CCNF ceased operations in February 2016, and this website is no longer active. Thank you to all the contributors that made the Forum a success. We had a good run! -MAQ

AGU Fall Meeting Presents Opportunity for Critical Mass, Future National Success

January 10, 2015 8:45 pm0 comments

CCNF’s leadership and staff recently spent an entire week attending the American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting in San Francisco. Held at the Moscone Center on the week before Christmas and lasting five days, the annual conference is the largest gathering of earth, climate, & space scientists in the world, and this latest conference (AGU14) had over 25,000 attendees, which included about a third of the CCNF science columnist community. It was a big week for CCNF to say the least, and our time there was a huge success for the nonprofit and bodes well for the project’s future.

CCNF Board at AGU14 -- old and new

CCNF board members (old and new) in San Francisco, shortly after CCNF’s annual Members’ Meeting on the third day of AGU14. From left to right: Dr. Scott Denning, Michael Quirke, Dr. Barry Lefer, and Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon. (Current board members not in picture: Dr. Bart Verheggen and Professor Tracy Hester.)

On Wednesday morning, the third day of the conference, Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon presented a talk and slide-show, titled “Advancing Science Literacy Through the Climate Change National Forum,” which was part of the oral session on ‘Climate Literacy: Culture of Science and Broader Impacts Done Well I’. The presentation was a big hit and generated a lot of good discussion afterward.  The CCNF staff, comprising David Leib and yours truly, operated a booth and exhibited all week. I also attended the conference as a member of the press, and, at certain times each day, I would leave the exhibit hall to go attend oral sessions or peruse through one of the two giant posters halls and interact with scientists. On Tuesday evening, David and I hosted a social for the science columnists and their guests at the nice apartment just a few blocks away from the Moscone Center that I had gotten on Airbnb for two nights. Turnout was a little hampered by rain, but it was still a pleasant evening for those that made it out.

Last but not least, following Dr. Nielsen-Gammon’s presentation the next morning, CCNF’s voting columnist-members gathered at the apartment and online and conducted our first annual Members’ Meeting as a large organization and elected a new board!

Poster hall at AGU14 during a period of peak activity. Credit: AGU

The Moscone South poster hall in action at the 2014 AGU Fall Meeting. The AGU is one of three scientific societies whose Fellows and scientist-members CCNF openly solicits. The other two are the American Meteorological Society and American Institute of Physics. Image credit: AGU

NOTE: For more in-depth coverage on CCNF’s major accomplishments at AGU14, as well as my experience as a first-time exhibitor and journalist, see the following posts: 

This post summarizes CCNF’s overall experience and accomplishments at AGU14 and includes some announcements on the project’s future at the end.

Thank You Donors

Having Dr. Nielsen-Gammon’s presentation on CCNF accepted for a slot in the oral session ‘Climate Literacy: Culture of Science and Broader Impacts Done Well I was a great honor for the organization. It was also a testament to the success CCNF has achieved since officially starting the Forum one year ago and to the project’s potential for the future (CCNF has yet to receive any corporate or foundation funding). It also presented a great opportunity to recruit a dozen or so moderately active columnists to achieve a critical mass (levels of participation vary widely, so 12 is a medium number), network with potential partners, and get promising leads on sponsorship and funding, which is desperately needed considering this project has grown way beyond what a part-time law student can manage.

Typical oral session at AGU14. Credit: @Emma_wildsci

Typical oral session at AGU14. Our oral session was in a much larger room had a bigger crowd. Should have taken a picture! Credit: @Emma_wildsci

CCNF’s lack of a budget almost prevented the staff from making the conference: We simply couldn’t afford to seize an opportunity that we couldn’t afford to pass up! Thankfully, a handful of donations came in from a few readers, friends, and two Texans that really believe in the CCNF project, and with those funds CCNF purchased a booth and sent David and me to San Francisco to make things happen!

To those Donors: Thank you! Your donations might have very well saved CCNF.


CCNF’s Accomplishments at AGU14

Slinging CCNF

CCNF achieved far more leads at AGU14 than I ever expected going in. Here’s a quick rundown:

Recruitment success in numbers:

  • Eight scientists made the commitment to apply and (if admitted) participate in the Forum. This group includes one very high-profile scientist and great communicator whom I have been courting for some time, and one physicist who recently authored a fantastic piece that got a lot of play in the media.
  • Another 21 scientists; 3 science educators/communicators; 2 social scientists; 1 journalist; and 1 thorium-nuclear energy advocate are keenly interested in joining CCNF. Most of this group wanted to spend some time checking out the site before making any commitment. The scientists in this group ranged from PhD candidates to the former head of NOAA’s Climate Program, and one of the two social scientists in this group is very well known and respected in the climate communication space.
  • Based on the few hundred interactions that David and I had throughout the conference and the number of cards I handed out or left on posters, I’d say there are likely 40 additional scientists and almost a dozen science communicators that are interested enough that they might actually join after a follow-up, especially if they see others joining.

