Category Archives: SO’10

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Princess Ojiaku

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 Princess Ojiaku 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 guess you could say that I was born into a scientific family. My mom is a professor of biology, and my dad was a engineer for some time. My sister and a significant portion of my cousins are all in science-related fields, so it’s almost like science is in my genes. All that home-grown science knowledge helped to push me along the career trajectory I’m on now, and instilled in me a love of science that I want to spread to everyone else!

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

I got my B.S. in Biological Sciences from Louisiana State University and was fortunate enough to do two years of undergraduate research in a lab that really cemented my love for research. Even though I loved science and research, I wanted to take a few years off before committing to the long and hard road to the Ph.D. So I moved to Chapel Hill and took a technician position at the University of North Carolina. While there, I started reading lots of science blogs and getting more into the idea of being a science communicator, as I felt that the public needed more people to make science less scary and more accessible. Working as a tech also afforded me more time to get into projects like starting a local girl band called Pink Flag and playing shows for the first time ever. In Fall 2009, I started a Master’s program at North Carolina Central University, and started up my blog, Science with Moxie where I blog about the intersection of my two loves, neuroscience and music.

What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?

Most of my time is spent between my research and classwork, my band, and keeping up regular posting on my blog. I also work occasionally on weekends as a museum educator doing science-themed birthday parties for kids. Some goals I have (since 2011 is literally right around the corner) are posting more often on my blog and doing some reconnaissance missions as to what sort of jobs are available for someone with a Biology M.S in science communication/policy/writing/education/advocacy in August when I graduate. (hire me!). I’m heavily considering going back to school too for a Ph.D., but I guess I just need to figure out what my upcoming Master’s degree can do for me first. Other goals are getting out my band ‘s first full-length record and writing lots of new songs. As for longterm goals, I want to stay involved in both science communication and music, so I’m looking forward to discovering all the different opportunities available to combine my love for both.

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

I love the complete democratic nature of the internet and the fact that anyone can sign up for their own personal electronic pulpit to reach out to interested minds about anything and everything, and do it as anonymously or as publicly as they like. Another thing I love about the Web and the blogosphere is just the fact that people step up to debunk incorrect information or things that need further study in order to be respectably claimed. The most recent and awesome example of this in the science blogosphere was the whole arsenic bacteria thing in which many independent science bloggers managed to critique and electronically peer-review a hot-off-the-presses scientific paper. That whole incident just amazed me because in this age of open and accessible information things like this can be quickly called out by a network of awesome professionals. I think it’s an exciting time to live in when information is disseminated and then processed so quickly, independently, and simultaneously. In my little nerd girl future fantasy, it’s bringing us just a little closer to the ideal of something resembling “absolute truth,” or at least what we can collectively understand of it.

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?

Blogging keeps me on my toes in the latest of what’s going on in the science world. Researching and writing on topics that are just slightly out of my field helps me become more knowledgeable about my field in particular and better at analyzing thing in general. I feel that Twitter is kind of invaluable for discovering what’s hot in current science and for finding things to blog about. I follow a lot of science-related people on twitter who constantly tweet links that jog the mind and inspire my writing (including this guy named @BoraZ!). So I feel that social networking and reading links that other people post are essential to keeping my blog going with cool and exciting topics.

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

I first discovered science blogs via subscribing and reading Seed Magazine as an undergraduate. When the ScienceBlogs network started, I would read the blogs on and off. I got more into reading science blogs right before I started my own blog. SciCurious’ blog posts were always the ones that I looked forward to reading the most, and she is definitely a huge inspiration for my own neuroscience blog. I hope my posts are at least half as fun as all of hers are! Someone else cool I got to meet at the conference last year was Joanne Manaster who makes really fun science videos. There are so many creative people doing so many awesome things for science and meeting her (and so many others too!) reminded me of that.

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?

The best part of ScienceOnline2010 was just getting to mingle and meet so many people in the science blogosphere whose blogs I had been reading for literally years. It was a bit surreal having so many people I admired in one location, all interacting with each other. The whole conference felt so innovative and futuristic from the stream of #scio10-tagged tweets on the screen in the lobby to just the topics being discussed. I think I just took all the enthusiasm and energy of all the people there back to my blog, so I could start carving out my own little contribution to this web of science communication online.

Thank you so much for the interview. And I’ll see you again in two weeks at ScienceOnline2011!

ScienceOnline2011 – introducing the Keynote Speaker

Robert Krulwich is probably best known to the readers of this blog as the host of the immensely popular Radiolab series of podcasts about science. You probably heard his voice on the radio if you are regular NPR listener, as he is a correspondent for NPR’s Science Desk.

Perhaps you are also aware that he blogs and tweets.

Just about a month ago I was talking at a conference in Greenville, SC where Robert was one of the Keynote Speakers so I got to see him live….and, he rocks! It is awesome that he agreed to come to North Carolina in January as the Keynote Speaker at ScienceOnline2011 so you will get to see him and meet him, too.

‘Charles Darwin would have been a blogger.’

‘Charles Darwin would have been a blogger.’ – that was the title of the winning proposal for the Wellcome Trust’s Survival Rival Winners award. You can read the original proposal (PDF) here.

And now, Karen James (website, blog, Twitter) and a group of students and teachers from Scotland are on their trip to Galapagos, live-blogging and tweeting their trip, posting images and videos online and generally doing what Darwin would have done on his original Beagle trip if the technology was available at the time.

As Karen says:

“Now through the 30th of October I am in Galapagos with the Wellcome Trust, accompanying some students and teachers on their trip of a lifetime (in fact, they are accompanying me on MY trip of a lifetime, they just don’t know it). In the spirit of our session at Science Online ’10, my winning application proposed communicating our adventures by twitter, blogs, flickr and youtube, as described here.”

You can and should follow their adventures on the blog (go back in time through the archives to the very first post – fascinating!) and Twitter (actually Twitter list of all the travelers), see their photographs on Flickr and videos on YouTube.

I assume they will also write some final reports after they come back from the trip. And perhaps some of them will come to ScienceOnline2011 with Karen and share their experiences with us there.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Morgan Giddings

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 Morgan Giddings 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 am presently situated geographically in the center of North Carolina, specifically the Triangle area. If someone has already done it, then I’m bored with it. If the answers are already known, then I’m looking somewhere else.

My scientific background combines degrees in Physics, Computer Science, and a PhD focused on bioinformatics from UW Madison. After that, I got introduced to proteins and proteomics, and ever since have been tinkering with systems and approaches for combining proteomics, genomics, and computing to do hopefully useful things like helping to annotate the genes on the human genome.

My philosophy is that academic science has boxed itself into a bit of a corner with the direction it’s been headed. The “single pathway or system” focus that worked so well 20 years ago no longer works. We are in the era of “integration” but nobody knows how to do it. I am working on a book that touches on this.

Mid-career I had a realization that we scientists are horrible marketers for our work. I had this realization after co-founding a sustainable lifestyles bike shop, and trying to apply my “academic scientist” mentality to selling bikes. It didn’t work. After re-programming myself to market better, I realized that this also applies to everything I do in running a science lab.

That is the basis of my book “Four Steps To Funding” and another upcoming book, “The Golden Ticket in Science”.

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

I started in computer science and physics, then jumped ship as I started pursuing a PhD in computer science. I realized that pure computer science was a bit too dry for me. I joined a lab developing DNA sequencing technology, fell in love with combining computers and biology, and never looked back. After developing software for interpreting DNA sequencing data, I moved onto the harder problem of interpreting protein data from Mass spectrometers (so called proteomics). That opened up a lot of interesting projects, including:

- Contributing to a deep annotation of the Human Genome using protein/proteomic data

- Modeling bacterial systems with “agent based models” to uncover the basis of behaviors like chemotaxis and competence switching

- Developing methods to find posttranslational modifications on proteins from mass spectrometry data

- Examining the mechanisms that lead to antibiotic resistance in the bacterium P. aeruginosa

What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?

My time is split between standard academic duties, and my true passion, which is figuring out the “meaning of life” and writing books about it.

After I finish my next book on science careers, I’ll move onto my most ambitious project, which is a book that ties together consciousness, evolution, computing, and creativity. More on that when the time comes.

I also spend some fair bit of time helping scientists advance in their careers through consulting and training on things like how to get more grants and less rejections.

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

I love blogging and writing. I love giving talks, and figuring out how to convey a message to an audience for the maximal effect possible.

This is why I think “marketing” is so powerful. Marketers have studied how to convey effective messages to people for as long as there have been goods to sell. In particular, the last 100 years have seen many studies of human behavior in the context of how we receive (or don’t) messages.

While some might only associate marketing with nefarious purposes, I take the strong view that it is a value neutral activity. You can use it to promote bad things or good things.

Since most science is good to some extent, I believe that applying marketing could more effectively convey the value of science to other scientists, and the rest of the populace.

Considering that science funding is ever more in doubt, this couldn’t come a moment too soon. All of us scientists should be out telling people what benefit science brings to their lives, and doing so in the most effective way possible. I believe that if we don’t get our act in gear on this point, then science funding will continue to dwindle.

Hence, I am well on my way to becoming a definitive go-to resource on how to “market” one’s science, whether it is in writing a grant proposal, or talking to a member of congress.

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?

I use blogging both to report on some of my science work, as well as to opine about matters related to “science marketing” and science careers. I use social networks to achieve further reach for some of the ideas, but frankly, I don’t have enough time to do that with regularity.

I find that the blogging (both my own and others’) is essential for forward progress, particularly in discussing matters that don’t get published in journal articles – like how to grow and manage a lab, or how to get a grant funded in a competitive environment.

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 them through tweets by Bora Zivkovic, sometime in 2009.

I like A Blog Around The Clock, and a wide variety of other science blogs. I’m more focused on finding blog-posts with relevant content than following specific blogs.

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?

I realized how far I have to go in conveying the notion to my peers that we, as scientists and science communicators, must up our game on “marketing” our work. For example, I attended a session on how to get published with several authors. While it was clear that the authors were ahead of most of the audience in “figuring out” the marketing game for their books, there is a lot of content elsewhere in the world on how to do this successfully that hasn’t filtered into the science community. It was also clear from the questions that were asked by the audience that everyone is still stuck in thinking of book publishing in the traditional model of: get an agent, have the agent find a publisher, then have the publisher publish, promote, and distribute the book.

But things are rapidly changing. For example, e-books are a great alternative to the above model that provide a lot more flexibility to the author (and potentially profit, too). And there are lots of ways to self-publish a physical book as well, without having to go through a “gatekeeper”.

After having self-published my first book, I’d never do it any other way. I can see going with a publisher only if/when I’ve sold enough copies and had enough feedback that I really have strong evidence that it is a concept worth producing thousands of copies of.

In fact publishers are going towards this model as well. They prefer taking successful self-published titles, because it reduces their risk.

But the key to self-publishing is understanding how to market one’s work. Anyone who tries to self publish without understanding that will fail.

So the options for those who wish to publish their ideas in a book, without having to do any promotion or marketing, are becoming very scarce. This means that everyone needs to better learn to market their ideas. By marketing I mean “making the content and message relevant to the audience.”

I’d like to see more discussion on this point at a future conference.

The other thing I notice is that the people who attended the conference are the leaders in science communication. Many scientists are mostly (or completely) oblivious to the rapidly changing nature of science communication. I believe it will be important to spread the message more widely to working scientists as to why modern science communication is so important. I think that the conference could play a role in that.

It was so nice to meet you in person and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.

Thanks for the opportunity!

ScienceOnline2010 Interview – Jennifer Williams

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 Jennifer Williams 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?

Hi Bora, thanks for including me in the ScienceOnline2010 interviews. I am jazzed to hear that plans for 2011 are already in full swing! I definitely want to attend again next year (it will be my 4th year) so I’ll keep the date reserved. Attending is pretty easy for me since I live in the North Carolina Triad. I work & blog for the online company OpenHelix. My PhD and post-doc were in yeast disease research, but for about the last 10 years I have worked virtually either curating for bioscience databases, or creating tutorials on them for OpenHelix.

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

To paraphrase Blanch Du Bois, in my career “I have always relied on the encouragement of colleagues” – and it has led me to wonderful jobs that have allowed me to move with my husband’s career, to be both a mother and a scientist, and to accomplish many other professional and personal goals.

What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?

Of course my job takes up large amounts of time and it is one that I am passionate about – teaching researchers how to efficiently and effectively use the public databases and other bioscience resources that are freely available online. We just got a paper published on sources (many free) for informal learning in bioinformatics, entitled “OpenHelix: bioinformatics education outside of a different box”. I am passionate about education outside of work as well, and volunteer some of my efforts to the Early College at Guilford College, and try to give career talks whenever and wherever I am invited to do so. As a goal I’d like to be able to promote alternative careers in science, such as those I’ve been involved with.

My main focus and experience is with online work for stay-at-home parents. However I really enjoy learning about any ‘oddball’ ways to be a scientist. Being a tenure-track professor at a research institution just isn’t the best way for everyone to be a scientist: not only aren’t there enough jobs, but it just ISN’T in everyone’s temperament or life-style goals. And science is SUCH a COOL thing to do! I truly believe there is some version of a science career that is absolutely perfect for just about anyone even half way considering it – it is just a matter of finding the perfectly fitting ‘oddball science career’ (Hey, could that be the beginnings of a title for a session? Hmm I wonder…)

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

That’s easy – learning to be better at it! I really related to your interview with Andrea Novicki when she said “As a confirmed introvert, I find blogging difficult.”! I blog as part of my job at OpenHelix & my blog partners, Mary & Trey, are great! They allow me to contribute tips, and other posts when I get the bug, but they are absolute pros at it (Mary has been chosen for inclusion in The Open Laboratory 2008) & I am learning from them. I (of course) also learn new stuff every year at the ScienceOnline conference & I think I may be sowing the seeds of interest (with Mary’s help) in my offspring.

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?

I ended up getting value from every ScienceOnline event that I attended last year, from the Friday night Gala at the RTP headquarters thru the “Connections with mathematics and programming through modeling” session Sunday morning. The thing that I find so remarkable about the conference is how often I refer to it in casual conversations, even 7 months later – there were SO many topics and conversations that were noteworthy both scientifically, and just for life in general. And it is not just last year’s sessions. I’ve been attending for the last 3 years now and I’m still growing & learning based on some of my conversations in years past. I am very much looking forward to ScienceOnline2011!

It was so nice to see you again and thank you for the interview.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Helene Andrews-Polymenis

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 Helene Andrews-Polymenis 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?

Sure, I’d love to. I grew up in a small rural community in the Pacific Northwest, and have lived both in the northeast (Boston for 10 years) and now in the southwest, where I live currently. My husband is Greek and my mom is German and so we travel frequently to Europe. I am part of a 2-academic science career couple, my husband and I are both tenure track faculty in the life sciences. I have two daughters, who just finished 2nd and 6th grade, both born during my academic training. As you can imagine, we have quite a crazy life.

I study infectious diseases, and am most interested in those questions at the intersection of human disease, animal health, and public health. I am currently Associate Professor in the Department of Microbial and Molecular Pathogenesis at Texas A&M. I finished my Ph.D. in molecular and microbiology in 1999, finished veterinary school in 2001, and began my faculty position in 2005.

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

I had quite a long academic training, if you count up my years in graduate school and in veterinary school. Throughout my academic training I did not think that I would have an academic position- I’m not sure what I thought I would do with all that training. It wasn’t until I was doing my postdoc that I realized that a faculty position might be in my future, and that my combined expertise in veterinary medicine and bacterial pathogenesis allowed me an ability to cross over multiple fields and look at the problems I was interested in in a different way than many other scientists might. I currently work on identifying genes necessary for acute systemic infection, and for persistence of Salmonellae in the gastrointestinal tract in natural hosts of disease. I use (and sometimes develop) animal models.

What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?

Well, in addition to my job I am raising two daughters and this takes most of my time. However, on the side I am also interested in science communication and discussion. I maintain a blog that discusses lots of issues of the working of science, grantsmanship, academic faculty issues, and women’s issues. In addition, I am currently involved in a project I am very excited about: the development of a site called The Third Reviewer, along with the founder of this site Martha Bagnall and a third colleague of mine, Corrie Detweiler. The Third Reviewer is an online site where recently published articles from multiple journals relevant to a given field are aggregated and where open, honest, anonymous discussion of this literature is fostered. I think this site has the potential to change the way that scientific discussion happens in very important aspects.

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

I’m interested in the changing face of science publishing- so how and what new media will be used to communicate science now and in the future. Science has very ritualized methods of communication- the peer reviewed article, the review article- and the format, accessibility and communicability of those are changing with the development of new media. I am also interested in how the discussion of scientific literature can be moved out of individual labs and small venues, into a broader framework on the internet.

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?

I blog and tweet under a pseudonym – and this is just something I do for fun that I hope hits an audience that will find it useful. I use Facebook in my personal life, and have just started to use it to promote individual projects in my professional life.

So far all of this online activity is something that I do for fun, but in the end it is all related to my real-life job. I hope that in the future, perhaps for faculty coming after me, these activities will be seen as mentoring activities (my blog), or innovative educational techniques (The Third Reviewer), methods etc.- and will be formally considered in materials used for promotion of faculty.

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?

Actually, I discovered Science blogs through you Bora! I noticed that someone other than my mom was visiting my family blog, where I occasionally wrote about my career. That someone turned out to be writing at ‘A Blog Around the Clock’, and that realization was what prompted me to begin writing my own blog about all of the issues I was facing as a woman with a family in science. As for the blogs I love – well, I particularly like yours, Drugmonkey, the White Coat Underground, Zuska, Mike the Mad Biologist, and about 10-12 others.

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?

I loved attending ScienceOnline2010 for the very interesting people, and the very interesting MIX of people. I was surprised to see a few faces I already knew from other parts of my scientific life, but the mix of science journalists, scientists, bloggers, librarians, programmers etc., was quite remarkable at this meeting.

It was so nice to meet you in person and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.

ScienceOnline interviews

I have not “cleaned up” my files here yet, so all the internal links point to the posts over on Scienceblogs.com. So I decided to put together links to all the Q&As I did with the participants of the ScienceOnline conferences so far. Many people who came once try to keep coming back again and again, each year. And next year, I guess I can start doing some “repeats” as people’s lives and careers change quite a lot over a period of 3-4 years. I should have thought of doing this in 2007! And there will be (hopefully) more 2010 interviews posted soon.

2011:

Taylor Dobbs
Holly Tucker
Jason Priem
David Wescott
Jennifer Rohn
Jessica McCann
Dave Mosher
Alice Bell
Robin Lloyd
Thomas Peterson
Pascale Lane
Holy Bik
Seth Mnookin
Bonnie Swoger
John Hawks
Kaitlin Thaney
Kari Wouk
Michael Barton
Richard Grant
Kiyomi Deards

2010:

Ken Liu
Maria Droujkova
Hope Leman
Tara Richerson
Carl Zimmer
Marie-Claire Shanahan
John Timmer
Dorothea Salo
Jeff Ives
Fabiana Kubke
Andrea Novicki
Andrew Thaler
Mark MacAllister
Andrew Farke
Robin Ann Smith
Christine Ottery
DeLene Beeland
Russ Williams
Patty Gainer
John McKay
Mary Jane Gore
Ivan Oransky
Diana Gitig
Dennis Meredith
Ed Yong
Misha Angrist
Jonathan Eisen
Christie Wilcox
Maria-Jose Vinas
Sabine Vollmer
Beth Beck
Ernie Hood
Carmen Drahl
Joanne Manaster
Elia Ben-Ari
Leah D. Gordon
Kerstin Hoppenhaus
Hilary Maybaum
Jelka Crnobrnja
Alex, Staten Island Academy student
Scott Huler
Tyler Dukes
Tom Linden
Jason Hoyt
Amy Freitag
Emily Fisher
Antony Williams
Sonia Stephens
Karyn Hede
Jack, Staten Island Academy student
Jeremy Yoder
Fenella Saunders
Cassie Rodenberg
Travis Saunders
Julie Kelsey
Beatrice Lugger
Eric Roston
Anne Frances Johnson
William Saleu
Stephanie Willen Brown
Helene Andrews-Polymenis
Jennifer Williams
Morgan Giddings
Anne Jefferson
Marla Broadfoot
Kelly Rae Chi
Princess Ojiaku
Steve Koch

2009:

Sol Lederman
Greg Laden
SciCurious
Peter Lipson
Glendon Mellow
Dr.SkySkull
Betul Kacar Arslan
Eva Amsen
GrrrlScientist
Miriam Goldstein
Katherine Haxton
Stephanie Zvan
Stacy Baker
Bob O’Hara
Djordje Jeremic
Erica Tsai
Elissa Hoffman
Henry Gee
Sam Dupuis
Russ Campbell
Danica Radovanovic
John Hogenesch
Bjoern Brembs
Erin Cline Davis
Carlos Hotta
Danielle Lee
Victor Henning
John Wilbanks
Kevin Emamy
Arikia Millikan
Tatjana Jovanovic-Grove
Blake Stacey
Daniel Brown
Christian Casper
Cameron Neylon

2008:

Karen James
James Hrynyshyn
Talia Page
Deepak Singh
Sheril Kirshenbaum
Graham Steel
Jennifer Ouelette
Anna Kushnir
Dave Munger
Vanessa Woods
Moshe Pritsker
Hemai Parthasarathy
Vedran Vucic
Patricia Campbell
Virginia Hughes
Brian Switek
Jennifer Jacquet
Bill Hooker
Gabrielle Lyon
Aaron Rowe
Christina Pikas
Tom Levenson
Liz Allen
Kevin Zelnio
Anne-Marie Hodge
John Dupuis
Ryan Somma
Janet Stemwedel
Shelley Batts
Tara Smith
Karl Leif Bates
Xan Gregg
Suzanne Franks
Rick MacPherson
Karen Ventii
Rose Reis
me
Elisabeth Montegna
Kendall Morgan
David Warlick
Jean-Claude Bradley

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.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with William Saleu

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 William Saleu 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?

My name is William Saleu and I blog at BomaiCruz. I am from Papua New Guinea (PNG), an independent island nation making up the eastern part of the island of New Guinea which lies immediately north of Australia. I am a research fellow at the Duke University Marine Lab (DUML) in Beaufort, North Carolina.

I am part of a team that studies population structure and species connectivity among invertebrates from hydrothermal vent systems from the western Pacific. Most of our samples were collected from PNG so as you can imagine I have naturally taken up a personal interest in this subject. My ultimate goal is to be able to use the results of this research and other similar work to help identify and design conservation strategies for these unique ecosystems in PNG.

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

So one might wonder how I ended up doing this. To answer that question I will have to take you back to my final days as an undergraduate at the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG). I was a biophysics major and was almost at the end of my program when I realized that my options for employment after college were very slim and I decided to look at opportunities for post grad research at UPNG. I spoke to my physics advisor but he was not so enthusiastic about having me on his projects but told me to come up with my own project.

I was sitting in a microbiology class when I heard the professor say something about chemosynthetic bacteria and how they were the basis of life at hydrothermal vents but she went on to say that because of the extreme conditions they lived in, not much was known about them as it was very hard to culture them. I also found out then that we had hydrothermal vent systems in PNG that geologists were so interested in studying. This was it, this was the project I was looking for. I decided I was going to build an incubator that would house pressure sensors and thermometers and could go all the way down to the sea floor, collect these bacteria and bring them to the surface at similar conditions to that of their sea floor habitats, little did I know that people in the developed world have already invented deep sea submersibles and remotely operated vehicles that did the same thing. Anyway, my proposal never went through as no one in PNG ever took it seriously.

I ended up in the streets like so many other Papua New Guineas before me who had gone through college but could not find anything to do. Then, one day while reading a newspaper, I came across an advertisement for people with advanced degrees in science to submit applications for a semester long traineeship at Duke University Marine Lab (DUML). I did not have an advanced degree but one of the requirements was that applicants should have sound knowledge in molecular biology and lab work skills and I knew I could use this to my advantage as I had been an intern at the PNG Institute of Medical Research’s molecular and virology labs and this was the only lab in PNG doing molecular work.
Well, I submitted an application and got the opportunity and came over for the traineeship and went home but thanks to the network I have set up before, I am back now as a research fellow studying the same things that I wanted to work with when I was an undergrad.

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?

