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2020 Virtual Conference


Tuesday, June 30th - 12:30 pm - 4:00 PM EDT (GMT-4)

Session 1 - Battling the Infodemic

*Virtual conference room opens 10 minutes before each session. Listed schedule is in Eastern Time Zone, please check your local time.*

12:30 pm

Welcome from SWCC President, Terry Lavender 

12:40 pm

Welcome from SWCC Conference Chair, Rhonda Moore

12:45 pm

Battling the Infodemic: Yes, Debunking Works (More, Please!)

Speaker: Timothy Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy, University of Alberta

Description: The spread of harmful misinformation is a defining characteristic of this pandemic. It has led to deaths, financial loss, increased stigma, health policy challenges, and added to the chaotic information environment. We must counter this “infodemic” with evidence-based communication strategies. Despite concerns about the "backfire effect" and debunking works, if done well!  

2:00 - 2:30 BREAK

Session 2 - A conversation with Lenore Newman, 2020 SWCC Book Award Recipient

*Virtual conference room opens 10 minutes before each session. Listed schedule is in Eastern Time Zone, please check your local time.*

2:30 pm

A conversation with Lenore Newman, 2020 SWCC Book Award Recipient


  • Kelly Crowe, former CBC Science correspondent
  • Lenore Newman, author, Associate Professor of Geography and the Environment at the University of the Fraser Valley and Director of the Food and Agriculture Institute

Description: Lenore Newman, SWCC's 2020 Book Award recipient will deliver short readings from her book Lost Feast, followed by a discussion about the book, her research and the writing and publishing processes with former CBC Science correspondent Kelly Crowe.

For more information about the SWCC Book Awards, please visit 

Tuesday, July 7th - 12:30 pm - 4:00 PM EDT (GMT-4)

Session 1 - Science Storytelling Training

*Virtual conference room opens 10 minutes before each session. Listed schedule is in Eastern Time Zone, please check your local time.*

12:30 pm 

training scientists in the art of science  Storytelling

Moderator: Farah Qaiser, Former Assistant Editor at Massive Science


Description: It is important now, more than ever, that scientists speak up to address the growing misinformation, sensationalism and pseudoscience swirling around amid COVID-19. But instead of shouting out facts into the void, the art of science storytelling can offer answers on how to thoughtfully tackle these important issues, and help empower scientists, especially trainees, with the skills they need to effectively share their expertise.

Stories resonate. By incorporating elements of storytelling, scientists can help foster an appreciation and (critical) engagement of science. In this session, speakers will share different methods of training scientists in science writing and journalism, with a focus on storytelling. This includes how a student-run campus newspaper’s science section provides a space for early training (The Varsity), how a science journalism bootcamp trains graduate students in the fundamentals of science journalism (Projected Futures), and how two different online outlets, The Conversation Canadaand Massive Science, work with researchers to publish stories about science.

This 90-minute session will begin with short talks from each speaker. Next, speakers will head into two concurrent breakout rooms to lead discussions with audience members on what the future of science storytelling training should - and can - include. The session will then end with a synthesis of ideas from both breakout rooms, and an open Q&A.

2:00 pm - 2:30 pm BREAK

Session 2 - Awe & Scale in Science Dialogue

*Virtual conference room opens 10 minutes before each session. Listed schedule is in Eastern Time Zone, please check your local time.*

2:30 pm

Awe & Scale in Science Dialogue

Speaker: Jessa Gamble, science writer and co-owner of ‘the Last Word On Nothing’

Description: Science communicators come up against the limits of human intuition, particularly when working with science that is set in spatial scales and timescales far from their audiences’ daily lives. Much of the action in science takes place in tiny and fast or gigantic and slow scales, and this poses a barrier to dialogue. That barrier becomes an opportunity, however, when the emotion of awe is added to the picture. In recent years, the experience of awe has been defined operationally as a perception of vastness that brings about a need for accommodation (roughly equivalent to the need to understand). Vastness here refers to the extremes of any scale: something that is vastly tiny, vastly powerful, vastly ancient, as well as vastly large. In a field where vastness abounds, if we strike the tone just right, we can trigger awe, and with it a powerful thirst for understanding and dialogue where once there was only distrust. I have facilitated versions of this breakout session before, including a Writing About Awe workshop at Beakerhead festival in Calgary, a workshop at TED2018 in Vancouver, entitled “Awe: What is it good for?” and a breakout panel session at the House of Beautiful Business in Lisbon, Portugal with philosopher Myisha Cherry, called “Anger & Awe”. These were all very popular sessions with positive participant feedback.

