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Science Online 2013 Toronto/GTA Watch Party

Conservation Halton

Thursday, 14 February 2013 at 12:30 PM - Friday, 15 February 2013 at 5:00 PM (EST)

Ticket Information

Ticket Type Remaining Sales End Price Fee Quantity
Day 1 Registration including lunch 11 Tickets Ended $9.00 $0.92
Day 2 8 Tickets Ended $9.00 $0.92

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Event Details


UPDATE: Due to the snowfall expected overnight and tomorrow (Friday, Feb 09), the Science Online Toronto/GTA Watch Party has be postponed until the following Thursday and Friday. It will now be held at the same venue on Thursday Feb 14th from 12:30 to 4:00pm and continue on Friday, Feb 15th from 10:00am to 4:00pm.

All other details remain the same. I will amend the agenda soon to reflect a later start time on Day 1. Lunch will still be provided on both days. I hope even more people can join us next week.




Science Online is an annual conference where hundreds of scientists, science writers, educators, librarians, publishers and others gather to discuss the role of the web in science communication and (equally importantly) to meet others interested in the same topics.

This popular conference sells out rapidly, and many people are unable to attend. That is why this year scientists in several cities around the world – including Toronto/GTA, Canada are holding Watch Parties, to watch some of the talks with their local community.

This is a fantastic opportunity to meet others interested in science and science communication and have discussions following each of the sessions, with a local narrative.  I am requesting a small fee to cover some costs, however, if you are unable to pay (students), please contact me.


Date and Location of Toronto/GTA Watch Party


The Science Online Watch Party will be held on Thursday, February 14th, from 12:30PM to 4PM and Friday, February 15th from 10AM to 4PM at Conservation Halton’s Administrative office in Burlington, atop the Niagara Escarpment.  Accessible by 401, 407 and QEW – 30 minutes from Toronto.

The venue has all amenities, including accessible parking, washrooms, kitchen and fully equipped conference room.

We're going to watch a few of the sessions from the Science Online conference and have our own discussions around this. I have included a tentative schedule of sessions, but we can select others through consensus. Lunch will be provided on both days along an optional bonus self-guided tour of nearby Crawford Lake Conservation Area on Saturday!


Please register here for the Watch Party so we know who is coming, and we can contact you with details closer to the event. Registration costs cover the cost of the Watch Party license and the A/V costs of the venue.



Science Online Watch Party Toronto/GTA is organised Hassaan Basit (@Sci_Comms) and is supported by Conservation Halton. 


DAY 1 - Friday, February 8th Sessions

10:15 -11:15

Life in the venn - What happens when you're forced to wear many hats?

Ed Yong and Jonathan Eisen

Description: Increasingly, people in the science world seem to play multiple roles. Some are scientists and journalists. Others are journalists and PIOs. Some teach with one hand, research with the other, and blog with their faces. How do we handle the tensions between roles that can have conflicting priorities and values, and how do we partition our different identities online?


11:30 – 12:30

Why won't the science deficit model die?

Liz Neeley and John Bruno

Description: The deficit model of science is the idea that the public has a "knowledge deficit" that affects perceptions of science and scientists. The model thus assumes that science communicators can change attitudes towards science, environmental issues, etc and affect by providing more information. The session would begin with an explanation of what the the deficit model is and the current thinking about it's validity. We would then explore what it all means for science communicators. The goal of the session is not to make a case that science education is pointless, but rather to think about what it can realistically achieve and why we are doing it? Lets make sure the outcomes match the goals.


What is the deficit model, and what are examples of how it shapes outreach efforts?

If we all know better, why do we still fall victim to fallacies of deficit model thinking about science communication?

What are the valid models of effective information transfer and behavior change?

What, EXACTLY, are the best practices in science communication right now?


