Sunday, February 21, 2010

Science is Back: A Report from the AAAS 2010 Meeting

OK so one of the reasons I went was because it was in San Diego - but who from the east coast is not sick of winter this year? Anyway the meeting is winding down and it's clear that science is making a comeback. And you could tell that many scientists are profiting from the Communicating Science workshops that NSF and AAAS are doing. Talk titles are improving and getting more provocative.

Last year the scientists turned up the volume on global warning with dire warnings - this year it continues unabated. Although I didn't understand all of the talks here are some of the titles which gives you a pretty good indication that we've got to do something now:

Will Coral Reefs Disappear? Separating Fact from Conjecture

Adam Smith Meets Jacques Cousteau: Using Economics to Protect Marine Resources

Denial, Detente and Decisions: Fisheries Science at a Crossroads

Can Geoengineering Save us From Global Warming?

And the list goes on.

So there were 1,000 newsroom registrants at the meeting - many like me more public information officers than real life reporters. But a lot of reporters/writers/editors did come. Among the people I chatted with Alan Boyle, science blogger extraordinaire of MSNBC who just wrote a book on Pluto, The Chronicle of Higher Education which was looking for stories on data organization and management, producers from the BBC and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation who wouldn't reveal what they were writing, ScientificBlogging and it's hottie founder, and many more.

The AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Awards 2009 program and cocktail party was a massive discussion on the current state of science journalism. So many science writing veterans are now freelancers it's hard to keep track of who's where. But it seems like the wounds are closing and those who remain are getting back to work. Also there were many 20-something science journalists - a good sign for the future.

The science writing award winners were like little kids at their own birthday party - my personal favorite Amie Thompson from the Great Falls Tribune in Wyoming who won for a series on a rare genetic disease and its impact on a family and its descendants. Her husband was talking her up in the hallway before the awards presentation. The series, which ran in June 2009, is called "Lethal Legacy."

Thank you AAAS for continuing to honor great science writing - it seems like no one else is. Oh except the Kavli Foundation which has committed to funding this program for many years - I forget how they put it but it seemed like it would outlive me.

The USA Science Engineering Festival - Larry Bock's baby - got a lot of interest and managed to get a card in every one of the 8,000 conference bags. Bock had an assembly line of bag stuffers - you should have seen the empty boxes.

I met Francis Collins - human genome guru and now head of NIH - over pancakes as he met Bock, and talked about the Festival. A very nice man - he even responded to my thank you note.

My book with AAAS had a lot of lookers - that's Delaying that First Drink: A Parents' Guide - due out this spring and to be tied in with a spring break PR effort.

The SB&F Subaru Children's Book Awards had a packed room and the books are great - check them out on the AAAS web site

Yes we are still in a recession. It was really clear in the exhibit hall - the number of booths had dropped quite a bit. Why do people cut marketing when the economy tanks? It doesn't make any sense to me.

And I am in route later today to San Francisco for a 24 hour hang out with best friends break. So I'd better pack. Finally figured out how to use the parking garage in this building and I'm leaving. Oh well.

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