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

Cobi Smith cobi.smith at anu.edu.au
Mon Nov 18 01:13:09 UTC 2013

When I said feedback and evaluation were important I didn't mention surveys, because as Phil knows from past experience, they'd have limited value. That's why I said discussion on this list about the conference should be part of its evaluation.

I would also like to see more face-to-face discussions among members beyond the committees about values and wants, such as we did in the participatory evaluation workshop at the last conference. I also think it would be useful if, perhaps in each urban centre with ASC members, the committee there ran a focus group with members from their area who were not actively participating, as well as perhaps with lapsed members. Sharing notes from those discussions could inform plans on how to increase participation and broaden membership. Just *doing* such a workshop to find out members' thoughts could be increasing their engagement, and may motivate people to get more involved. Key to such sessions would be *listening to and documenting* what members were actually saying, rather than being defensive and saying committees are already overstretched, the same people always volunteer and wear the costs etc., which may be true but doesn't change the situation.

I like Niall's suggestion of self-organizing chapters around certain themes, incidentally.

From: ASC-list [asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au] on behalf of Philip Dooley [phildooley at gmail.com]
Sent: Monday, 18 November 2013 12:55 AM
To: Mobile Science Education
Cc: asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au
Subject: Re: [ASC-list] Let's see what ASC members want re conferences

While I support the idea of asking asc members, practically speaking the response rate to such surveys has always been distressingly small . It's really hard to get good data.

Hoping a get proved wrong by a deluge of opinions though.

For example when Jenni Metcalfe was president a pretty exhaustive survey was done. The upshot as I recall was networking and professional development as member main wishes.


On Nov 17, 2013 11:36 AM, "Mobile Science Education" <info at mobilescienceeducation.com.au<mailto:info at mobilescienceeducation.com.au>> wrote:
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
info at mobilescienceeducation.com.au<mailto: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<mailto:asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au>] On Behalf Of Niall
Sent: Sunday, 17 November 2013 1:37 PM
To: asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au<mailto: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

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

niall at scienceinpublic.com.au<mailto:niall at scienceinpublic.com.au>
Twitter scienceinpublic
Full contact details at www.scienceinpublic.com.au<http://www.scienceinpublic.com.au>

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

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
nancy.longnecker at uwa.edu.au<mailto: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<mailto: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<mailto: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<mailto: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<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<mailto: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<mailto:list at asc.asn.au>
>ASC-list mailing list
>list at asc.asn.au<mailto:list at asc.asn.au>

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