Tuesday, July 14th - 12:30 pm - 4:00 PM EDT (GMT-4)

Session 1 - Deploying AI Communications:
Strategic Communications for AI & Machine Learning

*Virtual conference room opens 10 minutes before each session. Listed schedule is in Eastern Time Zone, please check your local time.*

12:30 pm

Deploying AI Communications: strategic communications for AI & machine learning

Speaker: Krista Davidson, AI Communications Lead, CIFAR

Description: We live in a world where machine learning technologies can recognize your face, respond to your voice, and perform intelligent everyday functions such as managing your emails to the more extraordinary abilities such as predicting disease diagnosis. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not only transforming the way we live and work but it may be the key to solving important global issues. AI-powered tools are developed to predict major global events from the impacts of climate change, to the next pandemic. Many organizations around the world are exploring ways to harness these insights and capabilities from machine learning technologies. Governments are evaluating how to regulate AI to ensure it is fair, responsible, and equitable, while also driving innovation and economic growth.

Communicating in the “Age of Misinformation” about complex AI technologies means that communicators must consider a whole new set of challenges. From preparing their workforce, managing crisis and reputation, to developing strategic communications that inform and empower their audiences and stakeholders. This session will help the seasoned writer and communicator navigate these exciting technologies with ease and confidence.

Specifically, this session will cover:

  • What is AI and how is it transforming different sectors/industries?
  • How is it influencing our culture/behaviours?
  • What are some of the major implications of AI (ethics, bias, diversity, reproducibility, explainability, transparency, trust, privacy, accountability, the future of work)?
  • Debunking myths about the machine.
  • What is the role of the science communicator/writer?
  • AI for good - how do we leverage these exciting new technologies in a way that benefits all? Do the benefits outweigh the risks?
  • AI and the new normal - what will AI mean for a post-COVID-19 world and how can we prepare for the next possible wave of the pandemic?
  • How can AI technologies enhance our roles as science writers and communicators?
  • Toolkits, guidelines, best practices and resources for understanding, writing and communicating AI.

2:00 pm - 2:30 pm BREAK

Session 2 - Science Slam: Bridging the Divide

*Virtual conference room opens 10 minutes before each session. Listed schedule is in Eastern Time Zone, please check your local time.*

2:30 pm

Science Slam: Bridging the Divide

Organizer: Science Slam Canada

Description: A live, virtual event where performers compete for a prize! 

What exactly is a Science Slam? Based on the format of a poetry slam, a Science Slam is a competition where speakers gather to share their science with you - the audience. Competitors have five minutes to present on any science topic without the use of a slideshow and are judged based on communication skills, audience impact and scientific content. Props and creative presentation styles are encouraged!

The stage is open to everyone, whether you're a science writer, communicator, researcher, student, or artist. If you're interested, please send in your application (see link below). Applications will be selected on a rolling basis until all available competition spots have been filled. 

Apply here to present!

Tuesday, July 21st - 12:30 pm - 4:00 PM EDT (GMT-4)

Session 1 - How Can We Counter Disinformation? Challenge Results

*Virtual conference room opens 10 minutes before each session. Listed schedule is in Eastern Time Zone, please check your local time.*

12:30 pm



  • Nicolas Piccato, Audiovisual and Cultural Attaché, Creative industries, Cultural Service, l'Ambassade de France au Canada
  • Stephanie Bach, student, University of Ottawa
  • Nicholas Rutherford, student, University of Ottawa
  • Matt Zucca, student, University of Ottawa

Description: We live in an era of disinformation. Impact and wide dissemination of sound bites have become more important than truth, and manipulation of facts is commonplace. How can we counter disinformation? What innovative ways can technology be used to combat fake news?

Last winter, the Embassies of Germany and France, in partnership with the National Film Board of Canada and the University of Ottawa, launched a project on the topic of disinformation. This project brought together students from diverse backgrounds to propose a digital tool for understanding and decoding disinformation.

In this session representatives from the Embassies of Germany and France will discuss the significance of the challenge they launched, followed by a presentation from the winning team. 

2:00 pm - 2:30 pm BREAK

Session 2 - Vaccine Hesitation: Connecting Perspectives to Overcome a Communication Challenge

*Virtual conference room opens 10 minutes before each session. Listed schedule is in Eastern Time Zone, please check your local time.*

2:30 pm

Vaccine hesitation: Connecting perspectives to overcome a communication challenge

Moderator: Alice Fleerackers, Scholarly Communications Lab


Description: Despite extensive evidence supporting the safety and efficacy of vaccines, more than half of Canadians continue to have concerns about their potential side effects. This challenge has only become more urgent in the context of COVID-19, with over a quarter of Pew survey respondents reporting that they would not get a vaccine for the virus, even if it were available. Yet, while many have responded to this vaccine hesitation with calls to combat the rise of “fake news” or false information, perhaps more pressing for today’s science communicators is the need to understand and counteract false beliefs. For, as a wealth of research from both the fields of social psychology and communication has demonstrated, our emotions, lived experiences, and personal relationships can play a strong role in shaping our daily decisions—as much as (if not more) than our knowledge. We may claim to believe in

facts, but, time and time again, we put our trust in stories. This interdisciplinary roundtable will take a deep dive into those stories, sharing insights from research as well as personal, lived experience. Bringing together diverse perspectives and expertise from psychology, immunology, and science communication, it will seek to bridge communities and spark new conversations about anti-vaccination beliefs, how they spread, and how communicators, researchers, public health officials, and individuals can collaborate to overcome them.

