Leaving Science Borealis

In December of 2012 I posted a comment on a blog post by Maryse de la Giroday (Frogheart). She had just summarized all the science blogs in Canada and had included my brand new blog. She had also wondered out loud whether anyone would be interested in developing a science blog network. I posted in the comments thanking her for including my blog and expressing interest in a blog network. I wasn’t the only one who responded – Stephanne Taylor and Raymond Nakamura had also responded in the affirmative. So we had a small team interested in promoting Canadian science blogs. In January I got in touch with Jenny Ryan at Canadian Science Publishing to see if CSP would be interested in supporting a blog collation initiative, and she responded very positively, saying CSP had been thinking of getting more involved in Canadian science and this might be the way to do it.

Unbeknownst to us, there was a second team working to improve the profile of Canadian science blogs. Mike Spear, communications coordinator at Genome Alberta, had been to a science communication conference in February 2013 where one of the panels had discussed the lack of science blogs in Canada. Spear felt this was shortsighted, and was on a mission to promote Canadian science communication. His group included Kim Moynahan, who had previously worked at Google, and Pascal Lapointe, of Agence-Science Presse.

Our two groups connected in the spring of 2013 and began to work together to create Science Borealis, with funding support from CSP and Genome Alberta, and a few additional volunteers. Our hard work paid off with our official launch at the Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC) in Toronto in the fall of 2013. We started off with 85 syndicated blogs, routing their feeds through our website so people could find all the Canadian science blogs in one place. At our peak, we had over 100 science blogs syndicated on our site, though that number has dropped somewhat as people move away from science blogging.

Since 2013 we have greatly expanded our mission to one of not just building a Canadian science communication community through our blogger base, but also training science communicators. Not only do we have an editorial team that puts out weekly blog posts on our own Science Borealis blog, but we also have training programs like Pitch & Polish, in which participants pitch, write, and polish a blog post for publication on our site. We have had participants from Simon Fraser University’s Faculty of Science, the University of Saskatchewan’s Veterinary College, and others.

Over the years we’ve had initiatives such as the #SciComm100 – in which 100 Canadians shared their quotes on science communication in Canada and our talented team of artists (led by Peggy Wolven) illustrated those quotes with an image of each person. We’ve also partnered with the Science Writers and Communicators of Canada to host the People’s Choice Awards for favourite Canadian science website and blog. And we’ve held sessions at the CSPC on science communication and science blogging in Canada.

#Scicomm100 quote from Chantal Barriault.

Over the last year we’ve been developing and finalizing our new strategic plan, which is now ready to be rolled out over the next five years.

And now is the time that I’m leaving Science Borealis, after seven amazing years volunteering with a fabulous team and a welcoming community. I have served in many capacities for Science Borealis – as part of the founding team, as the Editorial Manager for our blog, as an Earth and Environmental Science subject editor, as a Board Member and as a member of the Core Operational Team and liaison to the Board. I have run Pitch & Polish cohorts, and dabbled in securing sponsorship for the organization. I’ve put out fires behind the scenes and watched us grow from a scrappy start-up to the non-profit, volunteer-run organization we are today. I can still remember the conference calls our editorial team had back when there were only about 15 of us, calling in from all parts of the country.

Our strategic plan is a well-defined document that outlines where we’re going in the future, so expect a lot more training opportunities from Science Borealis, better cohesion between our outreach and editorial teams, and formalization of a lot of our administrative processes. If you’re interested in helping guide Science Borealis through this strategic plan, we are looking for new volunteers keen on taking on leadership roles in Canadian science communication to build a better Science Borealis. Contact volunteer@scienceborealis.ca if you’re interested.

As for me, I will be working on my book, gardening, and looking after my health, which has been particularly poor this past year.  

While I’m sad to step away from Science Borealis, I also think it’s time to move on after seven years and pass the torch to the new generation of SciBorgs. Here’s to new beginnings!

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