NECSS Skeptics in the city

NECSS is the brand new skepti-con in the upper right quadrant of the country. I attended the event held this past weekend in Manhattan.

I was greeted by official “bouncer” Sean McCabe who gives hugs. [Note: skeptics don’t hug enough.] We noticed there were still too few skepchicks (a chronic problem) but there seemed to be a lot of students. Win.

I won’t be picky about logistics and such. I’ve helped arrange large conferences and it is difficult. So, big thanks to all who made this event go on schedule and VERY smoothly. However, I will reiterate Rebecca Watson’s Tweet that it was an epic geek fail that the venue had no cellular reception or wifi.

I always enjoy listening to Jamy Ian Swiss, Massimo Pigliucci, Richard Wiseman, Paul Offit, Carl Zimmer and the SGU crew. I was very entertained. The live podcast show was particularly funny and unusually adult-oriented. We’re all grown ups here so I didn’t mind. Steve and the Rogues work so well together. Add Wiseman as the special guest and it was prime stuff. Wiseman was perpetually accompanied by a banana (prop, snack?) and an aura of promotion for his new book. The title was mentioned no less than “59” times.

Regarding content, I was pleased. The overarching theme was science portrayed to the public – how the media delivers a message, how even scientists screw up and take missteps, how we can get better.

It doesn’t take many of inquirers to do a lot of good. Those who question bad science only need to produce the pin to bust the balloon.

I’m currently in a degree program for Science & the Public. Obviously, there was significant crossover in the content. Since enrolling in the program, I’ve added to, deleted and changed almost all my views on the relationship between the scientific community and the general public. That’s learning. Hearing from people who encounter this every day is vitally important. It becomes clear that the strategies used by anti-science proponents to manufacture credibility on every topic – anti-vax to environmental issues, creationists to ghost hunters – are essentially the same.

Conferences are meant to disseminate and exchange ideas but also to motivate and inspire. I’m inspired by Dr. Rachie talking about progress against anti-vaxxers in Australia and Dr. Wiseman making his own good luck in selling books that sneak in the skeptical viewpoint. I’m motivated by all the folks who volunteer their time and make huge efforts to produce content that makes a difference.

Some recommendations for future skeptic events—

Meet and greets. Hugs. Beers & cokes all around. Don’t let the VIPs cut out early (Geo – I mean you) and allow them to be accessible because we want to keep that space small between us. Sorry I missed the Drinking Skeptically the night before and the smaller meetups soon after. Arrange for events at a hotel and have a one stop shop for a weekend of skeptifun.

Nametags. Space to include our screen names. I’m sure I passed by 10 or more folks I’ve only encountered virtually. I caught up with a few I was expecting to find which is always nice. We could have used more time to get to know each other and cement that meaningful face-to-face connection.

While I’m waiting for the next event, lets Tweet, converse on FB, have a meetup when you are close by or chat ( It makes me feel like part of the cool crowd.

(Twitter/Facebook ID: Idoubtit)


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