Written by Anton Zuiker since July 2000
Why mistersugar? Why a pig?
Last week’s ScienceOnline2010, our fourth annual science communication conference in North Carolina, was our biggest, best and most successful event yet, and from the long list of blog and media coverage and the Flickr pictures, YouTube videos and Twitter mentions of the conference (all using the tag #scio10), it certainly seems the BlogTogether spirit was coursing through the 267 participants.
Bora and I can’t be happier, or more proud, of what this conference achieved. More than anything, we are astounded by the openness with which so many people came together to share, explore, question, listen and narrate in order to reflect the importance of science in their lives and how the Web can be used to share their passions for science. See Bora’s excellent post, Making it real: People and Books and Web and Science at ScienceOnline2010 (and please give us your feedback through this form).
Our gratitude goes to all who attended the conference and participated so energetically in the conversations there.
And special thanks goes to the following individuals and organizations that helped us grow and improve this conference. Please thank them for making ScienceOnline2010 possible — click through to their sites to learn more about each person or organization. (We thanked the sponsors of ScienceOnline’09 here, the second event here and the first event here.)
Sigma Xi was founded in 1886 to honor excellence in scientific investigation and encourage a sense of companionship and cooperation among researchers in all fields of science and engineering. For the third year in a row, Sigma Xi opened its beautiful center for our use, and Meg Murphy and Michael Heisel made sure we had everything we needed.
Our institutional partner
The Contemporary Science Center is a catalyst for transforming science education in North Carolina, using innovative models of teaching and learning to inspire teachers and students statewide to embrace scientific engagement. When we went looking for an organization to handle our accounting (as individuals, Bora and I can’t accept foundation grants and donations), CSC Executive Director Pamela Blizzard enthusiastically agreed to help. Her center is based in a hands-on learning lab in the building of our ScienceOnline’09 institutional partner, the Museum of Life and Science, and it’s a perfect place to encourage high school students to get the science bug.
Even amid the economic bad times facing our country, we were able to attract repeat and new sponsors who dramatically helped us grow the conference. Sponsoring organizations included the following:
Burroughs Wellcome Fund, an independent private foundation dedicated to advancing the biomedical sciences by supporting research and other scientific and educational activities, not only repeated its support of our conference for the fourth year in a row, it increased its past generous grants by 50 percent this time around. Their substantial support helped us bring New Yorker science writer Michael Specter to the conference as keynote speaker. Russ Campbell, communications officer, has long been a friend to the conference, and we’re indebted to him for his cheerleading for our annual conference and his leadership in forming the Science Communicators of North Carolina (along with scientist and science writer Chris Brodie).
Last year, the Research Triangle Foundation, the granddaddy of science parks in the U.S., helped us even our accounts with a last-minute grant. This year, RTP stepped in as a major sponsor and host of our opening reception. Not only did they provide funding, logistical support and a welcoming opening-night party, but CEO Rick Weddle, Tina Valdecanas, Cara Rousseau and Jordan Mendys also offered important ideas and contacts that helped us make the conference run so smoothly. They also rolled up their sleeves Saturday and Sunday and took over important tasks at the registration table and video cameras.
Over the last year, RTP has also been an important supporter of Science In the Triangle, an evolving experiment in community science journalism and scientific-community organizing. The crew behind SITT was instrumental in helping us make ScienceOnline2010 a much more professional endeavor — witness the nice programs and donor poster designed by Tessa Perrien, the conference iPhone app programmed by Ben Schell and Seth Peterson, the video support by Ross Maloney, and of course the strategic consulting by Christopher Perrien. Sabine Vollmer and DeLene Beeland, contributors to the SITT blog, also provided some great coverage of the conference in addition to their posts about science in this region.
Tricia Kenny of Invitrogen pinged us late one night to ask if that life sciences company could sponsor the conference, and then offered to help us in some very creative ways. These included a cash grant to provide lunch on Saturday, as well as making the cool name badges, providing the tote bags and giving us a large sum to purchase Flip video cameras (through the Flip Spotlight program) that we gave out to video volunteers to record interviews at the conference and back at home.
Google Sidewiki similarly provided a cash grant and ways to win a chrome Flip Mino HD — Community manager Natalie Villalobos ran a contest during the conference to encourage posting to Sidewiki, and among the winners of the Google Flips were the eight high school students from Staten Island Academy, who each won a camera for their many and insightful comments.
RTI International, one of the world’s leading independent, nonprofit research and development organizations, returned as a sponsor, and also hosted a lab tour. RTI is an important corporate citizen in the Triangle, and we were happy they returned as a sponsor.
APCO Worldwide, a communications and public affairs consulting agency, recently sent David Wescott to the Triangle, and when his friends Elle and Jonathan, who have attended the conference multiple times, suggested he help with some sponsorship dollars, he came through just in time to help fund the extra shuttles we arranged to improve transportation between our conference venues.
