At an un-conference, attendees are invited to propose and decide on all of the session topic ideas in the days and/or weeks before the event. Some un-conferences even wait to set their schedule until the morning of the first day! As you can tell by this wiki, we're eager to start the discussion a little sooner than that... so feel free to edit this page to your heart's content.

Put your session ideas and comments below. If you'd like to moderate/lead a discussion, mention that, too! If anything is missing, feel free to add it, and if you have any questions or problems, ask Henry Reich for help. We're aiming for 10-20 solid session topics.

Don't forget to link your name to your Twitter account!

Possible formats for discussion sessions:
  1. Small groups 8-10 in breakout rooms
  2. "Speed-dating": many randomized groups of 3-4 all in the same room, talk for 20 min., re-randomize, repeat.
  3. Live hangout on our YouTube channel(s)

Session moderators:
Each session will have a moderator. If possible, we'd like to sort out who this'll be ahead of the conference.
It'll mean one less item to deal with then. For some sessions, who this person is seems to be clear, eg. Derek (@veritasium) for Debunking Myths & Overturning Misconceptions. For others, it seems less clear.

Can everyone please confirm on the wiki which sessions you'd like to moderate? If there's interest from multiple people, we can sort it our via discussion. Thanks! Damian.

Thanks for all the great session ideas! We'd like to close this wiki now to any new ideas. This'll help the organizing committee prepare ahead of Monday. If you suddenly think of a killer idea you absolutely have to add, feel free to do so. But we'd like focus on the list we already have as much as possible. Thanks! Damian (@DamianPopePI)

Science in policy & politics | Media inventing | The online degree | The online library | Taking online outreach beyond conveying facts | Models for funding educational video content | Efficiency | Transforming experiences into digital content | The Penultimate Moments: before your videos go live | Special Effects workshop: All the cool stuff you can do with AfterEffects | The world of science video contests/Film Festivals | High speed photography/videography for use in data collection, analysis, & entertainment | Scientific accuracy: How much accuracy & detail is good enough? | Debunking myths and overturning misconceptions | Active vs. passive learning | Does Youtube have a place in textbooks? -or- How Will ebooks Change Education? | The Rise of the Cyborgs: Machine-human interfaces | I'd like my content to be free, but I'd like to eat | Creation vs remix | Looking into the future & big-picture thinking | Research-powered outreach | Social media | Sci-Girl Channel Please put new ideas at the top of the list! (below this line)

Science in policy & politics

One of the major goals of my non-youtubey project is to enable normal people to discuss, draft, and enact policy and law. A frequent problem in current legislatures is that legislators have anything from ignorance to outright hostility of scientific understandings of the world, especially when it conflicts with their extant beliefs. (Cf. SOPA, evolution, LGBT, climate change, etc.)

Consider e.g. that fact checking and scientists are often seen in a highly politicized manner (especially when the facts have a partisan bias); as a result, scientists are portrayed as just another political actor asserting something from authority, rather than communicating a more rigorous experiment-based understanding of the world than intuition provides. Policies are regularly enacted that previous research has shown to be actively harmful, or that are based on just incorrect beliefs about empirical issues.

How can this be fixed, either in the current system or in one that's based on direct democracy, such that non-scientists can reasonably make better public policy and that the people providing fact checking or empirical commentary can retain political neutrality?

- proposed by Sai

Media inventing

Online video is great, but do you ever wonder why your video has to just passively sit in a little box-within-a-box on someone's screen, unable to interact with anything else in or on the web? Where is our "Wilderness Downtown", our "One Millionth Tower," our "Fish," our Cinemagraphs? These natively-digital experiences are all designed to make creative use of "the content and the container," which Robin Sloan calls "media inventing." Tools like Popcorn.js are intended to make media-inventing easier for non-coders. Has anyone used this, or anything like it? Has anyone tried to get buy-in for exploring this kind of thing from partners or clients (like I have) and had difficulty getting them to "get it" (like I have)? Has anyone ever collaborated with a developer/designer/hacker, in the same way you might with an animator or composer or shooter? And is media inventing something worth doing at all, or does designing these experiences (which may not be as shareable as standard-issue web video) simply limit how many people you can reach?

