Category Archives: AAAS10

ScienceOnline2011 (and ’10, ’09, ’08, ’07) reunion at AAAS meeting this Friday night!

If you have ever attended any of our ScienceOnline conference in the past, and you will be in Washington DC this week, probably to attend AAAS meeting, please join us for a little reunion on Friday at 9pm at La Tasca Tapas and Bar, 722 7th St. NW (click on the image above to see bigger):

Stuff I showed on my panel at AAAS

Since I don’t do PowerPoint but use the Web for presentations instead, and since the recordings from AAAS are not free (yes, you can buy them, I won’t), and since some people have asked me to show what I showed at my panel there, here is the list of websites I showed there. I opened them up all in reverse chronological order beforehand, so during the presentation itself all I needed to do was close each window as I was done with it to reveal the next window underneath.
I started with to explain the new interactive, collaborative methods in science journalism we discussed there.
Then I showed this series of tweets:
as an example of how that system can work:
I then showed how I filter my Twitter stream to eliminate much of it and only get to see what people I trust deem important:
I pointed out that some people got jobs on Twitter:
I showed how some people – including myself – got jobs on their blogs:
Then I showed an example of a PLoS ONE paper, as a center of an ecosystem, and the comments and links as an outer shell of that ecosystem:;jsessionid=2009BD9E7195AADA6D62474B19ABA3FE
I particularly showed the links to the blog posts aggregated on to show the reputability of science blogging in the current science publishing ecosystem.
Then I discussed
and as example showed how I collect important links about Dunbar Number from Twitter to FriendFeed for a future blog-post:
A blog-post or a series of them can lead to an MSM article, and perhaps a series of articles can lead to a book contract. But even without that, one can potentially have a blog post published in a book, e.g., in the Open Laboratory:
Finally, if one gets a book published, there is nobody organizing the marketing and the book tours any more, so I showed how Rebecca Skloot organized it herself, by tapping into her online community:

