[ASC-list] What ASC members want re conferences

Kali Madden office at asc.asn.au
Mon Nov 18 00:27:37 UTC 2013

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

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

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

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 <jcribb at work.netspeed.com.au> wrote:

> Colleagues
> Please can we seek a solution?
> As a self-employed member of ASC, I’d 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 don’t get to as many as I’d 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
> Online.
> 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
> Julian Cribb FTSE
> Julian Cribb & Associates
> ph +61 (0)2 6242 8770 or 0418 639 245
> Email: julian at cribb.net.au
> Web: www.sciencealert.com.au/jca.html
> Skype: julian.cribb
> -----Original Message-----
> From: ASC-list [mailto:asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au] On Behalf Of
> Mobile Science Education
> Sent: Sunday, 17 November 2013 9:36 PM
> To: 'Niall Byrne'; asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au
> 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?
> Thanks
> Lee Harrison
> Mobile Science Education
> 0430 588 757 or (08) 8395 9586
> info at mobilescienceeducation.com.au
> www.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
> Niall
> Byrne
> Sent: Sunday, 17 November 2013 1:37 PM
> To: asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au
> 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
> 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
> Twitter scienceinpublic
> 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.
> 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
> www.animals.uwa.edu.au/research/science-communication
> www.facebook.com/pages/UWA-Science-Communication/139535189461853
> 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
> >www.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
> >www.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...
> >
> >Cheers,
> >R
> >
> >
> >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
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Kali Madden

Executive Officer, Australian Science Communicators

& ASC Conference Director 2012, 2010

office at asc.asn.au
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