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Cooking the conference#1 – Mikko Myllykoski

siika prepared for the cooking the conference portrait
cooking the conference portrait #ecsite2015

The 2015 Ecsite Annual Conference will be taking place on 11-13 June at MUSE in Trento, Italy. Each month, we’ll be giving you a glimpse of preparation work going on behind-the-scenes and interviewing a different person involved in cooking up the largest science engagement professional event in Europe. A good opportunity for them to tell us more about their role, their take on the “Food for curious minds” conference theme and their favourite recipe.

This month, we’re interviewing Mikko Myllykoski, Experience Director at Heureka (The Finnish Science Centre, Vantaa) and Chair of the ACPC (Annual Conference Programme Committee).

What is your role in organising the Ecsite Annual Conference?

As Chair of the ACPC, I lead the team of professionals who are responsible for the contents of each Ecsite conference. We review and select session proposals. Between us, we cover different fields of expertise in science engagement: learning, management, exhibition making, academic research etc. I feel particularly in charge of keeping a good spirit in the group, so that everyone can work at his/her best. I especially encourage people to give new ideas: I believe that the success story of our annual conference is due to the fact that we are always trying something new. In my eyes, it is essential to make multiple voices heard – particularly in an event that gathers 1,000 people! I think that participatory sessions are particularly successful in reflecting this diversity.

What are you up to at the moment?

The call for session proposals closed on 14 October. We received 168 proposals (that’s 11 more than last year), 7 pre-Conference workshop proposals, 28 travelling exhibition proposals and 4 project showcase poster proposals! Everyone in the Committee had three weeks to read and pre-mark them all before we met up in Graz for three days in the first week of November. This task is very time-consuming: people have very different ways of expressing themselves and you have to get in the mind set of hundreds of different people! Yet I always take the time to review each submission twice to really do them all justice. I was expecting an avalanche of food-related topics and metaphors – and this is indeed what we got! You get what you order, so I’m not complaining about a full plate! I really did enjoy the menu on offer. Pre-rating proposals is a new idea I introduced: I wanted to test whether this would allow us to have more time for in-depth discussion on the contents of proposed sessions. Keep in mind that about half the submitted proposals unfortunately have to be turned down, so it’s a big responsibility! I’m very happy to see that new formats have been proposed this year – for instance there will be several outdoors activities on offer.

What does the “Food for curious minds” conference theme mean to you?

As a historian, I did classical studies in Rome, so I naturally found this theme very inspiring on a personal level. I can certainly attest that the refinement of the Italian gastronomy is not a cliché – and that is goes hand in hand with intellectual nurturing. On a more metaphorical level, many culinary trends have shown us in recent years that innovation, diversity and hybridity produce delicious results (fusion cuisine, etc.) I‘m convinced that these values are core to the science engagement sector. The conference is a unique forum to try a bite of countless new dishes – “Food for curious minds” is really what we all need.

What are you most looking forward to during the conference this year?

First, the special event organised by the Nature Group (coordinated by Ecsite and MUSE) should be mentioned. Focussing on subjects relevant to natural history museums, it will take place in Trento on 10 June 2015, the day before the conference’s start. Watch the trailer! I must also say that I’m very impressed with the location of the gala dinner – it’s a surprise so I can’t tell you too much… expect a stunning view and excellent wine. A new session format organised as a kayaking trip on the river certainly caught my attention, too! Finally, as member of the ‘Vision Group’ that helped defining and launching MUSE, I’m very proud to see it host the Ecsite Annual Conference one year after opening. This is such an exciting initiative, in a region where science centres had been missing. It is amazing to see this new community of people grow.

And finally… could you share your favourite Finnish recipe with us?

Recently I’ve rather been cooking lots of oriental recipes from my Arabic cook book. But since you insist, I will introduce you to a Finnish dish – with a ‘twist’!

Siika /sik with Greek yogurt, coriander and wasabi

What we call ‘siika’ is smoked white fish – delicious on its own, but also yummy with this fusion dressing. Mix Greek yogurt with fresh leaves of coriander and a hint of wasabi, then add green salad or even boiled eggs if you want a more copious meal. Serve with dry white wine, and you’re ready to go!

Tried at the Ecsite office – prepared by Communications Intern Nicolas De Smet Van Damme.


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  • Mikko Myllykoski


2015 Ecsite Conference

The 2015 Ecsite Conference took place in Trento, Italy, on 11-13 June. It gathered 1,101 participants from 52 different countries, breaking an attendance record. Look back on the appetizing “Food for curious minds” edition cooked up by conference host MUSE.