Category Archives: Scio10 Interviews

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with John McKay

Continuing with the tradition from last two years, I will occasionally post interviews with some of the participants of the ScienceOnline2010 conference that was held in the Research Triangle Park, NC back in January. See all the interviews in this series here. You can check out previous years’ interviews as well: 2008 and 2009.
Today, I asked John McKay from Archy and Mammoth Tales blogs to answer a few questions.
Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Where are you coming from (both geographically and philosophically)?
I’ve spent most of my life in and around the Pacific Northwest. I spent the years when I formed my adult identity in Alaska and, even though I now live in Seattle, I think of myself as Alaskan. Just for the record, everyone I know, with one exception, voted against Sarah Palin.
I was a little kid during the golden years of the space program: the race to the moon. I watched every launch, even the satellites, and could name all of the astronauts up through the end of the Apollo program. At the same time, my dad worked for, what was then called, the Atomic Energy Commission building research reactors. I always assumed I’d become a scientist. But the way I saw great research projects treated–the budget cuts to scientific space research and some of my dad’s projects being canceled and forgotten–soured me on the whole business. I think if I’d had some exposure to academic science I might have felt different. When I went to college I went as a history major.
But I never gave up on science. I continued to follow science in the news. I have read Scientific American for the last thirty years or so. I spent most of the decade between college and graduate school working in bookstores and used my discount to buy almost as many popular science titles as history titles. When it came time to pick a specialty in grad school, history of science was one of the finalists (I eventually picked modern Balkans and colonial Africa). Blogging gives me the opportunity to go back to some of the fields I passed up and write about them.
archy pic.gifI guess this brings me to my blogging identity. I have a tiny blog called archy that I’ve been writing for almost seven years. The blog is about whatever catches my fancy: science news, history, conspiracy theories, and too much politics. I just created a second, depoliticized blog, called Mammoth Tales, that will focus more on science and history. Right now, I’m cross posting the same articles on both blogs, but, in time, I expect Mammoth Tales to develop an identity of its own.
What is your (scientific) background?
The biography above pretty much says it all. I’ve spent the last half century as an enthusiastic and curious spectator of science, but I have zero in the way of formal credentials. For the last few years, I’ve been turning my historical training to the study of the history of science. It’s amazing how useful some serious work in critical reading has been for me in fields that have traditionally been unrelated to history.
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
Since I’ve never had a job in science, there shouldn’t be that much to tell. However, I do have experience in technology. After I left grad school, I was in a rather difficult career spot. My job history was a fragmented mess; for most of my working life I had held service jobs with no discernible pattern. My longest period of work had been in bookstores. At forty I wanted to start living something like a grown-up, but a bookstore salary wouldn’t even allow me to pay my student loans. The world was not exactly overflowing with job offers for Master’s degrees in Balkan History. Clever Wife helped me review my skills. We discovered I am good at explaining things and Seattle needed technical writers. I’ve spent the last dozen years writing help files and end user documentation for software and internet businesses. It’s not exactly hard science, but it keeps me in contact with science minded people.
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
mammoth small pic.jpgAnyone who knows me or has read my blog during the last two or three years knows I’m working on a book about the early discoveries of woolly mammoths and how Enlightenment scientists deciphered what they were. Mammoths and mastodons were the first two extinct species to be identified as such and reconstructed. Until then, unfamiliar fossils were assumed to be remains of species that were still alive somewhere else. Many believed that it was impossible for a species to be completely extinct. Theologically, it implied imperfection in the perfect God’s creation. But large land mammals, such as mammoths and mastodons, were simply too big to be hiding somewhere; they had to be extinct. This identification of the mammoth as an extinct species was a profound milestone in the history of science. In banishing a solely religious argument, it was an important step in establishing secular explanations as an integral part of the scientific method. Establishing the reality of extinction put in place one of the pillars of evolutionary theory. Finally, as a demonstration of the methodologies for reconstructing an unknown species from fossils, the mammoth set the science of paleontology on a firm footing. Of course the main reason for tackling this story is that it’s a ripping good yarn. At various points, it touches on exploration, trade, the ebb and flow of empire, great thinkers, powerful monarchs, giants, dragons, unicorns, and the invention of chocolate milk. Besides, it’s time for a mammoth book that looks at something other than the tired questions of why they went extinct and when we’ll clone some new ones (the answers are bad luck and not yet).