The National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, which facilitates broadly synthetic research to address fundamental questions in evolutionary biology, participated as a sponsor by providing travel grants to two contest winners (learn more here), as well as paying for the Locopops & cookies treat during the conference.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science, publisher of Science Magazine, also provided a cash grant — and online editor Stewart Wills also brought cool genome t-shirts (modeled here) for the giveaway table.
The North Carolina Biotechnology Center, which seeks to provide long-term economic and societal benefits to North Carolina by supporting biotechnology research, business and education statewide, three-peated its support with a biotechnology event sponsorship grant.
Writer-researcher Pat Campbell of Campbell-Kibler Associates had planned to attend the conference again, and sent a cash grant. When her travel plans changed and she could no longer attend, she insisted we keep the money and use it to help some of our discussion leaders with travel stipends.
CrossRef promotes the development and cooperative use of new and innovative technologies to speed and facilitate scholarly research. They were a sponsor of the 2008 conference, and returned this time around with another cash grant.
Katie Mosher arranged for a donation from North Carolina Sea Grant, which provides research, education and outreach opportunities relating to current issues affecting the North Carolina coast and its communities. Benjamin Young Landis also helped stuff the grab bags and drive people to lab tours.
Event hosts and partners
On Thursday, we gathered at Alivia’s Bistro in Durham to listen to stories with The Monti, a fantastic storytelling organization spearheaded by our friend Jeff Polish. Vanessa Woods, Scott Huler, Amanda Lamb, Rob Dunn and John Kessel delighted us with their true stories about inspiration.
On Friday, RTP hosted workshops in the Park Research Center, Counter Culture Coffee welcomed a group to their weekly coffee cupping, and afternoon lab tours were hosted by the Duke Lemur Center, the Duke Immersive Virtual Environment, the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, the Museum of Life and Science (thanks Larry Boles for driving a van at the last minute!) and RTI. Many thanks to Cara Rousseau for facilitating the workshops and to Nancy Shepherd for coordinating the lab tours. And Friday night, of course, was our RTP-hosted opening reception and keynote talk by Michael Specter, noted above.
On Saturday and Sunday, more than 100 individuals participated as session moderators, discussion leaders and Ignite presenters. See the official ScienceOnline2010 program page to learn more about these talented people who provided their experiences or perspectives as a way to spark the session conversations. Thanks also to David Kroll for organizing the Saturday dinner (losing his voice in the process), to Kevin Zelnio and Andrew Thaler for emceeing the Ignite talks, to Steve Burnett for his tech support during the talks, and to Rebecca Skloot for coordinating the books giveaway (over the course of the conference, we gave away copies of books by Skloot, Specter, Huler, Carl Zimmer, Eric Roston and Felice Frankel, among others).
The generosity of our sponsors, noted above, also helped us pay for full wifi services at Sigma Xi on Saturday and Sunday. We met the guys behind SignalShare at the Social Media Business Forum a few months back, and right away knew we needed them at our conference. We can’t say enough about the service SignalShare provided — and not just the great wifi coverage that allowed us to use more than 25 gigabytes of bandwidth in less than 48 hours, but also the above-and-beyond help Joe Costanzo and Greg Hoffman gave, such as emptying garbage cans and answering countless technical questions from session moderators. These guys are talented, hard working and simply the nicest guys we’ve met.
Many thanks also to Andrea Novicki of the Duke Center for Instructional Technology for arranging the loan of four laptop computers.
Grab bag of science swag
We continued our tradition of providing all attendees with a “grab bag of science swag” filled with science materials and resources. Organizations, companies and individuals donated materials, including: Harper Collins, NobelPrize.org, NASA, Duke Medicine, and others.
Elle Cayabyab Gitlin was right where we knew she’d be, sitting at the registration table welcoming all of our attendees to the conference. This year Leah Gordon joined her. Lots of others helped out throughout the weekend, stuffing the grab bags, offering rides, organizing the swag table, keeping us on track, cleaning up and much more. Thank you to you all.
Food and coffee
Meals and refreshments were catered by the following: Fetzko Coffees kept us swimming in coffee and espresso drinks with their cool Kona Chameleon coffee truck), Crumb baked the morning muffins, Saladelia Cafe and Mediterranean Deli“ catered the lunches, Locopops made the popsicles (thank you Lenore Ramm for facilitating and NESCent for paying), Whole Foods made the cookies and donated bottles of water, and OnlyBurger slung the burgers.
And finally, a word of thanks to Bora Zivkovic, who is both the inspiration for the annual conference and the around-the-clock heart of the event’s online and off-line activities; he organized the program after many months of brainstorming with our session discussion leaders, and blogged continuously to let the world know what we had planned. Anton Zuiker took care of some of the other details. David Kroll and Stephanie Willen Brown also provided help and ideas throughout the year.
Last, but certainly not least, we thank Catherine Zivkovic and Erin Shaughnessy Zuiker for their forebearance, patience and support as we organized this conference.
And with that, we thank each and every one of you for your roles, big and small, in making this a most memorable conference. A toast of slivovitz to you!