An Interview with Clinton Colmenares, National Media Strategist at UNC Health Care

2008/10/27
By Ms Baker

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by William

Clinton Colmenares is the National Media Strategist at UNC Health Care. In the past he was a Research Editor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and National News Director at Vanderbilt Medical Center. He also was a medical reporter at The Tennessean. Clinton was educated at Stephen F. Austin State University and earned a BA in communications. His science training is mostly on-the-job, but he fondly remembers high school anatomy class.

1.Why are you attending the conference?
The Science Online conference began as  the “Science Blogging” conference, by Anton Zuiker and Bora Zivkovic. Anton used to work at UNC Chapel Hill and I knew him from a meeting here. Bora is now legendary in the science blogging world. This year’s is the third annual conference, and Anton and Bora continue to attract some of the biggest names in science blogging in the country, and several from around the world. For me, as someone who does media relations, it’s mostly about networking, learning about new people and trends that I need to be aware of either as competition or new ideas. Nature magazine ripped off the “Science Online” title – literally. They came last year and decided it was good enough to hold their own in London.

2.Have you ever attended the conference? If so when?
I attended both of the previous conferences, in 2007 and 2008. Sigma Xi brought a little more prestige, and a more condusive meeting environment, by hosting the conference.

3.What suggestions do you have to help me make the most out of my experience?
There’s a lot to take home from this conference. The program is fairly broad, and at the same time some of the sessions provide a lot of depth. Have some idea of what you want to know before you get here. Read the conference wiki, note the presenters and attendees, and read their blogs. Some are book authors. Bora edited “best of science blogs” compenia; those are good, also. Also be aware of the big-picture in science communications – it’s shrinking in the mainstream media, and blogs might be the best answer to preserve great science information in the future. But, also come with an open mind and be willing to be surprised by what you come across. Be prepared and willing to have fun, and participate.

4. What was the atmosphere like at the conference?
At the first conference people were trying to figure out what the conference should be. There was a lot of lively discussion about how blogs are used (as references, as a home for science publishing, as a way to share lab notes, etc.) and how the conference could help. Last year there were some in-depth discussions, and more of a sense of momentum – attendees were actually doing what they wanted to – helping propel a society shift, a movement. It’s a very casual environment.

5. Was the conference informative about many different topics or certain things only?
There was a broad array of topics last year, and this year. Anyone who wants to read about science should be concerned about what’s being discussed at this conference.

6.How did you prepare for this conference?
I wore a warm coat. There was a little snow last year. I also kept an eye out for blogs that I like.

7.Was this conference enjoyable/fun for you?
Yes, and I’m not a hardcore science geek. I’m mostly concerned about communicating science to non-scientists, to the general public who, ultimately, decide if science is important or not by impacting funding decisions and policy, from health insurance and stem cells to nanotechnology and biofuels. I would say that the only downside to the conference is that there were not more people like me. Most are very talented science types. But people like me – without formal science backgrounds – need to get involved.

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