CAISE Media Convening Reflections and Insights

July 13th, 2011

Further thoughts on actions, reflections or insights from the CAISE Media Convening in July 2011. Participants were asked: As a result of this experience, do you think differently about being in media? In way way(s)?

Ari Epstein, MIT: The variety in this field (STEM media) is very great, not only in the varieties of media represented (video, audio, gaming, web, mobile, etc., not all of them represented here in person but all seen as part of the picture), but also in audience, approach, institutional setting, etc. Yet somehow it’s clear that the folks here do think of themselves as having enough in common to form a community (and not just as ISE PIs, but as ISE media people). Do STEM media practitioners outside this room feel the same way? If so, are there ways to solidify and strengthen that community? And how do we bring into the conversation people who were not here this week?

Julieanna Richardson, HistoryMakers: I want to congratulate CAISE and NSF for this wonderful gathering to assemble a wonderful team. I am proud of the work that we did together. My only suggestion is that we would still have a way of learning more in depth about each other’s work and interests so that we can build a strong foundation that will make Science Media strong and impactful and wonderfully collaborative. Julieanna Richardson, PI, ScienceMakers, Chicago, Illinois.

Josh Rosen, Spine Films: Incredible meeting. It’s impossible to imagine why this particular blend of group doesn’t meet regularly. As a long-time science media producer with many years in the public broadcast system, this meeting changed the way I think about originating programs. Two things in particular excite me: First, access to information about past programs, evaluations of their success with specific audiences, and exposure to the principal investigators behind them – these offer huge insight into developing my next round of programs. Second, I really look forward to forming some kind of professional group that puts informal science media professionals in the same room every year. This connective tissue is what’s been missing from our world. Kudos to CAISE and NSF. I look forward to continued involvement. As a final thought: Please keep the independent science producers involved in this process. PI or not, PBS or commercial, independents are tracking and making so many of the stories. Help us to understand the changing landscape as NSF project results start to resolve it out of the fog. It will pay off for all of us.

Lisa Truitt, National Geographic Cinema Ventures: This was a great and worthwhile session, and a pleasure to have been involved in. I hope CAISE can find smart ways to share the thinking of the session more broadly, so a much bigger community can use and build on the smart work that has begun. Ultimately it seems clear that there is a huge need for all of us to be better able to articulate and champion the need for strong informal science education. With a strong story to tell, we should be able to grow the field by encouraging additional media producers and disseminators to think about informal education as they approach their work. More practitioners = a more informed public = greater capacity = more practitioners, etc. We need to create and build that healthy feedback loop.

David Feingold, Nebraska Educational Telecommunications: Reflections and insightsFurther thoughts on actions,things left behind?I’m looking forward to a quick start on a communications effort that will better position ISE and science media among our many audiences and stakeholders.Share with those not at meeting: I did not realize how much community building is still ahead; I’d assumed those in science media were part of a more cohesive group. Now that I’ve spent two days on these issues, I’m pleased with the potential, but am more impatient that we’re playing “catch up” in making an effective case for ISE. Think differently about media? In what ways?I’m more hopeful that conventional big ticket media projects will give way to local initiatives that are riskier and more nimble. We can and should broaden the science media-making club.

Jamie Bell, CAISE: Thanks to all for great thinking and conversations. I look forward to working out how CAISE can help of all you expert storytellers tell the bigger story of what you do, how and why it is important.

Charlie Foster, Youth Radio: Yes, there’s a lot of nitty-gritty work to do to bring together the diverse field of ISE media makers — unifying the evaluation process to capture some kind of gestalt of what we’re all doing and how we’re doing it, organizing PIs to to raise support for the field from policy makers and funders, etc. But there’s already a lot of great work we have done. And if we’re not going to celebrate that work, who is? The conversations I’ve had here have led me to believe that we need some kind of convening with a high-profile award ceremony. Bringing attention to our field and bringing together all the those who are part of it should be two outcomes of the same project.

Stephen Lyons, Moreno/Lyons Productions LLC: One of the most tangible results of the CAISE meeting was a commitment to address the question: How do we know what impact science media are having on their audiences? A “posse” of media producers and evaluators will work with Kevin Crowley of UPCLOSE to create a strategy for “mining” the 72 existing media project evaluations at informalscience.org for evidence of impact. Another concrete goal is to create a “research agenda” for the field–a set of questions that can be asked in many evaluations of different ISE media projects. Over time, the resulting data may permit a rigorous statistical “meta-analysis” of common findings across projects. One idea that was floated, but never discussed in depth, was a strategy to bring about more collaboration between media producers and research scientists who must do public engagement to satisfy their “broader impacts” grant requirements. Since these scientists collectively spend more than $100 million on public engagement, but often struggle to find ways to do it effectively, such collaboration could solve two problems at the same time. It could lead to more effective public engagement components of research grants and, at the same time, generate more funds and more work for ISE media professionals. Is it possible for ISE to take the initiative on this by working within the new, “one NSF” to encourage more collaborations between scientists and media professionals?

JoAnna Baldwin Mallory, Twin Cities Public Television: For me, the CAISE conference has made an important contribution in identifying a key problem in the field, i.e., the identification of ISE media as a professional field, as well as the realization that the cumulative impact of the field has never been measured across projects and across time. I suspect when the new evaluation work reveals even small, tantalizing aspects of this impact, we will discover a powerful story of science learning for the young as well as public interest in, and understanding of, the importance of informal science education. If we can effectively communicate this “meta” story to stakeholders and the public, it will be a powerful statement. I think our sessions have wonderfully addressed the needs of our common media community, the necessity of evaluative research across projects, and the importance of communications strategies to ‘tell the story.’ The groups did a terrific job in strategizing and taking next steps—the hope would be then, that in the context of busy work schedules we can truly take the next steps quickly and with the excitement we generated here.

Sandra Sheppard, WNET: I think the dialogue over the past two days has been energizing. It is an excellent “first step” in identifying the needs and opportunities to strengthen the case for ISE’s impact. Clearly, there is a wealth of evidence that points to ISE’s success in engaging the public in STEM. It will be very useful to see a more “top line” analysis of the collective impact our our work. I also think we need to move quickly and strategically on developing a public media communications plan.I am intrigued by the idea of a professional society of science media practitioners – potentially a membership organization that has annual meetings and opportunities for members to convene, dialogue and connect.This conference has encouraged me to continue to collaborate (through steering committees) with new colleagues in the field who are working outside my target demo (of kids).