Category Archives: SBC’08 Interviews

ScienceOnline interviews

I have not “cleaned up” my files here yet, so all the internal links point to the posts over on 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.


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


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


Sol Lederman
Greg Laden
Peter Lipson
Glendon Mellow
Betul Kacar Arslan
Eva Amsen
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


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
Elisabeth Montegna
Kendall Morgan
David Warlick
Jean-Claude Bradley


Doing science publicly: Interview with Jean-Claude Bradley

Jean-Claude Bradley and I first met at the First Science Blogging Conference where he led a session on Open Science. We then met at SciFoo and later joined forces on a panel at the ASIS&T meeting and finally met again at the second Science Blogging Conference back in January where Jean-Claude co-moderated a session on Making Data Public. Jean-Claude is famous for being the pioneer of the Open Notebook Science movement. He started posting his daily lab activity and results on his blog Useful Chemistry. Soon, he attracted a lot of feedback and subsequently some excellent collaborators. As the work became more complex, Jean-Claude added more blogs, e.g., UsefulChem Molecules and UsefulChem Experiments, but in the end realized that wiki was a better format for this and started the UsefulChem Wiki where you can see, among else, how one of his students is writing a Masters thesis in real time.
Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Who are you? What is your scientific background? What is your Real Life job?
I am an associate professor of chemistry at Drexel university. I’ve been there since 1996. My Ph.D. is in organic chemistry and I have done postdoctoral work on DNA chips and gene therapy. At Drexel I worked on nanotechnology and scientific knowledge management until 2005 when I started the UsefulChem project, centered on synthesizing new anti-malarial compounds using Open Notebook Science.
What do you want to do/be when (and if ever) you grow up?
I’ve worn many hats in my career and part of the fun is not really being able to predict what makes sense doing several years down the road. I try to concentrate on working on projects that I think will have an important impact and where I am in a unique position to contribute.
When and how did you discover science blogs? What are some of your favourites? Have you discovered any new cool science blogs while at the Conference?
I discovered science blogs just through using various social networking sites and finding like-minded people. Some of the blogs I follow most closely: Cameron Neylon’s Science in the Open, Deepak Singh’s BBGM, Antony William’s ChemSpider, Bill Hooker’s Open Reading Frame, Shirley Wu’s One Big Lab and Peter Murray-Rust’s blog. I don’t like answering these types of questions because I don’t want to leave people out:) There are many others in my blog reader but these are probably my main focus right now because they deal with Open Science issues.
bradleypic.JPGYou are one of the pioneers of Open Notebook Science. Could you, please, explain to my readers what this is?
Open Notebook Science is simply the practice of making one’s laboratory notebook completely public in as close to real time as possible. In organic chemistry this is pretty straightforward – researchers must keep a notebook where they record what they do and observe in an experiment, generally with the intent of making a specific compound. In other fields, records may be kept in different formats but the idea is that the research group doing ONS should strive to do research transparently with as little “insider information” as is reasonable. In organic chemistry this means providing access to all raw data files (spectra for example) so that another researcher can independently verify all observations and conclusions made.
You started your Open Notebook on a blog, but then later moved it to a wiki. Why? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the two platforms?
Yes, initially I started with a blog but realized fairly quickly that it was not sufficient to function as a lab notebook because there is no record of changes made. A wiki is really close to a perfect tool for the actual notebook since all page versions are time-stamped. We use Wikispaces as our hosting service, which has the advantage of providing third-party timestamps on everything recorded or changed.
Doing science is like focusing a lens. At first you have few data points and make some tentative observations. As more data get added and more thinking and talking get done, things become clearer and the notebook is updated accordingly. Sometimes that means errors get fixed and that entire process is tracked by the wiki. I still use the blog as a means of reporting on big picture issues and milestones. I can then link from the blog to the wiki to back up any claims I make.
Very few scientists are doing Open Notebook Science right now – do you see the practice exploding in the near future, with almost everyone doing it? Will this be a generational thing? Or dependent on the scientific discipline?
I don’t see the practice of full ONS becoming used by the majority of researchers very soon, although I do think many more scientist will become more open in some way. For example they may blog more about their current work or make more raw data available after their papers come out. I don’t think the practice should be mandated. Those who choose to do will most likely find it rewarding, if only in meeting new colleagues and collaborators. There may be something to the generational effect – the YouTube generation probably does expect information to be free to consume and share. There is certainly a discipline dependence – where intellectual property is a concern there will be an additional barrier.
When we talk about Science 2.0 and science blogging, we usually discuss science communication, publishing, networking, political action and teaching. But you have performed experiments in Second Life, i.e., Internet is also a tool for actually doing science. Do you see this happening more – people using the Web as a tool in scientific research in the open view of everyone who cares to come by and watch you?
Yes I do see researchers using the web to share their primary research – Gus Rosania and Cameron Neylon are probably the best recent examples. As far as Second Life, it is another tool – with Andrew Lang we are now able to interact with spectra (NMR, IR, etc) simply by “talking” to the display. We can display proteins and molecules in 3D with realistic shapes. Right now, for my work, I view Second Life to be like a website or blog – I can provide basic information about my research and link to the lab notebook on the wiki if people want more information. I have areas on Drexel Island and the American Chemical Society Island to share my lab’s work. My organic chemistry students also do projects for class in Second Life. I think the most useful outcome of using Second Life is meeting new smart people with similar interests. I have met a few wonderful collaborators that way.
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 most memorable event at the conference was probably meeting Moshe Pritsker from the Journal of Visualized Experiments. He offered to send someone over to my lab to record a protocol – I still have to arrange that….
It was so nice to see you again and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again in January.
Check out all the interviews in this series.

