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Science Iowa minutes

September 20, 2022

4 p.m.


Call to order


Present: president Dan Chibnall, treasurer Ruth Henderson, board member Laurie Neuerberg, secretary Tom O’Donnell, member Diane Jones


Approve the minutes of the July 13, 2022, meeting. See:


Henderson moved approval; O’Donnell seconded. Approved unanimously. 


Treasurer’s report – Ruth Henderson


Deposits since last report: $719.04; withdrawals $1,127; balance $715.56 in checking and $120 in savings. 

We are awaiting a $1,750 grant from Whole Foods.

All Science Festival Trail bills are paid.


New business


Dates for 2023 Science Festival Trail – Ruth Henderson


Ruth reported that the open June dates are 11, 18 and 25, all Sundays, with a possible Saturday, June 17. When we book the park we are required to book all shelters, forestalling others from using them to guarantee sufficient parking. Sundays are not as big as Saturdays for sporting events at the park. She has not been able to determine what other events there may be in the area on those weekends. Sundays tend to not be as busy as other days for weekend events.

Dan said because we’re a science organization, unless the other events are science-related there may be less conflict; people will go where their interests lie.

Tom said later in June would be warmer and maybe less rainy. Ruth considered August, but she is concerned about hot weather and conflicts with the Iowa State Fair or other events.

Diane noted that the weekend of June 23 is the Des Moines Art Festival.

  Ruth said booking our date now will let us contact the participating organizations now to get on their calendars.

Tom moved to pick June 18; Laurie seconded. Ruth said if that date has been booked since she spoke to West Des Moines Parks, she will book June 25. Motion carried unanimously.


Use of Whole Foods grant – Dan Chibnall

Dan wanted to spend a few minutes brainstorming on what to do with the money: keep it as a nest egg for next year’s festival or use it for activities this fall and winter.

Ruth noted that we will be busy with the Iowa Science Policy Candidate Survey follow-up for the immediate future. She mentioned the 2019 event, at which the U of I’s Chris Jones spoke. Although poorly attended, she thought it was a good program. She suggested doing something similar in the winter.

Tom suggested that whatever we do, we partner with at least one other organization to attract more attention. Ruth mentioned the Friends of Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge and Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Tom said we must take care partnering with CCL since they are not a nonprofit but a lobbying group. The Iowa Environmental Council and the Iowa Public Health Association may be other good partners with lots of members and credibility.

Tom suggested we dust off the plan for the graduate student showcase.

We’ll discuss more ideas after the election.


Meeting notification process – Tom O’Donnell

Tom suggested that having meeting participants complete a Google form is causing some people to avoid the meetings. It may be an unnecessary step if we have good Zoom security. Dan can use a waiting room and can remove people from the call if they are disruptive. Laurie said we should instruct members to name their Zoom accounts with their real names to gain admittance. We will omit the Google form requirement for October.



Old business:


Science Festival Trail recap – Ruth Henderson


Ruth said that even though it was hot, it was also cloudy and breezy, making it tolerable. She has sent thank-yous to everyone involved, on Facebook and on the website. We had 10 student and six adult volunteers. Everyone had enough to do, with a wagon delivering hot dogs and drinks to the exhibitors. Cleanup worked out smoother than last festival.

We had 11 participating organizations plus Science Iowa. We disseminated about 100 swag bags and hot dogs. There were six robotic groups. Dan said they had a blast and he has had follow-ups with some on connecting with the Central Iowa STEM Hub.

Dan said placing the robots at Biddle Shelter was great. The groups had outlets to charge batteries. One group brought a canopy and mats for robots to run on. It did, however, require volunteers to direct visitors to and from the shelter. He thinks we can do that again.

Ruth said keeping canopies closer to the shelters made the event feel more like a festival; people could quickly see more things. Many exhibitors said they want to participate again.

Nathan was a huge help, getting donations from businesses.

Press was the main problem. Since we have our date early, we can begin planning for that sooner and pushing information out earlier. Tom said things didn’t get started soon enough and working with volunteers meant delays. He suggested getting a corporate sponsor, which would help publicize it. We also should think about buying advertising, although it’s difficult to decide what media are best. Ruth got the event on the Des Moines and Waukee school districts’ virtual backpacks. Diane suggested several online calendar and kid-activity websites. Ruth said the “Next Door Neighbor” free list also attracted at least one person. (Tom adds in notes: Craigslist next time?)

Printed flyers didn’t get widely distributed; they may not be effective. Coffee shops may be a good location.


2022 candidate survey – Tom O’Donnell


Tom reported that Diane, Ruth, Dan and Tom have made initial contacts with the candidates assigned to Science Iowa. Tom has followed up by telephone once. We (and the other organizations) must push the candidates to respond via social media. We also must generate publicity for the survey to get eyes on the results. Tom has arranged for an op-ed to appear in the Des Moines Register under the signatures of Dan, Annabelle Lolinco of ISU and Riley Troyer of the U of I. He’s talking with the Iowa Environmental Council about ideas to publicize the results.

Dan said he can set up tweets to nudge politicians. Tom urged all the Science Iowa board to use any social media where they have a following to publicize the survey.


Meeting with March for Science – Tom O’Donnell


See attached report. It seems like MFS is still struggling with its nonprofit status. Tom noted that the organizer he spoke with, Ingrid Paredes, wants to do a satellite spotlight with one of us – a live interview about our activities. Dan suggested we do it if we make clear who we 

are and what we do and that we’re separate from MFS. We should outline our history as a start.

Tom said he’d take any help in finding grants for us to use for programming. He’ll contact Paredes about the interview, most likely to be done post-election. Guest for the interview TBD; maybe all three officers.


Member meeting topic


State funding for science, particularly in universities – Cornelia Flora


Cornelia was a no-show.


Next meeting


Dan will send a poll


Tom O’Donnell

Discussion with Ingrid Paredes, March for Science

Date: Late July


She has been an organizer for MFS in New York but for the last two years has helped as satellite director.


She asked how MFS can be helpful. I suggested getting grants and recruiting active members.


Ingrid doesn’t know the full story about how MFS failed to gain nonprofit status. The NY”C chapter is independent and has nonprofit status. National MFS still uses a global fiscal sponsor, Earth X based in Dallas. There has been a lot of turnover and cleanup; they are talking to satellites. We’re not alone in struggling to stay alive. During the pandemic they’ve had time to latch onto things, but it’s hard to find levels of engagement. They’re willing to be a “proxy team member” and promote things on social media; they’d like local partners in the network to help promote them, too.


I asked about getting politicians on board for the science policy survey. Ingrid said calling them has been the most effective – back-to-back persistent calls with follow-up emails thanking staff. It’s more work for volunteers but it can lead to building a relationship with staff.


Tweeting at the candidates also can be effective: We’re looking for your response; here’s who’s responded already. She suggested working with campus newspapers and speaking with our partners who have a network to get residual attention.


Ingrid mentioned Lucky Tran, an MFS leader I’ve spoken with, and a science journalism media control list.


She wants to do a satellite spotlight with us – a 15–20-minute zoom call live. We could highlight the science policy survey.


Ingrid is watching for grants that may fit with what we want to do and will send them our way. She has sent one already. I need to remind her.

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