What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
John McKay pic.JPGIn my presentation at ScienceOnline2010, I talked about the professionalization of science and science publishing. In the eighteenth century, most of the–admittedly small–educated population of Europe and America could participate in the scientific endeavour. The scientific societies gave over a large part of their journal pages to correspondence from interested readers. Experiments and observations by gentleman farmers, frontier soldiers, and sea captains were important sources of new knowledge. That changed in the next century. In the nineteenth century, science became a professional business practiced by appropriately credentialed men in academia, government, and industry. Enthusiastic amateurs disappeared from the journals. A separate popular science press grew up to explain what the professionals were up to. Science was divided into practicers and spectators.
I see an new type of science communication emerging on the internet. We’re never going to get back to the point where everyone can do original science, but amateurs be still be invaluable as observers. The internet makes it possible to organize those amateur observers into regional, and even global, networks. I’m thinking of astronomy and geology, where you can never have too many observers. I’m sure other fields will think of ways to use this enormous pool of free labor. Where this becomes relevant to people like me is that the internet makes it possible for the science literate to once again to participate in the discussion, rather than just to be passive spectators of science. Being allowed into the discussion is a very exciting development for people like me, who work outside science and/or have non-science backgrounds, but who are still interested in science.
A second development that has been very exciting for me, as a writer and as an historian, has been access to information over the internet. It’s almost a cliche for internet watchers to bemoan the amount of misinformation and bad information on the internet. What sometimes gets lost in these discussions is the fact that this is only a problem because the bad information is indiscriminately mixed in with good information. The problem is in knowing how to sort the two. It’s really not that different than life outside the internet.
My mammoth book would not be possible without the internet. Most of the original sources that I have used in my research would not have been available to me just ten years ago. Many early journals existed for only a few years, in very small numbers. To read them, I would have had to travel to major libraries in Europe and the Eastern states, which would have been prohibitively expensive. Once at those libraries, I would have needed to get access to their rare book collections, which would have been very difficult since I lack an institutional affiliation. Because of Project Gutenberg, Google Books, and the efforts of libraries like the Bibliotheque nationale de France, Library of Congress, and Universität Göttingen, I can now read these works online. In may cases I can view scans of the actual pages and see how this information was first presented.
How does (if it does) blogging figure in your work? How about social networks, e.g., Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook?
I’m going to stick with the theme of being part of the discussion. I started blogging seven years ago primarily to rant and scream about politics. Since then, I have discovered many other uses for blogging. I can rant and scream about popular culture. I can rant and scream about religion. I can rant and scream about bad history. I can write thoughtful and informative essays–which everyone should read and link to–about mammoths. And I can try out ideas for the book. It’s not my plan to serialize the book in my blogs. However, condensing parts of my research into short articles lets me see whether different narrative structures and organizations work. It’s basically market testing.
Social networks are a little trickier. Over the last few months, I’ve set up accounts on Facebook and Twitter. I have reconnected with a few old friends over Facebook. I let them pull me into one of the games, which, for a while, was an enormous time suck. I haven’t quite figured out what to do with Twitter. I can see how social networks can be useful for building a personal community, a brand, I’m just slow at learning how to do it.
Do you find all this online activity to be a net positive (or even a necessity) in what you do?
It’s a mixed blessing. The internet provides endless distractions and excuses for not working. At the same time it provides access to information, community, and a means to participate in meaningful discussions. With a modicum of self-discipline (and a modicum is all I have), I think it is a net positive.
When and how did you first discover science blogs? What are some of your favourites? Have you discovered any cool at the Conference?
