[ASC-list] Let's see what ASC members want re conferences

Niall Byrne niall at scienceinpublic.com.au
Sun Nov 17 03:07:27 UTC 2013

Dear Nancy, 

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

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 audience. 

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
niall at scienceinpublic.com.au
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Full contact details at www.scienceinpublic.com.au

-----Original Message-----
From: ASC-list [mailto:asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au] On Behalf Of Nancy Longnecker
Sent: Sunday, 17 November 2013 1:01 PM
To: Mobile Science Education; asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au
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 value. 

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.

RE ASC SPENDING RESOURCES ORGANISING A BIENNIAL CONFERENCE How do we find 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 miss. 

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
nancy.longnecker at uwa.edu.au

skype: nancylongnecker

CRICOS Provider No. 00126G

On 17/11/13 6:29 AM, "Mobile Science Education"
<info at mobilescienceeducation.com.au> 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
>info at mobilescienceeducation.com.au
>PO Box 556, Ingle Farm, SA 5098
>Lee Harrison
>Mobile Science Education
>0430 588 757 or (08) 8395 9586
>info at mobilescienceeducation.com.au
>PO Box 556, Ingle Farm, SA 5098
>-----Original Message-----
>From: ASC-list [mailto:asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au] On Behalf Of 
>Rod Lamberts
>Sent: Saturday, 16 November 2013 4:17 PM
>To: asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au
>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
>list at asc.asn.au
>ASC-list mailing list
>list at asc.asn.au

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