

Your argument about ASC organising a conference seems to hinge on wanting to
see ASC spending its resources in other ways. It would be useful and
interesting to hear specifics about what you are suggesting.

Are you suggesting greater proportion of our membership being returned to
branches to support greater branch activity? When I represented WA on the
executive I argued for  a higher percentage of membership coming back to the
branch. That was a while ago and things may have changed. At that point, a
compromise was reached, capitation was set at a level that would support
both local and national activity and a pool of money was set up to allow any
branch to bid for special funds to do something that required more money.

The important question is: what would your branch do if you got more money?
As Jess, Phil and I have all experienced, more money doesn't necessarily
mean there will be more local activity.

If you have good ideas for increasing ASC membership and running things
locally (or virtually or nationally) that will benefit more people, please
share them. New ideas would be a huge benefit to ASC and many of us would be
keen to hear them.

Regards, Nancy

Professor Nancy Longnecker
Science Communication
School of Animal Biology, M092
The University of Western Australia
35 Stirling Highway
Crawley, WA   6009

ph: 61 8 6488 3926
skype: nancylongnecker

CRICOS Provider No. 00126G

On 17/11/13 6:29 AM, "Mobile Science Education"
<> wrote:

>Both of the Global Atheist Conventions held in Melbourne were
>significantly larger, very well organised, had no government or
>industry support and cost less than half of the ASC conference.
>How did they do this? By having a large pool of paying convention goers
>to draw upon.
>This is the point that I have made repeatedly but no one is addressing.
>I am not against having a conference - I am against having one now with
>such a small organisation when the time, money and effort could be used
>to better support the state chapters and grow the base.  Once the
>support base is there (members) the conference monetary costs will come
>down thanks to simple economies of scale, and the time and effort will
>be shared between the larger number of staff that a larger member base
>can support.
>Lee Harrison
>Mobile Science Education
>0430 588 757 or (08) 8395 9586
>PO Box 556, Ingle Farm, SA 5098
>Lee Harrison
>Mobile Science Education
>0430 588 757 or (08) 8395 9586
>PO Box 556, Ingle Farm, SA 5098
>-----Original Message-----
>From: ASC-list [] On Behalf Of
>Rod Lamberts
>Sent: Saturday, 16 November 2013 4:17 PM
>Subject: [ASC-list] A couple of things on conferences and paying
>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
>Deputy Director
>Australian National Centre for Public Awareness of Science A Centre for
>the National Commission of UNESCO
>The Australian National University
>ASC-list mailing list
>ASC-list mailing list

ASC-list mailing list
ASC-list mailing list

ASC-list mailing list

ASC-list mailing list


Kali Madden

Executive Officer, Australian Science Communicators

& ASC Conference Director 2012, 2010

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