FROM THE PRESIDENT
Everybody Loves an Open House
Sigma Xi fosters research excellence in many ways, not least
through local chapters. Astute readers, members or not, may
recognize ideas presented here that are transferable and
operational in their Sigma Xi chapters or any other organization
working for the greater good.
The most important steps for ensuring Sigma Xi chapter vitality are
a functioning President's Advisory Council and a Three-Year Plan.
The most fun step is hosting an Open House.
Sigma Xi chapters that have organized "open house"
activities have unfailingly reported great success in drawing many,
many participants who would not usually attend a more traditional
type of activity, such as a lecture or a poster session or even an
installation banquet. The range of chapters documenting such success
suggests that chapters of all types could and should include an open
house in their stable of activities. It is important that the Sigma
Xi chapter intimately join with a hosting institution in a mutually
beneficial activity that has aspects of science and engineering,
fun, companionship, camaraderie, informality, spontaneity, time
flexibility, and educational opportunities featuring interactive explanations.
One of the chief benefits of an open house is that a varied group of
attendees—typically running the gamut from trained scientists
and engineers, family members, inquisitive high school students,
local high school teachers, community leaders, interested college
level students, research administrators, research collaborators to
research competitors—gain exposure to science ideas and to the
instruments or objects of research.
Suggestions gleaned from reports include: hold an open house once a
year; invite and involve top managers of the host institution;
alternate host institutions among colleges, universities, government
laboratories and industrial laboratories to ensure a wide coverage
of topics and hosts; invite local community leaders and residents;
invite local media of all types; advertise widely in advance in all
media but especially to the target audience; take photos of the
event for use in publicizing appropriately the spotlighted
researcher, the host institution and the chapter.
Open houses conducted over several years by the San Diego Chapter,
my chapter, are listed here to illustrate possibilities and to spur
the imagination of other chapter officers:
—San Diego State University: Saturday-evening barbecue and
star party at a four-telescope observatory in mountains 60
kilometers from town;
—Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute: Resident researchers
explained specimens and creatures in specialty tanks in a renowned
facility not open to the general public;
—General Atomics Company: Tours in small groups around and
under the D-III tokamak fusion research device, then through the
control room, the data-analysis tables and the diagnostic instrument
—Scripps Institution of Oceanography: Saturday picnic for
families, then tours of underwater optical and electronic instrumentation;
—Advanced Fertility Institute of San Diego: Box dinners
provided by host, then tours of in vitro fertilization research
instruments and facilities;
—Veterans Administration Trauma Facility: Up-close
explanations and demonstrations of latest MRI and CAT scanners for
undertaking urgent and increasingly delicate restorations of
massively injured body parts.
Open Houses work well on many intellectual levels with vastly different
constituencies. With this short exposition as a spark, chapter officers
are charged to conceive, plan and execute their own series. Open houses
"From the President" will appear in a new space in
coming issues as we update the Sigma Xi newsletter and make room
for new features, including messages from the Publisher and Editor.