It’s been a snowballing thing for me. Because I have always been interested in science, I naturally hunted for a few science blogs when I started reading blogs. When Seed magazine set up Science Blogs, most of the blogs I was already reading were in the first group. As new blogs were incorporated, I started reading them. As I followed links out from the SciBlings and the commenters, I discovered more blogs. ScienceOnline2010 exposed me to still more. Getting back to the subject of internet distractions, I could easily spend a day or two each week just checking in on all of the blogs I’ve discovered.
Before I went to the conference, I scoped out the sites of all the attendees. When I got home, I checked them again to attach faces to the blogs. I finished looking at Joanne Loves Science and got up to get some coffee. Clever Wife was at her computer researching something for her home-crafted soap business. When I came in to ask if she needed a refill, I found her reading Joanne Loves Science. One of her friends had recommended Joanne’s Science of Beauty essays.
What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2010 for you?
I hate to repeat what everyone else has said, but it was meeting people. You are a great example. You and I have not only been reading each others’ blogs for years, but we’ve corresponded through e-mail, and regard each other as friends. Yet we had never met. Online identities usually only represent a part of a person’s personality. Some people have a very carefully crafted and controlled online personality. It was great fun to see how the real people compared to their online personae and to how I imagined them. Most people were shorter than I expected. You were an exception. Joanne Manaster is also tall. I am not.
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?
After the socializing, my main goal in coming to the conference was to get tips on turning my mammoth manuscript into a real book. I think my time at the conference was very productive. The sessions relating to writing all gave me useful ideas that I’m putting to work. I made several useful contacts. I was disappointed that no major publishing house editors stood up at dinner shouting “I have a bucket full of money for a good mammoth book.” But you can’t have everything.
Any suggestions for next year?
Remind the hotel to stock more beer before the weekend. All the local microbrews were tapped out before last call on Friday. That’s just wrong.
It was so nice to finally, finally meet you in person and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Patty Gainer

Continuing with the tradition from last two years, I will occasionally post interviews with some of the participants of the ScienceOnline2010 conference that was held in the Research Triangle Park, NC back in January. See all the interviews in this series here. You can check out previous years’ interviews as well: 2008 and 2009.
Today, I asked Patty Gainer from Radford College, VA, to answer a few questions.
Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Where are you coming from (both geographically and philosophically)?
Hi, I’m Patricia, but I go by Patty. I’m located in Radford, Virginia. It’s a very, very small city. I’m twenty years old; however, I will soon be twenty-one. Eek.
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
Right now I am still working through school. I’m currently finishing my last semester at our local community college. In the fall I will be attending Radford University. Here is where I will work on both my majors. I will be double majoring, first in Environmental Journalism and secondly in Fashion Merchandising. I’m look forward to the fall very much.
In Environmental Journalism I hope to work with nature and wildlife. I want to sit in the fields and study animal behavior and habits. Also I would very much like to research more on climate change and how that can be reversed. I do not want to see animals disappear because of a lack of caring.
In Fashion I want to be a personal shopper. I know fashion probably seems like a complete opposite from my other career choice. However, I very much like the way the clothes are the higher the fashion goes. They are exquisite. I like how you can see each stitch and the professional look they have.
Patty Gainer pic1.jpg
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
Let’s see: when I’m not at school or doing school work I am dancing. I dance three days a week for two and a half hours. I only study ballet, though, as of right now. I’ve been dancing for sixteen years. I very much like ballet. I’ve been to four professional performances. Although it might not seem hard to some, it is extremely hard. My body has been definitely feeling the pain over the sixteen years. Even though I get sore a lot, I still plan to continue for another three years.
Another thing that takes up a lot of my time when I’m not worrying about school is studying the news. I like to know what is going on and to be up to date on world events. Sometimes I do not completely understand the events, though I still like to know something about them. I usually am pretty involved in politics, too. I find it useful to know what’s going on in the world.
What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
I personally like to watch about science events and actions. I find Nova programs to be pretty good, and they keep my attention. Other ways I like to learn about science would be from watching documentaries. They have to be good documentaries, though, such as the ones hosted by David Attenborough.