Removing the Bricks from the Classroom Walls: Interview with David Warlick

David Warlick is a local blogger and educator. We first met at the Podcastercon a couple of years ago, then at several blogger meetups, and finally last January at the second Science Blogging Conference where David moderated a session on Science Education.
Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Who are you? What is your background? What is your Real Life job?
I’ve been an educator for more than 30 years, starting as a middle school social studies, science, and math teacher. Every once in a while, I have to remind myself that when I entered the classroom, desktop computers didn’t exist. It constantly astounds me what has been happing around us.
I remained in the classroom for almost 10 years, after which I moved to a central office position supporting instructional technology for a rural school district in NC. I’d been seduced by computers (Radio Shack Model III), and taught myself how to program them, since there wasn’t much instructional software available. After that, I moved to the North Carolina State Department of Public Instruction where I wrote and supported curriculum for the state, ran a state-wide bulletin board service (FrEdMail) and finally built the nation’s first state department of education web site.
I left the state in 1995, and started consulting, doing business as The Landmark Project. the Internet was still a wilderness, and I wanted to build landmarks for teachers and learners. I maintain a number of web sites which, combined, receive more than a half-million page views a day. I’ve also had the opportunity to visit educators across the U.S. and Canada, and even in Europe, Asia, and South America.
It seems that I should be near the end of my career. But it certainly doesn’t feel like it.
What do you want to do/be when (and if ever) you grow up?
I always wanted to be Johnny Quest’s father, Dr. Benton Quest (1960s cartoon series). Wikipedia describes him as: “…’one of the three top scientists in the world,’ and apparently something of a Renaissance man; his scientific and technical know-how spans many fields.” I wanted to travel the world, have great toys to play with, and solve problems for people. I got part of it, in that I get to travel the world and play with great toys, and there’s some adventure, thought it has more to do with navigating exotic airports than defeating evil despots.
But now that all the travel is starting to wear me down, I’m thinking I’d like to settle back to one or two interests, and study/work the hell out of them. Digital photography has always appealed to me. I also enjoy composing music with a computer. I’d also like to find some topic and set up a web site/blog/social network around that topic. No idea, though, what it might be.
You are quite an evangelist for the use of online tools in the classroom. You used to teach with a blackboard and chalk – how and when did you get to embrace the modern tools in education?
My main subject was History. It’s what I had studied in college. But I always taught about History from the perspective of technology, focusing in on the invention of the bow & arrow, agriculture, paper, the steam engine and explore how these technologies affected and changed our cultures. The first time I saw a Radio Shack Model I computer operate, I knew, at that moment, that this was one of those technologies that was going to change everything. Here was a machine that you operated by communicating with it. I was thunder-struck. I was seduced.
However, it was sometime later that I started to learn, and am continued to learn that it isn’t the fact that we have a machine that we can communicate that makes computers so important. It’s that they give us new ways of communicating with each other. This, I’ve learned as an educator — not as a technologist.
SBC%20Saturday%20004.jpgOne of the important concepts you write about is the Flat Classroom. Can you, please, explain it to my readers?
