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#SciOut18: Context and Motivations

#SciOut18 represented an experimental gathering bringing together passionate practitioners and researchers in the science engagement space.


Hosted at The Rockefeller University in October 2018, Science Outreach: Models, Metrics, and Measures (see our Twitter stream at #SciOut18) brought together over 150 professionals from the national science outreach community (as well as a small number of people from the United Kingdom and South America) to discuss the current status of the science outreach profession. Collaboratively hosted by RockEDU Science Outreach and the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), the goals for this meeting were threefold:

  1. Enable members of the science outreach community to establish peer-to-peer connections and potential collaborations.
  2. Share practical approaches and strategies — including failures — to strengthen our understanding of science outreach education and engagement.
  3. Help harmonize science outreach efforts at both the local and national levels. 

Through this experimental meeting approach, we tried to maintain a loose, unconference-style structure that encouraged deep discussion around the above goals, the formation of grassroots working groups, and ample opportunity for peer-to-peer networking. We specifically made the decision to fundraise so that financial barriers for participation were minimized as much as possible for each attendee. As such, there was no fee to register for SciOut18, and thanks to generous combined sponsorship from Science Sandbox, The Rita Allen Foundation, HHMI Tangled Bank Studios, The Pinkerton Foundation, ASBMB, and RockEDU, all attendees had access to daytime meals, a two night hotel accommodation, and up to $500 toward meeting transportation costs.

Another strategic intention when planning this meeting was to better understand field-specific context of each attendee prior to setting our unconstrained agenda, as a mechanism to help reveal and focus the conversations attendees were looking to have with one another. To do this, we required all attendees to submit preparatory work in advance of SciOut18. This preparatory work, which we felt was important to setting the major themes of the meeting, was a low-barrier effort requiring 1-2 hours of time, and involved free response to any or all appealing prompts centered on common areas of discussion related to the science outreach field (the SciOut18 prompts can be found here).

The preparatory work also helped the SciOut18 organization committee identify attendees who could provide an interesting perspective around one of the SciOut18 themes during the meeting, through a 10 minute flash talk (without the use of technology). During SciOut18, the flash talks helped to seed deeper, peer-moderated, synchronous discussions among small groups of attendees, the contents of which were recorded and summarized by meeting theme. The collection of this material can be found in our SciOut Community Homebase

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