How does (if it does) blogging figure in your work? How about social networks, e.g., Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook? Do you find all this online activity to be a net positive (or even a necessity) in what you do?
I do not blog. However, I sometimes wonder if I should. I want to go into journalism and blogging is a good way to start. It’s just something about free writing I think that I’m not the best at. I like to be given a sort of guide line, such as, this has to be due at this time and we need you to follow this outline. One would think a writer would like a blog because of the freedom it gives. For me, though, it’s a bit too much of freedom.
I don’t use twitter either, and right now I’m feeling a bit out dated and I’m only twenty.
I do use Facebook! I normally use Facebook to keep in touch with friends and chat with them. I have, however, become fans of some pages such as the WWF and get updates from them. I can click on a link and get direct information about the subject. I also am a fan of the American Ballet so I also get updates about their performances. Oh, another update I get is from NPR. I also really like listening to NPR.
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?
Ha ha, this question makes me laugh. I actually had no idea about this conference. I was first dragged along by my mother. She was the one that found it. I just came along. I think I was about sixteen the first time I went to the Science Conference. At sixteen I had no idea what I wanted to do for a career, so I didn’t look at the conference so much as a way to get information. I did know that I liked science, but most of the stuff that was covered I didn’t understand fully.
Patty Gainer pic2.jpg
You are one of the rare people who attended all four of our conferences. You were just a kid when you came to the first one! How do you perceive its evolution, the way the meeting is changing year after year, and how are you changing in your relation to the topics of the science and the Web over the years?
YES I WAS! As stated above, I didn’t know yet that I wanted to go into something that dealt with science. Then I only knew I wanted to work with Fashion. Despite that, I have always liked science and have always loved animals. I think being exposed to such a great conference with people who really knew what they were talking about helped me understand science more. It wasn’t the same stuff I was taught in school by the text books. It was completely new and sometimes more advanced, which I liked. I got bored with the stuff from the text books over and over again. I think after attending my second Science conference I really began to think more about maybe pursuing a career with science. Here is where Environmental Journalism came in.
What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2010 for you? Any suggestions for next year? Is there anything that happened at this Conference – a session, something someone said or did or wrote – that will change the way you think about science communication, or something that you will take with you to your job, blog-reading and blog-writing?
This year when I went to the ScienceOnline 2010 Conference, I was very much looking forward to hearing from the Journalists. I remember in one session I noticed that most of the journalists there were freelance writers. I hope to learn more about a career in Journalism and next year maybe have some things I can say I’ve submitted. I hope to come again next year and learn even more about the science world that is forever growing.
Thank You!
It was so nice to see you again and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Russ Williams

Continuing with the tradition from last two years, I will occasionally post interviews with some of the participants of the ScienceOnline2010 conference that was held in the Research Triangle Park, NC back in January. See all the interviews in this series here. You can check out previous years’ interviews as well: 2008 and 2009.
Today, I asked Russ Williams from North Carolina Zoological Society and the Russlings blog to answer a few questions.
Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Where are you coming from (both geographically and philosophically)? What is your (scientific) background?
I’m an English major from Northeastern Pennsylvania who works at the North Carolina Zoo (24 years executive director, N.C. Zoological Society). I try to stay somewhat current, despite my age (north of 60). For example, I am listening these days to music by Death Cab for Cutie, Arcade Fire, Flaming Lips, Radiohead and Pole Cat Creek, along with the oldies (Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Hank [and Lucinda] Williams, Coltrane and Bach).
Started personally blogging about zoo animals and issues about five years ago. (Took an intro course in blogging at UNC-Greensboro by G’boro blogfather Ed Cone (Word Up). Found I was learning much from Google searches, and then by following the blogs and tweets of certain science journalists and bloggers, conservation researchers, etc. (The blogs and tweets of Wild Muse/@tdelene and you, BoraZ, are favorite sources.) Flickr and YouTube have provided much for my blogs and tweets too.
