Thanks to Twitter and the scientists I follow, connecting to science conferences is easier than ever. In fact many conferences would be unknown to the public accept through Twitter. Thankfully, many scientists are embracing social media and are live tweeting the events. Connectedness is changing the face of science communication.
In addition to helping more scientists join the Twitterverse there is more outreach that can be done to increase public awareness of science and science conferences. It is as simple as live broadcasting conference proceedings. This can be done relatively cheaply and without much effort.
If a professional crew is hired the cost can be staggering when coupled with the cost of quality internet. However, cost of broadcasting can be cheap and decent quality. Google Hangouts On Air is free. If you have a gmail account then you have access to the service. Many scientists and science communicators already use GHO On Air to host discussions and events like “Virtual StarParties”
– Although GHO On Air is designed for face to face discussion, it can be used as a broadcast tool as well. with a low quality camera you can see my class. (Students and parents have signed concent forms)
A second deterrent has been privacy and freedom of session discussions. It is important for presenters to be able to share data without losing priority for scientific discoveries. Sharing unpublished data is common at science conferences. It is also possible attendees may feel less willing to share their own ideas and criticisms if sessions are being broadcast and recorded.
However, having just one room dedicated to presentations that can be broadcast live and recorded would be simple to organize. Potential presenters would indicate on the session proposal application whether or not they are willing to have their presentations live on the internet. Presenters who agree to being broadcast can then be assigned to the “live room.”
The final concern for conference organizers might be, “if people can just watch online, why would they come in person?” Attending things live and in person is the preference for most people. Political affiliations aside, would you rather watch the President of the United States on TV or in person. Those who have the means will still attend conferences. Those who do not have the means can watch online and spread the word to others in the public.
So if you are organizing a scientific conference or any type of conference, please, strongly consider making sessions available online for public consumption.