As far as my blogging family tree goes, I guess I will look up to Southern Fried Science as my blog parent and Deep Sea News as the granny. These guys have been awesome at helping me in everything from day one of BomaiCruz. The name ‘Bomai’ hails from the Simbu language of PNG and would translate for someone from the deep jungles, while ‘Cruz’ is from tok pisin, one of the three main languages of Papua New Guinea. ‘Cruz’ actually means to wonder around, hence, BomaiCruz, “someone from the deep jungles wondering around.”

I did not know about blogging, Twitter or Facebook before coming to the USA but am now on Twitter as BomaiBlat and on Facebook too. All this is very exciting for me but keeping up to speed with every one of them can be quite a hassle. I have found that networking can be quite addictive but is also so much fun and is a great way of sharing information and learning about what is going on in the world or just to take part in arguments and discussions. Personally, I have learnt so much more from networking and socializing with other members however, my only word of advice here is that networking and socializing can be so much fun as long as you know how to control its use.

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?

I know this is not going to go down well with other bloggers but I was lucky enough to attend the ScienceOnline conference just a few weeks after I posted the first blog post on my wall. Unfortunately I cannot make comparisons with past science online conferences but from what I saw in this year’s conference, I should say that it was one of the best conferences I have been to in terms of organization and set up. There are two sessions I will remember for a very long time, first was Rebecca Skloot where she was talking about her book and the second and I should say, the one I really liked was the Open Access talk. I think the importance of Open Access as outlined by the speakers is one thing I will take away with me and make sure to pass on to others that I might end up working with.

It was so nice to meet you in person and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Anne Frances Johnson

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 Anne Frances Johnson to answer a few questions. Anne is a freelancer and grad student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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?

Anne Johnson pic2.jpgWhen I was a kid, I, like all 8-year-old girls, wanted to be a marine biologist and ride around on dolphins. A couple decades later, I’m still into science and nature, but I don’t actually ride wild animals. I’m a freelance science writer and master’s student in the Medical & Science Journalism program at UNC. I like to think it’s as fun as riding dolphins, but probably better for the environment.

I’m originally from Raleigh, NC, and I’ve recently come full circle back to the Triangle after more than ten years away with stops in New Mexico, New England, New Zealand and Washington, DC (I lived there even though it doesn’t have “new” in its name). I have a B.A. in biology from Smith College, where I spent lots of time cutting open fish stomachs for my thesis on lobster predation (What Eats Lobsters besides People?).

I always liked learning about science, but in college I found actually doing it to be rather gooey and tedious, and decided I probably didn’t have the endurance for it as a career. I found myself gravitating instead toward the edges of science, where it interacts with society. I worked at a marine reserve in New Zealand, patrolled Costa Rican beaches for would-be sea-turtle-egg poachers, and tended persimmons, goats and alpacas on various farms here and abroad. But it wasn’t until my first “real” job–at the National Academy of Sciences–that I discovered science writing. Instantly smitten, I’ve been a ravenous science reader and writer ever since.

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

Anne Johnson pic1.jpgMy first science communications piece was an educational booklet on stem cells. Most of the stem cell information available at the time followed either the science community’s party line (embryonic stem cells are more useful than adult stem cells so we should use them) or the conservative/political party line (scientists want to kill babies and we should stop them). Since I was working for a scientific organization, it would have been simple to take the usual tack, but we decided it was really time to go beyond that. I spent a lot of time talking to people ethically opposed to human embryonic stem cell research and tried to craft the booklet so it could reach those folks on their terms, while still being true to the science. Dealing with both the scientific and ethical issues head-on ultimately made it a more useful product for people, and tens of thousands of the booklets found their way into schools and doctors’ offices. It was very rewarding.

After that, I had the pleasure of developing a whole slew of other booklets (and posters and gadgets and websites) on topics including how to plant a pollinator-friendly garden, why microbes are cool and what the new science of “metagenomics” can tell us, and how climate change might affect ecosystems across the U.S. It’s been a constant learning experience.

What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?

Last year I decided to go back to school to pick up some additional communications skills I wasn’t sure I could learn on the job. So now I’m a science journalism grad student. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the curriculum is the multimedia work I’m doing. I know “multimedia” is a silly buzzword, but it really is useful to be able to apply whatever combination of media–text, sound, video, graphics, animations–is right for the topic at hand. I’m enjoying learning to wield all those tools and figuring out how to leverage the strengths of each to communicate in an engaging way.

Although teamwork is incredibly powerful, it’s also useful to be able to function as a “one-woman-band,” with a complete suite of skills to produce everything from documentaries to press releases myself. Wherever I end up after I graduate in 2011, I hope I’ll be able to apply all my fun new skills and continue to learn and adapt to the changing communications landscape.

What’s up with going to journalism school? No offense, but isn’t that a dying industry?

I get that a lot. Journalism school is actually alive and well, even in the current climate. The journalism business model is in a period of adjustment that’s leaving a lot of traditional journalists out of work, and that’s too bad. But I think people are hungrier than ever for information, and for the most part they know the difference between bad information and good information. I think there will always be a role for good journalistic work–especially when it comes to science topics.

Career-wise, I’m more interested in communications than traditional journalism, but I think going through this experience of learning to write more like a journalist makes me a stronger communications person. I also just love being in journalism school because I’m surrounded by really creative thinkers from all different backgrounds, which challenges me to go beyond the obvious and try different approaches.

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

I love that there’s this vast array of genuinely interesting science content online that teachers can use as part of science education. Science education has had a terrible reputation for a long time. The Web gives teachers and parents opportunities to engage children in ways that have never existed before. Kids can interact with the scientific world on their terms and keep following the leads that interest them most. It sure beats those awful textbooks and cheesy videos I remember from childhood.

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?

I have a healthy skepticism about using blogs and social networking in science communications. Organizations pour so much into getting their content out in all these different ways. They’re available and “free,” so why not? And sometimes they’re really effective at amplifying your reach and visibility. But they’re not magical. Sometimes, you’re better off simply producing more or better actual content, and your resources would be better spent focusing on the dissemination avenues that are most effective for your specific target audiences. There’s always a trade-off between quantity and quality, between producing new content and promoting your existing content. You have to hit the right balance, and I think blogs and social networking can be distracting if you don’t keep them in perspective. I try to use ‘em when they’re right for the task, and leave ‘em when they’re not.

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?

One of my favorite experiences was getting to hold these really old dead birds they keep in the bowels of the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. There were just racks and racks of them. We got to pass them around, and they were so astoundingly light and beautiful. It was fun to connect with nature in the way that taxonomists have for years and years, where you can take note of the tiniest differences among species. I loved that behind-the-scenes tour, and would be thrilled to be able do more of the tours next year.

On blogging, the conference perhaps counterintuitively convinced me that it’s okay not to blog about science. Seeing all those people blogging and tweeting so passionately, I thought, you know, there’s room for all types here. And if daily blogging isn’t my thing, it’s okay. People are blogging about science, and people are writing involved, long-form articles and books about science, and folks will continue to be engaged with science on whatever basis is useful for them–whether it’s monthly, daily or by the second. There are so many possibilities, so many ways for people to talk about science. With all those opportunities, you can really shop around and focus on what you can do best.

Thank you so much for the interview. I hope you will come to the meeting again next January.

UC Berkeley Genetic Testing Affair: Science vs Science Education – guest post by Dr.Marie-Claire Shanahan

Marie-Claire Shanahan is an Assistant Professor of Science Education at the University of Alberta, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. As a former science teacher, she was always surprised by the ways that students talked themselves out of liking science – and she decided to do something about it. She now researches the social and cultural aspects of science and science education, especially those related to language and identity.

Marie-Claire and I first met online, then also in Real World when she attended ScienceOnline 2010, after which I interviewed her for my blog. You can check out her website and follow her on Twitter. Very interested in her scholarly work, I asked her if she would write a guest-post on one of her topics, and she very graciously agreed. Here is the post about the Berkeley genetic testing affair.

Outside of issues related to teaching evolution in schools, the words controversy and science education don’t often come into close contact with one another. It would be even rarer to be reporting on legislative intervention aimed at halting science education activities. So what’s going on with the UC Berkeley genetic testing affair?

News started to surface in May that Berkeley was going to be asking incoming first year and transfer students to send in a DNA swab. The idea was to stimulate discussion between students as part of the yearly On the Same Page program. A heated debate ensued that has ultimately lead to proposed state legislation that would bar California’s post secondary institutions from making unsolicited requests for DNA samples from students. Both the controversy and the legislation are excellently reported by Ferris Jabr at Scientific American here and here.

It would be reasonable to assume that this seems controversial because it involves genetic testing and therefore personal information. But is there more to it than that?

I chatted informally with some friends about the issue. One expressed her divided feelings about it saying (roughly quoted) “It seems like they [university admin] have addressed the ethical concerns well by being clear about the use of the swabs and the confidentiality but something still just doesn’t feel right. There’s still a part of me that shivers just a little bit.”

What is the shiver factor? Genetic testing and the idea that institutions might have access to our DNA do conjure some imaginative science fiction possibilities. So that could be causing the shivers. But from my perspective as a science education researcher, I think there’s also an underlying issue that makes this particular situation feel controversial: despite having science education goals, this looks and feels a lot more like science. That look and feel leads to confusion about how this initiative should be judged both from an ethical perspective and an educational one.

Science and science education are not the same thing (nor should they be). One way to think of them is through activity analysis, paying attention to who is involved, what are their objectives and what are the artefacts (e.g., tools, language, symbols), actions, and rules that those involved generally agree are used to accomplish the goals of the activity. Studies in activity theory emphasize the importance of shared understanding for accomplishing and progressing in any activity. I would argue that science and science education are different (though obviously related) activities. They have, in particular, different objectives and different artefacts, rules and actions that guide and shape them. As participants in one or the other (or both), teachers, parents, students, researchers, administrators have both tacit and explicit understandings of what each activity entails – what are the rules, the acceptable tools and practices and the appropriate language.

This is where the Berkeley project places itself in a fuzzy area. The objectives of the project are clearly stated to be educational. From the On the Same Page website: “we decided that involving students directly and personally in an assessment of genetic characteristics of personal relevance would capture their imaginations and lead to a deeper learning experience.” Okay, that sounds like the same reasons teachers and professors choose to do many activities. Sounds like science education.

But what about the tools? Testing students’ blood type or blood pressure uses tools commonly available in high school labs (or even at the drug store). The tools used here though are not commonly available – these samples are being sent to a laboratory for analysis. Participants don’t therefore have a shared perspective that these are the tools of education. They seem like the tools of science.

What about the language? One of the main publically accessible sources of information is the On the Same Page website, in particular an FAQ section for students. It starts with the questions: What new things are going on in the scientific community that make this a good time for an educational effort focused on personalized medicine? and Why did Berkeley decide to tackle the topic of Personalized Medicine? These are answered with appeals to educational discourse – to academic strengths, student opportunities, and the stature of Berkeley as an educational center. The agent or actor in the answers to these questions is the university as an educational institutional: “This type of broad, scholarly discussion of an important societal issue is what makes Berkeley special. From a learning perspective, our goal is to deliver a program that will enrich our students’ education and help contribute to an informed California citizenry.”

Beside these educational questions, however, are questions that are part of the usual language and processes of science: Will students be asked to provide “informed consent” for this test of their DNA? What about students who are minors? How can you assure the confidentiality and privacy of a student’s genetic information? What will happen to the data from this experiment? Has this project been approved by Berkeley’s Human Subjects Institutional Review Board? These questions are the questions that appear in human subjects information letters. They make this sound like this is science. The answers to these questions take a different perspective to the ones above. The technical terms are not educational ones but scientific ones. The actor in these responses is neither the educational institution nor the student as an educational participant but the student as a research object: “All students whether they are minors or not will be asked to provide informed consent. They will read and sign a detailed form describing exactly what will be done with their DNA sample, how the information will be used and secured for confidentiality, how this information might benefit them, and what the alternatives are to submitting a sample.”

Anyone who has done human subjects research will recognize this language is almost word for word from typical guidelines for informed consent documents. My consent forms usually don’t deal with DNA samples (usually something much less exotic, such as student writing or oral contributions during class) but the intent is the same. This language sets out the individuals under consideration as the objects of scientific research.

The overall effect is one of a mixed metaphor – is this research or is it teaching? Are the students actually acting in the role of students or are they the objects of research? What standards should we be using to judge if this is an appropriate action. The materials posted by UC Berkeley suggest that they believe this should be judged as an educational project. But the reaction of bioethicists and advocacy groups (such as the Council for Responsible Genetics) suggests that it be judged by research standards.

Why does it matter? Because the ethical considerations are different. As I said above, I don’t usually deal with any materials that would be considered very controversial. I research the way people (including students) write, read, speak and listen in situations related to science. When dealing with students, many of the activities that I use for research could also be used for educational purposes. For example, in a project this year I distributed different versions of scientific reading materials. I asked students to read these in pairs. I tape recorded their conversations and collected their written responses to the text. As a classroom teacher, these are strategies that I have used for educational purposes. Tape recording students allows me to listen to the struggles they might have had while reading a text. Collecting their written responses allows me to assess their understanding. Parents would not object to their child’s teacher using these tools for these purposes. When I visit a classroom as a researcher though, I am judged differently. Parents often do not consent to me collecting their children’s writing. They object, especially frequently, to my requests to videotape or photograph their children. This is because they rightfully understand educational research as a different activity from education. They use different judgments and expect different standards.

From the sequence of events, it sounds as if Berkeley admin started this project with their own perspective that this was clearly educational without adequate consideration that, from an outside position, it would be judged from a research perspective. I don’t want to suggest that this whole thing is a simple miscommunication because there are serious ethical implications related to asking for DNA samples. As people try to figure out how an educational idea ended up in the state legislature, though, I just wanted to add my perspective that some of the controversy might come from that shiver factor – something just doesn’t feel right. One aspect of that feel might be that this challenges the boundaries of our understanding of the activities of science and science education. The language and the tools and the objectives are mixed, leading to confusion about exactly what standards this should be judged against. As tools that have traditionally been associated with laboratory science become more accessible (as genetic testing is becoming) this boundary is likely to be challenged more and more. Those making the decisions to use these tools for educational, rather than research, purposes need to understand that challenging peoples conceptions of the boundaries between science and science education can and will lead to conflict and that conflict should be addressed head on and from the beginning.

Suggest sessions for ScienceOnline2011

We’ll probably set up the new website and organizing wiki for ScienceOnline2011 at some point over the next couple of weeks. But in the meantime, I am having trouble keeping up with all the ideas people are sending me by e-mail or via Twitter. So I have started a new page on the last year’s wiki (thus old login will work for people who registered to edit the wiki over the past couple of years). Please log in and edit the page to add your ideas – sessions you’d volunteer to moderate: ScienceOnline2011 Program Suggestions.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Eric Roston

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 Eric Roston, author of The Carbon Age and blogger on Climate Post and Carbon Nation (also on Twitter) to answer a few questions.
Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? What is your (scientific) background?
Eric Roston pic.JPGMany people have high school teachers who inspired them, and who they remember forever. I have one memory of my high school chemistry teacher: Occasionally some friends and I would go to the Jai Alai fronton on a Saturday night (This being Connecticut in the ’80s), and we’d bump into our chemistry teacher and she’d give us betting tips.
“Chemistry” didn’t enter my consciousness again for many years.
Flash forward. After covering a wide range of things at TIME, I began to think, What book could I have read before I started here that could possibly have unified everything I’ve encountered since? This is circa 2003. It became clear that I and a lot of people around me, not just in the energy and climate arena, were talking about carbon all the time and had no idea what it is, in climate, industry, health, pro cycling, etc.
Here’s what it is: The fastest way to learn the most about everything larger than an atom and smaller than a star (no disrespect to the other elements). That was the start of my first book, The Carbon Age. If I had paid attention in high school chemistry, I never would have fallen for it as hard as I did many years later. What Richard Smalley called “the romance of the carbon atom” for me started with an attempt to efficiently answer several big questions at once.
Sometime last month my weekly blog, ClimatePost.net (“Thursdays at three!”), had its first birthday. I started Climate Post as a way for busy non-specialists to keep up with the climate archipelago–science, politics, policy, business, technology–in 1,000 words a week. I like hearing from readers so that I can maximize its usefulness–and your time.
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
The Past: I’m basically a journalist. Early on I had formative stints at New York Times and elsewhere. I became so thoroughly disillusioned with the media that I retreated to waiting tables and learning Russian, ending up with an M.A. in Russian history, literature, and linguistics. Eventually, I relapsed and joined Time’s business section, and later, its Washington bureau. (My wife and I met when she worked for Newsweek and I was at Time.)
Present: Against all expectation and reason, earlier this year I started thinking through a novel, a thriller called The Delta Prophecy. I can’t say what it’s about in a word or two without giving away the plot (not guessable).
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
The fiction project, or as I’m more comfortable thinking about it, nonnonfiction, emerged in part for practical reasons. These days I can’t cloister myself in the Library of Congress for a couple of years or jet off on short notice to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, Rice, or MIT. Personally, I’ve got a family now and they’re my time and passion. There are tradeoffs in life, and I’ve had to step back from reporting and writing things I’m interested in lately because, eh, they’ll be there later but kids are only two once.
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?
This is almost like asking before, say, 1990, “How does copper wire figure into receiving a telephone signal in your home?
For many members of the rapidly growing Fourth Estate (and similarly, I often suspect, for the clinically insane), blogging, social networks, Google (etc.), Twitter, Friendfeed, and Facebook are now the main distributors of news media. They have disrupted economies, professions, and 500-year-old vernacular written cultures. The web is reshaping institutions and redistributing skills and demand around the economy.
Nothing is growing anew and nothing is falling to pieces: Everything is growing to pieces.
How do you see journalism changing?
Journalism is not changing. Reporting is not changing. Reporters’ tools are expanding and barriers to publishing have been eliminated–as long as you’re mindful of the Andy Warhol parody line, “In the future we will all be famous for 15 people.”
About a year ago, maybe longer, it seemed various factions in the media and journalism debate were not on the same page. Lost in the shuffle, was discussion of skills and habits of mind useful in reporting, capital R, immutable and eternal. They should be discussed the way we discuss scientific skills and habits of mind.
I sat down to write an essay about the neglect of reporting, but just as soon thought it absurd to write an essay about reporting that didn’t have any reporting. So I reported it out, calling “traditional” journalist friends, former colleagues, strangers. Some talked for a while, some were succinct. Every last person I talked to concluded explicitly or inexplicitly that his or her professional skills lay somewhere in the vicinity of “investigation and storytelling.” (My emphasis.)
One way of describing the change occurring now in journalism is this: Investigation and storytelling have become decoupled. Legacy media institutions were founded and grew up under the principle that investigation and storytelling can’t or shouldn’t be decoupled. Places that understand this are trying to adapt. New associations are emerging to test new models, where “investigation” and “storytelling” are coupled by “or,” not “and.” Now hundreds of people who don’t know each other can collaborate on an investigation. News narrators now needn’t have a network camera in front of them or even get out of their pajamas.
I hope there will always be demand for “investigation and storytelling.” It seems like a reasonable bet. Personally, I like knowing that a person’s or an institution’s reputation, or their paychecks, is on the line for conducting a thorough investigation, presenting findings in an engaging, comprehensive manner, and verifying everything before I see it. It’s a way to both establish trustworthiness and tell a ripping yarn. It might be incomplete, but at least someone’s visibly responsible for it.
There’s a lot of attention, thankfully, to fact-checking lately, because of the success of PolitiFact, a unit of the St. Petersburg Times, and FactCheck.org, of the University of Pennsylvania. It’s worth looking back at one brand of fact-checking, which was invented at Time magazine in the 1920s. Here’s the Introduction to Time’s fact-checking manual, from 1984, by then-chief of research Leah Shanks Gordon: “When an editor asked for examples of how Time research [fact-checking] system had changed in the past ten years, I was hard-pressed to answer. Time research has changed very little since its inception 60 years ago. Its mandate then and now is to make sure the facts are right. What has changed is the technology, and this is a manifestation of the Computer Age. Philosophically, the research system is as sound as the day it was born; technologically, it is a constantly changing function, keeping pace with the latest developments.” Cute that they thought they were living in the computer age.
Then what advice do you have for young “investigators and/or storytellers”?
There are three things I’d recommend people tape to the wall: Carl Sagan’s “Baloney Detection Kit“; a list of the major logical fallacies; and evolving conclusions from the neuroeconomists and behaviorists about group identity, fact-finding, and opinion-formation.
1) BALONEY: The “Baloney Detection Kit” lays bare the similarities between scientists and journalists. This comes from Sagan’s Demon-Haunted World. If you edit them a little bit, you have a list of suggestions that should not only be pinned to the heads of reporters, but anybody who comes to Washington:
· Verify facts with multiple sources. The more the merrier.
· Absorb all knowledgeable points of view. (Corollary: If a prominent point of view is not knowledgeable, then emphasize that.)
· Don’t assume authorities are correct just because they’re authorities (Corollary: “All administrations lie,” I.F. Stone, et al).
· Develop more than one explanation of what’s going on and test them.
· Don’t overvalue your own insights and pet theories just because you thought of or encountered them.
· Counting counts. Quantify whatever you can.
· Make sure every link works in a chain of logic.
· Remember Occam’s Razor.
· When you’re done reporting and writing, assume everything you’ve done is incorrect until you can document otherwise (ie, check facts).
2) FALLACIES: If you start looking at Twitter, etc. through the lens of the logical fallacies, it’s clear that, if we had to avoid them in tweets, no one would ever have anything to say to each other. I won’t dwell on these except to draw readers’ attention to a decade-old absurdist piece on McSweeneys.net by a John Warner, called, “Possible Winning Solutions to the Board Game ‘Clue’ if the Characters Were Replaced With Right-Leaning Political Pundits, the Weapons Replaced With Logical Fallacies, and the Rooms Replaced With Either Jung’s ‘Psychic Containers’ or Varieties of Soft Cheese.” Wikipedia has a handy long list, although somebody needs to go into it and clean it up.
3) NEUROECONOMICS: Behavioral research has come up with many thought-provoking observations about how people accept or dismiss facts. Cognitive tendencies often skew “fact-finding” activities in one way or another.
Jay Rosen of New York University has suggested that journalists should come with disclaimers of “where I’m coming from.” Personally, I’d prefer a demonstration that they understand these three things and can apply them to themselves and others. Maybe that’s my disclosure.
What is your new media pet peeve?
Occasionally the “me”-driven nature of social media is fundamentally at odds with the outward-looking vector of curiosity and general inquiry that fuels journalism. There are practices and habits of mind central to reporting (and shared with many other professions, notably science) that are at odds with the me-casting zeitgeist of facebook, Twitter, and the blogs. Kurt Cobain was kidding when he said, “Here we are now, entertain us”; not everyone is. There was an article in the New York Times during the 2008 election about college students’ media consumption. Students took part anonymously in a study, and one told the researcher: “If the news is that important, it will find me.” This would go on to become something of a slogan in some parts. We’re making the ’70s “Me decade” look like the ’40s “Greatest Generaion.”
Forget about media and journalism, the “news will find me” ethic struck me as a potentially horrific and arrogant worldview that damns its speaker to manipulation and ignorance. It’s revolutionary that we all receive updates from friends and “friends” through various appliances–I’m certainly among the addicted–but as the outrage over Apple’s control of iPad media indicates, there are incredibly powerful forces who want nothing more than to make sure that news never finds you.
News does not find anyone. You have to go out and gently beat the hell out of the world to give it to you. Along the way, you collect stories that you didn’t set out for. Golden eggs turn out to be rotten, and stones roll over to reveal doubloons. Reporting is frequently what happens when you’re busy making other plans.
There’s always been diversity in reporting. Reporting is hard to define, because everyone brings a different mix of strengths and weaknesses to the interview, in temperament, emotional intelligence, book smarts, comfort around other people, knowledge of when to be tactful, and when not to be. But all reporting basically comes down to the ethos, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”
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 can’t remember a time when the sun didn’t rise or a time I didn’t read ScienceBlogs. I stay close to climate science and evolution, but also sip from the firehose.
What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2010 for you?
Face time with friends, “friends,” and tweeps. It’s also fun to rip it up on topics people feel passionately about, in a friendly, collaborative setting.
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?
I’m interested in journalism ethics, and, these days, science-in-fiction…
It was so nice to see you again and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Beatrice Lugger

