EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE | March 26, 2012

Special American Chemical Society symposium on communicating science to the public

Note to journalists: Please report that this research was presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society

SAN DIEGO, March 26 — With an understanding of science and technology growing ever more important for full participation in a democratic society, the world’s largest scientific society today is holding a special symposium on how scientists can better communicate their work to the public.

The American Chemical Society (ACS), which has more than 164,000 members, will host the event, “Communicating Chemistry to the Public,” as part of its 243rd National Meeting & Exposition, being held here. It begins at 1 p.m. in Room 4 on the Upper Level of the San Diego Convention Center.

ACS President Bassam Z. Shakhashiri, Ph.D., originated the symposium, which will feature a panel of noted science journalists, book authors and communicators, and will deliver the opening and closing remarks. Cheryl Frech, Ph.D., chair of the ACS Committee on Public Relations and Communications and professor at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, will moderate the event.

Communicating science is a major part of Shakhashiri’s presidential theme for the year. The William T. Evjue Distinguished Chair for the Wisconsin Idea at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Shakhashiri is noted internationally for pioneering the use of demonstrations in the teaching of chemistry in classrooms, as well as to the public in museums, convention centers, shopping malls and retirement homes — and at his Science is Fun website. The Encyclopedia Britannica termed Shakhashiri the "dean of lecture demonstrators in America." He received the prestigious National Science Board’s Public Service Award in 2007 for pioneering new ways to encourage public understanding of science.

“Communicating science and its values and role in society to the public is one of the American Chemical Society’s core functions,” Shakhashiri noted. “We must engage the general public and show that chemistry and related sciences are a major part of the engines that drive our economy and contribute to prosperity, fairness and justice. I am delighted that this panel of outstanding communicators can appear at the ACS National Meeting to share their experiences and insights.”

Shakhashiri convened a similar symposium at the ACS’ 242nd National Meeting & Exposition in Denver last year. Speakers at today’s event include:

  • Paul Raeburn, distinguished science writer, Knight Foundation media critic and winner of the ACS 2012 James T. Grady-James H. Stack Award for Interpreting Chemistry for the Public, will explain how the advent of science blogs has affected coverage of scientific research -- including politically sensitive topics – and will try to predict where journalism is headed.
  • Sam Kean, author of the New York Times bestseller The Disappearing Spoon, will discuss true tales from the periodic table, like why Ghandi hated iodine and how tellurium led to the most bizarre gold rush in history, as he traces the roles of the elements in history, finance, mythology, alchemy, war, art and the lives of the scientists who discovered them.
  • K.C. Cole, long-time science writer for the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and other publications and professor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Journalism will discuss “Lost in Translation: Why Lies, Metaphors and Mixed Messages are Essential to Communicating Science.”
  • Carmen Drahl, Ph.D., associate editor for Science, Technology and Education at Chemical & Engineering News, will explain how ACS’ weekly newsmagazine helps bring chemistry news to media outlets with a broader reach, and how it is leveraging new media in its role as middleman between chemistry research and the media.
  • Mariette DiChristina, editor in chief of Scientific American, will talk about the swiftly changing world of media in the digital age and how the longest continuously published magazine in the U.S. adapts and thrives in 2012. She will ask what these changes mean for scientists and the public and look at what’s ahead for magazines.
  • Joann Rodgers, long-time executive director of media relations and public affairs at Johns Hopkins Medicine, and now senior communications adviser at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, will discuss what research scientists can do to get their research noticed in an era of fragmented media, distracted audiences with poor scientific literacy and heightened focus on accountability and conflicts of interest.
  • Pam Sturner, executive director of the Leopold Leadership Program at the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University, will describe a new type of scientific leader, defined by innovation, vision and the ability to bridge multiple audiences and stakeholder groups, who will utilize the skills of science communication to succeed.

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