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
Had no idea I’d work for a Zoo. (Even named a son Noah; would never do that to someone by plan!) Growing up, I knew I would have a career in advertising, like my father. Did do some retail advertising (broadcast and newspaper) after graduation – early 1970’s. Didn’t like it. Backpacked in Europe for two months. Returned to work with weekly newspapers. This led to public relations/communications for non-profits. This led to fund raising. This led to North Carolina (United Way in Winston-Salem, 1980-85). This led to the NC Zoo Society – 1985-now.
Result: accidental zoology tinkerer.
What does it mean to be the Director of the NC Zoological Society? What does the job entail?
Always remember that I have about 100,000 bosses, in about 27,000 NC Zoo Society member households. Our staff tries to provide excellent customer service to our members and to be their “champions” when it comes to getting a good return on their investments in the Zoo in general or a very specific program, like Field Trip Earth (recognized as a Landmark website by the American Association of School Librarians – one of 21, including Google Earth, Library of Congress, NASA and Smithsonian Education).
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
Proud of my small role in how the NC Zoo and Zoo Society have grown and the creation of both Field Trip Earth (our educational website featuring journals and other media offered by conservation researchers around the world) and Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park (the largest such gathering, offering and breeding of rare and endangered ducks, geese and swans in the world).
Really enjoy helping folks accomplish what they want to accomplish for the future of the NC Zoo through “The Lions Pride“, a grouping of people who have made planned arrangements for their Zoo, mainly through wills.
Capital campaigns, like Project: Pachyderms (African elephants and southern white rhinos) and Project: Polar Bears also meet my need to attain goals requiring some considerable preparation and effort. (I’ve also plodded through a few full, running marathons and to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, at 55).
NC Zoo has something else unique about it – the Zoo School! Can you tell us more about it?
A “magnet” Asheboro City high school, the Zoo School is right on site here. It uses the Zoo as a teaching tool not just to study biology and geography, but for all learning, making use of the Zoo for English composition and communications, mathematics, business and many other studies.
What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2010 for you?
Appreciate your prodding, Bora, to demonstrate Field Trip Earth at ScienceOnline2010. The Charlotte Observer science editor attended our demonstration and the result was an 85-column-inch article in both the Observer and Raleigh News & Observer by T. DeLene Beeland, whose Wild Muse blog and tweets were already favorites of mine, introduced by your RTs, Bora. I want to take in more of the sessions the next time. Only got to one session (other than our own series of demos) and it was exceptional.
It was so nice to see you again and thank you for the interview. I’ll see you at the Zoo soon….and at ScienceOnline2011, of course!
Russ Williams pic.jpg

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with DeLene Beeland

Continuing with the tradition from last two years, I will occasionally post interviews with some of the participants of the ScienceOnline2010 conference that was held in the Research Triangle Park, NC back in January. See all the interviews in this series here. You can check out previous years’ interviews as well: 2008 and 2009.
Today, I asked T. DeLene Beeland to answer a few questions.
Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Where are you coming from (both geographically and philosophically)? What is your (scientific) background?
Geography: I live in North Carolina, but my heart is still in Florida, where I spent my whole life prior to 2009. Perspective: I love nature and learning about the natural world. I am a freelance writer with graduate training in ecology, natural resources management and journalism.
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
It’s been more of a higgledy-piggledy switch-back path than a trajectory. Let’s see…I’m 33 and have been freelancing for a little more than one year. This is actually my second career – my first was as a commercial interior designer (not a decorator, an interior architectural space planner – very different). While working in design, I was bored down to my bones. I’d also had a health crisis that forced the soul-searching question: if I can do anything in the world, what would it be? My inner voice kept answering, “Be a writer, study ecology.” So I did.
