The Association of Science and Technology Centers
I spent October 13-19 in Baltimore at the annual conference of the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC). A few years ago a colleague suggested that I attend this conference and present a talk on our Citizen Sky planetarium show. That never happened due to timing and cost issues. But this year we had both the time and funding to attend.
I was there for three main reasons. First, there was a session on citizen science led by some leaders in the field. The AAVSO is one of the oldest and most successful citizen science projects, but we have a very low profile in the citizen science field - one that is rapidly exploding thanks to large scale projects like BOINC and Zooniverse. Most citizen science projects present results at meetings of their scientific domain (ornithologists present at ornithology conferences, astronomers at astronomy conferences, etc.). So this is one of the few opportunities for crosstalk and to share ideas. The second reason was a day of sessions on 3D film development, which we are getting into thanks to our new grant. The third reason were the sessions on general science center development and management. They had many sessions on private fundraising (such as planned giving), federal science education grants and leadership of small science centers with budgets <$1 million. The AAVSO has a major presence at the astronomy meetings, but these are topics not discussed there. So we wanted to investigate this organization and see if they had anything to offer us in terms of new ideas.
Overall, I came away with more notes and ideas than I normally do at a meeting. These conferences are far more about networking than anything else, and this one did not disappoint. But it's an expensive meeting to attend (it shows in how well organized it is) so I don't know if we'll be able to make it every year. But I think we should have a presense every 2-3 years at least. At the next one I hope to present on various projects of the AAVSO and fly our flag proudly.