ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Stephanie Willen Brown

Continuing with the tradition from last two years, I will occasionally post interviews with some of the participants of the ScienceOnline2010 conference that was held in the Research Triangle Park, NC back in January. See all the interviews in this series here. You can check out previous years’ interviews as well: 2008 and 2009.

Today, I asked Stephanie Willen Brown to answer a few questions.

Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Where are you coming from (both geographically and philosophically)? What is your (scientific) background?

I’m Stephanie Willen Brown, aka CogSciLibrarian living in the Triangle area in North Carolina. I’ve been a librarian since 1996, and I started calling myself the CogSciLibrarian in 2004, when I was the librarian for the School of Cognitive Science at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. I started the blog as a way of sharing cool cognitive science stories and books that I thought my colleagues would enjoy.

My scientific background is limited to that of a librarian, supporting faculty and students working in cognitive science, communications, and psychology over the years. I’d grown up intimidated by math and science, but cognitive / brain / neuroscience is so interesting AND there is so much good, accessible writing about it that I have become a fan.

My current reading interests include the effect of mindfulness on the brain, the development and use of language, and concussions in NFL and other athletes.

Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?

I’m thrilled to be working at my dream job, as director of the Park Library at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. It incorporates many of my interests, such as library science, journalism, marketing, and advertising. I am a consumer of mass media, and I love to be around academics who are studying various aspects mass communication.

My first love is helping students and colleagues find resources that will enhance their research, and the work is double-plus good when it involves subject matter I find interesting as well as amazing library colleagues at the UNC Libraries.

I do miss supporting cognitive and communication science, as I don’t have much interaction with my all-time favorite database PsycINFO. It’s got great content and robust metadata (did you know you could limit your search to age group of subjects studied? Or that you can limit results to just empirical studies or literature reviews?), though it’s not the go-to database of choice for mass communication.

What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?

Science needs good public relations right now, and I agree with @ErinBiba’s essay in the May issue of Wired “Why Science Needs to Step Up Its PR Game.” I’d like to play a small part in the merger of science and PR by training public relations professionals to do good research and generally supporting their academic endeavors. Libraries and news* (newspapers, news outlets, etc.) need good public relations too, but that’s for another post.

How does (if it does) blogging figure in your work? How about social networks, e.g., Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook? Do you find all this online activity to be a net positive (or even a necessity) in what you do?

One of the great things about my job is that I feel empowered – even obligated! – to read about social networking and participate in various social networks professionally and personally. I promote the Park Library via Twitter (@JoMCParkLib and Facebook and have dabbled in FriendFeed.

I believe we in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication should be teaching our students to use social networks in their professional work, so I think of myself as modeling good professional use of social networks.

I tweet as @CogSciLibrarian as well, which is where I keep up with my science buddies and science news.

When and how did you first discover science blogs? What are some of your favourites? Have you discovered any cool science blogs by the participants at the Conference?

I discovered science blogs years ago as I began my own blog, though I read science librarian blogs such as John Dupuis’ Confessions of a Science Librarian more than practicing scientist blogs. I met science documentarian Kerstin Hoppenhaus at ScienceOnline2010 and really enjoy her More Than Honey blog.

I’ve since migrated to Twitter for most of my online / science interactions, and I follow some great science folks there, including @SteveSilberman , @tdelene (DeLene Beeland), @VaughanBell (contributor to Mind Hacks), and my favorite psychology radio show @allinthemind (Australia’s Natasha Mitchell).

What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2010 for you? Any suggestions for next year? Is there anything that happened at this Conference – a session, something someone said or did or wrote – that will change the way you think about science communication, or something that you will take with you to your job, blog-reading and blog-writing?

Gosh, I loved #scio10! It was great to be exposed to so much science in a casual, friendly environment, and I enjoyed spending time with like-minded librarians like Christina Pikas, John Dupuis, and Bonnie Swoger . I was also happy to meet Irtiqa’s Salman Hameed and Tom Linden’s Master’s students in UNC’s Program in Medical & Science Journalism. There were many more as well, but the most amazing aspect of ScienceOnline is the interaction with interesting and interested science, journalism, and library professionals. I have just put #scio11 on my calendar and look forward to meeting more interesting folks!

Thank you so much for the interview. I hope to see you soon, and of course at the next conference in January.

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