Tuesday, July 28th - 12:30 pm - 4:00 PM EDT (GMT-4)

Session 1 - Creating SciComm: An Online, Interactive Infographic Maker Session

*Virtual conference room opens 10 minutes before each session. Listed schedule is in Eastern Time Zone, please check your local time.*

12:30 pm

Creating SciComm - An online, interactive infographic maker session

Session Lead: Julia Krolik, Pixels and Plans | Art the Science


  • Alice Fleerackers, Scholarly Communications Lab
  • Cat Lau, Program Evaluation Officer (ATS) / Knowledge Translation Coordinator, (CHILD-BRIGHT Network)
  • Dorina Simeonov, Policy and Knowledge Mobilization Manager, AGE-WELL

Abstract: With growing divides in public and scientific opinion on controversial science policy issues like data privacy, vaccinations, and climate change, there has never been a more pressing time to improve how we communicate science. Join this session and take a step toward achieving this goal. In this interactive panel, we will offer a hands-on approach to communicating science through visual, participatory methods. Attendees will use a creative approach to engage with four hot-topic science communication themes: AI, GMOs, Climate Change and Vaccinations. Participants are given access to one of four Google Slides documents containing key messages derived from one of the 4 aforementioned themes, template layouts and pages of theme-related icons. Participants will be shown how to use Google Slides to create infographics. This maker-session allows for participants to directly tap into their creativity as well as critical thinking as they acknowledge their intended audience and create a visual science communication product that presents scientific facts in a complete and accessible way. 

The session will not only provide new (visual) science communication skills for SWCC participants, it will also initiate a sustained conversation about the science policy issues that matter most to Canadians. Participants will be encouraged to respond creatively to science issues and will reflect on how they may transform the future by taking individual and collective action. Facilitators will co-create a safe environment by providing helpful hints and tips in visual communication. The panel will also offer hands-on training in visual science communication that can help participants share their work more effectively. Finally, by making the outputs of the session publicly available, our session has the potential to have long-term impact beyond the conference.

2:00 pm - 2:30 pm BREAK

Session 2 - Health and Hype: A Science Journalism Experiment

*Virtual conference room opens 10 minutes before each session. Listed schedule is in Eastern Time Zone, please check your local time.*

2:30 pm

health and hype: a science journalism experiment

  • Taylor Kann, Master's Student, Digital Innovation in Journalism, Concordia University
  • Cristina Sanza, Digital Journalism Instructor, Projected Futures

Abstract: Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, media audiences have been inundated with news focused on science and health. The dissemination of this information is critical to controlling the spread of the virus, since a primary function of journalism is to provide citizens with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions regarding their health and safety.  

With the critical role that science journalism plays in keeping citizens informed, we must consider the ways hype in science coverage can impact public opinions and perceptions of scientific topics. It is also necessary to examine hype in science coverage within a broader context of misinformation.  

In this session, Taylor Kann will present her research on the communication of synthetic biology.  In particular, Taylor’s master’s thesis involved the creation of guidelines for hype resistance in textual journalism, which were used amongst science journalists through their creation of model-based test stories. These test journalism stories were then probed amongst focus group audiences in an effort to determine if hype resistant science news stories had an impact on public opinions and perceptions of the field of synthetic biology.  

Taylor Kann and Cristina Sanza will lead a discussion with participants to uncover their experiences and challenges with hype in science and health topics, and to debate potential science journalism futures. Perspectives from producers (journalists/communicators) and consumers (readers/viewers) will be sought.  

Meanwhile, two groups of volunteer participants will crack away at a live writing exercise, where they will be tasked to produce a news brief on a given COVID-19 topic using both hype and hype-resistant criteria. When the entire group gets back together, it will be up to participants to decide which story used which criteria. The session speakers will then debrief and discuss the written pieces, which will serve to highlight the subtle nuances between hype and hype-resistant media content.

The Science Writers and Communicators of Canada reserves the right to record conference sessions. Every effort will be made to protect the identity and information of our attendees, unless written permission is obtained.


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