Delene pic1.JPG
While in grad school (Univ. of Florida) I worked for two years as a staff science writer at the Florida Museum of Natural History. The science divisions in this museum are vast, there are 20-plus scientific departments. I wrote about goings-on in ichthyology, herpetology, four different archaeology departments, a Lepidoptera center and of course, vertebrate and invertebrate paleontology – oh, and ornithology, palynology and paleobotany too! It was a cool gig, except for the money. Shortly after graduating I took a similar position with the Emerging Pathogens Institute at UF, except they were a start-up so I built their science communications from scratch.
Today, I’m building a freelance writing business and working on a natural history book. I feel like I’m at a point where I’ve struggled to the bottom-rung of the freelancing career and I’ve got a toehold but still have a marathon climbing trek ahead of me.
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days?
Trying to afford health insurance. (Kidding! Sort of.) Seriously, trying to carve time to research and write my book; stay afloat with freelance work and expanding my professional network. Yep, that pretty much consumes most of my time. And watching the birds at my seed feeder – that soaks up a lot of time too. I like watching them over time and learning their seasonal behaviors.
What aspect of science communication interests you the most?
Delene pic2.JPGFinding an interesting story, pitching, finding the lede to a story… Figuring out how to break complex things down into interesting reads; making science relatable to everyday people who may not be into it – these are communication elements I’m interested in. I see my science writing as in its infancy. I’m still really focused on explanatory approaches (here is what they found, this is what the results mean, etc.) Which is fine for being a science evangelist and getting people interested, but in the future I hope to be doing more critical pieces and analysis; especially concerning conservation biology and species conservation and extinction, topics that I always feel drawn to. I am interested in learning to do profile pieces better too – getting at the personalities who do science. I’ve also been sinking time into reading about narrative writing craft and how to bring story-telling elements into science writing: using dialogue (well), orchestrating plot and conflict, stuff like that.
How does (if it does) blogging figure in your work? How about social networks, e.g., Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook? Do you find all this online activity to be a net positive (or even a necessity) in what you do?
It is a small part of my professional life. I write blogs for one client (Science in the Triangle), and I write a personal blog, Wild Muse. But blogging is not my primary writing outlet and is a small fraction of my income; and because of that, the majority of my time and effort goes into other types of print communication work. I started blogging as an experiment, mostly because all the freelance business articles I was reading said “You Must Blog. Period.”
I use my personal blog to explore things I’m interested in: wolf studies, birds, ecology the environment… It’s really more of an online journaling exercise. I’m a highly kinetic reader. I have to underline and scrawl copious notes in the margins in order to process ideas… and blogging, for me, is kind of the online analog to that learning process. The happy accidental side effect of it is that I’ve met many people through the process of blogging – like you – and now have a wider and richer online social network because of it.
Facebook I reserve for my personal life. Twitter, I treat a little more professionally. I’ve made a point to use it more tied to my online presence as a science and nature writer.
When and how did you first discover science blogs? What are some of your favourites?
Ah, British spelling?
Shortly after moving to N.C., and hooking up with the SCONC group. As for favorite blogs… I graze a lot. Since I’m new to the blogosphere – Wild Muse is only seven or eight months old – I flit around a lot and skim many people’s blogs just to see what is out there. Some faves in my Google Reader are: CreatureCast, Round Robin, Wolves of the High Arctic and Ralph Maughan’s Wildlife News… but if you notice, these are not blogs you go to for interesting writing or science news, my preferences are more clustered around content I find intriguing. Deep Sea News is great too because it has a unique tone. Scads of people have great blogs, but I can’t say I’m a very loyal daily reader of any single person’s blog. I get impatient, bored and turned off by blogs that are self-promotional or bloggers who take themselves too seriously, and usually won’t go back if I get that vibe from someone’s site. But if they have good content and package it well, I’ll flit back to it.
Is there anything that happened at ScienceOnline2010 – 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?
