Bloggy Crashes COPUS
    By Hank Campbell | March 25th 2010 05:00 PM | 8 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    Bloggy recently crashed a meeting of The Coalition on the Public Understanding of Science (COPUS).  What is that, you ask?  Okay, I never heard of it either but their website says they are a "growing grassroots network of universities, scientific societies, science centers and museums, government agencies, advocacy groups, media, schools, educators, businesses, and industry - basically, anyone who cares about science and is concerned about national scientific literacy."

    Okay, I am in.   After all, since we made it fashionable, science literacy has become the new Prius.    They must be doing cutting edge stuff if they're having a meeting.   But then I read, "COPUS and its participants lead the way in the celebration of the Year of Science 2009 (YoS09) ... "   Errrr, cutting edge stuff does not involve updating the website, it seems. But, as you see in the picture below, people were attending a meeting at Berkeley.

    So we decided to make the drive into the exotic area we call "West of the 5". Yes, me, a Republican 66% of the time, dared venture into Berkeley, knowing I could burst into flame ("Republican bursts into flame - Women, minorities impacted most" The Daily Californian headline might read) at any moment.   You may not have heard of COPUS before either and that may be because (and this is not a knock, just an observation based on a lot of experience) the groups behind it, the American Institute of Biological Sciences, the Geological Society of America, the National Science Teachers Association, and the University of California Museum of Paleontology, do not actually do any science outreach.   They are instead groups that represent some people who may or may not care about science outreach so they hold meetings about doing stuff, which does not excite researchers who already work in layers of bureaucracy - but in outreach especially a layer of bureaucracy adds a disconnect between people and science.

    However, COPUS was at least smart enough to bring together a bunch of people doing science outreach and the gathering the evening before the meeting (to talk about science outreach in a practical, no-committees-involved sense) was terrific - as good a Who's Who as you are going to get in one place at one time.

    Susan West Michael Gold Darlene Cavalier Larry Bock Michelle Lee Paul Shin
    Back row left to right:  Michael Gold, author of A Conspiracy of Cells,key guy at too many science publications to list here, and co-founder of    Larry Bock, who put on the outrageously successful San Diego Science Festival last year and is now going national with the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C later this year.

    Front row left to right:   Susan West, longtime media whiz and Editor-In-Chief of the new Afar Magazine, Darlene Cavalier, uber-advocate for science and everyone's favorite ScienceCheerleader, Danielle N. Lee of Urban Science Adventures and Paul Shin of CSU Northridge, the LA Science Cafe program and Renaissance Man of everything chemical (if the balloon ever goes up, I am standing behind him - he has all the protective gear)

    So I signed us up for this COPUS thing a few days ago.    They are bringing in people from all over the country to talk about improving science literacy and we can never have too much of that, though it's good plenty of us are just doing it without any meetings.


    Why do all of these cool meetings happen in California?
    As you discovered last year, it isn't the weather in the Bay area that brings them in. And outside the university, Berkeley is a demilitarized zone, so it isn't the surroundings. I assume they got a free room.
    Ah, different COPUS! COPUS has existed in the UK since 1987. They even gave me some money!! :-) If you're in the UK then try them for science communication grants.
    Good I double-checked, COPUS has run out of money so please go cup in hand to:
    That's always the issue with bureaucracies - they need more money so they become self-serving (and attempt to be self-perpetuating) and then claim they can no longer do the job they never did because they run out of money. My advice to people who ask about duplicating Scientific Blogging is to go the non-profit route. Raising money from the government is much less work than the private sector and there is a lot of it, regardless of whether or not one middleman runs out.
    I'm not so sure about that, Hank. Yes, getting gov money is not that difficult but be careful of what you're expected to do. In the UK, if you set up a website with gov funding everyone will expect it to be perfect and accessible to everyone - it must be visible to the blind and audible to the deaf, any non-PC jokes will be removed, anything that may offend anybody will be seen as a failure to control content etc etc.

    My advice for taking gov money is to use it to plan V2 (of any project), coz V1 is gonna fail! ;-)
    And if you haven't used that money to secretly fund V2 your project will die when the grant runs out.

    Been there, done that - grant application consultancy advice given... if I like it! ;-)
    I was thinking the indirect route.  If you look at a lot of sites out there (STEM or science info, whatever) you can just tell they got a grant for something and the funding agency stipulated that 10% of the money had to go to some kind of outreach thing.   They are not very good.

    We have been trying to do a kids science site, for example, and find it impossible because it can't be user-generated content when you are dealing with kids but content is too expensive to buy without funding.  Had we been non-profit, it would have been easy to get money for it.
    OK, I get you now - you mentioned it in the context of people asking about copying SB so my mind turned to the website as being the main project rather than mere outreach.
    However, here's a recent UK example
    It's within the domain which I think is a big mistake but the webmaster is being outsourced. It's kinda dull and some parts have very little science too.

    As for kids, depends what age you're going for. Most just want to goof around. But they will produce content so long as it's focussed - lots of competitions with prizes. Think Brainiac meets Mighty Mouse! (insert your fave hyperative scientist and surreal cartoon)

    Hi Hank,

    It was nice to meet you at the COPUS meeting, thanks for stopping by! The meeting went really well and you will be hearing a lot more about COPUS in the future (and we will be updating the Web site -- doh!).

    I just wanted to let you know that AIBS, UCMP, GSA, and NSTA are really committed to public outreach and each make great contributions through a variety of in person and web based programs. These sponsors have been extraordinary supporters of COPUS and connecting the public to science, and I don't want that to be overlooked.

    Thanks again!