On organizing and/or participating in a Conference in the age of Twitter

This is the first time ever that I cared about SXSW conference or was jealous for not being there. Watching the blogs and Twitter stream, it appears to have been better and more exciting than ever. I guess I’ll have to figure out a way to finally get myself there next year….
But this post is not really about SXSW. It is about presenting at such conferences. More specifically, how the back-channel (on Twitter and elsewhere) affects the way one needs to approach an invitation to speak at meetings where much of the audience is highly wired online: to say Yes or No to the invitation in the first place, and if Yes how to prepare and how to conduct oneself during the presentation.
A great example of this was the Future of Context panel at SXSW, with Jay Rosen, Matt Thompson and Tristan Harris, moderated by Staci Kramer.
After the meeting ended, Jay Rosen described in great detail all the things they did to prepare for the session and how that all worked – go and read: How the Backchannel Has Changed the Game for Conference Panelists. I will be sending the link to that post to all the speakers/panelists/presenters/moderators at ScienceOnline2011 once the program is set. That is definitely a post to bookmark and save if you are organizing a conference, or if you are ever invited to speak at one.
This includes people who tend to speak at conferences that are not filled to the brim with the Twitterati. Even at such conferences, a small but loud proportion of your audience WILL tweet. Be prepared! Even if you are speaking at the AAAS meeting.
There are other important things to think about – both for organizers and presenters.
First, public speaking is for some people the most terrifying thing they can ever be asked to do. But even those who are not completely terrified, may need some training in order to do well. Have new people be mentored by experienced speakers (I mentioned how we do that at ScienceOnline at the end of this post) by sharing the panel. As an organizer, work hard to help the new speakers to alleviate their fears, to make crystal-clear what is expected of them, to provide them support before, during and after their sessions.
Many organizers are hoping to increase diversity (of personal experiences and approaches, not just in terms of gender, race, age, ethnicity and such, though the diversity in the latter usually brings along the diversity in the former as well). They need to remember that announcing this intent is not enough. People who were not welcome at the table before have no reason to believe that they will be welcome now – so why bother. You have to do more – actively reach out and engage them. And, as your conference (like ScienceOnline) goes through years, if you are successful at bringing in the diverse groups to the table – they will notice. They will invite others to come next year. The meeting gains reputation, over the years, for being open and inclusive (nobody is a superstar and everybody is a superstar). Instead of being tokens, they become an integral part of the conference and help shape it. This takes work.
Second, the Back-channel should never become the Front-channel!!!! Never display tweets on the screen behind the speaker. Never. On the other hand, please make it easy for the speakers to monitor the Twitterverse on their own computer screens if they want to.
Third, if you are organizing a conference, think hard about the format. At a typical scientific conference, the speaker is a scientist who is presenting new data. The talk is likely to have a level of complexity (as well as an arrow of the narrative) that is not served well by constant interruption. In such cases, a traditional format, with a Q&A period (long enough!) at the end is just fine. TED and TEDx conferences are similar. Quick presentations, like Ignite or storytelling events are similar – the presentations are too short and too well-rehearsed to be able to withstand interruptions. But you have to have a Q&A at the end – it is irresponsible not to have it.
For example, many sessions at the AAAS meeting are three hours long! Including my session. And in each one of those that I attended, the moderator announced at the beginning that the Q&A will be at the end. Hmmm, how many people will still be in the room after 2 hours and 40 minutes? They will be either long gone, or brain-dead and eager to leave. So we tried to do the best we could with the format we had – we had 2-3 people ask questions after each one of our presentations (there were six of us at the panel) as well as at the very end. And you know what – at the end of the third hour, the room was still full and we were still getting more questions. Engaging the audience early on got them excited. They wanted to stay in the room and engage some more, 2-3 of them every 20 minutes or so, and several more at the end.
On the other end of the spectrum to the one-to-many lecture is a fully-fledged Unconference format. It is based on the insight that “The sum of the expertise of the people in the audience is greater than the sum of expertise of the people on stage.“. This, of course, depends on the topic, the speaker, and the audience.