Hands-down, the fact-checking session won my interest. There are cases where you can’t just take your source’s word for it. Just because someone says something, does not make it true. Writers are not transcriptionists. You have to check with a second or third source to verify what the first said if something does not feel right or sounds off or contradicts what you know. This happened to me recently on an assignment… a project manager told me they had discovered one species trend, then a person collecting data on the project told me the exact opposite. So I had to run it by others to find out the reality. Sometimes people think they are telling you the “truth” but really they are only telling you their perspective of what they experienced – and it’s your job as the writer to sift through and drill down to the un-colored reality. So yeah, I’d say that was the best lesson and what I took home with me. You really get into the danger zone when you think you know something, but don’t check it to verify that what you think you know is in fact true.
It was so nice to see you again and thank you for the interview. I’ll see you around.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Christine Ottery

Continuing with the tradition from last two years, I will occasionally post interviews with some of the participants of the ScienceOnline2010 conference that was held in the Research Triangle Park, NC back in January. See all the interviews in this series here. You can check out previous years’ interviews as well: 2008 and 2009.
Today, I asked Christine Ottery from the MA program in science journalism at City University London to answer a few questions:
Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Where are you coming from (both geographically and philosophically)? What is your (scientific) background?
Christine Ottery pic.jpgDoes double As at GCSE count as a science background? Leaving aside exams I took when I was 15 years old, I’m a humanities graduate, with a BA in Philosophy and English. As such, my philosophy is that it’s useful to build our pyramids of knowledge from the bottom up using facts as the foundation. Or, like a game of Jenga gone wrong, we could fall down.
My particular intrigue with science is its potential to explain why humans behave the way they do. The fields of neuroscience, genetics and psychology are all fascinating. I’m concerned with the way these interact with big questions such as climate change, health and feminism to the banal and beautiful in our daily lives.
This is starting to sound like a manifesto! Ahem, moving on.
(By the way, I’m from London, England.)
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
In my previous incarnation I was a journalist and editor writing about adventure travel and sports. I felt pretty good about encouraging people to take up a more active lifestyle. A sedentary lifestyle isn’t all to good for health. Read Travis Saunder’s take on the effects of being a couch potato.
So, although I planned and commissioned health writing, I did very little myself. The first proper piece of science writing I did was a piece for Fall-Line Skiing magazine on the science of powder snow.
Last summer, around the same time as I was applying to go back to school to do an MA in science journalism at City University London, I began to write long blogs on science communication and tweet like a creature possessed . Then all kinds of funny things happened. I was asked to write for Comment is Free in the Guardian online, and invited to come and speak at Science Online 2010 (Wooo-hooo!). I became a researcher for my journalistic hero, George Monbiot, started writing for TheEcologist.co.uk and even penned a piece about bonobos for Newscientist.com.
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
The two main things that I’m fired up by at the moment are: the mega-inspirational green heroes research I’m doing for Monbiot and a website I’m launching to address science in women’s magazines – can’t wait to get my teeth into that one. For the site I will be looking at how science features in women’s mags and comparing it to what readers want. After all, women are the ones who make the majority of consumer decisions – possibly on the basis of dodgy science. As an antidote, I’ll also be research blogging.
What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
Science videos on the web going viral is the way forward for science communication, and no, I’m not just talking about the ubiquitous duck’s penis. Brain surgery, historical experiments and so on are a good way of reeling people into science. Complex scientific concepts can be more easily understood when they are demonstrated.
How about social networks, e.g., Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook? Do you find all this online activity to be a net positive (or even a necessity) in what you do?
Twitter and Facebook are important, but mostly as a way to skim off the cream of what other people are reading and writing about. Twitter, in particular, can be a veritable fount of story ideas, especially for blogposts. When people start chatting about something on Twitter, depending on how I rate their opinions, I sit up and take notice. In fact, can we come up with a formula for that? Who’ll take a bribe of half a flapjack and lukewarm mug of tea?
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?
Before coming to Science Online, I have to confess to only having properly read a small handful of science blogs: Bora’s of course, Ed Yong’s Not Exactly Rocket Science and some of Scicurious’s posts on Neurotopia. Since then, I’ve acquainted myself with: Janet Stemwedel’s Adventures in Ethics and Science, Brian Switek’s Laelaps, and Eric Michael Johnson’s The Primate Diaries, and checked out a whole lot more.
