Page 64 - Spring 2018
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Public Relations Committee
formal polling at technical committee meetings at the 2010 Baltimore meeting). Instead, the committee voted to orga- nize an interdisciplinary session at the 2011 Seattle meeting titled “Effective Communication Between Scientists and the Media,” cosponsored with the Education in Acoustics Com- mittee and the Student Council. This session featured talks by three media professionals and three ASA members who had experience “in the limelight.” The session also included a mock interview in which Alan Boyle, a Seattle-based writer for MSNBC, asked Steven Garrett about his thermoacoustics research and was followed by a panel discussion. The response to this unusual session was very positive, which motivated the PRC to organize similar sessions in 2014 in Providence and 2017 in Boston, which had over 100 attendees.
The Boston session, titled “Communicating Scientific Results to Non-Scientists,” went beyond providing tips for talking to journalists. One theme addressed by many of the speakers was the importance of telling a story. This is crucial to get- ting and holding the attention of members of society, espe- cially its younger members, who rely on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube for information and entertainment more than newspapers and television. Although science journalism is adapting to the changing media landscape, it is also much easier now for scientists to engage directly with the public. The speakers in Boston, including Soren Wheeler, producer of RadioLab, and Joe McMaster, award-winning producer of The Elegant Universe, encouraged ASA members to engage the public by telling their stories.
The PRC, together with the Committee on Education and the Student Council, will continue to organize special ses- sions relating to science communication and will explore other modes of helping ASA members become more en- gaged and more effective communicators.
The importance of effective communication has wide rec- ognition among STEM disciplines, especially among early- career STEM professionals. In 2011, a group of graduate students in astronomy started a collaborative project on the web, Astrobites (, to practice their sci- ence writing skills and to create an educational resource for undergraduates in the field. The popularity of this site (even outside the community of astronomy students) spurred simi- lar efforts in other fields:,,, and It also led to the creation of a national workshop called ComSciCon, held annually since 2013, to help graduate students become better science communicators. The mission of ComSciCon
( is to enable “young scientists to become ambassadors for their field, propagating appreciation and understanding of research results to broad and diverse au- diences.” In 2017, 1,051 graduate students applied to attend the 3-day workshop, with 50 admitted. In the past two years, regional ComSciCon franchises have been established to ac- commodate the overwhelming interest. With recent fund- ing from the AIP Venture Partnership Fund, ComSciCon is looking to establish franchises within professional societies, such as ASA. Two members of the PRC, Andy Piacsek and Laura Kloepper, were invited to attend the 2017 ComSciCon and meet with organizers to discuss the franchising mod- el. At the Boston ASA meeting, they met with the Student Council to describe the ComSciCon model and discuss pos- sible ways of establishing a workshop in conjunction with ASA meetings. A decision was made by the Student Council to organize a trial science communication workshop at the Spring 2018 meeting in Minneapolis.
Adapting to New Media Platforms
The ASA has been slower than some other scientific soci- eties to embrace and utilize social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Under the recently adopted Strategic Leadership Plan for the Future, Task Force 1 was created to provide leadership on issues re- lating to awareness of acoustics, which includes developing a strategic presence on social media to benefit members and the public. The PRC is working with Task Force1, along with L. Keeta Jones (Education and Outreach Coordinator) and Daniel Farrell (Web Office Manager), to support this goal.
An example of a contribution made by the PRC to expand awareness of the ASA and acoustics as a career was the over- sight it provided in 2016 to the production of a short video by AIP Media Services. This video, which can be viewed at or on ASA’s YouTube channel (, features ASA senior members and graduate students describing the research they do, the applications of their work, and what got them inter- ested in acoustics as a career. This is accompanied by foot- age of acoustics research facilities around the country. The goal is to increase awareness of and interest in acoustics as a field of study among high-school- and college-age students. This video is the first in a series of outreach videos that AIP Media Services will produce for ASA as a benefit for ASA’s financial support of the science news service Inside Science ( The next video showcases the 2017 ASA meeting in New Orleans, with the goal of helping new
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