NOTE: Following up with these folks, which is almost always required to get someone to join CCNF and get set up (scientists are very busy), will take some time, and all the more so considering David and I are disengaging for two months to prepare for the bar. We have a few volunteers taking over essential duties to keep CCNF operational, but these duties do not include follow ups. Thus, it might take a few months, but rest assured — CCNF will follow up on all leads.

CCNF fan's post gets retweeted by the AGU!

CCNF fan’s post gets retweeted by the AGU!

Some noteworthy engagements with movers & shakers, potential partners:

  • CCNF had a very promising meeting and intermittent engagements with the leader and team of an up-and-coming initiative that will enable scientists to fact check claims on the science of climate change in the media through a certain application. I had been in communication with the leader of this initiative before AGU14. They are still early in the developmental stage, but it seems our organizations have a lot to offer one another, so I am confident some mutually beneficial collaboration could come from this.
  • The former head of the NOAA Climate Program (mentioned above) — who among other things was the architect and one-time head of the U.S. National Climate Program and director of the National Research Council’s Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate — was absolutely blown away with CCNF. “You are doing this exactly the right way,” he said. He was very interested in participating, playing a part in the background, or both. Will definitely be following up with him (after the bar).
  • The senior outreach adviser (also a scientist) for a major NASA research center that was at our oral session later stopped by the booth and received the full presentation. She was most impressed with the project. Before leaving with my card she said in the right kind of tone: “I’m going to share this information with some folks.” I hope so!
  • After an oral session, I engaged with the senior climate outreach adviser for UCAR and leader of a new initiative called, which is backed by the UN-affiliated World Meteorological Organization and UCAR. It’s basically a service that enables citizen groups to find a credentialed climate scientist near them to speak at their events. The group already has a network of over 636 scientists across the U.S. and Canada. She was super-impressed with the Scientists’ Comment Thread and asked for my card. (I would totally get my go-to programmer to set up an SCT on their website if just 5% of the scientists in that network were to join CCNF and participate. Maybe a deal could be struck?)
  • We also had three to four positive responses from labs that might be interested in having a large contingent of their researchers join CCNF en mass as a collective outreach project. The research scientists working in these labs (and sometimes the labs themselves) often do outreach in their local area on a volunteer basis, so we would be offering those folks a far greater impact in the online space (posts by scientists on CCNF now regularly exceed 1000 views, and a good number of posts have topped 3,000). CCNF would not and could not receive any money from these entities but would definitely gain from more experts participating in the dialogue, and the labs would definitely increase their visibility if a large group of their scientists were to participate in the Forum. Critical mass just takes a little from a lot.

Promising leads on sponsorship

I exchanged cards with almost two dozen exhibitors of companies big and small and a few universities and research collaborations in the United States and all over the world that I solicited for sponsorship. Most of the time the right person to talk to was not present, but after checking out the site on the laptop and recognizing that this could be an opportunity, the exhibitors almost always promised to pass on my card to the higher ups or gave me the name and contact information of the right person to contact. One conglomeration of research and academic entities from a nearby country seemed particularly interested in the offer (it also helped that I name-dropped a Nobel laureate from their country that had recently shared a CCNF post on his website).

Hopefully something will come through. CCNF has to bring in funds to continue succeeding and scaling up, not to mention execute plans for Phase II.

Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon’s presentation on CCNF well received by chairs, presenters, and audience

Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon at UH

Earlier photo of Dr. Nielsen-Gammon presenting at the Univ. of Houston. Credit: UH

Dr. Nielsen-Gammon’s presentation, “Advancing Climate Literacy Through the Climate Change National Forum”, was very well received by the chairs, co-presenters, and audience at the oral session ‘Climate Literacy: Culture of Science and Broader Impacts Done Well I.’ CCNF was presenting alongside some heavyweights — scientists from the National Science Foundation and major research centers and universities across the country, so this was a big win for the nonprofit. Coverage on this deserved its own post, so check out ‘Dr. Nielsen-Gammon’s presentation on CCNF well received at AGU Fall Meeting‘ for more.


