Conference 2010

Howard Hughes Medical InstituteThe Future of Our Magazines: Is the medium the message?

  • Overview
  • Agenda
  • Registration
  • Payment
  • Driving directions
  • Lodging outside HHMI
  • Travel grant application


This year, HHMI has graciously offered to cover ALL room and board for members for only $375. That’s three nights plus all food for the whole conference! (This offer applies only to individuals, not family members or special guests.) Of course, members are free to find lodging anywhere, but finding it at this price in the D.C. area will be next to impossible.

URMA has agreed to handle the finances for HHMI on room and board, so your total cost — if you choose to stay with us at the Institute — is $375 for room and board plus $150 registration fee, for a total of only $525.

There will be a 60-person cap on registration.

The HHMI conference center is located within the institute’s Chevy Chase headquarters. The facility includes hotel lodging as well as a 250-seat auditorium with stadium seating and an on-site staff of audio-visual professionals. There are small and large gathering spaces available, as well as the Rathskeller — a pub-like area located, appropriately enough, on the lower floor of the conference center.

While at the conference center, you will also have access to the institute’s fitness center, which offers treadmills, elliptical trainers, stairmaster, rowing machine, stationary bicycles, weight machines, and free weights. Men’s and women’s shower facilities are conveniently located within the fitness center.

During your stay you will be well taken care of by the conference center staff, led by manager extraordinaire Christabelle Salmon. If you have any questions or concerns, Christabelle will be happy to assist you.

The conference officially begins on Tuesday, May 18, with a 5:00 p.m. cocktail hour, followed by dinner at 6:00 p.m., both at HHMI headquarters. Check-in begins at 10:00 a.m. on May 18. The conference officially ends at 12:30 p.m. on May 21. Box lunches are available on that day, by request. Conferees may also eat in the HHMI employee dining room, at their own expense.


The Future of Our Magazines: Is the medium the message?

Download the conference program (PDF)

Tuesday, May 18
1:30–4:30: Pre-conference Field Trip to NIH
Tour of National Library of Medicine, home to MedLine, PubMed Central, MedLine Plus, etc. See special exhibitions and get a personalized tour of the History of Medicine Reading Room where you can see rare documents and artifacts, and learn about conservation methods. The tour can be tailored for our group and we can be wowed with such things as a sixteenth-century medical journal, rare photographs, and other extraordinary objects. (1 hour or so)
Look at some of NIH’s media resources, including the new remote studio where television interviews can be done onsite. NIH also does radio broadcasts, produces podcasts, vodcasts, videos, etc. The production facilities are very modest and some production takes place at desktop computers. NIH videos are carried on You Tube and the vodcasts and podcasts are carried on iTunes and are very popular.
Deadline to sign up for field trip: April 16. Transportation provided. Departure time is 1:30 p.m. sharp. Because of NIH security, photo I.D. will be required, and metal detectors will be in use. We will return to HHMI in time for the opening reception.
5:00–6:00: Opening Reception
Great Hall
6:00–7:00: Dinner
Dining Room
7:00–8:00: Tour of HHMI headquarters
8:00–11:00: Rathskeller open

Wednesday, May 19
7:30–8:30: Breakfast
Dining Room
8:30–9:00: Greetings and Introduction to HHMI
Speaker: Avice Meehan, VP Communications & Public Affairs
9:00–10:00: Going Digital: Lessons from the trenches
Speaker: Rob Covey, SVP of digital media content & design, National Geographic
10:00–10:15: Break
Great Hall
10:15–11:15: Panel: Social Networking and Measuring Value
Social Media: Beyond the Basics
Speakers: Rachel Coker (Binghamton University) and David Leavitt (Weber Shandwick)
Web Metrics: What’s in it for editors? / Search Engine Optimization
Speakers: Kate Forte and Sarah Goforth (HHMI IT and Communications, respectively)
11:15–12:15: Creating Narrative Online: The perils and the pleasures.
Speaker: Curt Suplee. A renowned science writer and public speaker, Suplee specializes in making complicated scientific and technical information vivid, comprehensible and exciting to the general public. He has authored five popular books and dozens of magazine articles, including four cover stories on complex science subjects for National Geographic. After 24 years as a writer and editor at The Washington Post — where he was twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize — and seven years at the National Science Foundation, where he was the Director of the Office of Legislative and Public Affairs, he is now an independent producer of books, articles, web sites, explanatory computer graphics, photography, and videos about the physical sciences.
12:15–1:15: Lunch
Dining Room
1:15–2:30: Writing Revival
Speaker: Don Ranly, professor emeritus, Missouri School of Journalism
3:00–8:00: Field Trip to HHMI’s Janelia Farm Research Campus, Ashburn, VA
Tour of facility (Learn more about HHMI’s Janelia Farm Research Campus and the scientists at work there by visiting
Speaker: Roian Egnor, Ph.D., Janelia Farm Fellow: “Whistling in the Dark: What can mouse vocalizations tell us about the brain?”
Cocktails and dinner
9:00–11:00: Rathskeller open