It’s simple. According to a recent PEW Internet & American Life study, 64% of American teenagers have produced original digital content and published it to a global audience. How many of their teachers are published authors, artists, musicians, composers, or film makers? From the perspective of our children’s information experience, they are more literate than many of their teachers. Our classrooms are flat.
The central question that we should be asking today is, “How do we drive learning if we can no longer rely on gravity?” Where do we get the energy. It’s a sobering and threatening idea for most educators. However, I think that once we can get to the other side of this problem, we, teachers and learners, will be much happier. Here are just a few ideas:
* We need to redefine literacy to reflect today’s information landscape and not just teach it as skills, but to instill it as habit.
* We, as teachers, need to model learning, not just inflict it. We need to practice new literacy in front of our students.
* What students learn has become less important. The answers are all changing. It as important today to be able to invent answers to brand new questions. What’s become more important is how students are learning.
* We need to understand our students information experience and learn to harness the energy that comes from it, to replace the vanishing energy of gravity.
“Please turn off your cell-phones, i-Pods and other electronic devices, kids” – why is this sentence, spoken at the beginning of a class period, wrong? What should a teacher say instead?
This is wrong on so many levels. But principally, we have to recognize, accept, and respect our students out-side-the classroom information experiences. For the first time in history, we are preparing our children for a future we can not clearly describe. So much is changing and so fast. I think that there are clues in our students information experience that we can use to better prepare them for that future.
I recently read about six schools in New York City (where they’ve banned cell phones) that are giving cell phones to all of their students (2,500 of them), preloaded with 130 minutes of talk time. More minutes are added based on test scores, good behavior, and other activities. The teachers are starting to use text messaging to share homework assignments, remind them of upcoming tests, and other activities. What I’d love to see is text-messaging become a platform for doing homework assignment in collaboration.
I know that this may seem weird to some, but no less (NO LESS) weird than many of the applications we use every day would have seemed 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago.
What is your basic advice to teachers who are not themselves Internet-savvy, yet want to take a plunge and get their students to produce online content, be it blogs, podcasts or videos? How do you explain the pros and cons and the usual traps some teachers fall into?
Be a good teacher, and pay attention to your students information experiences. Your students can teach you a lot about these new tools, and what better way to model yourself as a lifelong learner.
Become 21st century literate. Once you’ve accomplished that, then you can teach yourself what ever you need to know. Most of the teachers who are doing extraordinary things in their classrooms didn’t learn it in a workshop. They learned it by engaging on online conversations with other innovative educators.
When and how did you discover science blogs? What are some of your favourites? Have you discovered any new cool science blogs while at the Conference?
I have to plead the 5th on this one. I do not read any science blogs regularly, though SEED may well take the place of WIRED as my favorite magazine. I’m fascinated by science, all areas of science. Science constantly reminds me of the frontiers we have yet to chart.
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 thrills me to see that part of learning science is learning how to talk about science. And this is what the Science Bloggers conference is about. It’s about the softer side of our explorations, bringing them home, and making them a part of the everyday conversations of the rest of us. I think that, deep down, we all crave frontiers.
It was so nice to see you again at the Conference and thank you for the interview.
Check out all the interviews in this series.

