Planning for an ISE Media Annual Meeting

September 12th, 2011

The CAISE ISE Media Convening, held on July 12-13, 2011, produced three primary action steps, the first of which is to “Build a field/practice of science media professionals.” There was unanimous consensus among the attendees at this convening that the community of STEM media professionals would benefit greatly from the development of a cohesive professional community, where, at present, no formal organization, professional society, or annual conference exists. Attendees at the CAISE Convening noted that this was the first time some of the most active members of the community had come together to exchange ideas, learn about one another’s projects, and discuss possible collaborations. Participants agreed on the great value a regular conference would have, similar to what the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) or Visitor Studies Association (VSA) annual meetings provide to the community of science center professionals. Our goal for the proposed project is to begin laying the groundwork for the creation of a professional organization and a series of annual gatherings.

Proposed Activity

In a full planning-grant proposal, which we plan to submit later in September, we will request $50,000 for the support of a one day planning meeting, to be held in conjunction with the CAISE PI Summit, scheduled on March 15-16, 2012. A primary outcome of this planning meeting will be the formation of a cross-disciplinary Working Group that will then collaborate on a full NSF proposal for an inaugural STEM Media Producers Conference. This conference would be the first in what we hope will be ongoing series of annual or bi-annual meetings of the community. Other goals of the planning meeting will include a) a list of challenges that face members of the community; b) an outline of potential conference activities that can make a measurable impact on the field of STEM media; c) innovations and best practices in the production of STEM media; and d) new partnerships among attendees and their organizations.

We are strategically proposing to hold this event in conjunction with the CASE PI Summit in order to capitalize on the momentum generated at the past Media Convening. We will continue and broaden the discussions held there and make more detailed plans to carry this important work forward. We anticipate that there may be other sessions on media during the Summit, which will further extend this work. This schedule will also capitalize on the fact that many media PIs and other stakeholders are already taking part in the CAISE PI Summit. Scheduling the planning meeting in conjunction with the Summit guarantees a higher attendance than would be likely if the meeting were held at another time or place.


We expect to invite a total of approximately 30 people, of whom approximately 20 would be drawn from participants in the recent CAISE Media Convening plus other active current and former NSF media PIs. We also will invite approximately ten media professionals who are making significant contributions to the STEM field but who may not have received NSF funding. In order to focus on mass media practitioners who have no existing organized professional infrastructure, we plan to invite professionals from the following STEM media subfields: Film, Television, Radio, and Online/Digital. We will also consider people who contribute content to these fields, including writers, educational game developers, etc.


We plan to schedule the meeting on Wednesday, March 14; the PI Summit is expected to begin that evening. We will begin the day with an introductory review of the findings and outcomes of the CAISE Media Convening, to set the stage for the planning activities which will occupy the rest of the day.

The community of mass media producers is a highly diverse group, and the meeting will be designed to capitalize on this diversity. We plan to begin by grouping practitioners together by platform (e.g. radio practitioners at one table, online practitioners at another, etc.). Each of these groups will explore its own unique challenges, ways that an annual ISE Media gathering could help meet those challenges, and what would be the most important features of such a meeting. Then we will reorganize the participants into cross-disciplinary groups that include one practitioner from each of the platforms. These groups will be responsible for melding the ideas developed in the first conversations, for examining ways to increase cross-platform collaborations and for proposing ways to make an annual meeting most productive for these collaborations and information exchange. Each group will then report out to the entire group, producing an expanded plan for moving forward. We will work with the CAISE PI meeting planners to incorporate a media track into the Summit where we can share the preliminary outcomes of the Planning Meeting with other NSF PIs. And finally, an online Ning site (or comparable service) will be established to share the outcomes of the meeting with the larger community of media producers. Our goal will be to submit a full proposal in the January 2013 ISE round for a stand-alone conference, the inaugural STEM Media Producers Conference.

Timeline and Events


  • September 2011–Planning Grant Proposal Submission
  • March 2012–Planning Meeting at the CAISE PI Summit
  • July 2012–Submission of Full Conference Proposal
  • November 2012–Steering Committee meeting, held in conjunction with the World Congress of Science and Factual Producers in Washington D.C.
  • Spring 2013–Convening of Planning Group


Project Management

The planning grant will be managed by TPT Twin Cities Public Television. The PI will be Richard Hudson, Director of Science Production at TPT; Co-PIs are JoAnna Baldwin Mallory, Science and Society, and Ari Epstein, Director of Terrascope Youth Radio at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A Steering Committee will be drawn from the participants at the recent CAISE Media Convening, including Charlie Foster, Youth Radio; Mary Miller, the Exploratorium; Julieanna Richardson, The HistoryMakers; Valerie Knight-Williams, Knight Williams Research; Josh Rosen, Spine Films and others. The planning process will be conducted in conference calls and online, to engage the community in the project and solicit community-wide input.

The budget of $50,000 will cover travel expenses for those participants who would not otherwise travel to the CAISE PI Summit; lodging for attendees not based in the Washington area; meeting hospitality expenses; and project staff and administration.

Next Steps

The next step is to turn this two-pager into a full (but short) proposal, and to that end we would appreciate any comments you might have. In addition to any comments you may have on the White Paper, please respond to these specific questions:


  • Are you willing to review the proposal draft or contribute content?
  • Are you willing to be on the steering committee for the spring meeting?
  • Are there others who should be included in the development of the proposal and the meeting planning process?
  • Who should we include in the spring meeting itself, in addition to those who attended the July meeting?
  • Our hope is to get a proposal in front of the NSF by the end of September or early October.


Thanks for all the good ideas shared with this community in July. We’re very encouraged by the support we’ve had for this idea from the NSF and look forward to collaborating on it.