12:30 – 1:15 Lunch/Discussion


1:15 – 2:15

Communicating science where there is no science communication

Description: Scientists, journalists, and communicators working outside of the United States and the UK face fundamentally different problems from those living within well-served media landscapes. For example: Canada has few science magazines, a couple television shows, and a handful of radio programmes aimed at a general science audience (with the exception of the French-speaking Quebec, which has a dynamic science writing community). Government funded research grants do not require outreach or education. And, government scientists have been all but barred from talking to journalists. In Canada and other countries with sparse science communication infrastructures, the dominant issues revolve not around journalists vs bloggers, or scientists vs press releases vs the media, but instead focus on what can be done to make science communication exist at all, in any form. This session will explore how scientists, educators, and media people can promote scientific discussions and scientific interest in regions that lack established venues.


- With no budget and no established venues, how would you share science in your community?

- With no magazines or science cafés to provide an audience, what other groups in your community might want to learn some science?

- What can scientists, journalists, writers and educators do to push media outlets for more and better science coverage?

- What might your local general news outlet expect of you if you approach or talk with them about science topics?


2:30 – 3:30

Persuading the unpersuadable: Communicating science to deniers, cynics, and trolls

Cara Santa Maria and Melanie Tannenbaum

Description: We've all faced the difficult task of writing or speaking about evolution, climate change, or any number of scientific topics that lack public understanding and unanimous support. In this session, Melanie and Cara will bring their combined experience in social/cognitive/personality psychology and persuasion/science communication to the table while we discuss the best practices for persuading science deniers without turning them off from the conversation. Other topics include how to tell the difference between ignorant-yet-innocent commenters and trolls, whether or not some people are simply beyond reach, how to effectively communicate with difficult-to-reach people, and if & when the "no apologies" approach to science communication is an effective strategy.



How can we persuade science deniers without turning them off from the conversation?

What can social, cognitive, & personality psychology teach us about science denialism?

How do you differentiate between innocent ignorance, curiosity, and trolling?

Are some people simply beyond reach? What can persuasion psychology teach us about reaching the unreachable?

Is it effective to take the "no apologies" approach, or do we end up simply preaching to the choir?

How can we use "persuasion tricks" to effectively get scientific messages across to a stubborn audience?


DAY 2 Saturday, February 9th Sessions

10:15 – 11:15

Opening doors: Science communication for those that don't care/don't like science

Tom Levenson and David Ng

In a nutshell: I'd rather not "preach to the choir" - are there ways to break out of this? (Because... you know, it's kind of important)

Description: Many (most) conventional forms of science communication (books, blogs, films, focused and/or beat-driven journalism) speak to self-selecting audiences. Several analyses have pointed to the growing “tribal” or partisan divide being a reliable predictor of acceptance of rejection of scientific findings on subjects like climate change, evolution and others. That’s part of the context that frames the question of how to reach beyond those who already know they’re interested in science. And then there’s this: over the last (n) years (where n is some length of time just slightly shorter than the speaker at the time has been doing whatever s/he does in science communication) there has been an enormous expansion in the ways science popularizers and audiences interact. From the impact of social media to the development radically local approaches like Story Collider and the science festival movement, experiments with form, venue, and approaches to the formation of audience and/or community have significantly broadened the opportunities for science and members of the public to encounter each other. Most important, a common thread among these newer genres and approaches has been framed the idea of science as an expression of culture, and not just a body of knowledge or of methods.


With this in mind, this session hopes to create a forum where we explore these developments more fully. Among facets of the issue to be discussed: we hope to raise and learn of examples where the best impact may be gained by deliberately not compartmentalizing definitions of science, but rather by reaching out through the exploration of all the nuances and different perspectives that science can offer us. From there we’ll go where the participants take the discussion, but some questions present in the moderators minds include thinking critically about the various ways the enterprise of science has been presented in the popular setting – how important is it to emphasize the usefulness of science; its historical significance, the creativity of its approach and the sheer awesomeness of its results, to name a few possibilities. At the same time, assuming participant interest, we can address questions of goals: what is it that popular science communication can (or should) strive to do?


- Why do some people not care about or even like science? How might one engage them?

