A happy anniversary
February marked two years since Liz Neeley and Jen Davison sat down together at ScienceOnline’s annual conference to discuss creating a Seattle-based event series around the same energizing and thought-provoking ideas and community-driven values as the scioX community represented. We were excited to see how the local issues and citizens of Seattle could enrich this conversation and to bring some of ScienceOnline’s ethos to our community.
In collaboration with Brian Glanz and Peter Wallis, we created ScienceOnlineSeattle to catalyze exploration at the intersection of science and the internet. Over the past two years, our 18 events have plunged into topics from politics to death, neuroscience to data visualization, dinosaurs to science communication for Spanish-speakers. We have had in-depth discussions about the social intimacy of life-hacking, and the intricacies of making science more usable and useful to society.
We live-streamed more than a dozen events, interacting with people around the world as they tweeted questions and joined in our sessions. Many conversations only intensified after the live-streaming ended, and our wide-ranging and wildly fun discussions at the pub confirmed the importance of community.
In fact, the local community of scientists, tech geeks, writers, and entrepreneurs who have regularly drawn up a chair and joined us have been the heart and the purpose of ScienceOnlineSeattle. We each are faced every day with new information and new choices about science and technology online, and it is immeasurably rewarding to gather diverse people and perspectives to explore difficult topics, and to enjoy hashing it out and laughing about it along the way.
A pause to think and to talk
By the end of 2013, it was no longer clear that we four organizers had the time and resources to plan new events. Further, our sponsoring organizations gave us warning that they needed to refocus financial support.
As we were searching for options to move ScienceOnlineSeattle forward, the larger ScienceOnline community and organization were thrown into deep turmoil. We were shaken when it became clear that one of ScienceOnline’s founding leaders, Bora Zivkovic, had been sexually harassing a number of science writers. As the community and ScienceOnline leadership faced these challenges, ScienceOnlineSeattle paused to reassess our affiliation with the organization and to reaffirm our goals.
With those issues in mind, five of us attended the annual ScienceOnline Together in February. We were eager to reconnect, and expected in-person conversations would clarify how to move forward. Our experiences at the conference renewed our faith in the people who make up the scioX community, but failed to help us attain clarity about a sustainable path for ScienceOnlineSeattle. Furthermore, our first-hand experience with how ScienceOnline leadership handles legitimate and constructive criticism have prompted our decision to suspend our affiliation with the organization, pending demonstrable improvement in the way the leadership addresses the needs of the community. Many in the Seattle community have co-signed this open letter in response to issues clarified at the conference; ScienceOnline leadership have responded here.
Gratitude for what has gone and what comes next
We are no longer holding the ScienceOnline banner, but we are no less committed to holding space for a community in Seattle where new and old faces can meet and can engage in fruitful and respectful discussion, both in person and online. We will continue gathering around topics of doing and sharing science on the Internet, not in the format of a monthly panel discussion but as an informal network. We will continue sharing relevant events, discussing both online science and issues of community support, so that everyone feels included, safe, and welcome. We are in conversation about how best to do this, and welcome your input.
This marks the end of a cycle for the people of ScienceOnlineSeattle. We are proud of and immensely grateful for the time we have had with every participant in our events. It is not an overstatement to say that our lives have changed irrevocably and for the better. We are excited to see how these two years’ worth of effort and enjoyment will play out in new partnerships, communities, ideas, and conversations.