As I explained at length in this post after ScienceOnline’09, and at even more length in this radio interview after ScienceOnline2010, our inaugural meeting in 2007 was a pure Unconference, but that we since decided to move to a hybrid format for a number of reasons I explained in both of these places.
Think, for example, of Workshops. We had a Blogging101 workshop at a different day, time and place in 07 and 08. We expanded the number of workshops in 2009 and had them as a part of the main program (just tagged as workshops), and then in 2010 we again moved them all to a different day, time and space to make it clear that these sessions are different – not Unconference-y in format, and for a good reason (we’ll do the same next year).
A Blogging101 workshop, for example, will have an experience blogger at the front. The audience will be full of people who have never blogged and want to learn how. The moderator is an expert, and acts as a teacher or trainer or ‘fount of wisdom’ to the audience who came to get exactly that – instruction. The audience expects to learn how to start a blog, how to post the first introductory post, how to make a link and insert a picture, how to build a blogroll and change the visual design of the blog from an existing set of choices. They also expect some sage advice on what is regarded as proper blogging behavior so they do not get instantly slammed when they enter the blogosphere for “doing it wrong”. The kinds of questions such an audience asks are going to be calls for help and clarification, perhaps for more information. They are unlikely to insert their own opinions and information, or to challenge the session leader. It is more of a classroom lecture (or lab) than a freewheeling discussion. Yet is has its own usefulness and should not be looked down upon because it is not in an Unconference format.
Actually, a Blogging102 workshop, where the audience already has some experience in blogging and is looking for tips and tricks for making their blogs better, looking better, and promoted better, there will be additional insights from the audience – which we saw at Scio10: that workshop was quite participatory and interactive.
Then, there are demos. A demo is just 12 minutes long with additional 3 minutes reserved for Q&A. The presenter is showing off his/her website or software or what-not to people who have not seen it before and would like to see how it works. Again, interruption of such a short and carefully prepared presentation would not be a good thing. If you have more to discuss – grab the presenter in the hallway afterwards. We are thinking of moving the Demos (both 12-minute presentations and potentially stations or booths) to a different day/time/space next year as well. Nothing wrong with that format, but it is not in an Unconference spirit.
Yet, the bulk of our conference is an Unconference. And we have seen that well-prepared presenters can turn even large 4-5 person panels into lively discussions off the bat. I have described one such 2009 panel in this post and there were several this year (most notably the Rebooting Science Journalism session). What we tell both moderators and participants is that the name of the session is not a title of a lecture but the topic of the conversation for that hour.
People who already have experience with the unconference format lead the way (we try to have such people lead the first morning sessions to set the tone for the rest of the event) and n00bs follow. Once everyone is in the swing of things and participating freely, it is easy to have a session be very informal. For example, last year Pete Binfield and Henry Gee started off their session with the question “Our topic is “A” – what do you want to talk about?”. And that worked brilliantly as people who decided to attend that particular session already had questions and comments prepared in their minds and were ready to start discussing the topic right from the start. Other sessions require more of an intro, and that is OK as well.
So, the bottom line is that there is a spectrum of potential formats and each format has its pros and cons. The duration (from 5 minutes to 3 hours and everything in-between) will dictate how participatory the session can be. The relative difference between the expertise of the people on stage and the people in the audience is also a factor – more even they are, more participatory the session should be. As an organizer, always strive to have the sessions as participatory as the format/topic/people allows it, not less. Having less will diminish the experience – it will be seen as preaching down and trust will be lost.
And keep the Back-channel in mind – people in the room are not the only people participating. Make sure that the people following on Twitter, or Ustream or SecondLife can participate to some extent as well – perhaps let the people/audience in the room (all of them or a few chosen individuals) be moderators of Twitter chatter, and ask the cameraman to introduce questions from the Ustream audience into the room. We did both at ScienceOnline2010 and the feedback from virtual audience was positive. We’ll try to do even better next year.