CCNF Columnist-members elect new board for 2015

Following Dr. Nielsen-Gammon’s oral session presentation on the morning of the third day of AGU14, December 17, 2014, CCNF’s voting-members gathered together (some virtually) at an apartment a few blocks away from the Moscone Center and conducted CCNF’s first annual Members’ Meeting as a large organization and elected a new board for 2015! Here’s the new leadership of CCNF (for an extended introduction see ‘CCNF Columnist-members elect new board for 2015‘):

Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon

Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon--Texas State Climatologist and Regents Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M UniversityRegents Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M University, Texas State Climatologist (appointed in 2000 by then-Governor George W. Bush), and founding board-member of CCNF.

Dr. Scott Denning

Dr. Scott DenningMonfort Professor of Atmospheric Science and Director of Education and Diversity for the Center for Multiscale Modeling of Atmospheric Processes at Colorado State University.

Dr. Bart Verheggen

Dr. Bart VerheggenAtmospheric scientist, lecturer at Amsterdam University College, social scientist, and founder of the blog Our Changing Climate.

Professor Tracy Hester

Tracy HesterEnvironmental law professor, law faculty and former Director of the Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Center at the University of Houston Law Center, and founding board-member of CCNF.

Michael Quirke

Michael QuirkeLaw student at the University of Houston Law Center, web developer, former U.S. Army infantry officer, and founding executive director and journalist of CCNF.

Outcome of AGU14 & Plans for the Future

After AGU14, I can confidently say that so long as CCNF has someone working behind the scenes, reaching a critical mass is no longer a question of “if” but is now a question of “when”. We are also the closest we have ever been to securing funding for a staff that will enable the enhancement of the site, improvement of coverage and administration, exponential growth, and future national success of the project.

Slinging CCNF at the AGU Fall Meeting.

Slinging CCNF at the AGU Fall Meeting.

Under normal circumstances, I would have by now followed up with probably half of the 37 folks that either committed to or expressed a keen interest in joining CCNF and have already integrated a good number of these folks in the CCNF community. I also would have met with a number of potential corporate sponsors (including those that had reached out to me before AGU14) and would be working on the site enhancements for Phase II (this includes getting quotes from a couple programmers on a possible super-enhanced “CCNF 3.0″ website), but, alas, these are not normal times.

David and I had to start disengaging from CCNF right after returning from AGU14 to prepare for the bar exam. I will come back online in March and give a full push by following up with all the AGU14 leads, integrating as many of those folks as I can, and meeting with sponsors. If that doesn’t garner any funding, I will then resign as the executive director but continue to tweet on new posts and do the minimal administrative stuff so that the site remains operational, but no more, because I’ll be getting a “real job.” Everything will continue to work, but the push for funding, growth, and expansion will abruptly go from a hare’s pace to that of a tortoise for an indefinite period.

Again, the record that has developed in the Forum (the common foundation of knowledge formed through Socratic discussion and debate) will continue to be developed as posts come in and the dialogue will continue. We might even have enough active participants to where the dialogue doesn’t lose any momentum despite the absence of an active journalist or anyone in the background pushing the pedals. I designed this to run on its own momentum. Bottom-line, I am confident a corporation or university will see the value in capitalizing on the national profile that CCNF has built by becoming a sponsor, but how long this will take — I do not know. When funding finally comes in, the board will hire a full-time staff and the project will then start to realize its full potential and begin registering a major impact on the national scale. I am confident this contingency plan of drifting won’t be necessary and that the post-AGU14 recruitment and fundraising will succeed and CCNF will get some wind behind it’s back and start kicking some ass.

If you care about advancing climate literacy, detribalizing this issue, and establishing a true bi-partisan national dialogue on what can or should be done about climate change as a nation, I would hope you would consider making a personal tax-deductible mail-in donation to CCNF during this crucial time. This will allow us to have a staff for a temporary period to truly capitalize on our success at AGU14 and bring in those big sustaining funds! Your donation might very well be the difference between the CCNF project’s national success or failure.

See you two months!

-MQ out.

Michael Quirke
Executive Director
Climate Change National Forum
1016 East 6 1/2 Street
Houston, TX 77009

P.S. For insight into the audience that CCNF has built up organically since the Forum went live one year ago, check out this post of snapshots of our Google Analytics and scroll through our ‘Followers’ page on Twitter (@ClimateChangeNF).

CCNF is a 501(C)(3) nonprofit confirmed by the IRS (EIN# 45-4570998). As such, donations to CCNF are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law.

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