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ScienceWriters2012: The NC Scouting Report

7/26/2012

PRESS RELEASE by the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing


What happens when an agrarian state stakes pretty much everything it’s got on science, technology and higher education? The answer is North Carolina’s Research Triangle, where science writers will converge in October for ScienceWriters2012.

It was my job, as organizer of this year’s New Horizons in Science briefings for CASW, to scout North Carolina for science speakers. I had lived in the Research Triangle for 30 years, working as a science writer and editor most of that time. Since moving away in 2007, I’d kept in touch with the vibrant Triangle science-writing community. When I returned to the area for the ScienceOnline un-conference in January and again to interview prospective speakers, I expected to find a familiar science landscape.

Instead I've found that the Triangle has plenty of surprises and delights, even for an old Raleigh hand like me.

First and foremost, there’s the energy, intelligence and spirit of SCONC, the Science Communicators of North Carolina. SCONC’s members collaborated to submit a powerhouse bid to host ScienceWriters2012. They’ve raised funds, negotiated with universities, federal agencies, foundations and corporations, and corralled buses, boats and venues. The result is a nonstop program of activities and entertainment that wrap around the combined conference.

SCONC’s red carpet rolls out from the convention center to the campuses, the labs of Research Triangle Park, Raleigh’s nightlife venues and its new Nature Research Center. It stretches east to the coast and west to the N.C. Research Campus.

Karl Leif Bates, the fearless and endlessly creative leader of SCONC’s sponsor activities, has even made arrangements to shuttle folks to and from Raleigh-Durham International Airport on the welcome and tour days (Friday and Tuesday). The social/foodie braintrust of SCONC will make sure that you laugh, smile and eat exceedingly well before you head home.

The next surprise is what’s happening on the campuses. The Research Triangle is anchored by Duke University and N.C. Central University in Durham, the University of North Carolina’s flagship campus in Chapel Hill and N.C. State University in Raleigh. Not far away are the technology hub at UNC-Charlotte and the medical powerhouse of Wake Forest University. In the middle of the Triangle are the industrial and federal laboratories, organizations such as the National Institute of Statistical Sciences and the booming contract research organization RTI International, formerly the Research Triangle Institute. SCONC is drawing all of these organizations into ScienceWriters2012.

When I began talking with local scientists, I found that many of them were delighted to be working in a collaborative environment that so celebrates science. I was also struck by their determination to make their work useful to people. North Carolina is working hard to turn its research into products, technologies and jobs, and so you’ll see much applied science on the New Horizons program.

The message, dear reader, is that you’re going to need to allow some serious time to savor what your fellow science writers have cooked up for Oct. 26-30. In addition to what NASW and SCONC are concocting, CASW is packing more than 20 science sessions into two days for the New Horizons briefings, and punctuating them with a trip to N.C. State for SCONC’s Lunch with a Scientist program.

The NASW workshops, on Saturday the 27th, will be followed by a sparkling awards party showing off the spiffy Nature Research Center. But to fully appreciate what SCONC has in store, you’ll want to come a day earlier for lab tours, a welcome reception, free airport and hotel transport and afterglow partying. You’ll want to bring a Halloween costume to participate properly in SCONC’s Sunday night spooktacular, and stay on past New Horizons for the selection of field trips on Tuesday the 30th. —Rosalind Reid