Monthly Archives: September 2010

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Shana tova!!!
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How to write and publish a science book?

SCONC Presents: Writing Science: Local Authors Discuss Their Craft (an N.C. Science Festival event):

Join the Science Communicators of North Carolina as we probe the minds of local science writers to find out how they go about the process of writing a book.

How are ideas generated? What does their research process entail? How do they go about getting words down on the blank page/screen? What is the editing process like? Once the book is finished, what next?

Find out the answers to these questions and pose your own.

Panel includes:

T. Delene Beeland (blog, Twitter), author of the forthcoming The Secret World of Red Wolves.

Scott Huler (blog, Twitter), author of On the Grid (review).

Glenn Murphy, author of Why is Snot Green?

Moderated by Russ Campbell (blog, Twitter) of the Burroughs Wellcome Fund.

Thursday, September 23, 2010 from 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM (ET) in Research Triangle Park.

Get your free ticket(s) here!

Really bad timing for me – I’ll be at the Block by Block summit on exactly the same day. I hate I will have to miss this. But you should go if you are in the area! This is bound to be awesome!

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Just a few to get you going for the day…
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Linky goodness for today:
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Look Up! The Billion-Bug Highway You Can’t See (video)

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Something to keep you busy today:
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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!

Berry Go Round – call for submissions to the plant blog carnival

Yes, I will host Berry Go Round, the Botanical blog carnival this month.

The deadline for entry is September 28th at 6pm Eastern time, and the carnival will alight on the 29th.

There are several ways to submit your entries – go here for instructions. If nothing else works, send me the URLs at: coturnix AT gmail DOT com.

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An incredibly productive Labor Day:
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Open Laboratory 2010 – submissions so far

Note: if you have recently moved your blog, please e-mail me the corrected URLs for your entries

The list is growing fast – check the submissions to date and get inspired to submit something of your own – an essay, a poem, a cartoon or original art.

The Submission form is here so you can get started. Under the fold are entries so far, as well as buttons and the bookmarklet. The instructions for submitting are here.

You can buy the last four annual collections here. You can read Prefaces and Introductions to older editions here.

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Hummingbirds at the feeder




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There should be something for everyone:
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Long weekend in the USA, thus plenty of time to read:
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Intently watching #solo10 hashtag on Twitter….join me, or read these links instead:
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Schooling-like Behavior of Medaka Fish Induced by Optomotor Response (video)

Explanation here.

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Lotsa kewl stuff today:
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The Majestic Plastic Bag – A Mockumentary (video)

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Lots of good stuff today!!!
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PLoS Blogs – the science blogging network!


Earlier today, Public Library of Science (PLoS) launched a wonderful (if I may say so myself) new science blogging networks – PLoS Blogs!

The network was built by Brian Mossop, the Community Manager at PLoS Hubs and blogger at Decision Tree (Twitter). Any questions? Just e-mail him at: bmossop@plos.org

Brian was ably assisted by a team of PLoS staffers, including Sara Wood, Pete Binfield, Liz Allen and Richard Cave, among others (yup, I left a few fingerprints around the site as well).

You should read the About section at the network, introductory post by Liz Allen, and a post describing the history of the project and the concept by Brian Mossop.

The network has two parts. The PLoS Blogs are editorial blogs you are already familiar with from before: the official PLoS Blog, everyONE (PLoS ONE community blog) and Speaking of Medicine (PLoS Medicine community blog).

The other part, the new part, is The PLoS Blogosphere, a collection of independent science bloggers who have moved (or started new) blogs on the network today.

While media organizations have stable-fulls of professional writers and may tend to want to enlist scientists to write their blogs in a different tone from the rest of their fare, or as scientific societies may like to enlist professional writers to do the blogging for them, PLoS wanted to do something different: have scientist-bloggers and science-journalist-bloggers writing side by side.

PLoS possesses a huge database of excellent scientific research in their seven journals. But scientific papers tend to be written for other researchers in the same field and can be difficult to read – they need translation. On the other end, PLoS has an excellent social media presence and great ongoing relationship with bloggers elsewhere. What this network does is provide the stuff in-between – a translation of research and other science news targeted at educated lay audience interested in science.

The starting line-up at the network is:

Speakeasy Science: Deborah Blum

The Language of Bad Physics: Sarah Kavassalis

Body Politic: Melinda Wenner Moyer

Wonderland: Emily Anthes

Take As Directed: David Kroll

Neuroanthropology: Daniel Lende and Greg Downey

Obesity Panacea: Peter Janiszewski and Travis Saunders

Gobbledygook: Martin Fenner

GenomeBoy: Misha Angrist

NeuroTribes: Steve Silberman

The Gleaming Retort: John Rennie

Check them out, and go say Hello in the comments on their first posts on the network.

Grab the RSS feed (I have already placed it on the homepage of Scienceblogging.org).

You can follow the network also on Twitter – @plosblogs or the hashtag #plogs.

Check out the blog posts reacting to the launch as well: Phil Yam at Scientific American, Daniel Lende, Jason Goldman, Greg Laden, John Dupuis, Deborah Blum, ihatewasabi, Sara Kavassalis, Hank Campbell, John Stafford, Grant Jacobs, Casey Rentz, Sammy Smith and Carl Zimmer.

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.

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The August 2010 PLoS ONE Blog Pick of the Month…

…has been revealed here.

Ira Flatow at Duke

Science Friday Host to Headline Sept. 20 Festival:

The Duke Center for Science Education, a multi-disciplinary effort to “bring science education resources and outreach to the university and the community” is hosting its first-ever Science Education Showcase on Sept. 20.

Ira Flatow, science journalist and host of NPR’s “Science Friday” show will be the keynote speaker at 1:30 p.m. in Love Auditorium, Levine Science Research Center (LSRC). Before and after the talk, students, faculty and staff will be sharing hands-on activities and demos that they’ve developed with CSE. Some of these exhibits will also be making an appearance at the first-ever USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington Oct. 23 and 24. More on that in a later post.

You’ll need a ticket to see Flatow. They’re free, but you gotta have one. And you’d better hurry. Try the Bryan Center Box Office or online: http://www.tickets.duke.edu/

Best of August 2010

I posted 82 times in August.

The two most important posts are about the changes in the science blogging ecosystem, its rapid diversification, and how new networks are (and should be) built: Links ‘n’ Thoughts on emerging science blogging networks and Branding Science Blogging: Cooperatives + Corporate Networks.

The science blogging ecosystem is rapidly reorganizing, with bloggers moving from one URL to another at a breath-taking pace, e.g., Terra Sigillata has moved!.

There were two new networks announced in August: Welcome Scientopia, a new science blogging network and Introducing The Guardian Science Blogging Network.

And all of that needs to be organized in some way – thus we put together a website that can help you get your daily snapshots of the science blogosphere: Drumroll, please! Introducing: Scienceblogging.org.

I hosted two blog carnivals last month: Grand Rounds Vol. 6 No. 49 – a conference in a tropical island resort and Carnal Carnival #1 – Essentials of Elimination (Carnal Carnival is a new thing, which I explained here).

I did some actual science blogging as well – Food goes through a rabbit twice. Think what that means! and a do-over of an ancient post: Postscript to Pittendrigh’s Pet Project – Phototaxis, Photoperiodism and Precise Projectile Parabolas of Pilobolus on Pasture Poop.

A brief musing: Why republish an old blog post?

A very personal post: Origins of Science Writers…but am I one?

Continuing with the series of interviews (all collected here, and there are more to come), here is the ScienceOnline2010 interview with Helene Andrews-Polymenis.

I did a podcast: Rebooting The News, on science blogging and media.

It was my sixth blogiversary in August.

After a summer break, the Fall looks like it is full of travel again. To keep up, check out my Tentative conference schedule for Fall 2010

Work-wise, I announced the July 2010 PLoS ONE Blog Pick of the Month.

Finally, I reposted my BIO101 lecture series, asking the readers to fact-check the material and make it better:
BIO101 – Biology and the Scientific Method
BIO101 – Cell Structure
BIO101 – Protein Synthesis: Transcription and Translation
BIO101 – Cell-Cell Interactions
BIO101 – Cell Division and DNA Replication
BIO101 – From Two Cells To Many: Cell Differentiation and Embryonic Development
BIO101 – From Genes To Traits: How Genotype Affects Phenotype
BIO101 – From Genes To Species: A Primer on Evolution
BIO101 – What Creatures Do: Animal Behavior
BIO101 – Organisms In Time and Space: Ecology
BIO101 – Origin of Biological Diversity
BIO101 – Evolution of Biological Diversity
BIO101 – Current Biological Diversity
BIO101 – Introduction to Anatomy and Physiology
BIO101 – Physiology: Regulation and Control
BIO101 – Physiology: Coordinated Response