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.