Communicating Genomics: Interview with Kendall Morgan

Kendall Morgan is the new Communications Director for the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy. We first met at the second Science Blogging Conference back in January, but, being neighbors, hope to continue communication and collaboration in the future.
Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Who are you? What is your scientific background?
Hmmm. Where to start? I’m originally from Wheeling, W. Va. I went to a small Quaker college in Indiana and from there directly to graduate school at the University of Oregon where I studied evolutionary biology and quantitative genetics. Coming from a liberal arts college, grad school and the research institution environment in general came as something of a shock. I finished my Ph.D. in five years nonetheless and then started looking for a less research-oriented path. Initially, I thought I’d return to my liberal arts college past and teach, but I ended up applying to the Science Communication program at the University of California, Santa Cruz. I got in and have been a science writer ever since. After interning at a few places — a national lab in Idaho and Science News magazine — I made the move to Duke. I’m also a big fan of random acts of travel, but that’s another story.
What is your Real World job? How does blogging figure in it?
I’ve been working as a science writer and communicator for the last five years in various capacities at Duke, first in the Duke Medical Center News Office and then at the Pratt School of Engineering. As of two months ago, I became the communications director for the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy. So far, blogging doesn’t figure into it other than keeping tabs on a handful of relevant science blogs out there. But, particularly given that the IGSP is all about genome sciences and their ethical, legal and societal implications, I see plenty of opportunity for incorporating a blog into my day job. There’s no doubt blogs can be a great way to communicate science and to start conversations around science, and I’d say that’s a big part of what the IGSP is about. Stay tuned…
kendall%20morgan%20interview%20pic.jpgWhat do you want to do/be when (and if ever) you grow up?
I’m really enjoying my new position at the IGSP and, to be honest, am not thinking too much at the moment about what might be next on the career front. I recently took a course in mindfulness-based stress reduction through Duke Integrative Medicine. I think my biggest goal now is to find some balance in life and enjoy the moment.
You were at the Blogging101 session on Friday morning. Was it useful to you? If you started a blog then, are you going to continue with it? May we see it?
The blogging 101 session was definitely useful. It was a good place for a non-blogger like me to talk about blogs with bloggers and to be reminded how incredibly easy it actually is to start one. The hard part would be to continue with one, and no, I didn’t.
When and how did you discover science blogs? What are some of your favourites? Have you discovered any new cool science blogs while at the Conference?
I actually didn’t discover science blogs all that long ago. I first got into blogs during the last presidential election, but those were political blogs. I now keep up with a few of the blogs on scienceblogs…yours, The Intersection, Cognitive Daily. I usually take a look at ScienceBlogs Select as well. There are a few other blogs on genes and genomes that I look at now and again e.g. Genetic Future, Gene Expression and, of course, genomeboy written by the IGSP’s very own Misha Angrist, and some others. It still feels a bit like another world that I’m not quite a part of, but I enjoy checking them out when I have the time.
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?
At this point, it’s been a while since the conference so it’s hard for me to say precisely. I’m sure there are many little things that have influenced the way that I am thinking about the possibilities offered by blogs for communicating science and that have generally influenced the degree to which I pay attention to what’s happening in the blogosphere. Overall, I’d say it was an eye opener to the world of science blogging and definitely worth a Saturday for bloggers and non-bloggers alike. I feel lucky that it all happens right here in the Triangle.
It was so nice to meet you at the Conference and thank you for the interview.
Thank YOU!
Check out all the interviews in this series.