Proposed by John Pavlus (who dabbled in a crude bit of media inventing several years ago and hasn't since, but would like to, somehow)

The online degree

Universities are now starting to do classes with purely online audiences as target. This is not just recorded normal classes but new interactive online classes that uses all the power of the web to create an interesting experience. Recently, websites such as Coursera and EdX (starting in the fall) together with private companies like Udacity have started offering general classes for free on the web. Together with other teaching tools (e.g. piazza), we can envision a future where one can get any degree fully online from prestigious universities. What is missing for this to happen? What kind of technologies do we need to teach on large scales? What about exams? Where is this going? What about the college life experience? What is to become of the job of professor?

proposed by Louis Leblond (louisleb)

The online library

In the field of physics, scientific journals are not really needed anymore except for the peer-reviewing system. Journal subscription (which are very expensive not to mention the bad business habits of the companies) are only needed for articles that predate the internet. Papers are now accessed through the website which is free and open access. This is immensely practial for both students and researchers. Unfortunately the library of books has not yet made the move online. When a perimeter scientist (for e.g.) travels, she cannot carry with her the whole PI library of books. Students across the world who would be willing to pay for access to a full scientific library have to settle for pirated copies. Can we fixed this? What is the future of online access to books and articles?

proposed by Louis Leblond (louisleb)

Taking online outreach beyond conveying facts

Scientific literacy requires much more than a list of facts that need to be understood. Skills in interpreting scientific information and contextual understanding about scientific processes are also essential. But what does this mean for online science? How can online and visual media address these expanded views of scientific literacy and move beyond just conveying facts?
This session will start with a brief discussion of scientific literacy to provide a working definition. We'll then explore different ideas for engaging the non-expert in complex scientific controversies where simple scientific facts are not enough.

Proposed by Catherine (genegeek) and Marie-Claire (mcshanahan)

Models for funding educational video content

Possible areas of discussion:

- Assessing realistic production costs, budget drafting
- Identifying opportunities, potential partners
- Crafting a persuasive proposal-to-production pitch
- Strategy and approach
- Techniques for value-added content
- Striking appropriate balance between entertainment and education
- Beneficial utilization of social networking
- Generating additional revenue streams through licensing, merchandising

Proposed by John Green


Doing a 3 minute video can take 20 hours. Doing a 1 hour video can take 2.

What are the most effective uses of our time? How much extra polish is it worth to perfect something vs releasing it a bit rough but more easily/frequently? What really affects viewership, understanding, knowledge retention, etc, and what's a rabbit hole? - Sai

As a book editor, I was trained to value polish and permanence over roughness and frequency. So for the shock value alone, I would be interested in participating in this session. - Sheila (@SheilaB27)

Transforming experiences into digital content

We all experience exciting and novel real world experiences that we want to communicate to distributed digital audiences - especially in science. Can this be done effectively, or are we limited to advertising other methods that provide this experience?

Guerilla Science has had limited success doing this. It would be good to hear how others have navigated this.

Proposed by Mark Rosin, Guerilla Science
I'm interested. Is this similar to active vs. passive learning session? Catherine Anderson. I'm also interested because I may be expanding my outreach program (currently in person) across my province - how to keep up quality? I'd be happy to help moderate.

The Penultimate Moments: before your videos go live

I would love to find out how everyone reviews their videos before clicking the upload button: do your friends watch them? Your dog? Your kids?

Proposed by Henry

Special Effects workshop: All the cool stuff you can do with AfterEffects

(and how to decide whether or not you should use special effects at all)

**OMG I cannot help but i cannot wait for this!!!!! Carin @drbondar

Proposed by Henry

The world of science video contests/Film Festivals

For contests:
I've run one: Kids Read Science/Teens Read Science
There's also 60 second science by Brendan O'Brien in Australia
Jonathan Sanderson runs one in the UK
Ars Technica has had at least one.
USA Science and Engineering Festival has had them in the past

For Film Festivals:
Science Online
There is one for Synthetic biology
Wildlife Film Festival
Beneath the Waves

How do these work as outreach and getting people enthusiastic about science? How to get sponsors and submissions?

Proposed by Joanne

High speed photography/videography for use in data collection, analysis, & entertainment


Vision Research is allowing me (Destin) to bring one of their newest high speed cameras.

If you're interested:
A presentation about the history of high speed imagery, the current state of the art, and where it's going will accompany a demonstration. Also, we'll talk about how to spot when it's used correctly, and when it's not.

The fact that we're going to have one of these to play with is a huge deal. They're barely out on the market yet.

- Proposed by Destin of SmarterEveryDay

List ideas of things to shoot here:

Wow this is so exciting! My absolute preference would be to shoot insect or reptile behaviors - but this would likely not be possible. How about a balloon popping? Glass shattering? Love Joanne's idea of the gummy bear...what about a comparative study of some kind between various confections? Those 'epic meal' videos on youtube have been getting massive attention lately. Carin @drbondar

Been meaning to get to the giant 5lb gummy bear frozen in liquid nitrogen (probably takes about 30 minute immersion) dropped from a height into a plexiglass container or similar to contain pieces and filmed in high speed. Feasibility? Accessibility to LN2? An appropriate filming set-up available? Joanne

Some ideas:
  • drop an ant
  • scan lines on a monitor (fast enough to catch the horizontal scan)
  • laser scan pattern of a Kinect rangefinder camera
  • a series of small strong magnets cascading together
  • human reaction times to simple stimulus like touching a monitor as soon as it turns from full screen white to red (should be ~200ms) and perception of exactly when the stimulus occurred
  • destruction of an object by its resonant frequency
  • sound transmitted over a taught line (e.g. in the childrens' telephone made of cans and string)
  • powers of 10, but for time not size (probably not doable on site, but maybe theme with eg guns? fast to slow: combustion; muzzle exit; impact; single shot; full magazine empty; multi target engagement. Or animals - would probably correlate to animal size, which could be fun but a pain to get access to)
  • different drop-in-liquid interactions (put a drop of consistently colored liquid into water, vary the viscosity etc material dropped in - eg water, oil, syrup, etc; shot from the side of a clear container or macro on the surface)
  • deformation of tennis racket on contact with ball
  • various types of light bulbs turning on & off (eg fluorescents seem like they'd have a cascade effect)
  • pressure wave emitted by a clap propagating through fine dust (either already suspended in the air around, or fully and evenly dusted hands)
  • spring steel released under tension
  • cats' double eyelid
  • dropping a match into a wide shallow pool of oil

… etc. In general I think it'd be good to get things that are so fast that we perceive them as instantaneous or even static, but necessarily it's a bit hard to guess what those might be. ;-) - Sai (h/t to my bf Alex Fink)

Scientific accuracy: How much accuracy & detail is good enough?

  • Truth vs. Fact
  • Gut feelings and analogies
  • Working with real scientists
  • Accuracy, mistakes, etc.

Proposed by Henry Reich (@minutephysics)

Strongly seconded by CGPGrey (@CGPGrey)

I am interested in this topic, and especially in how to navigate making a subject accessible for a child or general readers while acknowledging that complex subjects are truly, well, complex. --Sheila @SheilaB27

I think we all agree that we should try to be factually accurate. A more interesting aspect of this, to me, is depth or style of presentation. Are you trying to just make someone think "ooh science is cool"? Understand a specific idea? Be able to read a paper on the topic (including jargon)? Understand the mechanism as well as the mere fact?

The latter bit in particular is to me what distinguishes fact-based disciplines like science from the rest of the world. We don't simply take anyone's word for it when they claim something is true; we demand both evidence and a coherent theoretical explanation that matches all known facts. This makes our understanding resilient to someone else just claiming otherwise without better proof. OTOH, it takes some time and depth of explanation for the audience to be able to follow along… and just saying "we know this because Science Says So™" is easier. - Sai

Debunking myths and overturning misconceptions

Based on the work of Derek (of Veritasium) and CGPGrey, I think this would be a particularly interesting discussion. There's probably even scientific data!
• Proposed by Henry Reich (@minutephysics)
• Derek would be delighted to lead this discussion (@veritasium)
• Grey would be delighted to listen to Derek leading this discussion (@CGPGrey)

FWIW, here's Derek's PhD thesis on the subject. I think this is actually part of the same question as 'how much detail is good enough' above. - Sai

Active vs. passive learning

Will discuss the following issues:
  • Interactive simulations
  • Hands on? Tactile vs. digital/visual experiences
  • Gamification
  • Ebooks? Apps? How far can they be pushed? E-teaching? E-courses? Games/interactivity in books? Is there a place for a combined media of books, videos, interactivity, etc.
  • Whatever the form of teaching, is practice, practice, practice the most important element?

Proposed by Henry Reich (@minutephysics)
Carin Bondar interested in discussing here - I have always wondered how it could work to have a concept illustrated in 3 ways: text, active learning and visualization. The e-world could actually make this possible, so that one resource could work for a wide range of learners. (@drbondar)

I think this is an awesome idea - maybe there is so much here that it deserves two sessions, e.g. one on interactivity/simulations/hands-on/games and another on Ebooks/apps/E-teaching (@veritasium)

Does Youtube have a place in textbooks? -or- How Will ebooks Change Education?

For centuries, books have been the dominant way of transmitting information. But now everything is changing. We're at the beginning of a new era - print newspapers are dying, tablet computers are becoming increasingly popular and ebooks are starting to replace textbooks.

But ebooks are much more than just books.They can incorporate video, interactive computer animations, web links and discussion features.

How should we use this new technology?
What should the textbooks of tomorrow look like?
How can we combine the best of both old (books) and new (multimedia)?

Interesting examples of interactive e-books:
Life on Earth, An Introduction (Biology textbook)
Interactive Multimedia Guide to Signal Processing

Proposed by Damian Pope (@DamianPopePI)

I am definitely interested and want to learn more about etextbooks! – Henry Reich (@minutephysics)

Discovery (channel) Educators Network has digital textbooks for science and for history. At a brainstorming sessions (mostly with edubloggers and me, the lone science person) we gave a lot of ideas of what should be in the digital text book. Research has suggested that students want to interact with other students via the textbooks. I think it could also be a way to access experts in the fields. I could elaborate on both of these further. Happy to moderate this. Joanne (@sciencegoddess)

I absolutely want to be part of this discussion, although I might be inclined to talk about books/ebooks rather than textbooks, which whether print or electronic are only a small part of how information is disseminated in a classroom. I would be interested too in discussing whether ebooks could or should be thought of not as "much more than just books," but as something quite different from conventional print books, with different strengths as well as limitations. --Sheila @SheilaB27

The Rise of the Cyborgs: Machine-human interfaces

Computers today are different. The last few years has seen an explosion in how we can interact with them.
There's voice-recognition technology that lets you make calls, dictate emails and even control you computer with your words.
There's haptic technology through which you can give and receive tactile feedback. There's augmented reality where you overlay images, words and other information on the real world.

Technologies such as these have made our interactions with machines more intuitive and varied. They have dramatically changed what we can do and learn with them. What will the future hold?

Proposed by Damian Pope (@DamianPopePI)

FWIW, if this doesn't happen at the conference, I'd like to have it as a hosted live discussion on CogSai. - Sai
This topic interests me a lot - because of the things I am engaged in making right now - Isabella Stefanescu, Inter Arts Matrix

I'd like my content to be free, but I'd like to eat

Intellectual property, rights, money, the ugly (but important) stuff

I will offer to moderate this session, and make sure all topics get enough time. Carin Bondar @drbondar
Thanks Carin! - Damian @DamianPopePI

The internet has allowed an incredible distribution of information and media content of all sorts, and for an educator this is an amazing resource - millions of people around the world now have access to your courses, videos, problem sets, textbooks, etc. But how can you make a living off of this? Do you place ads on your website? Found a non-profit? Sell t-shirts? Run a kickstarter campaign? Get sponsorship from Bill Gates? RIM? Everyone agrees that it would be great to do what we love AND be able to make a living from it… but here we run into problems.

