The following notes were taken during a meeting of the CSL leadership along with some invited guests. We are posting the meeting notes to let our readers know what we are thinking about, and as a catalyst for suggestions, comments, discussion, and a call to those who wish to get involved. -sg
Notes by Sheldon Greaves with additions by Tim Raney
MicroMo Electronics, Clearwater, Florida
The meeting began with welcome from Sheldon Greaves and a brief recognition of Reggie Smithâ€™s book, copies of which were on hand.
Also announced that Reggie, Tim, and Bill Hilton (who could not be present due to a family emergency) are the newest CSL Fellows, to be recognized once we have decided on titles for them.
Overview: at present the CSL web site is getting about 4500 visits per month and holding steady. We need to increase this number significantly.Â CSL has been contacted by Cornell Ornithological Labs and other organizations interested in finding our more about us. We are getting noticed.Â One strategy for increasing exposure is to leverage the registrations on the web site, which consists of approximately 2000 entries. Itâ€™s unknown how many of these might be spam, but this will get high priority to expand the mailing list. We also need to make a list of other web site enhancements and improvements.
Discussion of different ways that the blog can better serve the amateur scientist community.Â Tim Raney has developed a three-part series on shop safety, which we will run. This prompted the suggestion that the blog ought to feature â€œthemeâ€ weeks in which we try to arrange to have blog posts on the same general topic, announced in advance.
The main areas of initial discussion ranged over ways CSL could better serve members through the blog, as well as how CSL itself might obtain more exposure. We discussed the possibility of conferences, perhaps best done by holding a small conference concurrently with a larger professional conference in the same town or even as a side event with such a conference.
Online education possibilities. Discussed in general terms forming educational programs based on online courses, either using existing courses such as are offered through MIT Open Courseware, or more highly specialized such as those proposed by Jeff Lichtmanâ€™s CFRARE proposal of a center for teaching radio astronomy and related science.
We discussed the idea of using existing free courses plus â€œin-houseâ€ courses to create certificates for those who complete coursework.Â Because certificates are largely unregulated by state post-secondary education bureaus, we can offer them without going through any approval process. One way to make CSL certificates more meaningful is to pair a certificate with a statement specifying those learning objectives accomplished by anyone with the certificate.
We also explored the idea that for members, we might offer some additional aids for those taking free online courses, as well as a service in which we keep a running archive of courses, projects, etc. in a kind of CV/portfolio for members which would function as a kind of credential for scientific purposes.
The meeting also resolved to explore how to best use the list of registrants who have signed up for the CSL web site. The first use of this list would be a simple, short survey to find out more about what our readers want.
Some additional enhancements to the current site include:
- Adding a list of categories
- Make more use of the photo Gallery to include additional photos and diagrams linked to individual articles as a way to give extra information that wonâ€™t fit gracefully into a blog post
- Reference pages: lists of online resources, annotated, the catalogue of public domain documents, open-source software, etc. Opinion was unanimous that Ralph Coppolaâ€™s Wanderings would form the nucleus of such an effort.
- Subject pages, listing posts from the CSL blog grouped by subject.
Discussion turned to matters of community, specifically how we might go about recruiting a board of advisors. Instead, it was suggested that the CSL members are (or should be) the advisors. Part of active participation in the CSL community would be to fill out a list of oneâ€™s areas of expertise and willingness to answer questions posted or sent on that particular topic. Use this to create a kind of â€œresearch gateâ€ for users where they can get one-on-one interaction and help.
This led to a discussion of where we could go to find new members. Many major technology and science corporations have alumni associations. Suggested also finding ways to approach professional organizations related to science and technology, as well as university alumni associations.
â€œMentorsâ€ would be as well or better drawn from the ranks of regular CSL members rather than elite Ph.D.s
A good suggestion was that mentoring can and should focus on practical matters of scientific research, such as proof of concepts on a small scale and then using what one learns to scale a projects up (or not) and other similar practices that are common in professional science, but not always explicitly taught, especially in secondary school science classes.
Questions emerged about how CSL can help put scientific resources into the hands of amateurs. We discussed the idea of aÂ CSLÂ online store that would offer the truly unique and useful items amateurs need but often canâ€™t find. Briefly discussed the possibility of selling chemicals online, as they can be difficult to obtain due to the current security and legal climate.
That said, there is still the possibility of not only offering links to suppliers, but letting selected suppliers and vendors advertise on the site provided that they meet certain criteria (to be determined).
All present agreed that CSL would benefit from having product reviewers for software, apps, books, devices, etc. posting reviews on a regular basis.
Also agreed that CSL should offer branded promotional items; tee-shirts, mugs, hats, etc.
Events: suggested that CSL should have periodic conference calls, web meetings or regular presentations using the â€œHangoutâ€ feature on Google+ as a way to gain exposure and develop connections among the membership.
On the matter of memberships, we agreed that some kind of paid membership is now worth pursuing. A list of possible perks for members was provided to attendees prior to the conference, but discussion focused on several in particular, such as museum or vendor discounts and access to member-only web content.
Brief discussion extended to the question of chapters or local CSL clubs, something probably best developed once we had a body of individual members.
Fritz then raised an interesting question: is the use of the word â€œscienceâ€ a liability when trying to get people interested in doing science? Are they put off or intimidated at some level by it, and would CSL be well-served by rebranding itself in a way that avoids these issues?
We looked at several alternatives to â€œscientistâ€ such as investigator, experimenter, explorer, researcher, natural philosopher, watcher, and others. Â After the meeting Denise suggested using the word â€œEureka!â€ as part of a new brand. A quick Google search revealed that there appears to be a number of studies and surveys available that discuss this problem of public perception of â€œscienceâ€.Â All agreed that it might be worth looking at a name and branding change, and to look into finding some marketing expertise to do a little preliminary research into this question. The sentiment was that if such a change would benefit CSL, better to do it now than later. Some of those in attendance might know some people who could help us with this, and it would be a good idea to read some of these studies to find out more about the nature of this issue.
One of the last items discussed was the possibility of partnerships with Museums and Technology Centers. We acknowledged that most of them will have their own programs in place and probably be reluctant to work with us unless we can find some way to help them bring in money. That said, there are associations for science museums that we believe we should contact at least to further explore this possibility.