Shortly After Hell Freezes Over: Interview with Elisabeth Montegna

Elisabeth Montegna is quite a prolific blogger, with SECular Thoughts being just one of her virtual spaces. We finally got to meet at the second Science Blogging Conference in January and took a tour of the Museum of Natural Science in Raleigh together.
Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Who are you? What is your scientific background? What is your Real World job?
I’m a senior graduate student at the University of Chicago. Since I get a stipend, I consider that my real world job. I graduated college from Boston University with a BA in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. After that, I worked four years as a research technician in two different labs at U of Chicago. Then, I started the graduate program in Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology. I hope to finish my thesis work in the next few months.
In my lab, we are interested in how cells form and maintain intracellular structures. In order to function properly, eukaryotic cells have specialized structures called organelles which carry out particular functions. How a cell is able to construct a structure for a particular purpose and how those structures are “inherited” when a cell divides is not very well understood. My research focuses on two factors (proteins called Sec12 and Sec16) that are important for organizing structures called transitional Endoplasmic Reticulum (tER) sites which are part of the early secretory pathway. I want to understand the roles Sec12 and Sec16 play in organizing tER sites.
What do you want to do/be when (and if ever) you grow up?
A mom.
Professionally, this is a much more difficult question to answer. Unfortunately, grad school has turned me off of bench science, so I’m not planning on pursuing a research career. For most of my life, I have been interested in science education and that is what I plan to pursue in some way when I graduate. How exactly I will do that, I haven’t decided. Right now, I’m most interested in becoming a professor at a community college or designing exhibits at a science museum (I realize these are two very different things–this may give you some idea of the breadth of my interest in science education). I’ve also considered teaching high school science, teaching elementary school science, teaching science to elementary school teachers, science writing, and science curriculum development. Mostly, though, I’m interested in public science education for adults which is why I’m interested in teaching at a community college or a science museum.
I am one half of what people like to call a ‘two-body problem.’ My husband is an astrophysicist. Currently, our solution to the two-body problem is to live many miles apart from each other but neither one of us likes that so much. His interests are very specific and strangely enough, there aren’t that many jobs out there for astrophysicists so our plan is to settle wherever he can find a position. Given my broad interests, I should be able to find something to do that I enjoy.
Or, I might open a yarn shop.
When and how did you discover science blogs? What are some of your favourites? Have you discovered any new cool science blogs while at the Conference?
I discovered science blogs after reading Chris Mooney’s The Republican War on Science last summer (spring?). I first found ScienceBlogs and from there followed the links and blogrolls to other science blogs. As for favorites, there are so many good ones out there, it’s hard to choose. Of course, I love A Blog Around the Clock. 🙂 At ScienceBlogs, I regularly read Thus Spake Zuska, Sciencewomen, Laelaps, Drugmonkey, Terra Sigillata and Adventures in Ethics and Science. I also read the combined feed when I can so I read bits and pieces of other blogs. Outside of ScienceBlogs, I read Young Female Scientist, post doc ergo propter doc, and Cocktail Party Physics. Since the conference, I’ve started reading Pondering Pikaia and Open Reading Frame.
Oh dear, I’m sure I’ve forgotten somebody. I’m sorry if I did.
Do you have a blog and if so, will you tell us about it, your experience in science blogging?
I don’t have A Blog. I have several blogs. Because I’m weird like that. I started out with a knitting blog. That’s when I discovered how rewarding blogging can be and how quickly you can become involved in an online community of bloggers. Then, I decided to start a blog for my family to read about how my labwork is going because I got tired of them asking when I was going to graduate. Then, I started a blog under a pseudonym to blog about life in lab because I needed to vent. I enjoy that blog a lot, but I decided that I wanted to be able to talk more about my actual research which is tricky when you are blogging anonymously. So, I decided to start a new blog I call SECular Thoughts (referring to the fact that I work with Sec proteins). I’m still trying to find my voice with that blog. When I started the blog, I had a pretty solid idea for the focus of the blog and what I wanted to write in it. Except that the focus started to feel a little restrictive and that kept me from posting very much. One thing I’ve learned is that it’s hard to force the blog to be a particular thing if that’s not what feels natural to you. So, I need to spend some time writing on a blog for awhile before I know what exactly it’s going to shape up to be. I haven’t gotten to that point yet with SECular Thoughts. But, it will happen.