Why it is important for media articles to link to scientific papers

You may be aware that, as of recently, one of my tasks at work is to monitor media coverage of PLoS ONE articles. This is necessary for our own archives and monthly/annual reports, but also so I could highlight some of the best media coverage on the everyONE blog for everyone to see. As PLoS ONE publishes a large number of articles every week, we presume that many of you would appreciate getting your attention drawn to that subset of articles that the media found most interesting.
So, for example, as I missed last week due to my trip to AAAS, I posted a two-week summary of media coverage this Monday. And that took far more time and effort (and some silent cursing) than one would expect. Why?
I don’t think I am a slouch at googling stuff. Some people joke that the entire Internet passes through my brain before it goes to the final audience. After all, I have been monitoring the Web for mentions of ‘PLoS’ and ‘Public Library of Science’ on blogs, Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook and elsewhere for a few years now. If I don’t catch a mention within minutes of it being posted, you can bet one of my many online friends/followers/subscribers is bound to quickly let me know by e-mail or Direct Messaging somewhere. If someone says something nice about PLoS, I am quick to post a ThankYou note. If someone asks a question, I try to answer or to connect the person with the appropriate member of the PLoS staff. If someone is publicly musing about submitting a manuscript to one of our journals, I am right there to give encouragement. If someone makes a factual error, I gently correct it. It is very, very rare that I need to raise the Immense Online Armies because someone is wrong on the Internet 😉
So, why is it difficult then to compile a collection of weekly media coverage? Let me walk you through the process….
First, as you probably already know, PLoS makes no distinction between Old and New media. We have bloggers on our press list who apply/sign-up in the same way and abide by the same rules as traditional journalists (and, unlike mainstream media, bloggers NEVER break embargos, not once in the past three years since we started adding bloggers to our press list). For the kind of coverage we prefer to see, we point bloggers to the criteria. In return, bloggers can send trackbacks to our articles, their work is showcased side-by-side with the traditional outlets in our weekly posts, they can be discovered via Google Blogsearch, Postgenomic and links directly from each article, and one blogger per month wins a t-shirt and special recognition.
So, I start with blog posts first. The first thing I do is take a look at Those are the best of the best posts – not merely mentioning our articles, but adding analysis, commentary, critique, context and additional information. How do I find them? I just search the site for the phrase ‘journal.pone‘. That search brings up every single post that mentions a PLoS ONE article because that phrase is a part of every possible form of the URL of the article (including the shortest one, which includes just the DOI). If a post links to our article (and that is the only way to get aggregated on I will find it this way. Needless to say, this process takes just a few minutes per week.
Knowing that there are some good blogs out there that are not registered at (which is strange and unfathomable why – is a ‘stamp-of-approval’ place for science blogs recognized by the outside world of journals and media, as well as a nice way to get extra recognition and traffic, and even awards), I then repeat the same search – for ‘journal.pone‘ – on Google Blogsearch. This may bring up a few more posts that I did not catch yet. Occasionally, some of these are good. Another couple of minutes. Blogs are now done. Move on to traditional media….
And this is where the Hell starts. Try searching Google News for ‘journal.pone‘…?! All I get are a couple of prominent blogs that I have already counted, e.g., those blogs that are listed by Google News ( blogs, Ars Technica, Wired blogs, etc.). Where are the others?
The problem is, nobody in the mainstream media links to papers.
So I have to search for PLoS and for Public Library Of Science and then figure out which ones are covering specifically PLoS ONE articles (sometimes they don’t specify, sometimes they name the wrong journal – last week an article on PLoS Current-Influenza was reported to be in PLoS ONE by a number of outlets copying the error from each other). Then I have to search for keywords for individual articles I suspect may have received some coverage. Last week, for example, I searched for “swallows+antioxidants” and “St. Birgitta”, among many others. This lasts for hours! And at the end I am still not 100% sure I caught everything. How frustrating!
Not just is there a big difference in time and effort spent between finding blog posts and finding media articles, but there is an even bigger disparity when one considers what results come out of these searches. I have been doing this for a month now. I expected that there would be poor blog posts and poor media articles, that there would be good blog posts and good media articles, and that there would occasionally be some excellent blog posts and excellent media articles. So far, that is true…. except I have yet to discover an excellent media article. As a rule, the very best coverage of every paper in the past month was done by a blogger or two or three. Then there are some other, good pieces of coverage in both the New and Old media, and then there are some really bad pieces in both realms as well (not all blog posts I count here are really bad – they may just be too detailed, technical and dry for lay audience because the blogger is intentionally targeting scientific peers as audience, which is fair thing to acknowledge).
So, every week, it takes me a few minutes to find the very best coverage (which is on blogs, usually those aggregated on And then I spend hours looking for remnants, in the traditional media, which turn out to be so-so, some OK, some not so good, some horrible. If I wasn’t paid to do this, I would not do it – it cannot be good for my long-term mental health.
The resistance to post links is an atavism, a remnant of an old age before the Web. I know (because I asked many times) many good science journalists keep trying to add links, but the editors say No. The traditional media has still not caught on to the Ethic of the Link, which is an essential aspect of ethics of online communication.
I can think, off the top of my head, of three good reasons why everyone who publishes online should include a link to the scientific paper described in the article (just post the DOI link that comes with the press release if you are on the press list – if it does not resolve immediately, it is not your fault, you can always blame the journals for being slow on it – though this should never happen with PLoS articles):
Reason One: I will not go crazy every week. I am assuming that every scientific publisher has people on the staff whose task is to monitor media coverage and each one of these people is cussing and cursing YOU, the Media, every day. Try to make friends with people who provide you with source material on a regular basis.
Reason Two: Media coverage is one of the many elements of article-level metrics. Furthermore, links from the media affect the number of views and downloads of the article, and those are also elements of article-level metrics. Number of views/downloads then, in the future, affects the number of citations the work gets which is also and element of article-level metrics. Thus omitting the link skewes the ability of readers and observers to evaluate the papers properly.
The current ecosystem of science communication has a scientific paper at its core, additions to the paper (e.g., notes, comments and ratings, as well as Supplemental materials, videos posted on, etc) as a shell, and incoming and outgoing links – trackbacks, cited papers, citing papers, links to other papers in the same Collection, links to other papers with the same keywords, and yes, incoming links from the media – as connections building a network: the entire inter-connected ecosystem of scientific knowledge.
By not linking to scientific papers, traditional media is keeping itself outside of the entire ecosystem of empirical knowledge. By doing this, the traditional media is fast making itself irrelevant.
Reason Three: if an article in the media discusses a scientific study, that scientific paper is the source material for the article. If the link is missing, this is an automatic red flag for the readers. What is the journalist hiding? Why is the article making it difficult for readers to fact-check the journalist? Something does not smell good if the link is not provided (or worse, it is impossible to figure out even who are the authors and in which journal did they publish – yes, that is more common than you think).
The instant and automatic response of the readers is mistrust. Every time you fail to link to the paper, you further erode whatever trust and reputation you still may have with the audience. You soon cease to be a legitimate source of information. Sure, most readers will not go hunting for the paper to read it in order to fact-check you. But two or three will, and they will let everyone else know if your article is trustworthy or not, either in the comments under the article on your own site, or on their blogs which will be quickly picked up by Google (remember: Google loves blogs).
So please, media types, hurry up and catch up with the world. The 21st century is already a decade in – you really need to do some very fast learning. Right now. Or you’ll go extinct in a nanosecond. And despite my reputation, I never said that I’d consider that result to be a Good Thing. We are in this together, you just need to do your part. To begin with, start linking.