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 Beatrice Lugger, the founding editor of ScienceBlogs Germany, 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?
Beatrice Lugger pic2.JPGHi Bora. Thank you for asking me. I am a German woman from Bavaria. I live and work in Munich, the Oktoberfest city, famous for its beer, lederhosen and dirndl, King Ludwig’s castles, the Alps and the beautiful lakes in the surroundings. I must say I am a real Bavarian although I don’t have a dirndl. But I appreciate living in this megacity that resembles more of a village. I love bicycling, hiking, skiing, swimming or glider flying and can do it all in or very close to Munich. This is no tourist information. This is the truth.
Born in Landshut, Lower Bavaria, I came to Munich to study chemistry at the Ludwig Maximilian University. There at the University, in the late 1980s, in the time of forest dieback and the Chernobyl disaster, most teachers had still no idea of sustainability. As two fellow students and me managed to focus on ecological chemistry, which we additional studied at the Technical University, one of our teachers at LMU started his lecture with incensed shouting: “We are infiltrated here. For me the green in my soup is enough.” I tried my best to undermine the system but realized I won’t succeed that much in the research system itself. Simultaneously I couldn’t imagine working three years or longer on just one topic for PhD. I am too curious and I love communication, so after my Diploma I started writing. I worked for a small journal called “Politische Ökologie” for some years and then became a freelancer, writing for German newsmagazines and newspapers. To be honest, I did not write that much about ecological topics, but wrote continuously. I appreciate taking looks into different labs, talking and discussing with scientists and not at least trying to transport the information to a broader public.
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
With several years of writing my personal ambition changed. I still want to give people the best information. I still like to look into the labs and talk to scientists. But my interest is today focused more and more into the question how to provide first hand information from scientist themselves, how to start a dialogue between both sides – the public and the researchers – and how to overcome prejudices and, really, existing language barriers. One first step into this direction was with the first internet-hype around the year 2000 netdoktor.de, a medical portal, where we did not only offer lots of medical background information, but invited people to chat, email and get in direct contact with experts online. Later I certainly noticed and added one blog after another on my list to follow. Some years later I was asked to start scienceblogs.de in Germany by Hubert Burda Media. This was like Bingo for me. Within some months, the perfect team around me, the bloggers and me were ready to launch the website, which is still very successful. On the Scienceblogs.de platform we also started the first official blog of the Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting, with which I am actually very engaged.
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
These days my children and the Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting are taking up most of my passion (and time). First joining the conference in 2008 I have never been at such an impressive and ongoing meeting before as in Lindau. It is not only because there are Nobel laureates you may talk to. It is mainly that you can feel the energy and will from the young researchers to care for the future, to seek solutions, to overcome old rules and more. I hope we can transmit some of this through our current blogs and social media activities. And I very much appreciate the idea of a new dialogue between generations, which is supported by the Lindau Meetings. The young should not stop to listen and ask for the expertise of older generations and the experienced should share their knowledge and give a helping hand. This dialogue is building our future – and has ever before, but we stopped talking to each other.
What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
If one considers the web as the business card of mankind then I hoped there would be more science and reflections in it. This implicates Open Access to all papers, sharing lectures, videos (also here from generations of scientists), platforms for a profound exchange – for scientists and for the public -… and a critical open dialogue about the upcoming science topics. Blogs do a lot for this. But I think there is a need for worldwide platforms to discuss further steps in a sense of humanity. We could start ethical dialogues from the very beginning. Today for example in ‘synthetic biology’ an ethical debate would be very helpful. Not that we are very close to a human made creature. But we need to discuss about all the opportunities. Is there a need for certain bacteria? Would we allow them to live outside of labs? Is it really in some way like playing God or is this nonsense? …
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?
To be honest, I do not have my own blog. I blogged for Scienceblogs.de as long as I have been the editor in charge there. And today I blog for lindau.nature.com. I would love to blog more, but I don’t have the time for it – working and two children. So I became a fan of twitter. As I am working alone in my home office this is one of the possible ways for daily science and online media chats to come to me. It is perfect, if you select the perfect ones to follow.
Have you discovered any cool science blogs by the participants of your favourite science bloggers at the Conference?
Sure! You! And many others. Durham was the place to be to meet with many and it is hard to pick up just some of them – for example John Timmer from Ars Technica or Carl Zimmer, PZ Myers and many more. It was a real fun to finally meet Simon Frantz, the colleague from nobelprize.org or talk to Scott Huler, who also published his books in Germany.
What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2010 for you?
I especially enjoyed all sessions about Citizen Science such as Science for Citizens, Trixie Tracker or the Open Dinosaur Project. I have not been that aware of that topic before, maybe because in Europe there are not so many activities in this direction. But this fits exactly to my idea of overcoming old rules that separated scientists and science from the public. The more people engage themselves in sciences the easier I think a profound dialogue is possible. And the web is the best tool for citizen sciences – and the dialogue.
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?
We had a small session about our social media activities which cover the Lindau Nobel Laureates Meetings, looking forward to find further and better ways of interaction between science generations with the help of the Web. All fellows in this session came up with great ideas and we have now realized some of them on our new central social media site. This was very helpful – and not all ideas are realized yet. So thank you very much for this opportunity and thanks to our attendees for their input!
It was so nice to see you again and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.
Beatrice Lugger pic1.JPG

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Julie Kelsey

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 Julie Kelsey to answer a few questions.
Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself?
Julie Kelsey pic.jpgMy name is Julie Bloss Kelsey. I am a full-time stay-at-home mom and a part-time freelance writer with a background in biology and the environmental sciences. While attending a playgroup when my oldest was a baby, another mom confided to me that she didn’t discuss science with her child because “dads do the science.” I must have looked startled, because she quickly qualified her comment. But that was when it hit me: some people have completed opted out of science. I started my family-friendly science blog, Mama Joules, with the goal of finding ways to demystify the scientific process for non-scientists. I write about things like cricket ears, flying cars, and bowling balls.
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
I spent eight years working at a state agency evaluating potential hazardous waste sites under the federal Superfund program. I investigated everything from groundwater contamination to lead tailings. One day I took a call that forever changed the way I look at environmental regulation.
A tar-like substance was oozing from the ground at a school for the severely developmentally disabled. After interviewing the neighbors, my co-workers and I learned that the entire area had previously been a dump. I took photographs and carefully documented the condition of the affected playground. I spoke with the health department and compiled information about the potential health risks posed by the contamination. The school subsequently closed – mid-year – and the students were crowded into another school in a different part of the city. One parent told me that her little boy didn’t eat for two weeks after the move. The elderly neighbors living near the school weren’t happy either; several said they were heartsick over losing their “adopted” grandchildren. Here were two disenfranchised groups that had managed to forge an unlikely – and loving – friendship. Did the potential health risks posed by keeping the school open really outweigh the emotional damage caused by closing it? I still wonder.
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
As the primary caregiver for my three children – including a newly minted toddler – most of my days are spent yelling, “No, no!” and running through my home at breakneck speed. To keep myself sane, I write when I can. Before my youngest came along, I tried to update my blog three times a week. Now that she’s hit the toddler years, I’m lucky to post once a week. When all of my kids are in school, I’d like to resume working full-time, either as a freelance writer or in the environmental field.
Recently, I discovered the joy of writing poetry on Twitter. I like the bite-sized nature of the writing; it fits my hectic lifestyle. I’ve had limited success publishing my poems online at nifty places like Outshine, Nanoism, microcosms, and 7×20. Eventually, I’d love to publish a book of poetry.
What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
I feel there is a distinct and alarming lack of communication between scientists and the general public. There’s great deal of scientific research out there, but dissemination is a problem. I think of it as a language barrier: scientists tend to use terminology unfamiliar to a casual reader. We need more scientific communicators – bloggers, journalists, media specialists, teachers – to bridge this gap. Too many people are simply opting out of scientific discussions. I think the Web provides a unique opportunity to reach people at whatever level of scientific understanding they possess and help them to re-enter the road to scientific literacy. At some level, we are all scientists.
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?
When I started Mama Joules, I held the naïve assumption that editors would bang down my door with job offers. Instead, I’ve found that blogging keeps my mind fresh and hones my writing skills so that I can write more effective query letters.
I am astonished at the utility of Twitter. When I first started blogging, I had no idea where I fit in. I’m not a traditional Mommy blogger; my posts aren’t hard-hitting scientific research either. Twitter put me in touch with like-minded folks like Larry Bock of USA Science Fest, Kirk Robbins of Science for All, Alice Enevoldsen of Alice’s Astro Info, Krista Habermehl of Let’s Talk Science, and so many others.
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?
The first science blog that I remember stumbling across was fellow ScienceOnline2010 blogger Allie Wilkinson’s Oh, for the Love of Science. Allie was writing about fun things, like glow in the dark animals and proof that bees can count. Her blog was the first glimpse I had into the wonderfully rich and diverse world of science blogging.
I am partial to blogs with accessible, fun, family-friendly science posts. In addition to Oh, for the Love of Science, I like Danielle Lee’s Urban Science Adventures©, Messy Fingers, and Growing With Science, among many others.
Darlene Cavalier’s Science Cheerleader and ScienceForCitizens.net inspire me to work harder at outreach. I enjoyed attending her presentations at ScienceOnline2010. And it was fun to meet Mary Ann Spiro, the Baltimore Science News Examiner.
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?
During a lull in my second session at ScienceOnline2010, I peeked at Twitter. New comments with the #scio10 hashtag were popping up each minute. I eagerly read about a concurrent session which was apparently more exciting and controversial than the one I was attending. I soon realized that every session was under intense dissection in real-time.
Twitter has changed the power structure of today’s conferences. Before, speakers were in charge of their message; they controlled the pace and delivery of their content. Now, a speaker’s message might be broadcast far and wide by the audience before they’ve even finished speaking. Anyone with a Twitter hashtag can participate in a conference and influence its outcome.
Thank you so much for having me, Bora!
It was so nice to meet you in person and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Travis Saunders

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 Travis Saunders (Twitter), my SciBling from the Obesity Panacea blog 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 am a PhD student in Exercise Physiology at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. My undergrad was in Kinesiology (aka Physical Education) at the University of Calgary, and my Masters was in Exercise Physiology at Queen’s University.
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
Travis Saunders pic.jpgMy research focuses on the inter-relationships between obesity, physical activity, and chronic disease risk. For example, I have been involved with studies examining the relationship between different fat depots and health risk (abdominal fat is very bad, but leg fat can actually be protective in some situations), as well as studies examining the benefits of exercise with or without weight-loss (your lipid profile and insulin sensitivity almost always improve in response to exercise, while inflammatory markers seem to improve only in response to weight loss). I’ve just begun my PhD, which is looking at the relationship between sedentary time (e.g. sitting) and health risk. For example, if you run for an hour every morning but then spend the next 7 hours sitting in front of a computer, is your metabolic health going to be better or worse than someone who spends all day on their feet but rarely performs vigorous exercise? No one knows just yet, but it’s a very interesting area of study with important public health implications.
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
Right now most of my time is being spent developing my PhD project, as well as (hopefully) getting a few side projects published. I’m fortunate to really enjoy my area of research, as well as the people I work with, so it’s a pretty fun way to spend my days. My short-term goal is to do research that is both interesting to me personally and that has a positive influence on the health of the population. I don’t have any specific long-term goals aside from finishing my PhD, but I know that I want to be involved with both research and science communication in whatever I do next.
What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
It is absolutely critical that researchers share their findings with the general public, rather than just other colleagues within their research area. I think it’s especially important for those of us performing tax-payer funded research – if the public is paying for our research it only makes sense that we should do everything we can to keep them informed of our results. If the public is better informed they can make better health decisions, but they are also in a better position to understand the value of our research – a clear win-win! For a young researcher like myself, the Web is by far the easiest way to communicate with the public about my area of research.
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?
Blogging has had a very positive impact on my work to date. Writing a blog is almost like doing 2 or 3 Journal Club presentations every week! It has forced me to stay up-to-date on the latest studies in my field of research, and has also helped me to develop my understanding of a number of issues (it’s one thing to skim through a paper, but it’s another thing entirely to write an intelligible blog post about it!) Blogging has also been tremendously helpful in preparing for conferences – responding to comments and questions online is very similar to responding to questions following a presentation (but in a much less stressful environment). As a result, it has made me a much more confident writer and speaker, which has direct benefits in my day-to-day work. And finally, blogging has been a very effective means of spreading the word about my own area of research, which is the whole reason I got into blogging in the first place!
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 first discovered science blogs (and ScienceBlogs) in SEED magazine. My girlfriend bought me the magazine on a whim and I absolutely loved it, and when I saw an ad for ScienceBlogs I knew it was something that I had to check out. Around the same time my labmate Peter and I stumbled upon the blogs of Drs Arya Sharma and Yoni Freedhoff, two physicians who specialize in the treatment of obesity. That was when we realized that science blogging was something we wanted to get involved with.
For me personally, the coolest part of ScienceOnline2010 was meeting the bloggers that I have been following for the past few years. This includes people like yourself, Ed Yong, Scicurious, the gang from Science Based Medicine, and Dave Munger to name just a few. It was especially nice to meet Dave as he’s not only a phenomenal writer, but also because he has done such great work promoting peer-reviewed research via ResearchBlogging.org.
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?
The best part for me was meeting all of the other participants. There were some incredibly talented science-communicators in attendance, and it was a lot of fun to be able to learn from them. Rebecca Skloot’s session on pitching story ideas was especially useful, and gave me a much better understanding of how to frame a story in a way that appeals to journalists, which is an extremely important skill as a researcher.
This year’s conference featured some top-notch science-communicators (Michael Specter, Ed Yong, Rebecca Skloot, Carl Zimmer, etc); I’d love to see next year’s conference bring in a few more top-notch researchers – maybe a Nobel Prize winner or prominent researcher like Brian Greene or Freeman Dyson. This year’s conference helped me learn a lot about science communication from the perspective of journalists and bloggers, but I feel it would be extremely useful to hear what these top researchers could add to the discussion.
Thanks again for all the hard work that you and Anton put into the conference, it was an amazing experience!
It was so nice to meet you in person and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Cassie Rodenberg

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 Cassie Rodenberg 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?
Cassie Rodenberg pic2.jpgI’m a Charleston, SC native that now resides in NYC — a complete Northern convert that carries an appreciation for Southern plantations and shrimp ‘n grits. As a kid I slogged through marshes to erect an osprey perch, played slippery ‘jelly ball’ (jellyfish) hockey on a shrimp boat and floated an ATV across a river, only now realizing how much science I was experiencing. The physics of ATV floating? The surprising number of jelly balls hoisted aboard a boat when hunting for shrimp? The torturous plotting of perch placement in attracting birds of prey? Science is everywhere, why hadn’t I noticed?
I’m shamelessly effervescent about science now, dying to share a cool science factoid or an interesting study, which somehow bubble out despite my best efforts to stem them! I think people care about science more than we think they do; science communicators just need to find out what intrigues them– like ATVs or jellyfish hockey games. Enthusiasm and passion are contagious, too. If we’re truly excited, others will be as well. We all need to find the inner kid that’s fascinated by the world around us, the one that shouts, “oo, cool!” before trying to reach the public.
I studied chemistry during college, finding it the most beautifully simple and elegant of all the sciences. Under an NIH grant, I conducted inorganic chemistry research — single molecule spectroscopy — on the Amyloid-Beta peptide associated with Alzheimer’s, looking at different conditions that stimulate growth of the earliest cytotoxic stages of peptide and thus spur the disease’s formation. And my 11-year-old brother would be horrified if I didn’t mention the coolest part: I worked with a laser in the dark.
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
Gosh, it certainly is an interesting trajectory…after my lab days I wanted to investigate the public’s perception of science, how people thought about science on a daily basis. Actually, I was so intrigued, I later published psychology research on the subject. If we’re making careers out of reaching people and teaching, we better understand where these people come from and how they think.
And so, I worked at a local science museum, teaching science in big public programs — chemistry demonstrations, reptile shows (yes, I held everything from boas to Madagascar hissing roaches to tarantulas)… even walked around in a toga as the Lady of Pompeii to guide in ancient medicinal practices. Besides learning fascinating things myself (iguanas have a third light-sensing eye on the tops of their heads, my long curly hair could stand on end with enough static electricity power..), I learned quickly how to speak across age barriers, from the three-year-old to her great-grandmother to her bored aunt with a Blackberry.
After, I moved to NYC and took science journalism graduate courses at NYU before becoming an in-house contributor at Popular Mechanics and a writer for the weekly science section of the Charlotte Observer.
Now I’m starting at Discovery as an associate web producer, working mainly with planetgreen.com, a environmental and futuristic tech initiative.
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
Cassie pic.jpgThe geek side of me loves production and organization. Though I like writing, I don’t feel married to my byline — the important thing to me is contributing to something meaningful. I hope to do more entrepreneurial work with both science- and non-science-based efforts, hopefully working with idea geniuses to launch new projects. Of course, I’d expect that whatever I delve in will have some scientific element to it, but hybridizing science with other subjects makes it more tangible to readers. We should always be reaching and trying new things… I could never imagine myself without a side project bubbling in the recesses of my mind.
You used to be involved with Scienceline until recently. Can you tell us a little bit more about the project, what was your role there, and what were your experiences while working there? Was it a useful jumping board for your career?
Scienceline is a project of NYU’s graduate science journalism program — all students contributed to running the website and producing content, a mini-newsroom of sorts. It’s a bit like training wheels on a bike: it’s important to get newsroom experience, even working with fellow students as editors, before getting started in the real world of journalism. Though I think it is useful to an extent, especially for giving prospective employers links to clips, I encourage all students to go for internships first and foremost. I’ve always learned most by jumping headlong into a field.
What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
The web provides science communicators a wonderful opportunity for collaboration. Once upon a time, in a small town in South Carolina, I didn’t know any science writers, didn’t know who to go to for advice and inspiration. The web has transformed this, and that struggle isn’t true anymore, as we have genius at our fingertips at just a tweet away. We can craft ideas, bounce them off one another and form relationships. Even further, we can debunk bad science, pass along source recommendations and generate excitement on an issue.
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?
I started out blogging but lost steam fairly quickly, realizing that Twitter was a much better outlet for my exuberance that a blog post because, honestly, I want to talk about science news constantly… but don’t usually have time to blog about it. On Twitter, I can post the gist of my opinion and ask others for theirs in return — much more effective and efficient than waiting around for comments on WordPress. I can feel the hum of my network around my tweets, much more vibrant than a blog. Twitter is inordinately positive in what I do — knowing what the public thinks should be as, if not more so, important to a journalist as writing a piece, and Twitter magnifies the vitality of readers.
Just after ScienceOnline2010, I highlighted an online event in which you played a central role, that hints at how some aspects of the new journalistic ecosystem – scientist-journalist collaboration – may work. What are your thoughts, in light of this event, on the ways the science journalistic ecosystem is changing?
I think scientists and journalists are finally understanding how much they need one another to effectively change the way science news is disseminated. Science journalism should never have been a fragmented system, it should be a constant conversation and relationship between two different sorts of people united by a single goal. Honest and important news comes from general concern and idea generation — the best ideas come from different vantage points. In the future, I imagine scientists and journalists brainstorming and mingling over drinks, public interest forefront. I’ve already mingled on Twitter — the web only enhances the science/journalist cocktail hour.
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?
It staggered me to think beyond web and print communication and on towards TV, entertainment and citizen journalism projects. It’s invigorating to realize what an effort there is to mesh good science with the public realm and gives me hope that scientific accuracy may not be so far away, that scientists won’t always be portrayed in movies as ‘mad’ and that everyone can do small science projects at home for the benefit of a larger goal.
It was so nice to meet you in person and thank you for the interview. Looking forward to meeting you again soon in NYC and I hope to see you here again next January.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Fenella Saunders

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 Fenella Saunders from The American Scientist 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?
Fenalla Saunders pic.jpgI was born in England, raised in New York City, did my undergraduate at Duke University in North Carolina, went back to New York for 10 years, then came back to NC five years ago. I have a master’s degree in animal behavior from Hunter College of the City University of New York, where I did my thesis on the interactions of proboscis monkeys in captivity. My undergraduate degree is in computer science with a minor in Japanese, although I chose my major with the concept of going into science journalism.
While I was at college I discussed the education I would need with a number of science journalists, all of whom told me that an education in science, with outside projects to get journalism experience, was the best way to go. (I am from the era just before when it became pretty much standard for science writers to go to an MA program for science journalism.) A computer science major allowed me to study a broad range of sciences and technology, and it also gave me a backup plan in case journalism didn’t work out. At school I wrote for any venue I could get into (and I was lucky that in addition to a regular school paper with a health/medicine section, Duke had both a student-run science and a technology magazine), and in my senior year I wrote a couple of small pieces freelance for Popular Mechanics.
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
My career started when I landed an internship at Discover Magazine, then got hired on. It was largely a matter of luck and timing: They had a lot of biology people and needed someone with a technology background. I stayed at Discover for about eight years, and ended up also being the online editor toward the end of that time. There were a ton of great moments at that job, but I would have to say my favorite one was when they allowed me to start writing about a different, new robot in each month’s news section. It was a series that lasted 2-3 years, and I never ran out of new robotics research to write about. During that time I freelanced a little, most notably as a co-author for a Time-Life book called “Space 2100.” I left Discover to work on publications for NYU School of Medicine for about two years, which was a very different experience. Probably the best part of that job was learning all about really high-powered MRI machines. For the past five years I’ve been at American Scientist, where I am now a senior editor. It is both fascinating and a challenge working with different scientists each issue, trying to get them to explain their own work for a general audience. I couldn’t even begin to pick a favorite from all of the articles I’ve helped bring to print–it could be anything from Champagne bubbles to snow flakes to honeybee nest relocation.
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
American Scientist is published every two months, so we always confront the problem of remaining timely. We want to find more ways to keep in contact with our readers between issues. We recently relaunched our Web site, which allowed us to better keep up with technology in a few ways. We’re now able to embed video with the online versions of articles. We now also post podcasts of our lunch-speaker series. I am excited that I have been chosen as a fellow to attend on of the Knight Digital Media Center’s multimedia workshops, where I’ll learn more about how to edit audio, video and maybe program some Flash animation. I am hoping that after I attend that workshop, I will be better equipped to have us do more multimedia for the magazine online.
What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
The immediacy of the Web still is its biggest advantage in my mind. Something can be posted for all of the world to see within minutes, and if you are looking for information on a specific topic, a quick search will pull up enough reading to last hours. It’s a very democratic platform, as anyone can post on it, but that makes it all the more important to make sure that sources are reputable and verifiable–I am pretty sure that we all rely too much on the truthfulness of Wikipedia these days. I am also hopeful that the Web can make information, about science or anything, more accessible to people who, say, don’t have the luxury of going to college, or find themselves in a position of having to learn about something new that they never thought about doing.
That being said, I am still unsure of how the print vs. online debate is going to shake out. There is something to be said for picking up a whole magazine, not just a specific article you were looking for. It is broadening to be exposed to topics you might not have even realized existed. People are busy, so in some ways it’s faster just to pick up a print copy rather than have to search and dig online. Perhaps platforms such as the iPad will change all this. But I know that, when I have the time, just browsing through publications in the library is the best way for me to get new ideas.
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?
It’s fairly bizarre for a publication not to use all social-media platforms possible these days. We send out a daily and a weekly conglomeration of science news, and we tweet about these entries daily as well. We also use twitter to talk about what’s in our latest issue, and we tweet about any news that relates to a past story that we have done. We have groups on Facebook and LinkedIn. We don’t have a set blog yet, although we are working on it, but our Computing Science columnist, Brian Hayes, has a regular one at bit-player.org.
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?
Carl Zimmer is a former colleague of mine at Discover magazine, and he was an early entry into the blogosphere, so his was probably the first blog that I followed. I was happy to meet Ed Yong at the conference, and I follow his blog “Not Exactly Rocket Science.” I’ve also been following Rebecca Skloot’s blog about her book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.”
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?
I really liked the fact that there were kids at the conference. Kids often are not brought into the dialogue when discussing science, particularly science journalism. Sometimes they are the target audience, but they are rarely part of the process. For a few years we did a mentoring program with a local middle school where we’d have kids come in for a week, but they’d rotate, so I’d get each student for only one day. I challenged them that they would write a whole science news story by the end of the day, and they all looked at me like I was crazy, but they all did it. Children can do amazing things if given the opportunity, and can provide unique insight. I found it particularly enlightening that the young students at ScienceOnline 2010 thought that Twitter was an adult thing–they saw no real use for it in their lives, preferring more interactive platforms such as Facebook.
I can’t say my usual “It was so nice to meet you in person” because I see you often, but certainly thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again soon.

