ASCB’s Public Information Committee Scores Its Outreach Efforts

PICJanNewsletter2016

PIC needs to shift toward training ASCB members in science communication skills, Chair Simon Atkinson (right) told the committee, including members Elisa Konieczko (middle) and Gavin McStay (left).

The Public Information Committee (PIC) has been busy assessing its activities—the things that work, the things that don’t, and the things the Committee would like to try next. Among the things that work, the Committee is especially pleased with the Celldance video contest. Even while the campaign to promote the three 2015 “microscopic blockbusters” continues (http://bit.ly/1mTJ4uD), the new Celldance co-chair Jagesh Shah has already opened the door for Celldance 2016 proposals (http://bit.ly/1ONZY8N). The Celldance “deal” is a $1,000 production grant to each of three ASCB member labs for the production of a three- to four-minute video featuring live cell imaging while telling the cell story behind it. A second consensus PIC winner is the Elevator Speech Contest, which features 60-second video selfies of ASCB members selling their science to nonscientific fellow passengers in a hypothetical elevator (http://bit.ly/1mVIcWX).

Leading the list of things that don’t work (or haven’t worked of late) is the PIC’s long-standing campaign to promote cell biology news through the science news media. As the traditional news media have declined in recent years, the return on investment for PIC in peer-screening all the Annual Meeting abstracts, writing and promoting news releases, and staging onsite press briefings has fallen. The Committee recognizes that the ASCB Annual Meeting takes place in a completely changed media landscape. “A lot of what we’ve done has been focused on promoting the Annual Meeting to the news media,” says PIC Chair Simon Atkinson. “This is no longer effective. I’d like to see a reorientation of the Committee.”

PIC’s new emphasis will likely be on training ASCB members to become better science communicators themselves and promoting efforts by members in their own outreach activities from science cafes to blogs to videos. Atkinson points out that helping ASCB members communicate their own science is exactly what Celldance and the Elevator Speech Contest do and that is why the Committee considers them successful.

PIC members have suggested a number of things that the Committee should try next. Ideas range from science communications training at the Annual Meeting, to identifying the Neil DeGrasse Tyson of cell biology, to finding support for a major television series on the cell as the fundamental unit of life.

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