SciBlings at AAAS10

Four Sciblings (and three ex-Sciblings – Sheril Kirshenbaum, Chris Mooney and Carl Zimmer – but once a Scibling always a Scibling rule applies, so we hung together some…) went to the AAAS meeting last week in San Diego. There is a lot of coverage in the MSM (and a little bit on blogs – it’s hard to blog when you are not given tools, access and respect and thus AAAS will get much less, and much less positive coverage than they would have otherwise) – but here I just want to link to what my SciBlings have posted so far (I will post some more myself later – just watch the AAAS10 category here):
Jennifer Jacquet: Do Scientists Want to Bridge Science and Society?

So much of what the scientists do is less relevant than it could be. This was the motivation behind the theme at the 2010 AAAS annual meeting, Bridging Science and Society….

Josh Rosenau: Highlights from TIMSS 2007 at AAAS:

A message in lots of the science communication and science policy sessions has been that scientists and senior science educators need to be better communicators. Learning what works and what doesn’t should be of interest to all of them, so I have to agree it’s a shame to see the room so empty.

Josh Rosenau: Called out:

The organizer of this education session caught me blogging her remarks, but I didn’t get sent to sit in the corner.

Josh Rosenau: Lubchenco:

Who has two thumbs and met NOAA administrator, jetsetting ecologist, and hero to policy-loving scientists Jane Lubchenco?

Oh, btw, I got to briefly talk to Jane Lubchenco as well.
Josh Rosenau: AAAS Day 3: Social media in science:

The existence of quacks on blogs doesn’t invalidate the enterprise of good bloggers, any more than Fox News invalidates TV journalism or the Washington Times invalidates the New York Times. In any media, you choose your sources based on their expertise and their track record.

Matt Nisbet: Remarks at AAAS Conference on Climate Change Literacy:

There are plans to make available online the various presentation materials, so I will post again when those are ready. In the meantime, I have pasted below the text from remarks I gave as part of a panel on framing.

It is unfortunate that Matt’s session was a part of a pre-conference of which I was not aware until a couple of days before the conference started when I already had the tickets and hotel set. Thus I could not go early to attend his session. It is also unfortunate that he did not stay for the proper AAAS meeting – he left town before I arrived – so he could come to my session. Thus, there could have been two opportunities for Matt and myself to discuss these issues in public, in front of the media, scientists, policy-makers and bloggers. From a couple of e-mails we exchanged, I think that Matt also felt it unfortunate we could not cross swords in public there.
Matt is pretty despised around these quarters (i.e., science blogs in general). The thing is, most of his premises are correct. He just draws wrong conclusions from the premises and thus wrong prescriptions from conclusions (and many, many bloggers have explained, a long time ago and in excruciating detail, where he is right and where he is wrong).
But people who see how obviously wrong his conclusions and prescriptions are, tend to also think that the premises are wrong – and that is just as dangerous as Matt is dangerous when the academic community takes his conclusions and prescriptions seriously. When the 18th century mindset hears mid-20th century ideas, they seem excitingly new – how are they to know that mid-20th century ideas are misguided and already outdated?
I wish we could have used this very visible venue to discuss these issues. Very civilly and politely of course (which has nothing to do with anonymity, as you all know). But, sometimes discourse that seems very civil on the surface, can be devastating. I wish I could have had a chance to employ it. That would have been good for the cause of science communication and the scientific community at large,

Some AAAS links

Links in this post are those that pertain to me or the session I was in – I will link to some others later (and I already did on Twitter):
Columbia Journalism Review: Online and Overseas: Less hand-wringing over state of science journalism Researchers! Join the Twitterati! Or perish!
Thoughts From Kansas: AAAS Day 3: Social media in science Science Journalists Have Met The Enemy, And They Are Bloggers
UC San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering: Interesting session at AAAS
john hawks weblog: AAAS
A Blog Around The Clock: AAAS 2010 meeting – the Press Room….why?
Interesting how each of these posts has its own spin and neither one of them actually describes the session and all the six panelists and what we said….perhaps later someone will do that.

Using Multimedia to Advance Your Research

This was the slideshow of the presentation Dennis Meredith gave at the AAAS 2010, just before me on Sunday morning – this was pre-recorded. The live presentation was even more fun: