Public Information Spotlight

How the ANS Nuclear Cafe was Born

By Candace Davison

Public Information SpotlightI am happy to have the opportunity to post on the ANS Nuclear Cafe blog and discuss the activities of the ANS Public Information Committee, which I chair.  I’d like to use this first entry to provide the background of how  ANS’s Social Media Group came into being and how this group has contributed to the Society’s expansion into using social media to assist member communication and outreach activities. The story is instructive for professional membership societies such as ANS, since it illustrates how dedicated and passionate members first engaged in Society public information efforts and then shaped how ANS has moved forward into the social media realm.

A loose coalition of individuals, many of them ANS members, recognized early on the promise of social media as a virtual megaphone to broadcast the pro-nuclear story.  The individuals took to blogging, podcasting, twittering, posting videos on YouTube and using Skype to organize conference calls.

These tools helped them provide analysis and perspective on current events with a pro-nuclear mindset.  The emphasis was on providing an independent, scientifically informed perspective to combat misinformation and address fear-mongering about nuclear energy in mainstream media outlets and discussion forums.

Their efforts worked and increasingly gained recognition in nuclear circles. In June 2009, PI Committee members Lisa Stiles (now with the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations) and Dave Pointer (of Argonne National Laboratory) organized a PI meeting session discussion panel entitled “Focus on Communications in the New Media.” The panel addressed a question that the PI Committee continues to explore today, namely “The nuclear community is at the forefront of energy, medical, and computer technology, but are we at the forefront of communications technology?” The panelists for this session were:

  • Dan Yurman, Idaho Samizdat
  • John Wheeler, This Week in Nuclear
  • Rod Adams, Atomic Insights

In a packed meeting room, the panelists explored various ways of staying in touch with existing audiences and reaching potentially new supporters of nuclear science and technology. A spirited conversation took place on how we as nuclear professionals can and must improve the way that we tell the nuclear story to our friends, neighbors, communities, and the public. The burning question became how could we harness and focus the shared energy and enthusiasm for outreach and social media that was evident in the meeting room.

As follow-up, an unofficial session was held by nuclear bloggers and other interested parties attending the ANS 2009 Winter Meeting in Washington, DC.  More than 40 people attended the session, which was organized by Dan Yurman, Rod Adams, John Wheeler, and the Nuclear Energy Institute’s Dave Bradish.  The event was sponsored by Areva and Cool Hand Nuke.  Rick Michal of ANS wrote an excellent session summary in the January 2010 edition of Nuclear News (member log-in required), observing:

Using an open-dialogue format, the bloggers and others in attendance shared their experiences in the use of the new social media, including blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and other online tools and services.

An email sign-up sheet was circulated during this session.  Those who signed up formed the nucleus of the ANS Social Media Group, an email-based discussion group for nuclear professionals who are engaged in promoting nuclear science via social media.  This group has active discussions revolving around media outreach and getting accurate, timely pro-nuclear messaging in discussion forums and outlets.

Social Media Group members also provide an invaluable sounding board, offering support and advice to newcomers to social media efforts.

If you are interested in joining the Social Media Group, please send an email–stating your preferred email address and a one-sentence statement of interest and involvement in the nuclear industry–to Laura Scheele (ANS Outreach) at tel: 708/579-8224, or to Dan Yurman (Chair, ANS Social Media Group) at tel: 208/521-5726.

With the full support of the PI Committee and the input of the Social Media Group, the Society launched the ANS Nuclear Cafe blog on September 1.  The ANS Nuclear Cafe is another social media tool that should serve the 11,000 Society members by fostering dialogue on today’s important nuclear issues.

We have several prominent and well-respected members who have agreed to be guest contributors on a regular basis, and Society members should find their perspectives lively and interesting.  The ANS Nuclear Cafe was established as a pilot project to run through the end of 2010, but we are confident that the blog will demonstrate the communications value to become part and parcel of the Society’s outreach efforts moving forward to 2011.

The Social Media Group and the ANS Nuclear Cafe are two recent social media efforts spearheaded by ANS members and supported by the PI Committee and Society staff members.  We continue to explore new methods and techniques of improving nuclear outreach and education, and we welcome the input and efforts of ANS members.  Please feel free to share your thoughts, either by posting here or by emailing ANS Outreach.  As always, thank you for your outreach efforts!

Candace Davison

Candace Davison was the first female to be licensed as a Senior Reactor operator at the Penn State TRIGA Mark III Reactor.  At the Penn State Radiation Science and Engineering Center (RSEC), she is responsible for the Gamma Irradiation Facility, Emergency Preparedness, Operator Training Program and the RSEC Educational Outreach program.  Davison has a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and a Master of Engineering degree in Environmental Engineering.

Davison has been involved in community education and outreach for over 20 years.   She developed and conducted teacher courses and workshops on nuclear topics and is responsible for education and outreach at the RSEC.  Davison chairs the ANS Public Information Committee.

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