Thursday, May 20
7:30–8:30: Breakfast
Dining Room
8:30–9:30: Starting from Scratch: Bringing your print magazine online
Speakers: Rachel Coker and Martha Terry, Binghamton University
9:30–10:30: Shifting Paradigms: Building an interactive digital community
Speaker: Matt Nisbet, professor of mass communication, American University, and author of the blog Framing Science
10:30–10:45: Break
Great Hall
10:45–11:30: Proving Our Worth: What’s ROI? How can we measure it? Who are our allies?
Speakers: Nick Houtman will lead a conference session on measuring our magazines against institutional goals. Kurt Riesselmann will participate with more of a focus on collaborating with other offices in producing Symmetry. As Nick says, collaboration is key if magazines are to be seen as a way to attract students, inspire donors, and prompt business collaborations. We’re not just out here telling good stories to make ourselves feel good. The bosses need to know that we’re making a difference for the institution.
11:30–12:15: The Changing Communications Landscape
Speakers: Dana Topousis (managing editor) and Laurie Howell (multimedia), NSF’s Science360 News Service
12:15–1:15 Lunch
Dining Room
1:15–2:30: Sharpening Your Editing Skills
Speaker: Don Ranly, professor emeritus, Missouri School of Journalism
2:30–3:30: Getting Evolution Right
Speaker: Eugenie Scott Genie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education since 1987, is a leading critic of young earth creationism, and intelligent design. In her URMA presentation, Genie will address techniques for writing about evolution that help clarify ideas and concepts that journalists and science writers too often get wrong. Her argument is that if we writers can’t get it right, then why should we expect the public to understand the arguments and be prepared to defend them?
3:30–5:00: Free time
5:00–6:00: Cocktails
Great Hall
6:00–7:00: Dinner
Dining Room
7:00–8:00: Special Guest: Richard Harris
Award-winning journalist Richard Harris reports on science issues for NPR’s newsmagazines Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. Before joining NPR, Harris was a science writer for the San Francisco Examiner. From 1981 to 1983, Harris was a staff writer at The Tri-Valley Herald in Livermore, California, covering science, technology, and health issues. Under the auspices of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Harris spent the summer of 1980 as a Mass Media Science Fellow reporting on science issues for The Washington Star in Washington, D.C. Harris is co-founder of the DC Science Writers Association, as well as past president of the National Association of Science Writers.
8:00–11:00: URMAfest

Friday, May 21
8:00–9:00: Breakfast
Dining Room
9:00–9:30: Marrying Print and Digital
Speaker: Laura Helmuth, senior science editor, and Web editor, Smithsonian
9:30–10:30: Customizing Delivery of Content
Speaker: Richard Creighton, principal of TMG (The Magazine Group)
10:30–11:30: Halting Malaria
Speaker: Christopher Plowe, M.D., HHMI investigator at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, School of Medicine. Plowe studies genetic diversity and malaria, with a goal of developing efficacious drugs and vaccines, some of which are now in clinical trials. With field sites in Mali, Malawi, and India, he has established collaborations with scientists around the world.
11:30–12:30: Business meeting
12:30: Meeting adjourned

Download the conference agenda as a PDF.


  • Online registration
  • Printable registration form PDF (to fax or mail)


This year, HHMI will cover all room and board for members for only $375. That’s three nights plus all food for the whole conference. Your total cost (if you choose to stay with us at the Institute) is $375 for room and board plus $150 registration fee, for a total of $525. (This offer applies only to individuals, not family members or special guests. URMA members are free to find lodging elsewhere. Those doing so can also opt to eat meals at HHMI for an additional $50 per day.)

You may pay via PayPal (after registering online) or by check.

Make checks payable to:
University Research Magazine Association
(Tax ID number: 20-0197323)

Mail payments to:
Mary Beth Gardiner
4000 Jones Bridge Rd.
Chevy Chase, MD 20815

Driving Directions

Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Conference Center occupies 22.5 acres in Chevy Chase, Maryland, which is located just outside Washington, D.C., not far from NIH:

Howard Hughes Medical Institute
4000 Jones Bridge Rd
Chevy Chase, MD 20814
Phone: (301) 215-8500

On arrival to Washington, DC, transportation from area airports to HHMI is available through SuperShuttle. HHMI is happy to arrange for van transportation to airports at the end of the conference, but will not be responsible for payment. Those wanting taxis will have to make their own arrangements.