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Feedback from the rechartering survey

by Geoff Hart

Previously published as: Hart, G.J. 2005. Feedback from the rechartering survey. the Exchange 12(1):4–5. http://www.stcsig.org/sc/newsletter/html/2005-1.htm#feedback

In the last issue of 2004, I informed SIG members that STC will be requiring all SIGs to go through a rechartering exercise in the near future. Even by the standards of the survey profession, I got very few responses. If you didn't already send me your feedback on the questions I raised, please have a look at that article and send me your thoughts. Here's what I have heard from you thus far:

Our mission statement

The current mission statement has generally been well received, but there's a perception that perhaps we haven't lived up to it. This is true enough; I really have insufficient time to work on promoting our SIG, among other things because the newsletter, though it's a labor of love, takes up much of the free time I do have available to devote to SIG activities.

What we need is a committee of people willing to ponder how to work harder on fulfilling our mission, willing to work to do so, and willing to get SIG members more involved in developing activities for our SIG. If you think you might be interested in taking this on as a project, please contact me.

Newsletter

As the most visible evidence of our SIG's continued existence, the newsletter is clearly appreciated and generally scores high marks. Nonetheless, we need more contributors to keep the newsletter alive and interesting. If you've got something you'd like to say, please say it! (We do have a "letters to the editor" column, but in the absence of any letters, I only rarely have an opportunity to include it in the newsletter.) Better still, contribute an article—or ask a friend or colleague who has interesting things to say to write one. I'd have more time to devote to SIG activities if I spent less time hunting down and capturing contributors.

Don't forget that an article doesn't have to be particularly involved or difficult. Something as simple as the "Science Songs" article is a great way to fill space and amuse or inform our readers. If you stumble across an interesting science-related Web site, send me the URL and a 200-word description.

Web site

As is obvious if you've visited our Web site, I haven't had enough time to do much more than keep the newsletter archives up to date. We really need to find a Webmaster who has the time and energy to make the site begin to work for us. One way to do so might be to compile a list of compatible kindred spirits, such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and invite them to form a Web ring. Another might be to evangelize the SIG by improving the quality of the search engine keywords and submitting the site to the main search engines. I'm somewhat equivocal about that suggestion, because the site should primarily benefit SIG members, but on the other hand, making our site available to search engines could gain us new members—once we have content there that will attract new members. A bit of a Catch-22 situation, as you can imagine.

Would it be possible or useful to set up an instant messaging (IM) community for our Web site? If so, we'd need someone willing to discuss how to implement such a community via our Web site, and someone willing to moderate the community. Interested in being that person? E-mail me!

E-mail

Similarly, our e-mail discussion group is intended primarily for SIG members, but that's not to say it couldn't become a means of recruiting new members. To do so, we'd need to make the discussion group sufficiently active to attract members; this is one of those positive-feedback situations when good content attracts new participants, who create new content, which attracts more participants... and so on until the community becomes self-sustaining. One intriguing way to do this might be to adopt an approach similar to STC's telephone seminars. Perhaps a guest moderator might volunteer to pose a question and stimulate discussion every week or two? If that role interests you, please contact me. (Ideally, the discussions should also be summarized for the newsletter; in addition to providing valuable content for those who don't subscribe to the e-mail discussions, this might attract more subscribers for these discussions.)

Miscellany

Outreach activities are always interesting. For the past three years, I've participated in career-week events at local universities to evangelize our profession and share what I've learned with students preparing to graduate. If you've ever participated in a school science fair, this can be a great place to mention STC to the sponsors (and to the students if they're old enough) and distribute brochures. If you've participated in this way, why not submit an article to the newsletter so that others can benefit from your experience?

I've been contacted several times by STC, asking that I submit a proposal for a telephone seminar. Given the limited time I have available, I haven't yet had time to propose such a seminar. But if there were sufficient interest, a seminar oriented towards scientific communicators is something I could easily create—or recruit someone for if the topic isn't within my repertoire. If you're interested, send me your suggestions for topics.

Rechartering redux

Rechartering will soon be forced upon us, and rather than looking upon it as simply a "paper" exercise, I'd prefer to turn it into an opportunity to reinvigorate our SIG. That's not something I can do on my own, and even if it were, then the community would be shaped entirely by my interests and priorities. Please help by providing feedback, and perhaps even by volunteering to undertake any of the activities I've suggested in this article.


My essays on scientific communication have now been collected in the following book:

Hart, G. 2011. Exchanges: 10 years of essays on scientific communication. Diaskeuasis Publishing, Pointe-Claire, Que. Printed version, 242 p.; eBook in PDF format, 327 p.


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