How does this affect your audience? What is your audience's/community's response to ads? Sponsorship? Product placement? Ads vs subscriptions?

Is there a place in academic institutions for content creators? Should we want to be part of academia? I have friends who want to get out of academia and still do science research while being able to pursue other projects - how can they make a living doing what they love?

Creative commons/open source vs. commercial, Advertising?

Proposed by Henry Reich (@minutephysics)
I would love to participate in this discussion. Very few folks are able to make a living from youtube alone - this is a very important topic, especially for this talented crew. Carin Bondar (@drbondar)

I would also like to participate in this discussion, as I have had recent success in montizng the ScienceAlert Facebook page at a much higher CPM than Google Ads using a combo of product placement, government grants, science jobs and potentially more... And all without undermining the aim of providing quality science news, information and entertainment. Chris Cassella (@darwinsguppie)

This sounds like a session all of us would like to be a part of, especially given the recent changes adversely affecting youtube subscribership and views.Joanne

I'd like to be part of this. Mark Rosin, Guerilla Science.

This is a great topic. I would like to participate in this session. Sheila @SheilaB27
A perennial problem for artists - let's talk -- Isabella Stefanescu, Inter Arts Matrix

+1. Given the participants, I'd also add Khan Academy, PI, & swag to the list of discussed funding sources. ;-) - Sai

Creation vs remix

A session exploring the differences between creating entirely original content versus combining existing content to create something original.

Proposed by Henry Reich (@minutephysics)

I'd be interested in this. I'd like to discuss/identify the points in the 'remix' cycle where genuine value is added. Mark Rosin, Guerilla Science

I think that there is so much potential for this in science. It's huge in the music world - for its creativity, but there are so many great science resources out there that it would help to not have to 'reinvent the wheel' each time you want to discuss a certain concept within a different kind of framework. Carin Bondar @drbondar

Collage by any other name interests me - Isabella Stefanescu, Inter Arts Matrix

Looking into the future & big-picture thinking

Dreams and Goals
What will the future hold?
The Risk-takers/Risk-taking

Proposed by Henry Reich (@minutephysics)

Research-powered outreach

This session is all about using the latest research on learning to inform how we do outreach.

Use in classrooms, effectiveness of video/language in classrooms
Research behind educational use of media
Research behind debunking, how to change people's misconceptions
We're teaching science, but are we teaching it with the knowledge of science behind teaching?

Proposed by Henry Reich (@minutephysics)

Absolutely interested in this session. Had an email exchange with Hank Green on this topic recently.I've also been planning a blog post on this at SciAm based on the PhD work of Rob Nelson and some thoughts by Alom Shaha. Joanne

I'd be very interested in attending this too - Mark Rosin, Guerilla Science

Is this the same as the 'debunking myths' proposal? - Sai

I'd be very happy to moderate a session like this and share research from science education colleagues. - Marie-Claire

Social media

Earlier this year, Facebook overtook Google as the most-visited website worldwide. Currently, it has in excess of 800 million members, twenty times the population of Canada.

We all know that social media is big with a capital 'B'. But how can we use it to teach people about science?
In what creative ways are people using it today to do this?

Have you heard about three-tweet physics?
Micro science blogging?

Proposed by Damian Pope (@DamianPopePI)

Been starting workshops on social media as this has become an accidentally a new "skill" for me. My social media outreach is much stronger than my video outreach, so I am definitely interested. Joanne

I've been wondering why so much information is shared via social media in exactly the same way: "link; click; read; retweet; and done." So count me in here. - Sheila (@SheilaB27)

Sci-Girl Channel

Aiming to bring the science of the everyday, the high-tech, and the out-of-this-world to girls, we hope to launch a new educational YouTube channel. This channel will feature short videos made by a diverse set of contributors talking about a range of topics. Girls will see female scientists and science writers talking about science, technology, sci-fi, gaming, and gadgets. This session will focus on developing this YouTube channel and securing contributors.

Proposed by @DrRubidium, @ScienceGoddess, and @DrBondar