- Do perceptions of science make science communication all the more challenging?

- What are some ways of talking or interacting with science that are most effective in reaching the “unconverted?”

- Do you find yourself always preaching to the choir?


11:30 – 12:30

Spies, spacemen, seamstresses, and sailors: What science writers can learn from genre writing

Maryn McKenna and David Dobbs

Description: As science writers, we work hard to snag readers and keep them reading. But there are writers out there whose examples can help us but go ignored because they write in what some disdainfully calls "genre." We're talking thrillers, mysteries, adventure, romance, police novels, sci-fi, historical fiction. There's a reason why Patrick O'Brian, Jack Patterson, Ray Bradbury, and Anne Perry have sold millions of books: The best of them have developed narrative methods and techniques — call 'em tricks if it makes you feel better — that quicken readers' attention, efficiently establish scene and character, and move narrative at whatever speeds best suits the story. Some are downright innovative. We science writers face the same problems. How do we switch between narrative strands? How do we lay down one strand so it can be picked up easily later? How do we jump from one time to another, embed exposition within scene, or describe natural forces? How can we solve the problem that tormented Chekhov, that of getting someone in and out of a room? In this workshoppy session, David Dobbs (secret passions: detective novels, Elmore Leonard, and the Aubrey-Maturin series) and Maryn McKenna (mystery writers Dorothy Sayers and Anne Perry, and YA fantasy authors you've never heard of) will unpick how these tricks work and how you can use them too. Maryn McKenna is a columnist for Scientific American and the author of Superbug and Beating Back the Devil. David Dobbs freelances for the New York Times, National Geographic, Nature, and other outlets and is writing his fifth book, The Orchid and the Dandelion. Their blogs, Superbug and Neuron Culture, are both at Wired.


12:30 – 1:00 Lunch/Discussion

1:00 – 2:00

Narrative: What is it? How science writers use it?

T. Delene Beeland and David Dobbs

Description: We writers like to toss around the term "narrative," but what we mean isn't always clear. Discourse theory tells us that narrative is one of four rhetorical modes, the others being exposition, argumentation, and description. Webster calls narrative "a representation … of an event or story" — which reflects common sense but passes the buck. For what is a story? Most would agree that The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a story — two or three, in fact, woven into a single fine narrative. Yet we might argue over whether, say, Richard Dawkins' brilliant description of the rise of the "replicator" (the first gene) also constitutes a narrative; or whether a narrative requires people; or whether narrative can be driven mainly by ideas. In this session we hope to demystify what narrative is so we can better discuss how to create it. First we'll spend a few minutes trying to define narrative in a way that broadens but firms the concept into something actionable. Then we'll talk practice. Why or when should a writer/journalist use narrative? How does one transform a topic into a story? How do we conceive, report, structure, and write to enliven this story. How do we create a sense of movement through time, of tensions raised and (maybe) resolved? How must we do our reporting to turn an abstract idea into an earthy narrative? Drawing on a few prime examples and the experience and perspectives of the moderators and audience, we'll aim to firm up a working definition of narrative and send everyone out with a list of practices and skills needed to create one. Hashtag: #ScioStory. Freelancer T. Delene Beeland took the narrative challenge in first book, The Secret World of Red Wolves, to be published in spring 2013. David Dobbs tilts narrative in his pieces for the New York Times, National Geographic, and other magazines, and in his book-in-progress The Orchid and the Dandelion.


2:00 – 2:30 Wrap up

3:00 – BONUS! Self-guided tour of nearby Crawford Lake Conservation Area featuring a Meromictic Lake and Iroquoian Longhouse Village – free tickets included with your registration.

Have questions about Science Online 2013 Toronto/GTA Watch Party? Contact Conservation Halton
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When & Where

Conservation Halton
2596 Britannia Road West
L7P 0G3
L7P 0G3

Thursday, 14 February 2013 at 12:30 PM - Friday, 15 February 2013 at 5:00 PM (EST)

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