In February of 2011 the first ever International Public Science Events Conference (IPSEC) convened for two days in Washington DC. From multi-million dollar citywide festivals, to intimate cafe meetings at the corner pub, new public science events are popping up across the globe. This meeting brought together professionals from around the world to trade ideas and inspiration, forge new collaborations, and consider what is next for this rapidly growing field. And it was all timed to lead into the annual meeting of the world’s largest general scientific society: the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The 2011 conference by the numbers:
- number of attendees: 216
- number of countries represented: 16
- number of US states represented: 26
- number of attendees from outside of the US: 33
- number of attendees associated with science festival initiatives: 86
- number of attendees associated with science cafe initiatives: 72
- number of public science events presenting in the Science Events Expo: 59
What these numbers don’t capture is the remarkable energy at this meeting. It was easy to feel the enthusiasm that attendees had for the public outreach that they are involved in, and it was clear that this meeting was a unique and valuable gathering of a new professional community. In an independent evaluation of the conference, attendees reported that:
- the range of attendees and speakers was very good
- the conference helped them gain: useful information and resources, increased understanding of how to reach and impact target audiences, and ideas for their own public science event practices. In the words of one attendee: “I have a page of 37 potentially actionable ideas from my time at the conference, from topic ideas to format tweaks, to funding and marketing.” Another said, “It made me think about the relationship between the festival and the participants – how to make festivals more of a dialogue with participants, how to be more inclusive.”
- they formed new connections and relationships, followed up with others they met at the conference, and increased their understanding of how their work fits into a larger field. As one attendee put it, “The greatest thing I took away was the basic knowledge that there is a growing community out there devoted to the mission of public outreach events focused on STEM. Call it an ‘enlightened’ moment to know there is a ‘band-of-brothers’ growing.”
Take a look at the 2011 IPSEC program below.