For me, science blogging is a natural extension of my love of science education. Whether it’s an entry explaining scientific concepts or an entry talking about the trials of being a graduate student, blogging has the potential bring aspects of science and scientific life to people who have no other way of experiencing it. Additionally, blogging has given me a community in which I feel comfortable. If you blog about science in any way, you have some interest in science communication. Most of the people I interact with face to face in my daily life have very little interest in science communication.
In medical blogging, most physicians who blog about their patients’ cases do so anonymously. In science blogging, it is mostly women who do not reveal their real names. Why is this so? When do you think this will change?
Ah, the whole anonymity issue. I think this is a complex issue and there’s no one answer. Here are my two cents. Few people would disagree that women are at a disadvantage in the sciences. We are underrepresented, we get paid less, we are openly (and not-so-openly) discriminated against. Just the fact that we have two X chromosomes counts against us. Yet it is not okay for people to say, “Because you are a woman,” when they don’t offer you a job or deny you tenure. So, people (consciously or subconsciously) look for other reasons to not hire or give tenure to women. The woman in question didn’t publish enough or have enough grants or didn’t show “proper dedication to the scientific lifestyle” (translation: she had a baby). It would be all too easy for someone to say, “Well, she spent a lot of time blogging so clearly she wasn’t very dedicated to her work,” or maybe, “She said unflattering things about the department on her blog so she obviously is not loyal to the university,” or possibly, “She spent a lot of time online whining about her graduate career, is that really someone we want to have in our lab?” Remaining anonymous eliminates that threat (in theory).
Women give many answers for why they wish to remain anonymous, but generally those answers all go back to being afraid of ruining their careers through blogging. We know how precarious our situations are. We don’t want to jeopardize our already meager chances at making it in the world of science. When you think about it, the question isn’t really why do so many women choose to remain anonymous. The question is, why, knowing the risks, do women choose to blog anyway?
I think women are particularly drawn to blogging about their lives and personal issues relating to science because we don’t have a community in our “real world” to discuss these things in. There are issues that are of particular interest to women, yet there are very few women in science. A woman may find herself the only female junior faculty in her department, or the only female grad student in her lab. Who can she commiserate with? Who can she talk to about the problems that face her that are unique to women? Through science blogging, women been able to find a community that they can belong to, people who understand when they want to bitch about whatever stupid misogynistic thing some old guy said to her that day, people who can say “Yes, I have taken my infant to a conference because I was breast-feeding and this is how I handled it.” We can read these blogs and get advice and talk about our problems and discover that, although the vast majority of people we interact with in our labs on a day-to-day basis are male, there are still many female scientists out there. We are not alone.
When do I think this will change? Sometime after women are given truly equal status with men and have equal representation in all fields of science. In other words, shortly after hell freezes over.
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 two things about the conference that left a lasting impression on me. The first was the sense of belonging I felt even though I had never met any of the people there before in real life. There I was, in the middle of a very large group of people who all cared deeply about science communication–just like me! It was amazing. I had found my tribe and it was good.
The second thing I was struck by was the chasm between science journalists and scientists and how most of that exists because neither side has any understanding of the day to day life of the other. There is a lot of resentment built up in the scientific community about how science is represented in the mainstream media but very few scientists have a clue about how the media functions and what the limitations are for individual reporters. On the other hand, many journalists do not understand what it is academic scientists do, how they function, and why a scientist may or may not have time to talk to a reporter at that very moment the reporter calls them. Scientists say that reporters constantly make egregious errors in scientific reporting and journalists counter with the fact that they have difficulty getting actual scientists to talk to them. This state of affairs cannot continue if we are truly dedicated to increasing public understanding about science. I’m not sure how this problem can be resolved, but I think more opportunities for journalists and scientists to interact can increase understanding on both sides and help move us toward solutions.
It was so nice to see you at the Conference and thank you for the interview.
It was great meeting you at the Conference, Bora!
Check out all the interviews in this series.

