Monthly Archives: March 2011

ScienceOnline2011 – interview with Jennifer Rohn

Continuing with the tradition from last three years, I will occasionally post interviews with some of the participants of the ScienceOnline2011 conference that was held in the Research Triangle Park, NC back in January 2011. See all the interviews in this series here.

Today we chat with Jenny Rohn, editor of LabLit, blogger at Mind The Gap and the editor of The Open Laboratory 2008.

Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock.

Thanks for having me! I’m in exalted company.

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 Jenny, and I am a little hard to describe. Primarily, I’m a scientist. For the day job, I’m doing post-doctoral cell biology research at University College London, studying the genetics behind cell shape and movement. But I also do lots of other things on the side. I write novels about scientists (‘lab lit’), I blog about the scientific life at Mind The Gap, and I write articles, columns and essays for various newspapers and publications. I also moonlight as a freelance science journalist, mostly short news pieces. I do a bit of broadcast work and public engagement – BBC radio, podcasts, working with kids, sitting on panels, that sort of thing. And my baby is LabLit.com, a webzine about science, culture and literature that’s been going since 2005. I was born and raised in America, but I left in 1997 for my first post-doctoral stint and never looked back. Just recently I became a British citizen, so now I have dual nationality.

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

My career started out perfectly normally, and then it all went horribly wrong. I did all the usual geeky things you need to become a successful scientist: wore thick glasses, sat in the front row and got straight A’s in school; went to a good university (Oberlin College); and a good graduate school for my PhD (University of Washington, Seattle). I was totally on a conveyor belt. I worked the requisite 80-hour weeks all through grad school and ended up with something like 8 first-author papers on feline leukemia virus. I was the cat virus woman! My first post-doc, in the lab of Gerard Evan in London, seemed to be carrying on in that tradition – it was a famous lab working on apoptosis (cell death) just when it was getting hot, and I’d inherited a project that had recently earned a Nature paper. Things were rolling along – and then Gerard decided to move his lab to UCSF. Disaster! I’d only just moved to England and was loving it; I didn’t want to go back.

My partner at the time ended up landing a post-doc in the Netherlands, and I felt I had to follow. So I answered a job ad for a senior scientist at a tiny start-up biotech company in Leiden that seemed made for me: they needed a virologist to work on cancer and cell death: it was the combination of all my experience in one job. It was really brilliant while it lasted. I ended up leading a team of eight people and doing a lot of fascinating translational research in collaboration with Schering, a big German pharma; I was finding drug targets, writing patents, and doing all the cool biotech stuff, but at the same time the labs were incubated in Leiden University, so I was participating in academic life too. It was stimulating and fulfilling — and then the company went bankrupt, pulled under by shareholder bickering. And I found myself out of a job and on the dole in Amsterdam.

I’d already started writing novels after moving to the Netherlands, but suddenly I had a lot more time on my hands. I finished a second one and started in on a third. I found a London agent, but she was having problems selling the first book because of its scientific themes. They eventually sold and are now published, but only many year later. If anyone out there is interested in a couple of entertaining tales about scientists in action, do check out Experimental Heart and The Honest Look, both from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press!

That whole strange spring and summer, I tried to find a job and I wrote like crazy; I almost felt I was going mad sometimes. Being unemployed after being so career-kamakaze for so long was utterly bewildering and disorienting. I started to question everything about myself – my self-esteem plummeted. There were no jobs. Finally, I took the decision to leave research and took a position as a lowly assistant editor at BioMed Central, the open access publisher. This was pre-PLoS, and hardly anyone had even heard of open access. I visited hundreds of labs around the world, trying to convince famous scientists to submit their precious papers to this completely obscure and unknown journal. Needless to say, charm was not enough. I moved on to a chemistry society after that, managing its five peer-reviewed journals, but I missed research more and more and eventually cooked up a way to return. Now I’m nearing the end of a career re-entry fellowship from the Wellcome Trust and wondering if I’ll be able to stay in science when the money runs out.

I also started dabbling in politics last year, founding Science Is Vital, a grassroots organization formed to persuade the British government not to implement the drastic cuts to the science budget that it was threatening to. We had only six weeks to make a difference, but we ended up with 33,000 signatures on a petition, 2,000 demonstrators at a rally in Central London, 110 Members of Parliament signing our early day motion, hundreds of pieces of news coverage, and a packed lobby day in parliament. It was an amazing feeling to see so many scientists waking up from their usual apathy, and a number of credible sources credited our campaign as making a real difference to the eventual outcome (a cash freeze for science). Science Is Vital decided to stay organized and we plan to fight against any threats in the future.

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

At the moment, I’m obsessing about how to land a job next year and stay in scientific research. With the current economic climate, and a rather unconventional CV due to my career break, it’s not going to be easy to find something. I’m in my 40’s so I’d prefer not to do yet another post-doc. But four years, the length of my career re-entry fellowship, was not quite enough time to get up and running and develop a mature line of research beefy enough to found a lab on. I have good ideas, data and collaborations, and I think I’ll manage to swing something. But it is a very anxious time for me. The common sense part of my head urges me to leave research for something more stable and predicable — I even get occasional job offers outside of science. But at the moment, I’m not ready to give up the dream, so I’m not going to blink until the final hour.

I know I’m not the only post-doc facing these barriers, so in recent months I’ve become interested in the idea of lobbying for an improvement in the career structure for scientists. I’ve talked about it recently in an op-ed in Nature and am in discussion with various groups and stakeholders about what we might do about it in the UK. One of the joys of living in such a small country is that you have greater access to the sorts of people and processes you need to make a difference.

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

I’d like to see more scientists telling their stories online – not, actually, details about the facts and figures of what they are studying in the lab, but more about their lives in science, the processes of science, what goes on in their day-to-day work. The fly-on-the-lab-wall account. I think if more people understood what our job really entailed, and what the scientific method is, and that it’s practiced by actual human beings, there’d be more understanding and acceptance of science as a whole. This doesn’t have to be blogging – it could be tweeting stuff from the lab, or making lab video diaries and sticking them up on YouTube. Not everyone can write, but I think everyone has a story to tell. Stories are powerful mediators of change. It’s the same reason why I think we need more scientists in novels and films and other sorts of fiction: it’s a wonderful stealth communication medium.

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

My blog isn’t there to facilitate or transmit my research results, as I’ve said. It’s there to illuminate my scientific life. But since I’m a writer and a novelist, my blog and Twitter have become very important for self-promotion. (I feel as if Facebook might be on the way out, at least with my network. All the important conversations now seem to happen on Twitter, or in the comment threads of blogs.) And I’ve made lots of useful contacts that way. I can’t imagine a world without Twitter, now. And Twitter was absolutely instrumental for the success of Science Is Vital – we never could have got 33,000 signatures, or a few thousand scientists at a demo, in 4 weeks without it. Malcolm Gladwell thinks Twitter couldn’t start a revolution, but I think we proved him wrong.

When and how did you first discover science blogs? What are some of your favourites?

I was a real late-comer – I didn’t start blogging until 2007. My life is so out of control and busy that I tend only to read blogposts that are highlighted on Twitter and catch my attention – so a wide variety but not much regular loyalty. I love my new home on Occam’s Typewriter and my fellow bloggers there – it’s a relaxed and friendly environment, so do check us out. I avoid blogs where the authors or commentors are nasty or rude – I have enough stress in my life without voluntarily courting more. I like it if people disagree, but if they can’t do it with respect and courtesy, I’m not interested. I’m particular not interested in people who are nasty or rude behind a pseudonym – I understand why some bloggers need to be anonymous, and totally respect that, but for that subset who are going to be offensive, I see the pseudonym as just being cowardly. It’s really easy to be be nasty when you’ve not attached your name or reputation to that view. And does being nasty really achieve anything? Does it persuade more people to your side of the argument?

What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2011 for you?

I met so many amazing people – including you, at last! At the end of the day, it’s all about the people.

Thank you so much for the interview. It was great to finally meet you in person after all these years! I hope to see you again soon, and at ScienceOnline2012 in January.

Advertisements

ScienceOnline2011 – interview with David Wescott

Continuing with the tradition from last three years, I will occasionally post interviews with some of the participants of the ScienceOnline2011 conference that was held in the Research Triangle Park, NC back in January 2011. See all the interviews in this series here.

Today we chat with Dave Wescott (@wescott1)

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’ve worked at a big PR firm for over 8 years. I grew up in Boston and I now live in Durham NC. If you’re talking about my philosophy about science communication, I’m more in Neil deGrasse Tyson’s camp than, say, Richard Dawkins’ camp, though I can see the value in both approaches. Politically I’m decidedly left-of-center. My background isn’t in science – it’s in politics, health care management, and strategic communications.

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

The noteworthy moments in my career focus on the convergence of communities and ideas. When I worked for a public hospital’s pediatrics department in Boston, I organized a group of health care providers to lobby state legislators for better child nutrition provisions in the state welfare law. When I worked for Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) I focused on things like the intersection of intellectual property and global health, or business incubation and higher education, or energy and economic justice. Now that I work in public relations, I bring mom bloggers on tours of vaccine facilities and connect environmental bloggers with large energy companies. I’ve also done a lot of work in crisis communications – I once led a conference call discussing a plane crash while standing a few hundred feet from a burning train wreck.

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

My true passion is my family. Boston Red Sox baseball is a big deal, too. Beyond that, I want to forge stronger ties between science bloggers and mom bloggers. Online moms have extraordinary power – far more than most people realize. Companies listen to them. Policy makers listen to them. Moms make the overwhelming majority of decisions in life – what to buy, who to vote for, when to get health care, and so on. They do most of the work. They do most of the child-rearing. If moms are making decisions based on the right information and with the right context – the kind of context you can get from science bloggers – the world will be a much better place.

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

Media convergence. I love watching science writers who have influence in multiple channels – print, broadcast, and online. To me, effective communication is about being where the people are. I’m also interested in developing new ideas of outreach to people who may not have an active interest in science but may develop one if they get the right information under the right circumstances. Darlene Cavalier has been very kind to me in this regard – she lets me write a “best of the science blogosphere” post at Science Cheerleader, where the readership tends to be kids and moms.

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

Blogging is central to my job. I’m a VP in social media for my company and helped establish the practice. As for social networking tools I find Twitter to be very effective. My favorite tool, however, is Delicious – I find enormous power in its simplicity. Organizing and sharing links is an essential task when your job involves interacting with multiple online communities. I’m really upset that Yahoo! may be abandoning Delicious 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’ve known about science blogs for a long time, but I really got into them after drinking with Jonathan Gitlin at Ars Technica. That dude is brilliant with a capital SMART. I met Jonathan and his wife Elle (also brilliant) at a Drinking Liberally event in Lexington, Kentucky a few years ago and I’ve followed his stuff ever since. He told me about ScienceOnline, and now I’m hooked. I read a ton now but I’m partial to Deborah Blum, Jason Goldman, Chris Mooney & Sheril Kirshenbaum, and Maryn McKenna. I have a young son, so David Orr’s Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs is a must. (More dinosaur pics, please!)

What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2011 for you? Any suggestions for next year?

I loved the panel on parenting and science blogging – the panelists were outstanding. I did notice that very few people in the room read parenting blogs, however. I’d love to see a panel about outreach to other online communities. The next logical step for science bloggers and science blogging networks is to expand the audience – that will require stepping out of a comfort zone for many.

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, or to your science reading and writing?

The one quote that still resonates with me from #scio11 came from Steve Silberman at the panel on “keepers of the bullshit filter.” He said you can’t call bullshit on someone if you’re anonymous. I know this is a sensitive topic for many in the science blogsophere, and some of my favorite science bloggers don’t use their names. But as a PR guy with a political background it’s so important. It goes to the heart of credibility. It drives me nuts when I see so many political ads out there funded by people who don’t want you to know who they are. If I tried to hide my identity or my interests while speaking for a client I’d be slaughtered for it, and rightfully so. If you want to influence people with your writing, I think it’s important to be transparent and to own your words.

Thank you so much for the interview. I hope to see you again soon, and at ScienceOnline2012 in January.

ScienceOnline2011 – interview with Jason Priem

Continuing with the tradition from last three years, I will occasionally post interviews with some of the participants of the ScienceOnline2011 conference that was held in the Research Triangle Park, NC back in January 2011. See all the interviews in this series here.

Today we chat with Jason Priem

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?

Geographically, I’m a Floridian living in the frozen climes of North Carolina. Philosophically, I see my work in improving scholarly communication as the tip of a much bigger iceberg. The biggest current limit on the world-improving potential of science is the inefficiency of our antiquated communication infrastructure. If we can move the scholarly communication system into the current century, we can make science, and thereby the world, a lot better.

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

I like always doing new things, so I’ve moved around a lot; I was an artist, then a history and english teacher, then a web designer, and now I’m a 2nd-year PhD student in information science. I’ve worked mostly on what a lot of us are calling altmetrics–new ways of measuring scholarly impact that capture more than traditional citation could. So for instance, we’re studying the impact that scientific articles by looking on Twitter, blogs, or in Mendeley or Zotero.

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

Well, I’m doing a number of studies related to altmetrics; right now I’m really excited about altmetrics11, a workshop we’re putting on this summer that will showcase some of the great emerging research into altmetrics. (Shameless plug: we’re still accepting submissions through March; see http://altmetrics.org/workshop2011/).

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

It’s tough to pick one. But right now I’m incredibly excited about the potential of the web to decouple the traditional functions of the scientific journal. Right now, journals distribute, certify, archive, and register scientific knowledge…but what if we separated those functions out, and let the market improve each one individually?

A service like ArXiv can provide free archiving and distribution. Why not just overlay peer review on top of that, as a service? I could add multiple peer-review “stamps” to the same article. I could even get a peer-review stamp for a blog post I write. As these decoupled services compete, the evolve and diversify; we get a nuanced, responsive, open way to share science.

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

Like a lot of other folks, I find that the speed and ease of Twitter have tended to make my blog posts more thought-out but less frequent. I’m on FriendFeed occasionally because a lot of folks I follow are, but I never entirely cottoned to it…I love the minimalism of Twitter. I’ve also really enjoyed attending some recent conferences via Twitter; I felt more present as a virtual attendee at #beyondthepdf, for example, than I have at other conferences I’ve attended IRL. So social media is not just a net positive, but an essential part of my work.

What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2011 for you? Any suggestions for next year?

I really enjoyed the sense of community, the open-mindedness, and the energy at SciO. It was great being around so many people for whom “well, we’ve always done it that way” wasn’t an ok answer. I think one improvement I’d suggest would be to make even more use of synchronous technologies like EtherPad to involve participants in sessions in real time. Talking is great, but it’s serial; the online environment lets us add a background of parallel cognition that can really enhance a session.

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, or to your science reading and writing?

Well, our altmetrics session was amazing (for me, anyway); there were some really useful ideas and questions that have helped to inform my work since. It was also really great getting to talk with some of the industry folks who are really pushing scholarly communication forward, like Sara from PLoS, Jan and Jason from Mendeley, and Lou from Nature Blogs.

Thank you so much for the interview. I hope to see you again in January.

Three new posts on the SciAm Guest Blog

Busy working, traveling, having fun with family in NYC, so I was remiss in letting you in time that we published three more cool posts on the Scientific American Guest Blog yesterday and today:

Stealth percussionists of the animal world by Nadia Drake.

Impact of the Japan earthquake and tsunami on animals and environment by Jason G. Goldman.

Poor risk communication in Japan is making the risk much worse by David Ropeik.

As always: read, comment, share… more to come tomorrow.

ScienceOnline2011 – interview with Holly Tucker

Continuing with the tradition from last three years, I will occasionally post interviews with some of the participants of the ScienceOnline2011 conference that was held in the Research Triangle Park, NC back in January 2011. See all the interviews in this series here.

Today we chat with Holly Tucker.

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 like many of us connected to Science Online, I wear many hats. It depends on what time of the day it is, and what I’m feeling most passionate about. As my day job, I’m on the faculty at Vanderbilt University where I hold appointments in the Center for Medicine, Health and Society and the Department of French & Italian. (How’s that for multiple hats already!) My research and writing focus on the early history of medicine.

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

I started my academic life in French Studies, particularly seventeenth-century French history and culture—most appreciated by science types as the era of “scientific revolution.” I did my grad work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which has one of the top programs in the History of Science. This was before interdisciplinary studies were de rigueur (sorry, had to sneak some French in), so my dissertation focused on early literature. But I knew that I would include the History of Science, if not in my dissertation proper, then in my career trajectory. So I also took courses in the History of Science, which were among the highlights of my graduate work.

Once at Vanderbilt, I made a risky move. I chucked the dissertation and more or less reinvented myself—and this, on a tenure track. My first book was on the history of embryology and childbirth before epigenesis…in France. It all worked out apparently; I was tenured about six years ago.

Since then, I’ve been making a series of bold moves–at least for an academic. I decided that I wanted to stop writing for the same ten people–and research and write with an eye to a broader audience. Since then, and in addition to specialist articles in my field, I’ve written freelance for publications such as The New Scientist, The Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, and The Christian Science Monitor. My most recent book, Blood Work: A Tale of Medicine and Murder in the Scientific Revolution, is just out with W.W. Norton and getting great reviews (whew!). Now that you know some of the backstory, you can see why reviews like this one in The Economist mean a lot to me.

Actually, I wish more academics would make it part of their scholarly work to reach out effectively to a broader public. Which leads me to the next question…

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

As a humanist and more particularly someone who works in history, I’m indebted to the journalists and researchers who are committed to communicating science in ways that don’t require a hyper-specialized Ph.D. in a given field. I count on the best journalists and researchers–some of whom I have gotten to know thanks to Science Online–to guide me on which “breakthroughs” are really significant and which studies are all about smoke and mirrors. I also depend on them to translate the scientific research in ways that make it accessible without assuming their readers are simple minded.

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

“Serious academics” are not supposed to waste their time with such “plebeian” things as social media and blogging. Or so the conventional wisdom dictates (for now). But when I made the decision to explore the larger dimensions of my research, I learned quickly that it would be impossible to do so without integrating online work into the equation.

When I posted my first tweet two and a half years ago, I felt horribly vulnerable and awkward. The same when I started my history blog, Wonders & Marvels. In fact, I did not use my real name for a long time (hence @history_geek) and did everything I could to conceal my identity. I still use @history_geek because it captures my interests perfectly, but my name and affiliations can now be found in a simple mouse click.

As the years have gone by, I have come to see blogging and social media as one big, wonderful classroom. It’s a place where researchers can share the results of their work, along with behind-the-scenes tidbits. This puts a human face to what we do. And it’s exactly what we must do at a time when entire programs in the humanities are being shut down and when funding in the sciences is getting more and more scarce.

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, or to your science reading and writing?

The panel with Tom Levenson and Dr. Isis covered a lot of ground and made some points that I agree absolutely with. First, for those of us working in academe, online engagement will never be a substitute for heavy-hitting research, publication and grants. If you have a strong tenure case going in, your community engagement may be viewed as value-added—at best, it might be counted as part of your service or teaching dossier. At worst and especially if you do not have a strong tenure case, your community engagement will be construed as a distraction and perhaps even as the reason behind lack of success.

The second take-home point of the panel was one that I heard between the lines, actually. There was a justifiable fear among attendees that their senior colleagues don’t “get it.” And the majority of senior colleagues probably don’t (not yet). However, for those of us in the Science Online community who are working from a position of relative security, we have a responsibility to be as open and intentional about our online work as possible—so we can help create a safe space for this type of work for everyone. I’m going up for promotion from Associate to Full as we speak. I wasn’t going to mention my blog and other online work in my materials. Science Online changed that.

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 am wondering if Richard Grant, Jenny Rohn and I weren’t separated at birth. Their blog Lablit is now part of my required reading. It’s a website for anyone who writes about or is just intrigued by the fiction of science. What is there not to love?

And while it’s not a blog per se, I also learned about Skeptically Speaking at Scio11. Desiree Schell told me that she likes to imagine her show as the science nursery for Terry Gross’ Fresh Air. Now that I am a devoted listener, I understand why. And seriously, who can resist an entire show on Semen Science?

What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2011 for you? Any suggestions for next year?

Change nothing, nada, rien. Ok, one thing: I think there should be a cool science t-shirt beauty pageant. If I were a judge at Scio11, I’d have to say Maryn McKenna gets the crown with the Staphylococcus aureus cartoon guys. The runner up: the guy who was wearing the human-walrus shirt during the history of science panel (remind me who you were!). But walrus man had an unfair advantage; I work on chimeras in history, after all.

Thank you so much for the interview. I hope to see you again in January.

The Open Laboratory 2010 – now up for sale!

You kept submitting your posts all year long and watching, every Monday, to see which other posts were also entered.

Then we closed the submission form.

Then we made you wait a month of “electoral silence” while the judges went through three rounds of judging, until we finally announced which 50 essays, plus poems and cartoons, made it into print.

Then we announced the gorgeous new cover art.

New guest editor? Soon, be patient…

But now – what you have been waiting for so long – The Open Laboratory 2010, the collection of best writing on science blog for the year, is finally up for sale!

Buy one for yourself, one for your significant other, one for each family member, one for each pet (including all those on the internet who are dogs but we don’t know they are, and of course all the LOLcats), one each for as many neighbors, friends and colleagues you can think of, and a copy for the local library 😉

Thank you Jason Goldman for a fantastic job ushering this project through all year round, to Andrea Kuszewski for the cover design, and to Blake Stacey for doing all the technical stuff with LaTeX and formatting and such. Thank you to all the judges who read hundreds of posts. And thank you to all of you for submitting your posts, spreading the word about the project and supporting it throughout the years.

ScienceOnline2011 – interview with Taylor Dobbs

Continuing with the tradition from last three years, I will occasionally post interviews with some of the participants of the ScienceOnline2011 conference that was held in the Research Triangle Park, NC back in January 2011. See all the interviews in this series here.

We are starting the series with Taylor Dobbs.

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 an undergrad journalism student at Northeastern University. I have very little science background, but I’m fascinated by the way technology can influence the dynamics of society. Cell phones, the internet, and – more recently – Twitter and smartphones – have dramatically changed the way society works. I’m interested in following how these types of changes progress and unfold in the future.

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

My career trajectory is only up from here. I have literally never been paid for any journalism or science that I’ve done. The most recent interesting development: I’m trying to sell my first story. I’m hoping to be able to pay for a haircut soon, so the sooner the better. I’ve been mostly working on class assignments, but I’ve stumbled across an interesting story about health care fraud. Mostly, I’m covering the unfolding WikiLeaks story at my blog The World Exposed.

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

Most of my time goes into school and The World Exposed. My passion is really in what I’m doing online with my blog and as web editor for my school’s newspaper. My goals: get paid. As much as I love journalism, I’m in this to make money and support myself. I’m hoping that the work I’m doing at The World Exposed and with the school paper will help build my resume to the point where someone will pay me to do this stuff.

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

The web has the amazing power to make science interesting to everyday people. As someone who isn’t as passionate about science as many of those at Science Online, I admit (with some shame – I know this stuff is important) that I have a lot of trouble reading about science. With interactive models, infographics, videos, and conversational technologies (such as twitter and blog comments, to name some basic ones), the web has the power to make science much more accessible. A great example is Hans Rosling’s 5-minute video on the last 200 years of the socioeconomic history of the world. If someone asked me to read an essay about that, I would… not. But the video was interesting and amazingly cool to watch, and I learned along the way. That is the power of the web:

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

If there was no net activity in what I do, I wouldn’t have been at Science Online. My primary focus right now is a blog, and twitter is a close second. The two go hand-in-hand. It started off with my just tweeting heavily about WikiLeaks. From there, I realized I could assemble some of the best things I’m reading online into a themed narrative on my blog. I still tweet about it, but I also blog. There’s no point in doing anything with your career online without going in head first. People love the internet because it’s a conversation, so that’s what I use it for. I ask questions, go back and forth with people about their thoughts, and it ultimately becomes a gain for all parties.

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 through my dad, who now blogs for Wired but had been in a few places before that. I visit his blog and Jonah Lehrer’s the most. There are no blogs I follow religiously, but if I see that people are all a-twitter about any given post, I give it a look.

What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2011 for you? Any suggestions for next year?

The best aspect for me was being in a group of people with the experience and know-how of veterans in the journalism world but the enthusiasm of a startup. I loved being able to converse with people who said anything other than “You’re going into journalism? In this economy? I hear underwater basket-weaving majors are making more money these days. You’re screwed.” More than that, there was no feeling of competition. It was a collaborative effort to make everyone at the conference better at what they do, and I really think it worked.

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, or to your science reading and writing?

Everyone at the conference was doing their own thing and doing it well. Nobody showed up in a private jet or a Lamborghini (that I know of), but nobody showed up unhappy either. What I took away is that you really can get by doing what you’re passionate about. I always here people say “Do what you love and worry about the money later,” but with the exception of pro athletes some other professions, I never saw proof until Science Online.

Thank you so much for the interview. I hope to see you again in January.