Science Online London 2010

science-online2010 logo.jpgThe third Science Online London 2010 will be held at the British Library on September 3rd and 4th, 2010. You can follow it as a hashtag #solo10 on Twitter and add session suggestions to the wiki here.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Jeremy Yoder

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 Jeremy Yoder from University of Idaho and the Denim and Tweed blog to answer a few questions. Jeremy came to ScienceOnline2010 as one of the two winners of the NESCent blogging contest.
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?
Jeremy Yoder pic.jpgHello, and many thanks for having me! I’m not sure how best to start this, so I’ll just go from the beginning:
I grew up very Mennonite in rural Pennsylvania (no, there were no buggies involved). I’m more-or-less an agnostic now, but my thinking is still strongly influenced by Mennonite values of peacemaking, simplicity, and independent inquiry.
I had my first taste of field biology in my senior year of high school, when one of my science teachers led the class through a forest survey in a woodlot adjacent to the campus. By cataloguing the trees according to their age class and species, we were able to deduce how mature the woodland was, and what it might look like in another hundred years. It opened up this vision of species jostling against each other, accommodating as well as competing to shape the landscape right outside my front door, and it seemed like a pretty cool thing to do for a living.
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
From high school on I did my best to arrange to spend time outdoors. I majored in environmental science as an undergraduate, and then spent a year interning with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, working on plant community ecology among other projects. When I started to think about graduate school, I knew I wanted to study coevolution — the ways in which interacting species shape each other’s evolutionary history — and I was lucky enough to connect with Olle Pellmyr, who was looking for a new graduate student to work on his current study of Joshua trees and the moths that pollinate them.
Joshua tree populations are exclusively pollinated by one or the other of two different species of yucca moths. It turns out that trees from populations with different pollinators look pretty different themselves, and we now have good reason to think that the moths’ preferences for their “native” type of Joshua tree determines how often the two tree types can interbreed. A big part of my dissertation work is to use DNA sampling from Joshua trees across the whole Mojave desert to estimate how completely the two types of Joshua tree are isolated, and how much coevolution with the moths is responsible for the differences we see in the two types of tree. Before I started grad school, I’d never seen a North American desert — now I’ve been to just about every place Joshua trees grow, from the south rim of the Grand Canyon to the outer suburbs of Los Angeles and (I kid you not) just outside of Area 51.
Joshua Trees pic.jpg
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
My dissertation is far and away my biggest preoccupation, you won’t be surprised to hear. I’ve just had a couple of projects accepted for publication — a literature review and an analysis that reconstructs some characteristics of the ancestors of yucca moths. I’m (hopefully) nearly done with a mathematical model that compares how different kinds of coevolutionary interactions affect the species involved, and I’m heavily occupied with the Joshua tree DNA analysis right now. My plan is to complete my doctorate by about this time next year, and I’m starting to think about possible postdoctoral work (hint, hint!).
I’m also keeping up with writing on Denim and Tweed for the time being, and I’m thinking about running what will be my second marathon sometime this fall. Hopefully, I’ll find some time to get out and enjoy the wilderness out here in the Pacific Northwest this summer, too, since this might be the last year I spend within a day’s drive of both Olympic and Glacier National Parks.
What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
Most academic biologists spend time teaching in addition to their research, and I really believe that telling the general public about my work is a logical extension of that principle — that being a scientist means communicating what you learn to others, not just accumulating knowledge to satisfy your own curiosity. The Web is a great venue for that, thanks to user-friendly blog hosting services and networks like Research Blogging and the Nature Blog Network that connect interested readers to my site. I now list D&T as a “broader impact” on all my grant applications.
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?
I try to treat Denim and Tweed as an exercise in writing about science for a general audience — so it has that value for me even if no one reads it. In that sense, it’s a little like a one-man journal club, in which I sit down every week and read one paper carefully enough to explain it to someone else in about 700 words.
The blog is pretty heavily linked into my online social network as well — I have a public account on Twitter that I use regularly, and a FriendFeed profile that ties together the blog, my Flickr account, and my Facebook profile. And I interact with family, personal acquaintances, colleagues, and readers of D&T across all those platforms — over my last field trip, I’d post photos from Flickr to the blog, and have folks comment about them on my Facebook wall. It’s not very tidy, but every one of those networks seems to reach a slightly different set of people, so I guess I’m thoroughly enmeshed.
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’ve been reading science blogs since long before it occurred to me to start writing on my own — I don’t remember exactly how I got started, but my first contact was probably when someone sent me a snarky link from Pharyngula. I think I probably didn’t have a sense of the full scope of the science blogosphere before I found Research Blogging, though.
Through RB, I’ve found great sites like The EEB & flow, Conservation Maven, and Open Source Paleontologist, and even occasionally exchanged thoughts in the comments or via back-and-forth posts. Research Blogging is really a fantastic way to get started in writing about science on your own blog, both because it’s easy to add your posts to a feed lots of other science bloggers read and because it helps you find other people writing about the sort of science that interests you.
And then, after I’d been involved in RB for more than a year, I was lucky enough to be able to attend ScienceOnline 2010, and meet in person a number of folks I really only knew as text on the screen — and, yes, add a number of links to my RSS list, including Observations of a Nerd. I think I picked up far more Twitter feeds than blogs at ScienceOnline, though — so much of the conference conversation occurred on Twitter that it was basically unavoidable. And now I probably get more of my online science news via folks I’m following on Twitter than even through the RSS feeds I have bookmarked in Firefox.
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?
I think the biggest benefit I took from ScienceOnline2010 was a better sense of where I fit in the world of online science communication, in my role as a scientist with a blog. I saw some great models of how to draw the public into ongoing scientific work using online tools, and even how to engage the public in the actual science. I also saw some great sessions that addressed interactions among different groups of people involved in science communication — working scientists, educators, and science journalists. It was a really fun weekend all around, and it gave me a lot to think about as I work towards the (still pretty distant!) day when I’m ready to set up my own lab and research program.
It was so nice to meet you in person and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Jack, Staten Island Academy student

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 Jack from Miss Baker’s Biology class at Staten Island Academy, to answer a few questions. Jack wrote about his experience at ScienceOnline2010 here and wrote a blog post about video/computer games here.
Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Where are you from?
Jack pic.jpgI’m Jack, a freshman student who went to Science Online 2010. I am one of Miss Baker’s students and I’m from NJ. I go to school at Staten Island Academy. I currently play the piano but I am planning to get a drum set to teach myself drums, too. I love making things whether it be some random contraption built out of paper or a game to be put online. I always liked making things since I built stuff with legos when I was in lower school.
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
I enjoy using photoshop and flash together to make games. Recently, I decided to also write out my own music for the games. I am currently making a few games that have absorbed most of my free time. Between painstakingly creating graphics and filtering through code to thinking of music for the games, my free time is pretty much gone. As for my goals, I always wanted to design and create new devices or develop new software. I really want to go to M.I.T. for college, and I’ve been doing my best in and out of school to try and get there. On a completely different note, I also want to learn Japanese.
What particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
I enjoy the amount of freedom that the web gives people, as anyone can access a world-wide database of knowledge for almost any subject. I currently surf the web to find aid in the programming world whenever I have trouble with a script. I also enjoy how the web can be used as a great device for gathering information and doing research. As I move along in developing my programming skills, it is great to talk with fellow programmers to brainstorm possible techniques of getting around difficulties like run time or complex functions.
How does (if it does) blogging figure in your work and school? 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 and want to accomplish?
Using Facebook has helped me immensely as it is quicker and more open than e-mailing, so if I or someone else needs a little help with something, they can simply put it up and one of their friends can help out. I also think it is a great way to spread cool articles and facts. Twitter on the other hand has been abused by hundreds of people. No, I really don’t care that you are “enjoying your microwavable pizza” mrtwittrface. Because of all of the “eating this” or “listening to that” tweets on Twitter, I really can’t get into it.
As Miss Baker, when teaching the Biology class, gives you a lot of creative freedom, how does that affect your own interest in the subject? Do you think you learn better this way? What would you suggest to do differently to make it even better? What are some of your own projects you did for the class?
Of course, I found it easier to learn by writing a blog post and commenting on others. Having the creative freedom allowed me to learn what I wanted to, while also allowing the output of the project to be read and understood by people who aren’t just my classmates. Not only was I able to learn about how video games affect the brain, but I also got to make a game and work on my programming.
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?
I loved the fact that people were able to come together for a few days to talk about how the internet is used in science. It was cool to be one of the 8 kids there looking at everything from a different view than most of the other people there. I can’t believe that while I was presenting, Beth Beck (jokingly) asked, “Would you like a job at NASA?” but I was so focused on not messing up that the question just flew over my head. I didn’t want to ruin my opportunity to present at a conference in front of scientists and journalists and everyone else who was there, too. Because of that moment, I’m now working harder than before on my “occupation” of making flash games, as I realized that I could make a positive impact with my programming knowledge, but I need to keep working on getting better first.
It was so nice to meet you in person and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Karyn Hede

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 Karyn Hede 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?
Karyn Hede pic.jpgI think of myself as a scientist who writes, even though I jumped out of research after graduate school. Most of my formal education is in science. I was biology/chemistry major and then studied genetics in graduate school at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. I should have known I would end up a science communicator though. As an undergraduate, I performed in a “chemistry magic show.” We would go around to elementary and middle schools and get kids involved in the show. It was fantastic to see kids get engaged and to realize that science can be fun. After I committed to making the switch to writing about science and medicine, I studied journalism at UNC-CH. This was well before the medical journalism program existed. I was the oddball. I like to think I helped plant the seed for that program. I’ve spent my whole career telling stories about medicine, science and scientists.
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
My first professional writing gig was for a local publication called Triangle Business Journal. I talked the editor into letting me write personality profiles of local scientists. My first interview was with George Hitchings, of the [now defunct] Burroughs Wellcome Co., who had just won the Nobel Prize in Medicine. He was so gracious, and I was so nervous! Many years later, I was working as communications officer at the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, a post now occupied by the inestimable Russ Campbell, when Dr. Hitchings passed away. We went over to the old Burroughs Wellcome offices to collect some of his memorabilia for display. They had his personal scrapbook there – he had cut out the article I wrote and put it in his scrapbook. That remains one of the best compliments I’ve ever been paid as a writer.
I was senior science writer at Duke Medical Center for four years. I learned how to put together broadcast-quality video and how to organize and run a news conference. It was a hectic job, and I spent a lot of my time responding to media requests. I discovered I prefer to be on the other side of the equation. I like to be the one asking questions.
Currently, I am a news correspondent for Journal of the National Cancer Institute and for the journal Science’s Careers site. I also write for magazines and science organizations.
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days?
An undercurrent within my work has always been career development for scientists. When I was a graduate student, you were pretty much on your own as far as exploring career options and developing professional skills. I enjoy teaching and helping support the next generation of scientists. In the last couple of years I have done some consulting work with the North Carolina Biotechnology Center to promote professional science masters programs with the state. We organized a meeting around the issue in 2008. I’ve also been working with Russ Campbell on a series of professional development booklets for scientists. Recently, I started teaching scientific writing for biomedical graduate students at UNC. I taught two courses, one for first-year students and a second course I developed for students who are working their first grant or their dissertation. It’s my way of giving back.
What are your goals?
I am also into gardening and the local food movement. I subscribe to a local CSA at Maple Spring Gardens. A few years ago I organized a session at the National Association of Science Writers meeting to get science writers more interested in covering how our food is produced. Since then, the topic has gotten a lot of coverage, with Michael Pollan’s fantastic books and all the concern over outbreaks of food-borne disease. I’d love to write more about the intersection of science and food production.
What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
I think the wave of the future in science communication is going to be scientists engaging directly with people through their own blogs, videos and websites. Some people (like you!) are naturals and don’t need any help. I know scientists who would like to move more into this arena, but don’t know how to get started. I’d like to work with scientists to help them develop those communication and storytelling skills.
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?
I read blogs and have gotten story ideas from blogs. I don’t have a blog (yet). I like to let ideas percolate for awhile before writing. The thought of having to produce coherent posts every day (or nearly so) is a bit daunting. My Facebook connections are mostly old friends from college and family. I like LinkedIn for work-related networking – it’s a bit more professional and I like having more control over the content.
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 lived in Washington state for several years and moved back to North Carolina a couple of years ago. In my absence, I discovered an enthusiastic on-line science blogging community had grown up here. I wasn’t surprised. This has always been a science-rich area – blogging is just the latest incarnation of the local science communications community, but with a much wider reach now. I read your blog, Drugmonkey, Female Science Professor, The Intersection, and Terra Sigillata, among others.
What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2010 for you? Any suggestions for next year?
This was my first time attending ScienceOnline. I was impressed with the sessions and particularly the workshops on Fri. The sessions on visualization in science were valuable, because I was teaching at the time and was able to gather a lot of incredible resources for my students. Meeting so many interesting people who are inventing the future of science communication was great. I’d love to see more of a mashup of working scientists and science communicators shaping the agenda next year.
It was so nice to see you again and thank you for the interview. I hope you can come again next January.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Sonia Stephens

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 Sonia Stephens 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)?
Sure. I’m originally from Minnesota, but moved to Hawaii when I was young. Now I’m living in Florida. So geographically, I’ve been all over the place, but I probably consider Hawaii “home”. I was always interested in science and nature while growing up – while I was in Hawaii, that interest focused a bit on evolution and extinction. Hawaii is one of the evolution hotspots of the world, and now it’s unfortunately one of the extinction hotspots as well. There are many, many biological, political, social, and economic factors that have combined to create this situation in the Hawaiian Islands. Invasive species, climate change, and dwindling supplies of fossil fuels are some specific problems that make it really obvious that “culture” and “nature” are not, and can never be, separate. This idea made a big impression on me in college, so my interest in ecology now is in this interface of the human and natural worlds.
What is your (scientific) background? Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
Sonia Stephens pic.jpgAt the University of Hawaii, I studied the ecology of stream algae for my Master’s. After graduating, I worked for the National Park Service on a program to inventory and set up a long-term monitoring plan for Pacific Island park natural resources. I started out working on streams and other freshwater ecosystems, some of which are pretty funky, like anchialine pools. These are brackish systems found in rocky coastal areas in Hawaii, connected to both fresh and salty groundwater through crevices in the basalt substrate. They harbor a unique flora and fauna that can cope with tidal changes in salinity. They’re also culturally hugely important, as the only surface-level freshwater on these incredibly hot, dry coastal lava plains. Unfortunately, they’re also hugely threatened by groundwater pollution, coastal development, and invasive species. So these were some of the key resources that the NPS wanted to protect.
The point at which I started to get interested in science communication was when I began working more in-depth on the actual writing of the monitoring plan, as well as coming up with conceptual models and diagrams to illustrate ecosystems and processes (like anchialine pools). I found it really interesting and challenging to translate some of the complicated ideas into pictures as tools to communicate with the public. A whole different question, though, is how to actually get those explanations and illustrations out to people. Traditionally, the NPS creates park displays, which can only be visited in person, and reports and newsletters, which are now downloadable. But these aren’t necessarily the most far-reaching communication methods.
What I’m interested in doing is exploring how scientific organizations can use online tools to communicate with the public. Right now, I’m a PhD student at the University of Central Florida, in the Texts & Technology program. This is a humanities-based program that emphasizes study of digital media, so it’s pretty interdisciplinary in both methodology and subject matter. What I’d like to do is shed some light on what online tools work best for what purposes, and why some tools work better for some types of communication than others.
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
Well, as a grad student, classes and teaching are definitely taking up most of my time. Since my program is based in an English department, I’m teaching college composition this academic year as part of my financial support, which has been quite a learning experience for me. This summer and next semester, I’ll be going into taking my candidacy exams and planning research (assuming the exams go well), so that will take up the majority of my time. In my research, I’m planning to use both visual and science communication theories to look at online science communication. I’m definitely interested in doing some empirical research, but those ideas are still taking shape.
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?
I don’t have a blog, but I’ve been slowly dipping my toes into the social network aspect of the Internet. Facebook is a great way to keep track of what people are doing, but it does add to the occasional multitasking frenzy, so I’m not sure whether it’s a net positive yet… My main interest in these tools is more along the lines of asking what they’re good for, in terms of working on public understanding of science. I know a lot of writers like to use blogging as sort of a journaling tool, or a place to play with ideas. I’ve never really enjoyed journaling, but I’m starting to see how it might be useful in preparing for my exams (an idea I got from reading Christina Pikas’s blog), so that might be a good way to get started blogging. Right now, I have a fairly basic website online but I’m hoping to upgrade that soon…
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 do read several of the blogs on the Science Blogs site, but honestly I usually just go to the 24-hour feed and look at what posts seem interesting. I do read a couple of nature blogs pretty regularly- one is by Julie Zickefoose, a nature writer & illustrator. and the other is by a birder, Sharon Stiteler. The rest of the blogs I read are generally politically oriented.
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?
Well, one of the questions that seemed to keep coming up at the meeting was: we have all these online tools to communicate with the public, but what tools work best in what situations? There’s a need for research on how well efforts at online science communication work in what situations. Which, obviously, is where I’m trying to go with my studies. I won’t promise to give a complete answer :-) but maybe I’ll be able to shed some light on this question.
I also saw a huge diversity of opinion about what science communication is, what blogging is for, whether we should be striving for science literacy vs. public understanding of science, etc. For these more philosophical questions, the answers really depend on the person doing the communicating. I think listening to the talks at the meeting and participating in some conversations helped me clarify some of those answers for myself and think about where I’d like to focus in my work. Personally, I’m involved in environmental activism, and I think that simply educating people about the science behind environmental issues is a huge step in creating sustainable social change. So my focus is on the public understanding of science, with the underlying goal of making the connections between “culture” and “nature” more obvious. Maybe in a few years, if I keep banging my head on a wall of public miseducation about statistics, for example, I’ll shift my focus to science literacy. But for now, I’ll try to start at least a little smaller!
It was so nice to meet you in person and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Antony Williams

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 Antony Williams from ChemSpider 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? Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
Tony Williams pic.jpgHi Bora…thanks for the invitation to connect! Where do I come from? When people meet me they’ll interpret my mongrel accent in many ways assuming that I am from Australia commonly (especially the Canadians) or from England (which is of course the common term for the United Kingdom over here). Well, I am from the UK but I am Welsh, not English. Earlier in life I was going to be a Welsh teacher but it’s been almost 30 years since I had a conversation in Welsh! I grew up in a small village in Wales of less than a hundred people. From there I went to Liverpool University to do a degree in Chemistry. I found Organic Chemistry very easy but really struggled with Physical Chemistry, especially spectroscopy. I found it very challenging but something in my personality, my friends call it a defect, has me prefer a challenge over something that it easy. I tend to take on those things that challenge me and push me rather than those things that are easy. So, naturally, I focused on physical chemistry, specifically spectroscopy, and in my final year of my degree did a summer project on NMR and got hooked. From there I went to London University to do my PhD looking at the effects of High Pressure on Lubricant Related Systems by Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, funded by Shell Oil. I engineered my own High Pressure Vessel made from non-magnetic titanium to stick into a magnet and apply pressures of up to 5kbar to liquids and look at the molecular dynamics under pressure. I was writing software to analyze the data and fit to specific models. Fun times – engineering, chemistry, computing – the type of diversity I like in a project.
From there I went to Ottawa, Canada to work at the National Research Centre (NRC) labs switching from Nuclear Magnetic Resonance to Electron Spin Resonance for about 18 months. It was a great place to work and I truly enjoyed the switch to a new type of spectroscopy. However, NMR definitely had more applications so I switched back to NMR and went to the University of Ottawa to run their NMR Facility, again for about 18 months. Lack of funding and the inability to get new equipment in to run even some of the more mundane modern NMR experiments had me look for other opportunities and move South to the United States to work at Kodak in Rochester as their NMR Technology Leader. There I had the responsibility to set the technology vision for NMR and manage a number of their NMR labs. During that period I was focused on the development of walk-up technologies to provide access to modern analytical technologies in the hands of chemists in a “walk-up” environment delivering robotic control, offline data access and processing and an “analytical LIMS” – a laboratory information management system to track samples, structure and spectra through our lab. We build the first web-based LIMS system, called WIMS (Web-based Information Management System) on Netscape Navigator (remember that?) and got a lot of attention and visits from the LIMS vendors. We developed software systems under the simple adage of “The Web is the Way”…how right we were. That work was done in 1996.
From Fortune 500 America I joined a small start-up chemistry software company called Advanced Chemistry Development. I joined as their product manager for NMR and over the next few years grew the product line into the industry leader for NMR prediction, for third party NMR processing and databasing and, one of the best undertakings of my scientific career, a platform for Computer Assisted Structure Elucidation. I had the opportunity to work with some of the best small molecule NMR jocks in the world, an incredible team of developers and scientists at ACD/Labs and then move my skill set outside of NMR. I managed the development of an entire analytical data management system (ADMS) covering Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, Mass Spectrometry, Chromatography, Infrared Spectroscopy and a myriad of other analytical techniques. I managed the structure drawing software, ChemSketch, that has had over a million downloads as it is now freeware, and the nomenclature product line for generating systematic names from structures and converting names to structures. The product lines became so successful that we had to bring in a group of other product managers who could focus on the individual product lines. I became their Chief Science Officer with a major focus on business development but always kept my hands in direct product management, marketing and sales. My passion remained the application of software to data handling, manipulation and delivery to scientists and trying to extract as much information as possible from available data.
A few years ago I floated an idea inside ACD/Labs regarding how it might be possible to index chemical compounds within an organization. Not just ones sitting inside a structure database but those represented in documents, reports, papers, publications, patents and represented by chemical names and structure images. It would require the culmination of multiple technologies including entity extraction techniques to find chemical identifiers, algorithms and look-up dictionaries to convert names to structures and software to convert structure images to structures. The intention was to index inside a central database and provide a tool to structurally index the network. We never moved the project forward because there was too much going on.
A couple of years later I was working extreme hours, focused a lot on sales, marketing and business. While it was fun there was a creative part of me not being exercised and I decided to start a hobby project to stress that particular muscle. I’d been watching what was going on with PubChem and a number of other online databases such as DrugBank. Web technologies had come a long way and I implicitly still believed in the “web is the way”. The concept of spidering an organization’s network had expanded to spidering the internet. Admittedly a major undertaking, a lot of the tools were coming together to allow it to happen. A few of my friends and I got together to create a platform for centrally indexing chemistry on the internet with the intention of linking chemical compounds to related resources on the web. And so ChemSpider was born.
ChemSpider logo.pngOnce ChemSpider went online as a structure searchable database of about 10 million chemicals we expanded the database by adding data from various other data sources, added functionality to query the data in various ways and added various services to allow organizations to tap into the resource we were building. Our target shifted over the next couple of years to one of building a structure centric community for chemists and, as we started to assemble and index the public chemistry on the internet it became clear that there was an enormous quality issue in the majority of the public compound databases we wanted to link too. There were so many errors in these databases it was quite shocking. As we assembled our database we were inheriting these errors and it was clear that we would need to curate these data in both robotic and manual ways. We built a curation platform to allow crowdsourced curation of the data so that users of ChemSpider could help us clean up the data. We added a deposition system for users to deposit their own chemistry and we added a series of tools to allow users to annotate the data and add supplementary information. The database today is almost 25 million unique entities assembled from over 300 data sources. We’ve truly built a community of chemists around ChemSpider with thousands of users coming to the site everyday and with a number of these users curating, annotating and adding data on an ongoing basis.
In June of last year the Royal Society of Chemistry acquired ChemSpider and that is where I am now as the Vice President of Strategic Development.
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
Our focus remains consistent with the original goal of building a central portal for chemists to facilitate traversing the web to find chemistry related data, information and knowledge. At present we remain focused on linking together structure-based data and resources but will eventually expand this out to chemical compounds that cannot be explicitly defined by a chemical structure table…things such as polymers, minerals and mixtures (coal tar, mineral oil, etc.). We busy building curated disambiguation dictionaries and use them as the basis of chemical name (entity) extraction and recognition so that we can perform semantic markup and linking. We continue to expand the breadth and improve the quality of the data on the database with the intention of being able to query and link to every structure-based database that can be accessed via the internet. Chemists have different personae – there are synthetic chemists, analytical scientists, medicinal chemists, chemistry students and teachers to name just a few. While each of these would want to access different types of data for their work and research a Venn Diagram would provide a specific set of query overlaps – let them search by chemical name, chemical structure/substructure and properties. From there they would layer on different expectations about what to do with the result set. The goal is simple…make the internet structure-searchable and provide interfaces and services to allow chemists to query and use the results.
What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
Tony Williams pic2.jpgOne specific area of interest I have right now is to encourage crowdsourced collaboration in chemistry. My bias at present is to present an environment whereby members of the chemistry community can give/share/contribute/educate/enable/improve chemistry on the internet. In our terms this means allowing them to add their data to the ChemSpider database, annotate what’s already online, validate and curate out the junk. By applying their skills and contributing they can build their own professional profile in the community and bring benefit to other chemists. We are intending to layer on recognition and rewards systems and allow chemists to form connection networks of collaboration. We ourselves are already immersed into the network of Open Notebook Science providing access to services and data allowing others to perform their research. One of our areas of focus right now is ChemSpider SyntheticPages, an online database of synthetic procedures built for the community by the community. There is so much chemistry, so many chemical reactions that are performed in labs across the world but the synthetic details and associated analytical data never sees light of day and never gets published. It might make it into a thesis but then that will get put on the supervisors shelf or in a library somewhere. Despite the fact that these can be electronically enabled and discoverable the reality is it hardly happens. If we can get just a fraction of the chemistry community to donate one SyntheticPage a week the database will explode. As it’s a free resource chemists have much to benefit. The challenge is to how to encourage a chemist to invest some of their time in writing up their procedure and putting it online. Contributors to date have commented that if its already in electronic format it might add another 15-30 minutes to their day but the result is public exposure of the work, a permanent record of value to other chemists, a public profile for the submitted (including a digital object identifier for the resume!), and an opportunity to engage the community as they can provide feedback and comments. Everyone wins.
How does (if it does) blogging figure in your work?
I don’t blog as much as I used to simply because I don’t have as much time on my hands. When ChemSpider started I was “dragged” into blogging because of some attacks made on ChemSpider made by very vocal members of the blogosphere. I couldn’t figure out how to defuse some of the misinformation and accusations being made about our efforts with ChemSpider except to become a participant in the blogosphere. I found that blogging became a great way for me to engage the ChemSpider users and get their feedback on ideas for improving the service, to communicate new functionality in the system, to express my views of things going on in the community and to generally release creative expression again through writing.
The ChemSpider blog remains a way to communicate what we’re up to in terms of new developments on ChemSpider and other Cheminformatics projects internal to RSC. It also gives me a voice to comment on what’s going on in chemistry that interests me, what’s happening in the world of Open Science and engaging our users in dialog.
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?
Facebook for me, at present, is more of a personal tool in terms of interacting with my friends and family in the UK and around the world. I use Twitter quite regularly (as @ChemSpiderman) and certainly while I am sitting in conferences and seminars. I have found Twitter surprisingly useful, more than I had ever imagined when it first showed up on the scene. My interactions via Friendfeed are certainly useful and I stay connected to certain groups of people on there and stay connected and informed. While each of these takes time it is definitely a net positive, though I would clarify, not a necessity for what I do. I am definitely an advocate for LinkedIn and find the networking aspects of that platform in particular very enabling.
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 first discovered science blogs when I was dragged into the blogosphere by some particularly negative commentaries that were being made about ChemSpider. Lots of judgments, the majority of them not fact-based, were made about what we were trying to achieve with ChemSpider. As they say however, “no press is bad press” and once the fire was lit I entered the blogosphere to respond to the accusations. Without doing so I feel that our reputation would have been very negatively tarnished. It is one of the downsides of the blogosphere unfortunately…people get to say whatever they want, whatever they perceive and, in certain cases have no facts or data to back up their claims. That is when things get very interesting and engaging though!
My Google Reader follows a number of bloggers from my domain. I have a particular appreciation for the insights of Derek Lowe on his “In the Pipeline” blog. I follow Cameron Neylon, Jean-Claude Bradley, Egon Willighagen, Milkshake’s “Org Prep Daily“, Paul Docherty’s “Totally Synthetic” and many others of a similar nature. I had to slim down what was feeding the reader recently as following too many people was becoming overly distracting. I didn’t start following any particular blogs after the ScienceOnline conference but I do watch a lot more people via Twitter now and, when they tweet a post of interest, I navigate over to their blog. Twitter has become another way to link me into blogposts of interest without me overpopulating my reader.
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?
ScienceOnline was fun. I attend a lot of conferences in a year but the energy at ScienceOnline is simply contagious. The level of engagement and contribution far outweighs that I have experienced at any other conference other than the two SciFoo meetings I have attended. Participants at these types of meeting are there to do more than listen. They want to speak…they want to engage and they want to share their opinions. At many conferences there are blocks of time when I am not in sessions. At ScienceOnline there were too many sessions I wanted to sit in on and couldn’t. A much better situation! I walked out of the meeting with new connections, new collaborations and new possibilities. Definitely worth attending.
My one embarrassing moment was when I stood up to do the Lightning (Ignite) Talk at the dinner and hadn’t read the rules of engagement as it were. A pure oversight on my part regarding the flow of the Ignite Talk it actually worked for some strange and unknown reason. Keep the Ignite Talk format next year at the dinner…they were great fun.
It was so nice to see you again and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Emily Fisher

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 Emily Fisher from Oceana 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 grew up in Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina, and moved to Washington, DC about three years ago. I’m a writer and editor, not a scientist, but I’ve become more and more interested in science the last few years, which has surprised me. In school, science was always my least favorite subject and the one I did the worst in. The worst grade I ever got in high school was a C in physics, and that was after crying regularly during office hours. As an English major in college, I only took one science class: astronomy, and that was so I could go to UNC’s great planetarium.
I’ve always loved reading, writing and spending time in nature, so I’ve come around to science as an environmentalist. I want to spend my life helping protect the environment through writing and editing, so I’ve come to appreciate that I need to know the science behind what’s happening to the planet – and I’m increasingly curious about it. Scientific thinking doesn’t come easy to me, but maybe that’s also part of its appeal.
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
My first job out of college was as an assistant editor for a small non-profit publisher that focused mostly on neuroscience. I learned a lot about the brain, though ironically I can’t remember most of it now…
After that I worked for a news aggregator web start-up called Brijit.com. We took long-form journalism (articles from the New Yorker, Atlantic, Harper’s, etc.) and published 100-word abstracts of the articles. It was like a thinking person’s Digg. It was a tremendously fun atmosphere — there were just a few of us editors, sitting around one big table in a one-room apartment in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of DC. We were churning out around 100 abstracts a day — we had it down to a science, really — and having a great time. We had a really cool thing going, but unfortunately the money ran out.
Emily Fisher pic.JPG
For the past two years I’ve worked for the ocean conservation organization Oceana as the web editor. I’ve learned so much about the threats facing the ocean, from ocean acidification to shark finning to bottom trawling, and I’ve become an ocean advocate myself.
Twice I’ve gone to the coast of North Carolina (Bald Head Island) to write about sea turtles for our blog and magazine — once I documented sea turtles hatching and once I wrote about nesting mothers. Both were incredible experiences.
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
At Oceana, I’m focused on making our website and blog the most readable and engaging place for ocean conservation information. I would love to make us the number one place online for the oceans.
More specifically, right now in light of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, we are trying to get 500,000 people to sign our petition to Obama and Congress stop new offshore drilling. So far we’ve gotten nearly 33,000 signatures.
I’m also passionate about sustainable food, so in my free time I spend a lot of time at the farmers’ market and trying out new recipes with friends. I also do a lot of yoga and am attempting to learn how to play the guitar.
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?
Blogging is a big part of what I do on a daily basis. I aim to post one blog a day on Oceana’s blog, The Beacon, and sometimes I do more. In the last few weeks, for example, I’ve been posting two, three, four posts a day because of the oil spill. I think a lot of folks at Oceana have recognized what an asset the blog is at a time like this, when we want to react swiftly to the crisis and get our voice out there.
I started our Twitter account last year, and a friend and colleague of mine has pretty much taken it over along with Facebook. She’s doing a great job getting people engaged in our work.
I think blogging and social media are a crucial part of our communications work at Oceana — it’s our primary method of interacting directly with our activist base, or Wavemakers, and hearing their ideas, concerns and questions. Our CEO, Andy Sharpless, is even tweeting now, at @Oceana_Andy.
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?
I really enjoyed finally meeting people that I had online relationships with but never met in person, like Miriam Goldstein and the guys from Deep Sea News and Southern Fried Science. I also met some great new people, like the web editor from the New England Aquarium.
At the session about the future of science journalism, I realized that the line between blogger and journalist is truly blurred now. Similarly, at the session about social media from the Pacific Garbage Patch, I was impressed to see how science can be documented using social media tools like blogging and Twitter, even from the middle of the ocean. It was really striking to hear that the journalist’s New York Times story about the garbage patch was less effective and reached fewer people than her personal blog did.
I also really enjoyed the “blog to book” session. It’s my dream to write a book one day, and while a book project itself seems overwhelming, blogging doesn’t. It made a book seem like an achievable goal — some day.
It was so nice to see you and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Amy Freitag

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 Amy Freitag from Southern Fried Science 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?
Well, first, the basics: I’m a PhD student at the Duke Marine Lab in Beaufort, NC. My research looks at different types of knowledge relating to water quality out here on the coast and how they do and don’t mesh to form a cohesive, scientifically-based policy to protect our estuarine resources for future generations. My scientific philosophy is a bit different than your standard empiricist, a discussion I and my co-bloggers have had in great detail and in print on the blog. Since humans and their behavior and decisions are a large part of my research, I tend to have a difficult time separating research from activism and have to pay constant attention to my role in my research community, as it extends far beyond just observation. This creates both opportunities and responsibilities.
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
I’m interdisciplinary at heart. I never could decide if I’d rather be out talking to people or in the field counting critters. But really, the unifying factor is the observational, exploratory nature of the research, something I’d like to continue. Whether doing interviews or planting data loggers in the intertidal, it’s a field experience – a type of lifestyle where surprises are the norm. You set out with a mission to study one thing and your dissertation ends up being on something completely different that emerged from experiences during the research process. That’s what keeps me ticking – those surprises keep life interesting.
One of my favorite research projects arose from a “study abroad” experience in Alaska Native territory. The motivation initially was to get to Alaska and pay for my adventures by doing fieldwork. A forestry professor hired me to help with a prescribed burn about 45 minutes outside of Fairbanks that he and “the hotshots” from the forest service were planning. My role was to hike out every day for a few weeks and basically map out what the forest looked like pre-burn – size and types of trees, animal paths, type of understory, topography, etc. Fairly basic forestry science, which had been part of my academic history as I had spent a summer as an intern in a sugar maple plantation. However, the summer was a wet one and after I was done with all those measurements, the burn was declared postponed until the following summer. I was offered the opportunity to be a roving field hand and help with any of the projects going on at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks (UAF) that needed help.
After project-hopping for a few weeks, I was invited to come along to Venetie, a small village of roughly 200 people at the foothills of the Brooks Range in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge that was concerned about their subsistence resources and had asked for research help from an anthropologist at UAF. I flew into town and got the tour, through a dusty general store and around the village, where there were no cars and the town activity for the day was to build a house for a recently married couple who had decided to move back to their hometown to raise their coming child.
The next day we met with the council of elders to discuss research needs and clarify the arrangement of intellectual property between UAF and the tribe. That evening, we went with one of the elders on a moose hunt, modern style – on the back of an ATV with a large rifle that could both spot and shoot across Big Lake. We didn’t see any moose that night, but did take home a duck for dinner. From a couple days’ experience, I became aware of the need for socially relevant research and collaboration with the residents in the area so carefully studied for the ecological literature. The project that resulted for me was a GIS analysis of changing subsistence resources (moose, caribou, berries, waterfowl, timber for wood stoves) under various models of increased fire due to climate change. From that, the tribe could predict which villages were the most vulnerable to resource shortages and plan for either moving them or subsidizing their needs from other villages.
Amy Freitag pic.jpg
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
As for a lot of PhD students, most of my time goes towards my research, which is luckily also a passion of mine. I’m very much in planning stages for my life for the next three years, which is both exciting and a little bit nerve-wrecking as well. Part of that is making the friends and contacts I will need in order to get good interviews over the next few years, gaining rapport within the community. That’s often just a fun social science excuse to get out and do fun things :-) And hopefully, after my time here is done, I will have “an ethnography of water quality”.
What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
Science communication is crucial to both my research and commitment to broader impacts. It’s critical for transfer of knowledge and the collaboration that is necessary for effective policy. Beyond my particular interests, though, I’m often baffled by how many scientific articles are difficult to penetrate even for people who know the lingo. My undergrad advisor once said that if you can’t explain what you do to a fourth grader, taking into account their attention span, you aren’t doing good science. I’ve taken that as a mission in my life and the use of the Web is a great way to reach all the fourth graders out there.
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?
I find blogging a good way for me to practice and refine my writing and keep my brain grounded in the real world in terms of the jargon I use. It’s a great way to extricate myself from the ivory tower. In addition, I find it super useful to have a blog up and running and respected when the time comes to write broader impacts statements. Through the summer, I will be blogging about my first time on a research cruise on the open ocean and potentially a trip to the Gulf of Mexico. In these cases, it’s both positive and necessary to blog and get immediate feedback. I credit our commenters and my Twitter friends for making me a better scientist.
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 first discovered science blogs through friends, first the Cornell Mushroom Blog and then the one I now write for, Southern Fried Science. To be honest, I was more familiar with the political blogs, especially of the DC area where I grew up. It was a welcome find to discover science blogs and I am still surprised how welcoming the community has been. Like many before me have said, ScienceOnline is a great forum to put a face to a name on a blog and a personality behind the writing. It’s critical to keeping the community going and creating traditions and camaraderie between blogs (from singing sea shanties with the other ocean bloggers to planning Carnival of the Blue and swapping blog stories). I’ve met a number of awesome people just from one year attending ScienceOnline that are all easy to keep in touch with because we’re active over Twitter (like Jeff Ives of the New England Aquarium and Miriam Goldstein of Deep Sea News). These connections will definitely help me both professionally and personally in the future.
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?
The tweeting of all five parallel sessions by practically everyone in them was a change of conference culture for me, but one I would like to see occur elsewhere. It brought unity to the conference and made one fluid conversation happen as people drifted from session to session. I can’t wait to go back next year!
It was so nice to meet you in person and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Jason Hoyt

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 Jason Hoyt from Mendeley 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)?
I am from the San Francisco Bay Area, but split my time between San Francisco and London for work. Such a commute obviously has advantages and disadvantages. Sticking with the positives, I love how this provides two wonderfully contrasting perspectives on science and technology when I speak to people on either side of the pond. You also quickly see what people have in common, regardless of location, with where they want to see science to go.
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
I did my doctoral research in genetics, and more specifically, gene and stem cell therapy using non-viral vectors. This was done in what might be considered the best department in the world for doing such research, the Stanford University Genetics Department…though I might be a little bias. Despite loving the bench, even before I entered graduate school I knew that I wanted to be more on the entrepreneurial side of science. I think I am accomplishing that with what I am doing now, building software for researchers at Mendeley.
Sure, telling people I work on adult stem cells to cure genetics diseases of the blood sounds a whole lot sexier than software guy, but I think the impact I am making is bigger than I could be achieving at this point in my career if I had stuck to the bench. If I can create a tool that 10 scientists use to advance their research, then that is 10x the impact I would make as a pure scientist. That is obviously a simplistic view, but that attitude is essential to have if you decide upon a non-traditional science career.
And for those exploring alternative careers, my advice would be to let it find you. I started building software tools as a graduate student in my “spare time” to help my research. I was amazed to find how passionate I was about it and that other people were interested in using those tools. I would have failed if I had taken the other approach of asking, “what tool could I build to launch a career?” Instead, look for what is missing in your life that you would like to have. That passion will lead you.
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What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
We recently announced an Open API platform on Mendeley. Beyond the personal excitement about it, this is huge for science and more generally, academia. We definitely are not the first to have an API about academic literature or the metadata surrounding it, but I think we are the first to make that data easily accessible to everyone.
The Internet came about through a need for academics to remotely collaborate. Yet, somehow Silicon Valley technologists are the ones who really took advantage of it. Academia left it behind once out of the R&D stage. Why not use the creativity and development power of Silicon Valley to improve science and get academia back into the game? That’s what these new APIs do; they finally link the backbone originally built for academics to people who can really sex it up.
As we move forward, I want to make academic data more open, more translatable, so that either academics or Silicon Valley entrepreneurs can build and create. Everyone will benefit from that.
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?
I have TweetDeck open all of the time, so that I can keep on top of science and tech news, as well as opinions. I have a million RSS feeds that I follow in Google Reader. Staying on top of the news and opinions of the crowd is essential for what I am doing for work and personally. I’ll be honest though, it is often information overload, even when it is a high signal to noise ratio. That said, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to look beyond just the on goings of science. Looking cross-sector into the tech industry is really inspiring when you are thinking about how to improve science.
As for blogging, it isn’t essential to my work, but it is both gratifying and almost feels like a moral obligation as a trained scientist to be a communicator for science. I realize how that sounds a little too much like “mad man claiming to receive revelation.”
Going off on an alternative science career means I have a perspective that some people may want or even need to hear about, whether they agree or disagree with my opinions. For example, there was tremendous feedback both on the blog and around the social networks over an article I wrote asking if there are too many PhDs.
When and how did you first discover science blogs? What are some of your favorites? Have you discovered any cool science blogs by the participants at the Conference?
Really disappointing that when I was in grad school, science blogs were never a part of the curriculum. It was an outsider activity back then and there were very few regular bloggers. That’s all changing. It’s exciting to see professors really getting into things. One of my recent favorites is Vincent Racaniello out of Columbia. He does “This week in virology” podcasting and blogging, and also makes his blog a part of the courses that he teaches.
Another great one is Academic Productivity blog. How awesome that would have been to read while I was a student. It’s still a fantastic read as a graduate.
What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2010 for you? Any suggestions for next year?
ScienceOnline2010 had a great blend of conference with “unconference” or the so-called barcamp style. There was enough structure so that open discussions didn’t end up a giant tangent that wasted your time, but also informal enough to prevent a repeat of topics you’ve heard a million times. For instance, every science conference these days has some section on social networking. Great! You’re telling me what I’ve known for years. ScienceOnline, since it’s all about, well science online, goes deeper. I hope to see more technologists invited out to future events. The style and content suits them well and would really complement the current audience.
It was so nice to meet you in person and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.

Various updates

Not everything gets posted on the blog (though people who follow me on Twitter, FriendFeed or Facebook may catch some of these blips), so here’s a quick summary of the past few weeks:
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Most important news first – there is a new kid on the block! Not exactly my block, but close enough – this is a small town! Welcome Oliver Anton Zuiker to the world! So, no surprise Anton’s been busy lately – for all the good reasons. Congratulations, my friend!
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These brief respites from what is usually deemed “work” do not stop us! We are – though in a slower, summer-style tempo – working on our various projects, including the organization of ScienceOnline2010. We have officially switched the Twitter hashtag from #scio10 to #scio11 (collected here) and will soon do the same with the official Twitter account, the Facebook page, the website, etc.
We are still looking for new sponsors. We need to know roughly what we can expect for the next meeting, money-wise, in order to see if we can afford a bigger venue, which would mean accepting more people, which means a richer program and a different daily schedule, etc. If you work at or know people in an organization or a company that would be interested in sponsoring the event, showing their stuff in a booth or in a Demo, or providing travel grants for a student or two (or bloggers who win contests etc.), let me know.
From various discussions with people who attended the last meeting, we are getting some vibes about the areas people want to see expanded and explored further. It seems that media, journalism, blogging, book-writing and entertainment, as well as education, Open-Access publishing and librarian/info-science communities are already large and self-sustaining and already thinking what to do next January. But other areas people feel require more attention. These include tech – people who are building new technologies, software, or web-based experiments used for doing, teaching or communicating science.
The other one is math – we are working with some people to bring a bunch of people involved in online math communities (from math bloggers to math teachers to math gamers to origami/topology geeks) to build an entire block of math sessions. Want to get involved? Let us know.
The other one is Web Science – study of the Web and how people behave online.
The next one is expansion of social science (history of science, philosophy of science, as well as application of social science to the study of online behavior – with connotations to online activism) and even humanities (science fiction as a vehicle for science) – interested? Drop us a note.
People are asking to see more coverage of virtual reality words, or using games and gaming in education, or about mobile technologies, or about the importance of meatspace and how online and offline can interact productively. Ideas? Want to lead such sessions or demo your work? Let us know.
And also – how do we get more non-blogging (and perhaps skeptical) upper-tier research scientists to come and see, perhaps for the first time in their careers, what the cutting edge use of the Web for science looks like? If you can come up with a scheme that may just work – share with us, please.
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The ScienceOnline2010 interviews are a big hit, apparently. People love them (and they are a great marketing tool for the next event). I have four new ones coming this week – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at noon, and hopefully a few others I sent questions to will respond soon as well.
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Check out the new and improved homepage of Science In The Triangle. Apart from re-arranging the page, we added a news section called Inside RTP which will be mainly written by Sabine Vollmer. The blog continues (probably slower during the summer, getting back to full steam in Fall) with the core group of bloggers – Sabine Vollmer, DeLene Beeland, Cara Rousseau, Ross Maloney and myself – and additional people who, for now, will blog occasionally but may join the core later, e.g., Marla Broadfoot, Scott Huler, Ben Young Landis, Will Alexander and a few others who are still waiting for the green light to start posting. Also, don’t forget to check (and bookmark for later use) the Science In The Triangle event calendar so you don’t miss out on any events in the area. And we want feedback!
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We saw ‘Wicked’ at DPAC in Durham a couple of weeks ago and it was one of the best performances we have seen at the venue yet! I wish we could afford season’s tickets again like we did the past two years – the upcoming line-up looks amazing.
Last night I also went to my kids’ school where the high-schoolers performed their rendition of
A Very Potter Musical – that was fun.
Last week, we went to Carrboro ArtsCenter to see The Monti – with storytellers including Vanessa Woods (‘Bonobo Handshake’) and Elizabeth Edwards (whose part funny part poignant story had to be turned all political by the local media and their commenters, gah!). It was a great show and we are going again this Tuesday for the Story Slam (where instead of local celebrities people in the audience put their ideas in a hat and five names get drawn and those five people get on stage and tell their stories – true stories, no props, 12 minutes, on a common theme of the night).
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I’ll be in Philadelphia on June 14-16th, discussing blogs and social networks with scientists at a meeting. More information later, but if you live there and want to meet, let me know.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Tom Linden

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 Tom Linden from the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication to answer a few questions.
Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
lindenportrait_mug.jpgMy passion always has revolved around journalism. When as a scrawny 13-year-old, I failed to make the starting nine on my JV high school baseball team, I was devastated. Rather than wait for my body to catch up to my aspirations, I jumped into journalism, eventually becoming my high school newspaper’s sports editor and editor-in-chief. I loved words and stories and so continued on my writing path through college where I was a columnist and editor for the Yale Daily News. As a senior at Yale, I covered for the Los Angeles Times the pretrial hearings of several Black Panthers accused of murder in New Haven, Conn. After graduation I worked on the city desk of the Times.
After taking a year off to do research for a book (that never materialized), I suffered a case of writer’s block and decided to pursue a career that would give me tools to travel around the world and practice a new craft… medicine. Within weeks of registering for med school, I realized that the journalism bug never left me. I completed med school and a residency in adult and child psychiatry at the Menninger Foundation, then in Topeka, Kans., and started a private practice in which I subsidized what I would call my “journalism addiction.” I worked at a small local television station in the northern Sacramento Valley where I became the health reporter and eventually the 5 o’clock news anchor. In 1989 CNBC hired me to join their start-up cable news venture as both a medical and environmental reporter and a financial news anchor. For the next eight years I worked for a variety of television stations and networks, including the Financial News Network, KRON-TV (San Francisco), Fox-11 (Los Angeles) and Lifetime Medical Television. I also started anchoring Journal Watch Audio, produced by the Audio-Digest Foundation and the Massachusetts Medical Society. In 1995 I co-authored one of the first books on the medical Internet, Dr. Tom Linden’s Guide to Online Medicine. In 1997 the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill hired me to start a medical journalism program in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
As part of our program in medical and science journalism, my students and I have produced a couple documentaries with an environmental focus and more than 25 feature stories for North Carolina Public Television. I also just authored a book, The New York Times Reader: Health and Medicine, published by CQ Press. The book is both a compendium of great stories from The Times and a how-to manual for aspiring medical and health writers.
For the future I’m interested in producing a sequel to our Environmental Heroes documentary and continuing to help educate medical and science journalists.
Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself?
I grow most of my own vegetables and fruit from May through November. I’ve just planted seven fig trees that I cloned over the winter and have more starter tomatoes, peppers and eggplants than I know what to do with. I voraciously follow the news and love walking in the forests of North Carolina. My family loves to travel, but travel and maintaining a major garden (small farm) don’t always mesh. I also love to hear good music. In North Carolina there’s lots of it.
Where are you coming from (both geographically and philosophically)?
I was born in California and have lived on both coasts and on the Plains (Kansas) which is very oceanic if you live in the countryside. If I had unlimited resources, I would live by the sea. Philosophically, I am a skeptic and question just about everything.
What is your (scientific) background?
As I said above, I went to medical school and took the usual courses. Science used to intimidate me, but does no longer. I’ve learned more about medicine by reporting on it, than I did in the hours and days that I spent studying it.
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days?
Writing The New York Times Reader: Health & Medicine took most of my free time over the last year and a half. Now that the book has been published, I’m looking for a new project. I keep getting drawn to environmental issues since climate change and the destruction of the earth’s natural habitats loom as the biggest issues facing humankind. The challenge is to find stories that inspire action and not just induce fear.
What are your goals?
I’d like to see young people (i.e., everyone under the age of 30) do a better job of taking care of the planet than their parents and grandparents. I’d like to help them do that in any way that I can.
What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
Clearly the Web is the pipeline through which knowledge will travel over the next couple decades. I’m looking for ways to reach non-scientists with information that will both engage and inform them. As a television journalist, I see video as probably the most powerful tool to reach masses of people. The challenge is to how tell video stories in ways that both entertain and educate.
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?
I have a blog, “Dr. Tom Linden’s Health Blog“, but am still trying to figure out what my blog voice is. I’ve taken a little hiatus in updating the blog during the course of writing my latest book, but hope to post more often in the days ahead. In tweeting a lot at a recent conference of the <a href="” target=”_blank” title=””>Assn. of Health Care Journalists, I got an appreciation for how much fun tweeting is.
Online activity is both a joy and a burden. I love staying connected with what’s happening around the world, but find it hard to control the beast. If you’re a journalist, you need to be comfortable with the entire toolkit.
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?
David Kroll (Abel Pharmboy) and Anton Zuiker were my first science blogging mentors. I’m a fickle blogging reader and will follow a link at anything that piques my interest.
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?
I love the networking that goes on at ScienceOnline. After each session I pore over the Web reading about the people I’ve just met. I liked Ivan Oransky’s suggestion in a previous Q&A about having full disclosure for all speakers and panel members at future conferences. Also, it would be nice to get back to the un-conference mode of the first few ScienceOnline meetings. Keep up the great work, Bora, David, Anton and everyone else who brings us this ScienceOnline gift every year.
It was so nice to see you again and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you soon.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Tyler Dukes

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 Tyler Dukes 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 a journalist working as a Web producer for News 14 Carolina in Raleigh, N.C., and I do freelance science writing on the side. I grew up mostly in eastern North Carolina, not too far from the Outer Banks, and I’ve lived in the South my entire life. I wanted to be an engineer when I left for N.C. State University. But that changed after 2-and-a-half years of class, a rapidly declining GPA and an increased leadership role at the student newspaper.
Looking back now, I think I bristled at specialization. I loved understanding the basics of complicated science and technical topics, but when I dove deeper I thought about all the other neat science I was missing out on. That curiosity is a skill in journalism, especially science journalism; but in engineering, it’s a distraction.
In short, I’m a southern science storyteller, which means I wax poetic about the chemistry of barbecue while I’m out cooking a pig for a football tailgate.
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
When I came back for a victory lap (read: fifth year) at N.C. State after four years and a stint as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, I got the gig as Science & Tech editor there. That meant a whole year of chasing stories about campus research and science issues affecting the community. I covered the phenomenon of disappearing bees, interviewed the chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and sprinkled in some in-depth general news stories along the way.
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In the months while I languished between graduation and full-time employment, I discovered blogging and podcasting. I even created a short-lived series on beer in the Triangle (another one of my passions). In late 2009, I revamped my personal blog, Write -30-, which is all about the changes in the journalism industry.
I’ve also spent the last two years at News 14 trying to figure out how to use social media to make the journalism at the station better. I’ve learned a lot, but as a side effect I’ve met a crazy amount of awesome people. It’s actually how I first learned about ScienceOnline.
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
Right now, I’m doing more freelance science writing in my free time, which is even more fun than I figured it would be. I’m also periodically blogging about whatever journalism topics that happen to interest me at any given moment.
At some distant point in my career, I’d love to be a staff writer for a science and technology magazine. But the future of journalism is really hard to foresee right now, so I’m a bit unsure about what jobs will exist in 10 years and which ones I’ll be qualified for. Regardless of the medium, I’ll be happy enough to continue my vain attempts to satisfy my insatiable curiousity.
I’m also planning my wedding in June, which is way less fun than I figured it would be. But my soon-to-be wife is awesome, so it’s definitely worth it.
What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
I love how science communication requires you to think like both a scientist and a writer (at least if you do it right). I spent a long time in college rewiring my brain to understand Java, electron physics and differential equations, so I feel like I’d be doing my student loans a disservice if I didn’t put that partially rewired brain to good use.
When it comes to the Web, I love the chaos it creates. News organizations, for the most part, have taken their credibility for granted. Reporters and editors assume, right or wrong, that it’s the newspaper masthead and the history behind it that gives them that credibility. They’ve seldom been challenged or forced to prove why anyone should trust them, and the result is a rapid decline in their audience’s confidence.
Bloggers, on the other hand, are forced to prove to their readers why they should be trusted. It’s not enough to have a Web site. They have to build their audience and their credibility over time, and the result of that process tends to be a more quality product in a lot of ways.
This is a really valuable exercise for science journalists and reporters in general, and we’re seeing it reflected even with more traditional reporters. That’s why there’s more and more emphasis on reporters working to build their “personal brand,” independent of a newspaper or television station.
The Web has made credibility more personal, and that’s a good thing for everybody.
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?
When I first started at News 14 Carolina, our social media presence was nonexistant. We had a few blogs here and there, but there was no unifying strategy or plan to embrace these technologies. We started small, with a few Twitter accounts and a Facebook Page where we really worked to engage our audience in actual conversation. What we really wanted to do is show the news directors and our general manager that these were valuable uses of our time that needed to be integrated into the station’s workflow. The case we made, with both research on how people use social media and actual data from our own social media brand, was that we needed to bring our content where people are on the Web.
After about a year, the impact was really clear. Facebook grew from one of our top-20 referring sites to our No. 1 referring site. That’s higher than Yahoo and Google. Now that we’ve made our case, a lot more of the newsroom has started to come on board. More people are signing up for Twitter and creating fan pages on Facebook with the intention of connecting with viewers. They don’t see it as extra work, but as a way to make their work more valuable. That’s very rewarding to me.
Personally, I’ve found my blog, Twitter and Facebook to be invaluable tools for reaching out and connecting with more people in journalism and science. These are people I might never come into contact face to face, and I’ve really been amazed by how accessible this technology makes everyone.
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?
Most of the science blogs I read before ScienceOnline were the offshoots of more traditional news publications. Short Sharp Science on New Scientist and Wired Science were some of my favorites. I’ve also followed technology blogs, like TechCrunch, Engadget and Gizmodo, for a while.
Many of my favorite blogs now I discovered after meeting the bloggers at ScienceOnline. Your own Blog Around the Clock, Deep Sea News, Ed Yong’s Not Exactly Rocket Science and Ben Young Landis’ blog are all in my Google Reader now.
Oddly enough, I came across Deep Sea News back in June 2009 when I was researching a story I did on the Cameron Village sewer monster. They had a story (and identification) on the creepy lifeform before any traditional media outlets. Now I’m a pretty frequent reader.
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?
I’m a big fan of journalism conferences. There’s nothing like getting out of the newsroom for a few days to rub elbows with some great reporters and editors and draw inspiration from their advice and work.
But the thing I loved about ScienceOnline was that it pulled together three very different groups — scientists, science communicators and science journalists — for some very frank (and often contentious) conversations about a shared goal: how to use the Web to increase the public’s understanding of science. Through Twitter, blogs and Facebook, those conversations started before the conference even began. By the time we all showed up, people were familiar with each other’s work, which helped the discussion flow more freely. That conversation continues today, and I can honestly say I got more out of ScienceOnline than any conference I’ve ever attended.
It was so nice to see you and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again soon.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Scott Huler

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 Scott Huler 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?
huler_photo.jpgMy scientific background is all writing; that is, I’m a writer who has always loved science and scientists, but I never practiced advanced science. I’ve been all about getting the word out from the start. All through school I took every science course I could — geology, astronomy, biology, calculus, physics, chemistry — because I loved the power of science and scientific thinking and understanding, but I never doubted I’d major, as I did, in literature. Writing was what I wanted to do.
Now I live in Raleigh, NC, surrounded by interesting science and interesting scientists and never lack for subject matter. I’ve written about — and write about — lots of things, not just science, but even that generalism is a sort of scientific philosophy. The natural philosophers of the 17th and 18th century were in many ways the first true scientists, but they didn’t think of themselves as such — they thought of themselves as people who wanted to know the whys and hows of their world, and they didn’t limit themselves to certain processes or issues. In my work, and my life, I aspire to be like them.
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
I’ve always wanted to write, so out of college I’ve just sort of made my way towards writing work of one sort or another. That’s let to electronic media as well, doing radio work for NPR and its affiliates and video work on websites and other places. Since I’ve done every newsroom job from copy editor to managing editor and told stories in books, on the radio, and on video, I like to think I can let the story come to me and tell me how it wants to express itself: sound? images? words on paper? When you’re a hammer, everything is a nail. I like to try to be more like a tool belt.
I’ve been incredibly fortunate with projects. I’ll list a few projects during which for at least at one moment I thought, “If this is as good as it gets, if this is the best assignment I ever have, I cannot complain.”
– in 1995 as a member of the staff of the News & Observer in Raleigh I joined with staffers of four other papers up and down the East Coast and joined with them to complete a sort of relay through hike of the Appalachian Trail. The N&O was an early adopter of the web, so there was a lot of traffic on the website for that (examples: Going The Distance On A Smokies Trail and Our adventure ends)
– in 1997-98 I spent much of my free time hanging around the garage following a top-level NASCAR race team, trying to understand how the physics lesson of making a car go fast. That too led to a book, but here’s a cool story I did for the Times about what happens when it all goes wrong.
– in 2002-3 I finished two decades of the most desultory research by spending a year on a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan getting to the bottom of the Beaufort Scale of wind force. No, I am not kidding, the Beaufort Scale of wind force. It’s a smashing, poetic, highly observational, descriptive scale of the wind. Long story, but it turned into a book, and the weeks I spent sketching the coast of Montevideo, Uruguay, from the bridge of a hydrofoil or hoisting sail on the barque “Europa” were lifetime reporting highlights.
– in 2004 I skipped out on much of the pregnancy of my first child to spend months tracing the journey of Odysseus from Troy, in Turkey, to Ithaca in Greece, decidedly by the scenic route. I hope the book was good, but I was just glad to be out there.
– in 2008-9 I spent most of my time going to water plants and sewage plants, scrabbling around in storm drains and substations, trying to make sense of all the infrastructure that serves my house and everybody’s house. It was like having my entire work life be the best sixth-grade field trip of your life, for two years. The book is just out.
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
grid_cover.jpgAmazingly, for the first time ever, I haven’t just walked away from the topic I’ve finished a book on. There seems to be so much more to talk about in the systems I’ve spent the last years learning about that I’m not quite ready to be done. To that end I’ve spent the last month doing a video project for the city of Raleigh about its brand-new water plant opening May 12 and hoping to do more of the same. That said, I am and will remain a generalist — you never know what the next project will be.
What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
I’m fascinated by the history of science in our daily lives, whether it’s finding out through the Beaufort Scale that the wind was oil back in the day, powering our entire commerce structure, or that Herodotus and Pliny pointed to aqueducts and sewers as the glory of Greece and Rome, not to the Parthenon Pantheon, the Agora or the Forum. Science is foundational, and I guess in days like these it’s almost thrilling to fight those who believe that when you turn a key and your car starts making noise 100 times out of a hundred or you punch in numbers and a bell rings in your friend’s house a continent away then science is good, but when the exact same process of thinking leads you to conclusions that challenge your beliefs science is bad. That in itself is fundamentally unscientific thinking, and it’s shocking to live in a time when it’s in its ascendance, but at least you don’t have to look hard to find the bad guys.
As a researcher and reporter I both love and hate the web. I love how easy it is to find people who know about something I’m trying to learn about, but I hate it too. Instead of a few local sources, or a few gatekeepers who can lead me where I need to go, I’m faced with a panoply of sources, each of whom has strategically keyworded his or her resume or home page to maximize contacts and so only might actually know about the topic I think he or she should. In some ways things like Google books can let me view, in my home, an amazing source like this one, which I ran across in my research on the Beaufort Scale, but in some ways I preferred it when getting off your butt and getting out in the world was job one of a reporter. Like all technology, you still have to manage it and master it, not the other way around.
But the scientific community makes such a great job of working to get information out by using the web that overall it’s just a treat to have that resource. Though hard to find time to do anything else once you click into it.
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?
I think I’ve answered that above, in a way. I love the links I get from scientific friends on Twitter, but if I did nothing but check into and respond to those links that would be my entire day. And almost every link is worth following — that’s the problem. And I do need to do more responding — I need to be a more active part of that community. But then who does my work? As an independent writer I used to tell people I spent 40 percent of my time as a salesperson, 30 percent as a dunning agent, 20 percent in office management, and 10 percent in information technology — and in my spare time I did writing work. And that was before the Internet, much less social media. So it’s murderously difficult to both work and blog and Tweet and so forth. But what are the options?
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 really discovered science blogs through Anton Zuiker’s mistersugar.com. I’m in a science writers’ book club with him, and he’s opened my eyes to the nature of blogging and of scientific blogging especially. Science bloggers are such a specific case of people with the right reasons for blogging and such trustworthy sources that they really are an amazing community as well as a resource. I have loved being even such a sort of Kuiper Belt participant. I turn to them for information all the time now. I LOVE deepseanews.com and a blog around the clock, but honestly I find almost anywhere I turn in the world of science blogging I’m lost for hours finding out about stuff I had never even thought to wonder about.
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?
I would call #scio10 the best conference I’ve ever attended. The session about the future of online communication wondered whether there was any hope for “plain old text blogging” — this at the exact moment that mainstream newspapers are still trying to work out a response to plain old blogging. That makes me feel both hopeless for newspapers and thrilled at the capacities for communication.
But above all #scio10 reminded me what wise people never lose sight of: that “meatspace” is not merely important but the point. With all the Tweeting and blogging and wireless this and Skype that, what brought all those people together was the appreciation of being together. Even with chips in our heads, we’ll remain mammals and real space, real time creatures. I love that #scio never loses track of that, and I think it’s what makes it unique.
It was so nice to see you again and thank you for the interview. Good luck with the new book and see you soon!

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Alex, Staten Island Academy student

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 Alex from Miss Baker’s Biology class at Staten Island Academy to answer a few questions. You can read about Alex’s experience at ScienceOnline2010 here.
Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Where are you from?
Thank you! I’m Alex and I’m a freshman at Staten Island Academy in New York. I’ve lived in New York all my life and dream of living in Paris (though learning French might be necessary for that…). I’m completely invested in literature and music (I’ve played violin all my life), but now I am really embarrassingly involved in the online current events world. I’m beginning to become more reliable than Anderson Cooper.
As a freshman, I am really looking forward to taking Psych as soon as it’s available. I really just find perception, brain functioning, and behavior fascinating. But right now, I’m really enjoying biology where we’re doing a lab about genetics.
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
I’ve always been really into writing, but I’ve lately been looking more into journalism over creative writing. Science journalism for the New York Times or Scientific American would be amazing. My main passion has always been and will probably always remain music, art and theater, but I’ve started to spread my horizons after Science Online. I was completely taken by Michael Specter’s speech. He really made science seem more personal, instead of a scary and distant compilation of numbers and statistics.
What particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
Being perhaps the world’s biggest YouTube fanatic, I really enjoy the Ecogeek.com by Hank Green of the VlogBrothers. I’m also of course always on Ms. Baker’s site Extremebiology.net for updates and notes. Curiocity.ca has a lot of cool sections for kids who wouldn’t expect to like science (aka me pre-9th grade when science was just math with a different name). They have some sports related articles, but my personal favorite is 3D Makes a Comeback where they look into the engineering of 3D hits like “Avatar”. A site that merges science and breathtaking photography is my newest addiction Birdbook.org. There are some truly beautiful images on that site.
How does (if it does) blogging figure in your work and school? 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 and want to accomplish?
I really think that online education is the new frontier. There are still a lot of people that need convincing, but I find it hard to believe that with all of the great innovations popping up every day that education would stay restricted to a piece of white chalk and a blackboard. A lot of kids aren’t into Twitter in my class (as some visitors to the Extreme Biology session at Sci Online may remember, 14-16 year-olds don’t see the importance), but I believe it’s mainly because Facebook seems to have all of the factors of Twitter along with a better layout. But I think it is most important to remember that kids like what other kids like. If these sites are introduced to students, it’s only a matter of time before FriendFeed is the new Facebook.
As Miss Baker, when teaching the Biology class, gives you a lot of creative freedom, how does that affect your own interest in the subject? Do you think you learn better this way? What would you suggest to do differently to make it even better? What are some of your own projects you did for the class?
Definitely! As someone who considers myself as a bit of a “free spirit”, I really think the entire class in general is really flourishing with this teaching style. This generation has a lower tolerance for traditional teaching methods. I think giving us freedom within the curriculum is liberating and effective. When the 9th grade went on a trip to London, we took 50 science related photos each and did descriptions and recorded our information. And then, of course, is the infamous blog project. After picking out topic, we wrote blog posts, and now most of them are on the website now. Instead of just writing and handing in an essay, it was so different from anything I’ve ever done in school. We got to comment on each other’s post and get involved in conversations/ debates about the topic at hand.
Do you read science blogs? If so, when and how did you first discover them? What are some of your favourites? Have you discovered any cool ones?
I’m guilty of being unimpressed by blogs. There are a lot of truly fascinating blogs, but I can’t find a way to get invested. I can’t help but feeling that answer was a cop out, so I feel I should mention my involvement in the world of podcasts! I’m trying to recruit some people for my own, but until then I love listening! ITunesU has some great podcasts from Universities like Cornell and MIT if you’re interested in those. Those are more recorded lectures, but are still really informative. Science Magazine Podcast is probably one of my favorites, but Science Podcast is also cool. As I mentioned before, Ecogeek is amazing for new green technology and has the best science podcast I’ve found so far. But my all time favorite is SmartMouths podcast. Although mostly political, they do venture into science sometimes. Plus, it’s guaranteed fun and information filled. They do some amazing debates too.
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?
My favorite part was definitely presenting! The only suggestion I have for next year (besides an irrelevant request to bring back the same burger truck) is maybe to have a few more sample lectures. There were a few where instead of focusing on one general topic, there were about 3 presenters. I preferred this format, but overall it was such an incredible experience! And as I think I mentioned, my scientific enlightenment was Michael Specter’s speech, and the scientific journalism session. I can definitely see scientific journalism as a genre in its own right, and not just a boring collection of facts.
It was so nice to meet you in person and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.
Alex pic.jpg

‘On The Grid’ is coming in two days

grid_cover.jpgScott Huler (blog, Twitter), the author of ‘Defining the Wind’, has a new book coming out this Tuesday. ‘On The Grid’ (amazon.com) is the story of infrastructure. For this book, Scott started with his own house (unlike me, Scott did the work) and traced where all those pipes, drains, cables and wires were coming from and going to, how does it all work, does it work well, where does it all come from historically, and how its current state of (dis)repair portends to the future.
You can read a review in Raleigh News & Observer, as well as an article by Scott in the same paper and another one at the Science In The Triangle blog.
Scott Huler has a book reading and signing event on Wednesday, May 12th at the Regulator in Durham, then another one on May 26th at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh. I’ll try to make it to one or both of these – and you should, too.
From the blurb:

Wires, pipes, roads, and water support the lives we lead, but the average person doesn’t know where they go or even how they work. Our systems of infrastructure are not only shrouded in mystery, many are woefully out of date. In On the Grid, Scott Huler takes the time to understand the systems that sustain our way of life, starting from his own quarter of an acre in North Carolina and traveling as far as Ancient Rome.
Each chapter follows one element of infrastructure to its source — or to its outlet. Huler visits power plants, watches new asphalt pavement being laid, and traces a drop of water backward from his faucet to the Gulf of Mexico and then a drop of his wastewater out to the Atlantic. Huler reaches out to guides along the way, bot the workers who operate these systems and the people who plan them.
Mesmerizing and often hilarious, On the Grid brings infrastructure to life and details the ins and outs of our civilization wigh fascinating, back-to-basics information about the systems we all depend on.

Open Laboratory – old Prefaces and Introductions

One difference between reading Open Laboratory anthologies and reading the original posts included in them is that the printed versions are slightly edited and polished. Another difference is that the Prefaces and Introductions can be found only in the books. They have never been placed online.
But now that four books are out and we are halfway through collecting entries for the fifth one, when only the 2009 book is still selling, I think it is perfectly OK to place Prefaces and Introductions that I wrote myself online. I wrote Prefaces for the 2006, 2007 and 2008 book, as well as the Introduction for the 2006 one. The introductions for the subsequent editions were written by the year’s guest editor, i.e., Reed Cartwright in 2007, Jennifer Rohn in 2008, and SciCurious in 2009.
So, under the fold are my three Prefaces and one Introduction. See how the world (and my understanding of it) of the online science communication has changed over the last few years:

Continue reading

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Jelka Crnobrnja

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 Jelka Crnobrnja-Isailovic from the University of Belgrade, Serbia, 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?
Jela pic.jpgI was born and I live in Belgrade, a very unique old city in Southeastern Europe. It is now the capital of the Republic of Serbia. My origins are in the Balkan peninsula (former Yugoslavia), which is one of three important biodiversity refuges of Europe and a famous gene-flow route from east to west, north to south and vice versa. Wonderful diversity of natural and cultural heritage but lot of hard times. So, my professional interest for biodiversity and, unofficially, cultural diversity conservation dates back from my early childhood. I also used to spend a lot of time in virtual space of myths and fairy tales of the world and it turned me into a real, complete cosmopolitan. Now, in many places in the world I really feel at home and do not like borders at all.
My fascination with wilderness, especially snakes, dates back to the time when I was about five years old. Apart from that, I was also very devoted to music and painting, later writing and photography. Thanks to my father, an academic musician, I became familiar with the best of classical music before entering primary school. So, speaking about formal education, it was difficult to choose between journalism, art and science. But, adventurous nature combined with restricted contact with the real wilderness because my parents were very scared of everything (and family opinion was that „girls should play with dolls”), finally directed me to biology. I was formally trained as evolutionary biologist (PhD) with origins in population biology and herpetology (graduate studies). Once I had discovered conservation biology, some 20 years ago, it became my leading star.
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
There were almost no chances for young scientists in Serbia to design independent projects before obtaining PhD, what I did in 1997. But, even after that, system was pretty rigid, until beginning of XXI Century. So, I started with first independent project in 2002, focused on evolution of life history traits in some amphibian and reptile species with the idea to apply non-invasive procedures for collecting data and to establish long term monitoring of particular populations for their conservation. Before that, I was mostly oriented toward population genetics and multivariate morphology. In 2003 I won two small grants – that was an amazing feeling after so many years of isolation: Societas Europaea Herpetologica Grant for pilot study on endangered European viper species Vipera ursinii in Montenegro and DAPTF Seed Grant for assessment of Great Crested Newt breeding sites in Serbia. Monitoring of that particular Vipera ursinii population is still in progress and the goal is to establish and maintain good database upon which population status could be regularly checked in the future. I think that I am right when I say that it is the first long term population monitoring of a reptile species in this part of the Balkans, if not in the whole area.
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
I started with a teaching job some years ago when I realized that it is pretty masochistic trying to stay 100% employed in science in Serbia, especially if you are out of local politics and trying to work honestly in ecology and biodiversity protection. Nowadays, even work with students takes a lot of my time. I am dividing my time between science and teaching at the university. I am teaching Organic Evolution and Conservation Biology at different levels -undergraduate and graduate at Faculty of Sciences and Mathematics at University of Nis, and some aspects of conservation biology on PhD studies at the Biology Faculty at the University of Belgrade. Apart from that, I am devoted to cooperation with IUCN as a member of Amphibian Specialist Group and Red List Assessor Team. Also, I am currently involved in making Strategy of Biodiversity Conservation in Serbia as a member of an UNDP expert team and I would like to take part in changing the system there in a way that young people, trained well during their biology and ecology studies, after reaching graduate level, have real opportunity for jobs in biodiversity conservation. I recognize in my students very strong will to work in biodiversity conservation but most of them, after graduating, must accept completely different jobs for a living or they cannot find job at all, and in the same time there is no continuous biodiversity monitoring in Serbia in local communities at all.
Personally, I would like to complete just one but really good conservation study and think that maybe for that I should move somewhere else where society really appreciates and understands it. And I hope that it will happen. Somewhere in the world, does not matter where, biodiversity is valuable to be protected everywhere in the world.
What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
I was surprised when I realized how much you people in the States are using internet facilities for communication and really want to ask you: do you have time for communication with your family members on the daily basis if, after working hours (and I suppose that your working day lasts at least eight hours), you still have enough energy for blogging? It is really amazing!
For both me and most of my colleagues, simple and fast access to literature is very important. In comparison to the situation some 20 years ago it is better now for sure. Good thing is that Open Access idea is spreading inevitably across the Globe. It is very important to have free access to scientific literature, especially for students and free lancers in science, who have no funds to pay subscriptions to journal editors and libraries.
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?
Science blogs are very interesting but, as I mentioned before, I have no time at the moment to engage myself there as much as I would like to. I am using Facebook for networking with students and colleagues and relatives and friends but have no time to visit it often. Generally, in these days when we face a lot of obstacles such as global economic crisis for example, it is wonderful that there is an alternative for exchange of information; for example, I recently participated in online training organized by IUCN, instead of classical workshop that could cost a lot. Opportunities for cooperation are easier with these new tools and it is good that, using them, you can add some personal dimension to communication, to show to others what are your hobbies, which music do you like, it is important for us as social creatures.
When and how did you first discover science blogs? What are some of your favorites? Have you discovered any cool science blogs by the participants at the Conference?
The first science blog I started to read was A Blog Around The Clock. The title was intriguing; it reminded me of famous “Rock around the Clock” so I took a look in order to find there some nostalgic rock stories from the 60ies. But it was a surprise – and nice surprise I can say – the story was about the science. And, I must confess that my consequent diving into the blog world used to begin from the “Blog Around The Clock” platform.
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?
This was my first Science Online conference, but not the last, I hope. Diversity of attendants was amazing, looking at their professional backgrounds. The strongest feelings were provoked by all these brave women and men that continue to fight against mediocrity in science.
The idea about meeting places or science motels where freelance scientists could have opportunity to realize their projects is absolutely fabulous, though its realization couldn’t be easy and we discussed a little bit about that at the end of the session. Anyway, it is clear that new organizational patterns for doing science are inevitable, and some modular way of organization seems very realistic.
It was so nice to see you again and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Hilary Maybaum

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 Hilary Maybaum from i.e.science 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 an East Coaster from the U.S., originally and ultimately a New Yorker, but I spent 14 years of my life in Hawaii. Those years shaped most of scientific approach to the world, for it was there that I earned my Master of Science degree in oceanography. I staged my early training as a scientist at the other side of the world — Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
I figure I’m on career #9 or 10 at this stage. My wayward trajectory has been: Teaching Assistant –> Bartender –> Instructor –> Author –> Oceanographer –> Environmental Consultant –> Science Editor –> Grant Director –> Business Owner (Science Writer)
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
Running my business, www.iescience.com. I provide science writing and editing services, mostly for educational publishers. I write a lot of textbook material (print) and I develop online activities for publishers’ companion Web sites. Tweeting and blogging are also part of my current career. I still hope I’ll get paid by someone like Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to manage their social media networks and Web content, but I’m happiest working for myself. I’ve yet to write a business plan, though. After three successful years, it would probably be a good idea. But I’m so good at procrastinating.
What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
The evolution of science communication interests me immensely. I’ve seen a lot of changes over the past 20+ years, and I like what I’m seeing now. For example, the other day I was visiting the new online catalog of whale flukes for Southeast Alaska and noticed that full PDFs were attached to each scholarly article referenced on the site. How cool is that! I wish more people would think to include full article citations in their science writing and online journalism, because that’s the best way for people to educate themselves on topics of scientific interest. I know, Bora, that you are an advocate of this and I praise you for your efforts.
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?
I mentioned these earlier, so yes, they are a net positive and, I feel, a necessity in the sense that blogging and tweeting stretch my outreach and networking abilities. I’ll tell you what, though. The National Association of Science Writers doesn’t agree with me. I sent them blog clips from my site, Wet to support my membership application, but NASW promptly rejected them. According to NASW’s director, “self-published or personal blogs do not fit the criteria for clips.”
Despite this official rejection, I have found social networking to be very helpful in non-writing endeavors, such as finding editorial assistants, discovering workshops and conferences (I’m looking at you, ScienceOnline 2010), and even job searching. But the best part for me about social networking is the ability to connect and reconnect with scientists — my favorite group of people!
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’m an old fan of Seed Magazine; hence, I found ScienceBlogs many years ago. I have recently (in the past 6 months) discovered a plethora of cool science blogs (yours among them, of course!) as a result of my connections on Twitter.
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?
What I liked best about ScienceOnline 2010 were the physical/mental/spiritual aspects of being among like-minded people of all ages and sizes. I found it to be highly energizing. I think, too, that it was so well organized, with lots of play time and technological opportunities, it was as if every minute was a gift. And to top it all off, I got to sit among an entire table of marine scientists at dinner! That hasn’t happened to me in decades!! So thanks again, Bora and Anton, for a job well done and with heart.
It was so nice to meet you in person and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.
Hilary Meybaum pic.jpg
[Hilary Maybaum aboard the Alvin submersible]

ScienceOnline2010 – Rebooting Science Journalism in the Age of the Web (video) – Part 7

Rebooting Science Journalism in the Age of the Web – Ed Yong, Carl Zimmer, John Timmer, and David Dobbs
Saturday, January 16, 10:15 – 11:20am
Description: Our panel of journalist-blogger hybrids – Carl Zimmer, John Timmer, Ed Yimmer Yong, and David Dobbs- will discuss and debate the future of science journalism in the online world. Are blogs and mainstream media the bitter rivals that stereotypes would have us believe, or do the two sides have common threads and complementary strengths? How will the tools of the Internet change the art of reporting? How will the ongoing changes strengthen writing about science? How might these changes compromise or threaten writing about science? In a world where it’s possible for anyone to write about science, where does that leave professional science journalists? And who actually are these science journalists anyway?

ScienceOnline2010 – Rebooting Science Journalism in the Age of the Web (video) – Part 6

Rebooting Science Journalism in the Age of the Web – Ed Yong, Carl Zimmer, John Timmer, and David Dobbs
Saturday, January 16, 10:15 – 11:20am
Description: Our panel of journalist-blogger hybrids – Carl Zimmer, John Timmer, Ed Yimmer Yong, and David Dobbs- will discuss and debate the future of science journalism in the online world. Are blogs and mainstream media the bitter rivals that stereotypes would have us believe, or do the two sides have common threads and complementary strengths? How will the tools of the Internet change the art of reporting? How will the ongoing changes strengthen writing about science? How might these changes compromise or threaten writing about science? In a world where it’s possible for anyone to write about science, where does that leave professional science journalists? And who actually are these science journalists anyway?

ScienceOnline2010 – Rebooting Science Journalism in the Age of the Web (video) – Part 5

Rebooting Science Journalism in the Age of the Web – Ed Yong, Carl Zimmer, John Timmer, and David Dobbs
Saturday, January 16, 10:15 – 11:20am
Description: Our panel of journalist-blogger hybrids – Carl Zimmer, John Timmer, Ed Yimmer Yong, and David Dobbs- will discuss and debate the future of science journalism in the online world. Are blogs and mainstream media the bitter rivals that stereotypes would have us believe, or do the two sides have common threads and complementary strengths? How will the tools of the Internet change the art of reporting? How will the ongoing changes strengthen writing about science? How might these changes compromise or threaten writing about science? In a world where it’s possible for anyone to write about science, where does that leave professional science journalists? And who actually are these science journalists anyway?

ScienceOnline2010 – Rebooting Science Journalism in the Age of the Web (video) – Part 4

Rebooting Science Journalism in the Age of the Web – Ed Yong, Carl Zimmer, John Timmer, and David Dobbs
Saturday, January 16, 10:15 – 11:20am
Description: Our panel of journalist-blogger hybrids – Carl Zimmer, John Timmer, Ed Yimmer Yong, and David Dobbs- will discuss and debate the future of science journalism in the online world. Are blogs and mainstream media the bitter rivals that stereotypes would have us believe, or do the two sides have common threads and complementary strengths? How will the tools of the Internet change the art of reporting? How will the ongoing changes strengthen writing about science? How might these changes compromise or threaten writing about science? In a world where it’s possible for anyone to write about science, where does that leave professional science journalists? And who actually are these science journalists anyway?

ScienceOnline2010 – Rebooting Science Journalism in the Age of the Web (video) – Part 3

Rebooting Science Journalism in the Age of the Web – Ed Yong, Carl Zimmer, John Timmer, and David Dobbs
Saturday, January 16, 10:15 – 11:20am
Description: Our panel of journalist-blogger hybrids – Carl Zimmer, John Timmer, Ed Yimmer Yong, and David Dobbs- will discuss and debate the future of science journalism in the online world. Are blogs and mainstream media the bitter rivals that stereotypes would have us believe, or do the two sides have common threads and complementary strengths? How will the tools of the Internet change the art of reporting? How will the ongoing changes strengthen writing about science? How might these changes compromise or threaten writing about science? In a world where it’s possible for anyone to write about science, where does that leave professional science journalists? And who actually are these science journalists anyway?

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Kerstin Hoppenhaus

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 Kerstin Hoppenhaus from Germany 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 am a filmmaker and journalist with a focus on science and history documentaries. I have been a first-time participant at Science Online this year and am now a freshly hatched blogger at More than Honey, where I write about my ongoing film-project. I live and work in Berlin.
In my previous life I was a biologist, which makes me something between an insider and an outsider, I guess. I have been inside long enough to understand what makes scientists tick, but I am far enough outside to sense what triggers “geek alert” in other people. Being the only scientist in my current work environment, I am probably quite useful as a mediator (sometimes), but also a source of puzzlement for many of my more artistically inclined colleagues (most of the time).
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
I studied biology at the Universities of Tübingen and Jena in Germany and this led me directly to working for television in Japan – a result of niche qualification and total ignorance of the system on my part, I guess. I was on a scholarship in Japan at the time and still a biologist, but I already knew that I wasn’t going to stay in science, but become a journalist or something similar instead. So while in Japan, I applied for an internship with a German television broadcaster, totally unaware that foreign studios are widely considered one of the pinnacles of news reporting and hardly ever accept complete novices. It turned out that the only reason why I got in was that it was the year of the World Climate Summit in Kyoto and they were actually quite pleased to have someone aboard to help them sort their H2O from CO2. A fine piece of luck that was, and a great start. I was thrown headlong into the international media machinery and just to be in that gigantic windowless news center full of matte-gray cubicle walls, flickering screens and world class journalists was a thrill, let alone being a legitimate (if tiny) part of it.
After all this excitement I went back to Germany to properly learn the trade and started working as a freelance reporter for local public television in Dresden – news and short pieces on anything from groundbreaking ceremonies (quite common at the time in eastern Germany) to dice snakes along the River Elbe.
Then I went back to school and got me a degree in “Scientific and Industrial Film” (re-named and re-re-named several times since) at Filmacademy Baden-Württemberg with a very interesting interdisciplinary graduation project (an interactive, non-linear film on animal and robot locomotion) in cooperation with German Research Foundation (DFG).
After that: more freelance work in local news and short pieces for tv-science magazines, then first assistant jobs for larger projects and finally my first own documentary series as author and director.
At present, I am researcher, co-author (with director Markus Imhoof) and blogger for my first cinema project, More than Honey, a feature-length documentary about honeybees.
What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
I went into television and film for the moving pictures and the sound. And I have no regrets. They are very powerful tools for communication and they allow you to reach a very wide audience. But there also are some serious limitations. Speed of production is one (the road to film is long and slow) and, more importantly, there is always trouble with abstract concepts and „things-you-cannot-see” in general. Film doesn’t take too well to explanation and certainly not to explaining complex scientific interrelationships.
Film is better for other things. For engaging people in science „en passant”, for example; for a scientific approach implicitly included in „normal” story lines; for science delivered semi-consciously and in healthy doses. For combining science with entertainment. And then, of course, if it has the pictures, it can simply blow you away.
And now, there also is the internet. Now, you can have both. You can reach the wide audience of whatever form television will take in the future and you can communicate in-depth information alongside with it on almost any level of detail you choose. In other words: you can use television to lure people into science (the “gateway-drug“) and then provide them with all sorts of tools to make the subject their own. Play, study, share. Whatever.
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
I am very interested in exploring new ways of interacting with the audience, especially during production of a film, not just „after the deed”, when the film is released.
We did a series on genealogy a few years ago where a historian was setting out to answer questions about viewers’ family histories. We had a little website up during research and filming and not only did we get quite a few useful hints for archives and material and lots of moral support when we were stuck once again, but we were also repeatedly offered spare parts for the vintage 1979 Lada limousine our historian was driving! Who could ever again want an audience that is only watching?!
Another ongoing interest is finding ways to make the process of science more transparent. Reporting and explaining scientific results is beautiful and important. But there is so much more to science! And there are so many misconceptions about what science is and how it is done. People tend to be very surprised when they learn how messy science can be, how much of it depends on chance and hunches, and how tedious and boring it can drag along at times. But these are good stories and they should be told. I think, film might actually be a good tool for that. Because film is slow and so is science; and film can listen and observe and follow work in progress. It can show that science not just about results, but also a way of doing things.
In this context, I am also very interested in citizen science projects. There is a lot to learn from them about how to involve people in the process of science and I hope that I will have an opportunity to combine film and citizen science projects in the future.
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?
I am clearly not an early adopter with all this and still not very experienced. At the beginning, I was constantly at the point of near-overwhelmedness and impending shut-down, but I am learning to filter and find Twitter an unexpectedly useful tool for that. Also, the novelty does wear off eventually and I am beginning to integrate things somewhat routinely into my workflow.
The bee-project turns out to be a great testing ground – bee-people are very helpful and willing to share and we have already had a lot of interesting input through the blog and through Twitter.
However, it all is still experimental and I would greatly appreciate your feedback!
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 think I drifted into science blogs from science-fiction, really. I had been reading blogs of science-fiction-writers like Peter Watts and Bruce Sterling for quite a while, and, obviously, they often have a fair amount of science in them.
The two lines met, for me, in Henry Gee’s „Futures”-series at Nature (and hopefully will continue to do so until the universe is swallowed by a giant balrog), which then led me to Nature Networks and on to Scienceblogs and Discover, and eventually to many of the independent science blogs out there.
Did I discover new blogs at scio10? Oh yes! There’s Laelaps and Phylogenomics, The Millikan Daily and The Daily Monthly, CogSciLibrarian, The Flying Trilobite and Deep Sea News – and that’s just a few of them!
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?
There were many, many interesting sessions, but what impressed me most was the un-conferency format of it all. It seemed so naturally engaging and efficient that you wonder how things could ever have been any different. I think the strong sense of community that many people have pointed out is no accident. Of course, much of it came from the enthusiasm and collegiality of the participants, but it also and in no small part resulted from a very careful orchestration by the organizers.
It started with the warm-up at The Monti and beautiful stories about science, journalism, and inspiration. Just listen to Scott Huler’s Monkey Story. It will make Sidney, the Chimp, your friend for life.
The next day brought workshops and lab tours – both excellent opportunities to meet new people and talk about projects without worrying about missing the next session/ the next great speaker/ lunch… I especially enjoyed the trip to the NC Museum of Science and Nature, where blogger and animal keeper Larry Boles took us on a great tour behind the scenes and into the bear cages.
I can only recommend to make room for those extra days in your schedule next year, especially for people who are new to the scene (like I was), but probably for anybody else just as well.
Also: I was among the lucky people who received one of the sponsored flip-cameras and although I was way to distracted to act much like a filmmaker, I do think that the video snippets that I and others uploaded during and shortly after the event help to convey a good sense of the energy and the discussions.
Overall I took from the conference a sense of huge potential and if I finally made that step and became a blogger myself, I have no doubt that it was largely because of YOU! So, thank you all.
It was so nice to meet you in person and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.

ScienceOnline2010 – Rebooting Science Journalism in the Age of the Web (video) – Part 2

Rebooting Science Journalism in the Age of the Web – Ed Yong, Carl Zimmer, John Timmer, and David Dobbs
Saturday, January 16, 10:15 – 11:20am
Description: Our panel of journalist-blogger hybrids – Carl Zimmer, John Timmer, Ed Yimmer Yong, and David Dobbs- will discuss and debate the future of science journalism in the online world. Are blogs and mainstream media the bitter rivals that stereotypes would have us believe, or do the two sides have common threads and complementary strengths? How will the tools of the Internet change the art of reporting? How will the ongoing changes strengthen writing about science? How might these changes compromise or threaten writing about science? In a world where it’s possible for anyone to write about science, where does that leave professional science journalists? And who actually are these science journalists anyway?

ScienceOnline2010 – Rebooting Science Journalism in the Age of the Web (video) – Part 1

Rebooting Science Journalism in the Age of the Web – Ed Yong, Carl Zimmer, John Timmer, and David Dobbs
Saturday, January 16, 10:15 – 11:20am
Description: Our panel of journalist-blogger hybrids – Carl Zimmer, John Timmer, Ed Yimmer Yong, and David Dobbs- will discuss and debate the future of science journalism in the online world. Are blogs and mainstream media the bitter rivals that stereotypes would have us believe, or do the two sides have common threads and complementary strengths? How will the tools of the Internet change the art of reporting? How will the ongoing changes strengthen writing about science? How might these changes compromise or threaten writing about science? In a world where it’s possible for anyone to write about science, where does that leave professional science journalists? And who actually are these science journalists anyway?

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Leah D. Gordon

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 Leah D. Gordon from MEASURE Evaluation 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 am from Portland, Oregon and have been living in the Triangle for 4 years now. I’m a true Oregonian at heart and don’t mind being called a tree-hugging granola.
I can’t say I have formal scientific training, but I married a microbiologist. I am gleaning monitoring and evaluation knowledge from the global health project I work on.
My background is in public relations and communications. I worked for Portland’s mass transportation agency, TriMet for a couple years, and now I am the Knowledge Management Specialist for MEASURE Evaluation.
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
What I think is most interesting about the work I do is the ability to connect communities of practitioners with experts both online and in person. People are strengthening their practice, experts are getting great feedback on their research/guidance and are becoming more “reachable.”
In Portland, TriMet did a wonderful job of being accessible to the community by going to stakeholders and community members for input. The agency actually listened. I think organizations are doing a better job of being present but lacking in their ability to LISTEN. At MEASURE Evaluation, I’ve taken what I learned in Portland, and am applying it to a global audience of people working in monitoring evaluation. I think I am in the best time of my career and am excited to see what is to come.
Leah Gordon pic1.JPG
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
The Certification of Technology and Communication coursework at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Journalism is taking up a lot of my time these days. I am also consulting and implementing public relations and communication strategies for a couple of businesses in the area in addition to working for MEASURE Evaluation full time.
What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
I am fascinated with the Internet as an agora for interconnectivity, opinionated thought, and discourse. At what other time in our history, have people expressed themselves so freely and openly? Especially in science! It is also interesting to watch academia adapt to the “power of the web.”
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?
I’m honestly not a regular blogger, although I would like to and need to as I grow my consultancy. I’m constantly writing for my organization or clients, and seldom my own thoughts. Twitter, however, has changed my life! It’s perfect for this socialista! I have never been able to glean from so many people with similar interests as my own. It’s totally edifying.
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 first discovered science blogs while working for the super awesome Anton Zuiker when he was at UNC Chapel Hill. I had no idea at the time blogging about science was a growing concept on the web.
I discovered Obesity Panacea, and met one of its bloggers, Peter Janiszewski. His blog is relevant and digestible. Keep up the good work!
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?
There are so many people from diverse and similar backgrounds to my own. I get a better understanding of researcher’s needs for communication and what they understand and don’t understand about its importance.
In addition, Beth Beck gave me a pearl of wisdom for working with researchers and communicating their knowledge. It was terribly insightful and I will use her approach in my many years to come.
It was so nice to see you again and thank you for the interview. I hope you can join us again next January.
Leah Gordon pic2.JPG

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Elia Ben-Ari

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 Elia Ben-Ari of the To Be Determined blog 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?
Elia Ben-Ari pic2.JPGThanks for asking! I was born in Israel, came to the U.S. with my parents when I was two years old, and grew up mainly in suburban Long Island, New York. I went to graduate school at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where I learned to say y’all and met my wonderful husband. He and I have lived, worked, and played in the Washington, DC, area for the past 21 years–first in Maryland and now in Virginia.
I’m a science writer and editor, focusing on the life sciences. Throughout my somewhat checkered career, I’ve always worked at communicating science clearly and accurately and, I hope, engagingly. I especially enjoy stories where science and the humanities intersect. I love learning new and cool things about biology and following the ups, downs, ins and outs (and gossip) of the science journalism world. I’m a somewhat shy extrovert and have learned that staying connected with people is crucial for my happiness and well being. As for my scientific background, I have an A.B. in biochemistry from Brown University and a Ph.D. in pharmacology from UVA. Signal transduction–that is, how cells convert signals from the outside to events inside the cell–was probably my first true love in science.
The farther along I got in grad school, the less convinced I was that I wanted to be a scientist. But, being stubborn, I finished my Ph.D. and mostly don’t regret it. Like most people who’ve switched from doing science to writing about it, my interests were way too broad for me to be happy focusing on a tiny little area of research. I also was that annoying person who’d point out spelling errors and typos in other people’s posters when they put them up in the hallway before going to a meeting. Writing my dissertation was a breeze compared to finishing up the lab work.
Somewhere along the way I got the idea that I might like being a science writer and conveying my enthusiasm for science to nonscientists, though I wasn’t sure exactly what that involved. I applied for a science journalism fellowship but wasn’t selected. So I decided to take a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Cancer Institute and see how that went.
Two years into a three-year postdoc, I was miserable. My husband encouraged me (that’s putting it mildly) to quit complaining and find a job that I liked. I was incredibly lucky to land a job through an ad I saw in Science as Meeting Reviews Editor at a start-up cell and molecular biology journal, The New Biologist. I was nervous about leaving the lab, but have never looked back. We had a wonderful managing editor, Ruth Kulstad, who mentored me and taught me to edit less timidly. I invited scientists to write reviews of interesting meetings and worked with them in editing their reviews. I got to travel to a few scientific meetings and write about them, including one in the Swiss Alps, on signal transduction. It was a great first job. A year after I started, the journal went under and the five staffers were handed our severance packages. That was my introduction to the real world.
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
Elia Ben-Ari pic1.JPGIt’s been more of a meander than a trajectory. After getting laid off from my first job in publishing and making lots of cold calls to network, I managed to convince some folks at the National Institutes of Health that I could write about science for the general public. As a science writer and public information officer for the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), one of the smallest NIH institutes with one of the longest names, I learned a great deal about science and health communications.
After five or so years at NIAMS and a couple of years as Deputy Director (i.e., low-level manager) of the public information office, I was ready for a change, and wanted to try my hand at science journalism. Energized by attending the Santa Fe Science Writing Workshop, I started searching for a job and was hired as Features Editor at BioScience, a monthly biology journal that has nothing to do with biomedical science.
I had a lot of latitude at BioScience, and wrote about subjects ranging from elephant communication, to botanical illustration (one of my favorites), to geomicrobiology. (Note: Most of the original articles/PDFs with illustrations are behind a paywall.) Another feature story I particularly enjoyed working on was about one of my favorite authors, Wallace Stegner, and his role in the conservation movement in the U.S. One of the best parts of the job was talking to scientists about their work, and I always gathered way too much information for my stories. I also enjoyed working with the freelancers who wrote for the journal.
While at BioScience I applied for the Marine Biological Laboratory’s science journalism fellowship in environmental science and was thrilled to be accepted. Thus followed a fun and stimulating week in Woods Hole, doing hands-on science that was very different from the lab work I was used to (I’d never had to don hip waders before), and talking science writing and journalism with other writers.
I left BioScience after some changes at the journal and decided to try my hand at freelancing. That was longer ago than I care to admit. As a freelancer I’ve done a wide range of writing and editing for various audiences (are you sensing a theme here?), including straight journalism and work for nonprofits and several NIH institutes. I wrote a couple of stories for the now-defunct health section of the Washington Post, and still write occasionally for BioScience. I helped the NY-based Alliance for Lupus Research launch a quarterly newsletter for its constituencies, wrote all the content for the newsletter, and did other writing for the organization. I wrote a short piece about microbial biofilms for National Wildlife, and interviewed two malaria researchers visiting from Mali for a story I wrote for an NIH publication. Those are just a few of the highlights that spring to mind.
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. Meanwhile, my goal in my work remains to communicate clearly and accurately about science, and to do so as engagingly as possible. I also want to keep honing my writing skills, and maybe explore new forms of writing such as the personal essay. I want to continue learning new things and keep up with biology, new technologies, and the ever-changing landscape of science communication and journalism. And stay young forever, of course. But if I can’t do that, I want to age gracefully.
On the work front, at the moment I have a freelance contract to write part-time for the National Cancer Institute’s Office of Communications and Education. I’ve been writing various materials for the public, which go up on the Web at cancer.gov. And I may soon have more work for another NIH institute. I’m hoping I’ll still have time and energy to do some freelance journalism, and perhaps I’ll decide to focus more on that again in the future. I’m open to new and interesting opportunities. I’ve also just become a board member for the DC Science Writers Association.
My work is important, but it’s not my life. I have too many other interests: spending time with my husband, friends, and family (and our cat, Minou), yoga, photography, reading (mainly fiction), theater, travel, cooking, cross-country skiing, getting outdoors and enjoying nature. I could go on. I often describe myself as a dabbler, but someone I know said I was a Renaissance woman, which sounds so much better, don’t you think?
What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
As a dabbler–er, I mean Renaissance woman–I’m interested in just about everything related to science communication, including the use of the Web as well as more traditional media. I hope the Web will help in communicating science more effectively and engagingly to a larger public, because I think that’s critical for an enlightened society. So many issues that we face in the world are related to science, and not enough people have the basic knowledge to understand those issues. If I can contribute to that knowledge in some small way, I’ll be pleased.
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?
I came home from ScienceOnline2010 feeling reenergized and excited about communicating science, and decided to start a blog, which I called To Be Determined. But I’m still figuring out how to keep up with it and what to write about. I don’t see it as a central part of my work right now. It’s more of an opportunity to experiment with my writing, which I mentioned is a goal, and perhaps show off some of my photos, too.
I got hooked on Twitter about a year ago, after attending a panel discussion on social media for science writers at a DC Science Writers Association event. (As you know, I tweet as @smallpkg.) I then wrote a story on scientists and Twitter for BioScience, and that’s what led me to you, Bora, and ultimately to the ScienceOnline2010 meeting. I view Twitter as being more for my professional side, and find it great for keeping up with what other science writers and people in the journalism and writing worlds are doing and saying, getting links to interesting blog posts and articles that I might not find otherwise, and connecting with all sorts of interesting people. I use Facebook mainly for social purposes, though I’ve posted links to some of my blog posts on Facebook as well as Twitter.
For me, all the online activity is a bit of a mixed blessing, though I see it as a net positive that is necessary for keeping up with the times and with my field. I love finding interesting, clever, or thought-provoking blog posts and stories about science and medicine. I enjoy being active on Twitter and Facebook and keeping up with people and events that way, but they can be a time sink and a great way to procrastinate on getting my writing assignments done. I try to contribute to Twitter when I can, rather than just lurking there, and I enjoy having an online persona via Twitter. I just wish I could get by on less sleep so I could spend more time online and get more work done.
When and how did you first discover science blogs? What are some of your favorites? Have you discovered any cool science blogs by the participants at the Conference?
I’m not sure, but I think the first science blogs I read may have been on the NY Times website. I started reading a lot more blogs after I began using Twitter. Many of the blogs I read are written by people who were at the conference, and I tend to dip in and sample sporadically and as time permits. I hate to name favorites, but some that I enjoy and find thoughtful are Ivan Oransky’s Embargo Watch, Gary Schwitzer’s HealthNewsReview, Ed Yong’s Not Exactly Rocket Science, DeLene Beeland’s Wild Muse, David Kroll’s Terra Sigillata, David Dobbs’s Neuron Culture, and of course your A Blog Around the Clock.
What were the best aspects 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?
The best aspects for me were meeting new and interesting people, the mix of participants from different fields, and the “un-conference,” participatory nature of the sessions. I’ve rarely felt so comfortable chiming in at a meeting. It was also great meeting people whom I’d known only via Twitter until then. And as I mentioned, all the talk about blogging inspired me to start my own blog. The conference also gave me renewed energy for being a science communicator and participating in that community. As for next year, I think it will be a challenge to include as many people as possible while maintaining the relatively intimate nature of the conference. And who knows, I may even come up with an idea for a session for ScienceOnline2011.
It was so nice to meet you in person and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Joanne Manaster


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 Joanne Manaster from Joanne Loves Science to answer a few questions.
Where does blogging fit into what I do?
I began my website about two years ago, while I was in a bit of a life crisis. As everything was chaotic, I thought, “What has ALWAYS been true about me and will always be true?” and the answer was, “I love science”. Hence the website was christened “Joanne Loves Science”. At first, it was to be a vehicle for delivering stem cell and tissue engineering news (to replace a newsletter I had previously published). Clearly I am not doing that anymore. I mention this because I think it takes time for a website or blog to find its personality, so my advice to someone beginning a blog or website is to start writing about what interests you and allow your enthusiasm to shine through. You will eventually find the tone you wish to convey to the world.
I made a decision, based on time constraints, to not accept comments on my posts, although I can turn them on at anytime if it should seem worthwhile. My “About Joanne” page is quite long, as this has grown out of a demand from young people, especially young ladies, to get a sneak peek at my life, especially the modeling career. Happily, I am much more well-known now for my outreach currently than I ever was while modeling. This is very gratifying as I would much rather be known for adding a bit of intellectual value to society than merely being a pleasant object to look at. That being said, thanks to good genes and some tricks one learns while modeling, I am still maintaining a youthful exterior that belies my years of experience in academia, and I thought I should use that while I can. My telegenicity (or, as Neil DeGrasse Tyson once said of me, my “youtube-genicity”) has come in handy to find new ways to reach to the general public about science.
A quick look at my site will demonstrate three main topics/beliefs I maintain:

  • There are numerous popular science books out there for your enjoyment and enrichment. I hope to share my love for these books (and gratitude to the authors) by demonstrating the variety of books available. I like the concept of promoting books for many reasons, which should probably be written in a carefully constructed blog post!
  • Everyday items have science behind them, in them, etc. I sometimes demonstrate this via the science of beauty, which is, by far, the most popular page of my website after the first page. I also use common/unusual items (gummy bears) to highlight simple scientific concepts.
  • The basics of the scientific method and how scientists conduct and communicate their work are very important and I am trying to gently reintroduce these concepts to my readers. Most American students have heard the same boring lessons about the scientific method a handful of times, but seldom grasp it fully and then are left befuddled by the significance or validity of scientific (or pseudoscientific) findings, possibly leading to misunderstandings and misconceptions about scientific topics.

With respect to the book recommendations, I try to make a point to meet any science author who comes near to town. At the very least, I hope to express my gratitude for the work they do in making science accessible. If I have more time, I appreciate a nice conversation because I am a great admirer of intelligence and enthusiasm, both of which authors simply must possess. This is just pure selfishness on my part! My life has been extraordinarily enriched by the interactions with the ones I’ve communicated.
I recently met Jonah Lehrer when he came into town. He graciously spent some time with me and even helped create this video about the continuum of scientific expertise using my growing Barbie doll collection. He is quite the sport.
I would like to point out, for those of you who are new to my videos, that while I have experience “working the camera”……
Joanne Manaster pic1.jpgJoanne Manaster pic2.jpg







































…..I have much to learn about operating one, so the video is slightly crooked, not centered and the lighting leaves something to be desired. I notice in particular that this one has many blips and skips which I suspect is an effect of uploading in less than optimal internet connections and my poor editing skills. Hopefully the content more than makes up for this! Grab a cup of coffee or tea or a beer and sit back and watch as Jonah drops his cell phone (oops) and confesses his predilection for blue bracelets.

What next? Carl Zimmer and Matchbox cars? Steven B. Johnson and Hungry, Hungry Hippo? Rebecca Skloot and Candyland?
About twitter and other social media, but mostly twitter:
Twitter has been a wonderful experience for me. Allow me to bullet point the benefits I have experienced by using twitter:

  • It has been a fabulous way to promote my videos and get the word out, hopefully to the appropriate audience.
  • I am learning to become a better science communicator by watching carefully how other great science communicators do their jobs!
  • I have been richly rewarded by new friendships and collaborations I have made on twitter.
  • I enjoy leaving an “open door ” to the public in order to indicate that I am available to carry on a rational and friendly exchanges about science. I follow most people back because I have discovered that a seemingly “random” person will pipe in with comments such as “That was interesting.” Or “Can you answer such and such?” And if I can’t answer, my contacts might be able to do so.
  • I’ve learned to set some personal boundaries on the internet, often learning this the hard way, unfortunately (particularly on youtube). It has been a surprisingly gratifying skill. I’m also learning to discern those who want to start an argument just for the sake of arguing or those who are trying to trick me into supporting their pseudoscience or to help them promote themselves. These people, frankly, take away time from those who have a genuine interest and curiosity about science and I’m learning to deal with them effectively.

How did I discover science blogs?
How does anyone discover anything on the internet these days? By accident, of course. I’m sure I was looking up particular bits of information and came across one blog, then another, and another. I use the information in these blogs, frequently visiting ones with reliable and well documented information. I enjoy reading information and opinions from great science communicators!
And finally, you ask, what about my future plans?
Honestly, I have so many ideas, it’s a little ridiculous. I hope to continue communicating science, gaining a larger audience for the cause of quality and entertaining science. If I have to manipulate the entire world with gummy bears, cats, Barbie dolls, (and coming soon: cookies!), a giant helping of whimsical, lacy, heart-shaped Midwest charm coming from a fresh-faced biologist, then I’m going to do it. Unabashedly.
I made a promise to myself that I would never do anything on a video that I haven’t done in class. Well, it looks now as if I will have to sing in class. Yep, I sang in the next video. Why? Because thinking about science makes me so happy, I want to sing. That, or I just felt during some lapse of reasoning, that you all might want to see me sing a bouncy pop song and add scientific commentary. Why should musicians get a corner on metaphor? Pedantic’s where it’s at!

It was so nice to meet you in person and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Carmen Drahl

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 Carmen Drahl, Associate Editor for Science/Technology/Education at Chemical & Engineering News (find her as @carmendrahl on Twitter) 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?
Carmen Drahl pic1.JPGIt’s a pleasure and a privilege to be interviewed, Bora.
Good conversations make me happy. School was fun for me (well, maybe not grad school) and that’s evolved into a desire to always be learning something new. I enjoy doing nothing as much as I enjoy doing things. On Mondays, if I’m not too busy, I take hip-hop dance classes.
My hometown is Hackettstown, New Jersey. M&M’s are made there. I got a bachelor’s in chemistry from Drew University and a Ph.D. in chemistry at Princeton. Scientifically my expertise hovers somewhere around the interface between organic chemistry and biochemistry. A short while after defending my dissertation, I moved to Washington DC to write for Chemical & Engineering News, and that’s where I’ve been for almost three years now.
When and how did you first discover science blogs?
Scandal led me to science blogs. Seriously. In March 2006 I was still an organic chemistry grad student. Everyone in my lab was buzzing about a set of retractions in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (disclosure: today I work for the American Chemical Society, which publishes JACS). A rising young organic chemistry star retracted the papers because work by one of his graduate students couldn’t be reproduced. It was a big deal and became an even bigger deal as the inevitable rumors (salacious and otherwise) surfaced. The blogosphere had the details first. So that’s where Google pointed me and the other members of my lab when we searched for more information. I learned about the awesome (but sadly now defunct) blogs Tenderbutton and The Endless Frontier, by Dylan Stiles and Paul Bracher, both chemistry grad students like me. I also discovered the solid mix of chemistry and pharma at Derek Lowe’s In the Pipeline, which is still the first blog I visit every day.
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
Carmen Drahl pic2.JPGBy the time I discovered science blogs I knew my career goals were changing. I’d already been lucky enough to audit a science writing course at Princeton taught by Mike Lemonick from TIME, and thought that maybe science writing was a good choice for me. After reading chemistry blogs for a while I realized “Hey, I can do this!” and started my own blog, She Blinded Me with Science, in July 2006. It was the typical grad student blog, a mix of posts about papers I liked and life in the lab.
At C&E News I’ve contributed to its C&ENtral Science blog, which premiered in spring 2008. I’ve experimented with a few different kinds of posts- observations and on-the-street interviews when I run into something chemistry-related in DC, in-depth posts from meetings, and video demos of iPod apps. One of my favorite things to do is toy with new audio/video/etc technology for the blog.
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
In March I just started a new era in my web existence- I’m becoming a pharma blogger. I’m the science voice at The Haystack, C&E News’s new pharma blog and one of seven new blogs the magazine launched last month. My co-blogger is the talented Lisa Jarvis, who’s written about the business side of pharma for ten years and who brings a solid science background to the table as well. I kicked us off by liveblogging/livetweeting a popular session at the American Chemical Society’s meeting in San Francisco where drug companies reveal for the first time the chemical structures of potential new drugs being tested in clinical trials. The whole thing synced to FriendFeed as well. Folks followed the talks from all three venues, which was great. I hope I can continue doing that sort of thing in the future.
For this August, I’m co-organizing a mini-symposium at the American Chemical Society meeting in Boston about the chem/pharma blogosphere and its impact on research and communication. I’m in the process of inviting speakers right now. It’s my first time doing anything like this and part of me is petrified that no one will show up. Tips on organizing a conference session and how not to stress when doing so are welcome!
More broadly, I’d love to get more chemistry bloggers to connect with the community that attends ScienceOnline. I don’t ever want to become that old (or not-so-old) person who is clueless about them-thar newfangled whosiwhatsits that the kids are using nowadays.
What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
A few things come to mind, actually. I’d like to think that the web has made grad school a helluva lot less isolating for science grad students. You have the virtual journal clubs like Totally Synthetic, posts like SciCurious’s letter to a grad student, etc.
As a journalist the web’s capacity to equalize fascinates me. I’m extremely lucky to have a staff gig as a science writer without having gone to journalism school or landed a media fellowhip and it’s weird to think that my old blog might’ve helped my visibility. I didn’t know Ed Yong’s story until Scio10 but I think he’s a highly talented example of how the web can open doors.
The web’s equalizing power goes to readers of science content as well as writers, of course. In the ideal situation a reader can give a writer instant feedback and you can get a real conversation going, something that was much harder with the snail-paced system of letters to the editor and reader surveys. Not that the conversation is always civil. Most of C&EN’s readers have a decent amount of scientific training, but the debate that rages whenever we run an editorial about climate change is as intense as any I’ve seen.
In cases like that I don’t know that the web gives people a good representation of what the consensus is. For folks who don’t have scientific training, how do you ensure that people don’t just go to the content that already confirms their pre-existing beliefs about autism or global warming? John Timmer touched on this more eloquently in his interview with you, and I agree with him that I don’t think we have an answer yet. Though on a slightly different note, I will mention that I’ve been enjoying the New York Times’s recent attempts to recapture the spontaneity of flipping through the newspaper in online browsing, like the Times Skimmer for Google Chrome.
What are some of your favourite science blogs? Have you discovered any cool science blogs by the participants at the Conference?
In addition to the blogs I’ve already mentioned I enjoy <a href="http://www.coronene.com/blog/&quot;Carbon-Based Curiosities, Wired Science, Chemistry Blog, and Terra Sigillata, to name a few of the 50 or so blogs on my feed reader.
I discovered scads of new blogs at Scio10 but I’ll focus on the one that’s become required reading for me these days: Obesity Panacea. I’d covered obesity drug development for C&EN but I’d never met Travis Saunders and Peter Janiszewski or heard of their blog until the conference.
What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2010 for you? 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?
Dave Mungeris my hero – his blogging 102 session was packed with practical tips that I brought back to C&EN for incorporating into our blogs, such as the use of the Disqus plugin for catching conversations on social networks, getting smart about using stats and surveys, etc. Some of that’s already happened, and some of the ideas are still in the works.
I came for the nuts-and-bolts blogging tips but I stayed for the conversations, especially the ones at the bar after the official program was done for the night. And the icing on the cake was seeing folks I’d worked with but never met, like Cameron Neylon and you, Bora, and catching up with people I hadn’t seen in months, like Jean-Claude Bradley, Aaron Rowe, Jennifer Ouellette and Nancy Shute.
It was so nice to meet you in person and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.

ScienceOnline2010 – Writing for more than glory: Proposals and Pitches that Pay (video) – Part 7

Writing for more than glory: Proposals and Pitches that PayRebecca Skloot with guests
Saturday, January 16 – 4:40 – 5:45pm
Description: What is a sellable idea? How do you develop one? Is your idea enough for a book, is there more you can do to develop it, or should it just be a magazine article or series of blog posts? This will be a hands-on nuts and bolts workshop: Come with ideas to pitch. Better yet, bring a short (1 page or less) written proposal to read and workshop. This workshop will provide handouts on proposal writing as well as sample proposals you can use to help develop your own in the future. Useful for anyone hoping to someday write for print or online publications.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Ernie Hood

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 Ernie Hood 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?
Ernie Hood pic.jpgHi Bora. Thanks for your interest, and for all that you do.
I’m one of those science writers who comes to the profession from the writing side as opposed to the science side. I have a BA in English from Brown University and an MA in Communications from UNC-Chapel Hill. After grad school, I worked in local television news for a few years (great training for working on tight deadlines), and then a partner and I started a video and audio production company, where I plied my trade for the ensuing twenty years. Working with science-based corporate clients such as Glaxo-GlaxoWellcome-GSK, Rhone Poulenc, Ciba Giegy, Organon Teknika and many more, I eventually discovered my love of science and an ability to communicate scientific concepts simply and effectively. In 2003, after dabbling in science writing on the side for a few years, I elected to pursue it full time. Becoming a freelancer was and is nerve-wracking (just ask one), but I’ve never looked back and thoroughly enjoy what I do.
I like to think that my work makes some small contribution to bettering the world through enhanced appreciation of science–that’s much more rewarding than contributing to some corporation’s profit margin. And I’ve found that scientists are much easier to work with and more appreciative of quality work.
Geographically, I was born and raised in a suburb of Boston (go Sox!), spent some years in Florida, moved to Chapel Hill in 1976 to attend grad school (go Heels!), and have been here in the Triangle ever since. I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
I’ve been fortunate to work on a wide variety of engaging projects over the course of my career. For example, in the mid-90s my production company produced a weekly, national magazine show on PBS called BreakThrough: Television’s Journal of Science and Medicine, which aired on more than 200 stations, won several international awards, and was warmly received by the scientific community. I was Senior Writer on the show, contributing studio and promotional copy while supervising and editing the work of our team of reporter/field producers. It was an intense experience that has served me well to this day in terms of developing a passion for the science and for getting it right without pandering or sensationalizing.
In my second career as a science writer, I’ve written more than 80 articles for Environmental Health Perspectives, the monthly journal published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the flagship journal in the environmental health field. I’ve attended numerous scientific conferences and written meeting reports. I’ve written or edited several book chapters, including twice contributing chapters to the NIH Director’s Biennial Report to Congress. I’ve even been a co-author of two peer-reviewed publications, which was quite a thrill for this English major. I also perform a variety of writing and editing tasks for several academicians around the country. More recently, drawing on my media production experience, I’ve been producing podcasts for several clients–great fun.
What is taking up most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
Much (too much!) of my time these days is taken up by two volunteer labors of love–my radio show and SCONC.
For the past four years, I’ve hosted a weekly science interview radio show on WCOM-FM in Carrboro, North Carolina, called Radio In Vivo: Your Link to the Triangle Science Community. Each week I bring in a Triangle-area scientist and we discuss his or her work for an hour, which allows a thorough, in-depth examination. I’ve had guests from all walks of science (including Bora Z himself, of course!). It’s quite a challenge to book new guests and prepare for each week’s show, sometimes on a rather steep learning curve, but I never tire of helping scientists communicate about their work and promoting the scientific enterprise here in the Triangle. There are now more than 140 hour-long shows in the archive at the program’s website, radioinvivo.net. I also serve on three different committees at the radio station, doing what I can to help support and sustain WCOM–a remarkable example of all-volunteer community radio at its best.
I’ve also had the honor and privilege of serving as president of Science Communicators of North Carolina (SCONC) since 2009. We put on events monthly at area venues, typically featuring a speaker or two along with time for socializing, networking, and good food and drink. We seek to aid our members’ work opportunities and professional development, and to showcase the extremely important function our profession fulfills, serving as the vital liaison between the scientific community and the diverse audiences to be addressed.
Goals? Well, the chances of playing left field for the Red Sox or being a rock star or a pro bass fisherman seem increasingly remote these days, so I guess today I’ll settle for maintaining my health, watching my daughters thrive as adults, and eventually, dare I say it, hanging out with some grand-kids!
What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
I think my favorite element of science communication is simply the joy of constantly discovering fascinating new developments, and sometimes having the opportunity to introduce them to a wider audience. I don’t need to remind your readers how cool science is, and it’s thrilling to use the many new tools at our disposal to send that message out to folks who do need to be reminded–or informed in the first place…or disabused of misconceptions and misinformed opinions. We need all of the virtual weapons we can get in our ongoing battle against ignorance, apathy, and politically motivated misrepresentation.
How does blogging figure in your work? How about social networks? Do you find all of this online activity to be a net positive (or even a necessity) in what you do?
So far I don’t blog, and I marvel at people like you who do, and who generate so much material all the time. When you say A Blog Around the Clock, I think you must mean that you actually do blog around the clock, and I can’t begin to understand how you aren’t chronically sleep-deprived. I do follow several blogs, such as yours, Terra Sigillata, Deep Sea News, Science in the Triangle, and Mister Sugar, for example. Also I consult blogs frequently in the course of my reporting and writing work and when preparing for radio interviews.
As for social networks, I am on Facebook and Twitter, although I tend to lurk more than actively post. I just can’t imagine anyone caring what mood I might be in at any given time, or the fact that I’m drinking coffee somewhere. With that caveat in mind, I do find the networks to be valuable for staying in touch with the professional community and for publicizing new editions of the radio show and upcoming SCONC events. Sometimes it’s difficult to ignore all the chatter – the social networks are quite addictive and can be a distraction. On the other hand, they’re a great way to keep one’s ears to the ground. Does the word ambivalent come to mind?
What was the best aspect of Science Online 2010 for you?
This was my third year at the conference, and it just keeps getting better and more valuable. I was especially pleased at the breadth of the content this year, with the program expanding far beyond its roots in strictly covering science blogging. As we’ve seen, the many disparate elements of science communication are blending together in exciting new ways, and the meeting certainly reflected that trend. Also, as so many of your respondents have mentioned, it was a terrific opportunity to meet and interact with some of the most accomplished people in our field, face to face in “meat space.”
I was one of the recipients of a Flip video camera at the conference, and spent a good bit of time shooting interviews and posting them to YouTube. I was amazed by the quality of the image emerging from a camera the size of a transistor radio, the 2-hour digital recording capacity of the device, and the ease of operation and uploading. Took me way back to my TV news days, when it took two people and a camera and recorder weighing 40 pounds each to shoot on 15-minute tapes the size of a hard-back book. We’ve come a very long way! It’s exciting to contemplate the potential uses for this groundbreaking technology – I’m sure we’re just seeing our first glimpses of its capabilities and possible applications. From now on, there’s little excuse not to have video in our scientific communications when it’s become so easy and so powerful. I just hope we’ll keep the quality up and not put out mediocre material just because we can. We don’t do that in our writing, and we should not succumb to the temptation to do so in other communications. Small soapbox issue there…
Thanks, Bora – see you next year at Science Online 2011!
Thank you so much for the interview. And see you at the next SCONC event!