Turning the Tables on Me: Interview on the Confessions of a Science Librarian

It was bound to happen sooner or later. People seem to really like my series of interviews with the participants of the Science Blogging Conference. So, as he promised, John Dupuis turned the tables and interviewed me, even using some of the same questions that I tend to ask. Read the interview here.

Think of a Dust-Free Keypad: Interview with Rose Reis

Rose Reis interviewed me in person on the Sunday morning right after the second Science Blogging Conference in January. Then, I got scooped for the interview. But I will not be deterred – so here is, finally, the exclusive interview with Rose for A Blog Around The Clock:
Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Who are you? What is your scientific background? What is your Real World job?
Hi, Bora! I am your biggest fan! Apart from that, I am a program specialist at the INFO Project, at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. My Real World job actually includes blogging–how lucky am I? I work on various other projects, including helping to build and manage an online social networking site for international family planning program managers and researchers, the Elements of Successful Family Planning Programs .
Prior to coming to live in Baltimore last summer, I worked in magazine journalism in New York. But I got my blogging start a few years back under the moniker “Golap Golightly” when volunteering in Rajasthan, India for the Veerni Project — and that’s when I became interested in public health. The project brings reproductive health services to women and girls living in remote desert regions, as well as information about HIV/AIDS prevention and family planning. Blogging was a great way to get friends and family engaged in the work the NGO does, and it whetted my appetite to know more about public health. So I came to work here at Hopkins, and attend class in the department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health .
Rose%20Reis%20interview%20pic.JPGWhat do you want to do/be when (and if ever) you grow up?
Peter Pan. Actually I’m pretty pumped that I get paid to blog about health topics that I care about. I used to write about pricey leather duffles, and that was ok, but now I get to interview folks like gorgeous Purnima Mane, UNFPA’s deputy executive director, Margaret Neuse, the massively influential former director of USAID’s Population and Reproductive Health, and Robert Blum, who is the charismatic head of the Hopkins department that focuses on family planning. These videotaped interviews will go on the Elements of Successful Family Planning Programs Web site. Then I’ll get to blog about how great it was to meet them, and how cool Purnima’s bangle collection is.
What is the INFO Project?
So… The INFO Project, based at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for Communication Programs, envisions a world of interconnected communities where shared reproductive health information improves and saves lives. Our mission is to support health care decision-making in developing countries by providing global leadership in reproductive health knowledge management. Through collaborative approaches and the innovative use of sustainable technology, we:
* Inform those who influence and improve health care and public health,
* Enhance the capacity of communities and organizations to obtain, adapt, and generate knowledge and best practices, and
* Connect communities, organizations, and individuals locally and globally to facilitate knowledge sharing and dialogue.
To accomplish these goals, INFO publishes reports (Population Reports, Global Health Technical Briefs) tailored to audiences who work on reproductive health programs in developing countries – program managers, researchers, policymakers and health care providers. We also support databases that house the latest evidence-based information on these topics, which we make available at no cost and in various ways (Listservs, CD-ROMS, handbooks) to our audiences in resource-poor settings.
We are supported by USAID.
What are the challenges in providing information to and from people in the developing world?
Whew… Well, during a recent online forum on the Implementing Best Practices Knowledge Gateway, we had a great participant from Ghana, Samuel Deh, apologize profusely to participants for being silent during three days–they had had a power failure.
Recently, I interviewed Jonathan Ndzi, a UNFPA emergency reproductive health coordinator living in Senegal, about his work overseeing service delivery in conflict settings. He said he’s completely off line when he’s in the field, maybe in refugee camps, which is how much of his time is spent in the 12-15 countries he oversees.
Internet can be a gamble, but even phones don’t work reliably–mobiles are usually better. We are looking more at mobile phone outreach and I learned recently that in 2006, Africa added more than 50 million mobile phone subscribers for a total of nearly 200 million users.
There are other challenges–we are looking to do text messaging outreach to health workers in Ethiopia, where my colleague Katie Richey is being transferred (she flies out today) to manage the project I mentioned above, Elements of Successful Family Planning Programs. But Amharic, the primary language, has 300 characters, as compared with 26 Roman characters. So Nokia recently introduced an Amharic keypad that is seamless to protect it from rural environmental dust.
For lower-level health providers, barriers to exchanging information may include language barriers or illiteracy.
What is the difference between writing a personal science/health blog and running a multi-author blog that serves as a communication outlet for an organization?
I could post every hour on the hour, but no one wants to read that. The challenge is getting others to be as excited as I am about the so-called social Web. Many people are–they read blogs, they’re on Facebook–but they still think it requires a strategic outline and several drafts to write a blog post.
So personal blogs and institutional blogs (wow, that sounds boring) are pretty different. You could say multi-author blogs make for an inconsistent tone, and a variety of posting subjects, but I think those are advantages. It also becomes a conversation between colleagues who might not be working on the same project–an open conversation, to which there are sometimes unexpected contributions. We now have more than ten people contributing to the blog. They range from our deputy director Peggy D’Adamo to our materials cataloging expert Judy Mahachek. It’s great because everyone has different expertise, and varied field experiences to share–my officemate Seth who worked with refugees in Thailand shared the Burmese phrase for family planning.
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 head was threatening to spin off with ideas by the end of the weekend. To prevent that from happening, I blogged about it here.
Our chat at Raleigh’s New World Coffee House about “institution” blogging was pretty awesome. I have the paper I scribbled notes on here. The lessons I picked up are helping me build blogging capacity here at INFO.
It was so nice to see you at the Conference and thank you for the interview.
Thank YOU!
Check out all the interviews in this series.