Quick Thoughts on ScienceWriters

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Things have been a little quiet around here lately. No, I wasn’t busy tangling with the Kraken in the briny deep, but instead drove down to Flagstaff, Arizona for this year’s Science Writers meeting (held by the NASW and CASW). I was happy to meet new friends, catch up with old ones, attend the sessions, and take some side trips to track down local dinosaurs. My only regret – not scheduling more time at Petrified Forest National Park on the way out of town.

But there are two things I want to propose to perhaps improve the conference for next year. One will be relatively easy, and the other will depend upon the participants.

We should have a space on our badges for Twitter handles next year. At least half of the people I met at the conference didn’t recognize me or know my actual name, but when they saw my Twitter handle – which I had written on my badge – said “Oh! You’re that guy.” I know that I had the same experience with people I initially met virtually, as well. Maybe it’s just me – I’m terrible with names, and I had originally been introduced to most people that I knew at the conference by way of the web – but I think adding a spot for our Twitter handles on the official nametags will help writers connect at the conference.

I also left with the impression that some of the Science Writers sessions could have benefited from the “unconference” format used for ScienceOnline. The basic idea is to keep initial comments by the assembled speakers or panelists short and then open things up to a discussion involving those in attendance. Instead of experts talking about their experiences and giving tips for most of the session, the attendees can direct the discussion towards questions they have or things they want to know. Towards the end of the “Get a Life” session on balancing social media promotion/outreach with writing, for example, moderator Cristine Russell commented that she was unsure if the session definitely answered any of the big questions about how to balance writing time with tweeting time, but I think the session would have had a better chance of doing so if more time was set aside for participants to ask questions and make comments. Given that finding time is an individualistic thing, a larger discussion might have been worth a shot. This sort of change would have to be taken in by those who organize the individual sessions, but I have to admit that I would like to see more participant-driven sessions next year.

That’s it. Now back to your regularly-scheduled paleo-blogging. Next up: a certain group of weird sail-backed predators that popped up in the literature again last week.

Top Image: Part of the Dilophosaurus sculpture outside the Arizona Museum of Natural History in Mesa, AZ. Photo by the author.