The end of ScienceOnline

By Grant Jacobs 10/10/2014

A few minutes ago I checked my email, to be greeted with the news that the board of ScienceOnline have elected to dissolve the organisation and cancel their 2015 meeting.

I hope that local counterparts will surface. Perhaps we can hope for an Australiasian* counterpart? Perhaps hosted in different nations in different years?

In previous years I aspired to attend the ScienceOnline annual meetings and proposed a number of sessions,** some of which were held. It’s sad to see ScienceOnline go: even for those did did not attend it provided an annual focal point, especially with many of participants live-tweeting proceedings and taking questions from those not physically present. Unsurprisingly the #sciox twitter stream is an excellent source of comments about this development.

Below I have copied the announcement carried in the email –

Dear Grant,

The board of ScienceOnline has reached the difficult but unavoidable decision to dissolve the organization.

ScienceOnline has a rich history of dedication to its mission: cultivating the ways science is conducted, shared, and communicated online. Since 2007 we have convened popular and groundbreaking conferences that bring together scientists, science writers, bloggers, journalists and other science communicators to move the field forward in the digital era. Participants in these events inspired the growth of a wider community and sparked the development of many important related efforts.

We have faced uphill challenges throughout the past year in assembling the money and the people resources (both staff and volunteer) necessary for the organization to sustain all of its projects. We have put considerable effort into exploring different scenarios for partnering with other groups and/or scaling back our operations, but none of these has provided a path forward. In June we concluded that we did not have the resources to support a paid executive director position, and we eliminated it.

As a result of our state of insolvency, the ScienceOnline board of directors voted on Oct. 6 to proceed with a plan for dissolution, which we will implement over the coming weeks.

One unfortunate but necessary consequence of this decision is that we have to cancel the ScienceOnline Together 2015 conference scheduled for Atlanta in February. We have notified those who have already registered for ScienceOnline Together 2015 and will be fully refunding registration fees.

We’re profoundly grateful for the countless ways that our participants, supporters, sponsors, volunteers, and friends have contributed to ScienceOnline over the years, and we’re proud of what we’ve been able to achieve together. This may be the final chapter for ScienceOnline, but we have great hopes for the future of science communication, and we know that everyone who has made the ScienceOnline community what it was will continue to create that future.

Thanks to all of you.

If you have any questions or concerns about any of this, you are welcome to write me at

Scott Rosenberg, for the ScienceOnline board:

Mark Benerofe
Meg Lowman
Scott Rosenberg
Karyn Traphagen


* Seemingly, the OED doesn’t accept this as a proper word. (According to the Mac OS X spell checker.)

** I was invited to attend to host the session, e.g. for the 2013 meeting I proposed a session on non-academic careers following on from encouraging readers to look at this issue on my blog. (Twice invited, from memory; also in 2012. The cost to travel from New Zealand was a bit daunting!)

Other articles on Code for life with mention of ScienceOnline

Follow Science Online London, on-line

More science communication goodies in the wake of ScienceOnline2012

Roll up, roll up – the ScienceOnline2013 programme is out

Organisations for science and science communication in developing nations

From science PhD to careers outside academia: what might help?

Structured Procrastination, 17-Jan-2013 (Science should end, etc.)

0 Responses to “The end of ScienceOnline”

  • A interesting follow-on is John Hawks article, Six good things to remember about ScienceOnline:

    I have to admit the photo of the ‘Twitterwall’ makes me retrospectively nervous to think that my tweets landed up there…! (But, then, Twitter is an open forum.)

    Speaking of twitter, this map of the tweets made during the 2012 meeting shows the extent of inclusion of those not physically present. Mary Canady, who put the map up, writes “For the 2012 conference hashtag #scio12, there were 45,000 conversations (replies and retweets shown as lines) from 4,000 Twitter accounts all over the world, and only 450 meeting attendees.”

    If you look closely you’ll see some tweets from locations like Mauritius.

  • This is a real shame – like you, I aspired to get to Science Online – several Scibloggers have been and really enjoyed it. Staggering to think there wasn’t enough interest and financial support to carry it on – seems the Bora situation was a real blow to it, one from which it was hard to recover…

    • Sorry I took so long to approve your comment, Peter – it was hidden amongst several pages of spam!

      There are a few posts by others breaking down their idea of things that affected the support of the organisation and the conference. These point at a wide range of things but you’d have to include the on-going support of ‘established’ attendees (or lack of it) as part of the mix.