Ecsite Day 1

800 people who run science centres and museums, in one conference venue, in Lisbon, for three days. Weird, but fun.

I’ve been hovering around the periphery of the science communication world for years, and it’s rather fun to stand in the middle of this group and watch them as if from outside. I’ve never worked at a centre, and I don’t really understand them, and that’s quite interesting. I’m a storyteller, and while some installations tell stories, they’re using very different techniques. Most of the time I’ve no idea what they’re talking about.

Highlights today were Stephen Foulger of “The Science Of…”, a joint venture between the Science Museum and an investment bank. Stephen described the somewhat radical multidisciplinary approach they take, and I’m impressed that it works. Not because it’s inherently risky, but because creative management is rarely straightforward, and they seem to have a firm grip on what sorts of groups work. ‘Pragmatic’ was a key word.

Also Andrea Bandelli, a freelancer/academic from the Netherlands, who completely pulled the rug out from under my ‘dare I say this?’ talk for Saturday by… er… saying essentially the same thing in the first session this morning. Nobody died. Which gives me something of a problem to solve before my presentation.

Aside from that, I was particularly impressed that his brief discussion of my much-hated phrase ‘user-generated content’ noted that our approach to such stuff should be ‘humble.’ Good word, ‘humble’ – and well-used in the this context.

This afternoon I found myself writing a couple of neat lines about SciCast, spurred by things people said in different contexts, then not learning much about Framework 7, a European Union projects initiative, beyond:

  • It exists.
  • There’s a shedload of money sloshing around.
  • Working with the EU can be frustrating, but it lets one dream of projects on a scale that might otherwise be impossible.
  • Meeting of Minds was a really really cool idea, and deeply impressive to have pulled off.
  • There seems to be a requirement that all pan-European projects shall suffer under the burden of tragically dreadful graphic design.

I’m actually quite serious about that last one. It’s a worry.

Meanwhile: good to catch up with some chums, and make embarrassing small talk with people I don’t know. In the latter category: the charming woman from Paris who was obviously horrified to think I might be trying to chat her up, when in fact I was trying to ascertain if the jug she held bore coffee or tea. But hey, misunderstandings happen at the European level.

I’m off to the Gala Dinner, probably for some sardines.

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