What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2010 for you? Any suggestions for next year? Is there anything that happened at this Conference – a session, something someone said or did or wrote – that will change the way you think about science communication, or something that you will take with you to your job, blog-reading and blog-writing?
I wrote about my impressions from Science Online 2010 on my blog. Since then, the stuff I’m rolling around my mind basically consists of the meme: I’m writing about what I’m passionate about. Now how do I make enough money from it? So the most important session for me, as stand-alone thought-provoking stuff and also because of the conversations that arose with DeLene Beeland, was: Rebecca Skloot, Tom Levenson and Brian Switek on how to go from blog to book.
It was so nice to meet you and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Robin Ann Smith

Continuing with the tradition from last two years, I will occasionally post interviews with some of the participants of the ScienceOnline2010 conference that was held in the Research Triangle Park, NC back in January. See all the interviews in this series here. You can check out previous years’ interviews as well: 2008 and 2009.
Today, I asked Robin Ann Smith from NESCent to answer a few questions.
Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Where are you coming from (both geographically and philosophically)? What is your (scientific) background?
Robin Smith pic2.jpgI’ve spent much of my life taking a grand tour of southern cities — born in New Orleans, raised in Atlanta, and schooled in Nashville. My Midwestern mother says that makes me and my sister g.r.i.t.s: Girls Raised in the South. My paternal grandmother grew up in Cajun village in south Louisiana and inspired me to study French, so I lived in France for two years during and after college. I moved to North Carolina in 1999.
Scientific background? I have a PhD in biology from Duke, where I studied plant ecology and evolution. Ask me about the mating habits of morning glories and I’ll give you an earful. Before that I did Master’s work at the University of Montpellier in France, mostly on how different mixes of plants rebound from disturbances like fire and grazing. While there I also learned to love things like tripe, cheek kisses, and strong coffee.
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
I’m a science writer at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent), a nonprofit biology research center based in Durham, NC. NESCent is building their newsroom. That’s where I come in — my job is to help communicate some of research that comes out of the Center.
Before that I taught undergraduate writing for four years at Duke. There are several university writing programs around the country that recruit recently-minted PhDs from across the sciences and humanities to design and teach writing classes in their field. For people who want to learn more about teaching and writing it’s a wonderful opportunity. More science PhDs should apply.
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
As a staff writer for a research center I handle a wide range of writing assignments. In a given week I may write a news release, a story for our newsletter or website, a project proposal, or text for a talk or brochure. I also interview researchers, read journal articles, and attend talks and conferences to find out about research in the pipeline.
My goals? I’d like to learn how to tell stories using images and audio. I recently signed up for classes in graphic design and digital photography. I also want to keep flexing my freelance muscles via non-work related stories. In my spare time you can find me hiking, dancing, or experimenting with frozen desserts and home plumbing projects.
How do social networks, e.g., Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook figure in your work? Do you find all this online activity to be a net positive (or even a necessity) in what you do?
I was skeptical about Twitter until I started using it. It’s a news aggregator, for one. I use it to find the latest stories about a range of topics. Twitter has also been great for tapping into a universe of writers and editors and getting to know their interests. As for the cons? Between Twitter, Facebook, email, and a million other online outlets, some days my laptop feels like my external brain. I need to unplug and get outside. Time management is tricky.
When and how did you first discover science blogs? What are some of your favourites? Have you discovered any cool science blogs by the participants at the Conference?
I first discovered science blogs by following traditional writers and journalists who expanded into blogging. Olivia Judson’s blog The Wild Side (now a subset of Opinionator) and Carl Zimmer’s blog The Loom are great examples. I recently discovered and have gotten a huge kick out of CreatureCast, a blog and podcast series jam-packed with playful videos, animation, music and original artwork about animals. Not all of my favorites are bloggers per se, but I’m also a huge fan of Susan Milius at Science News magazine for her coverage of the plant world.
Robin Smith pic1.jpg
What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2010 for you? Any suggestions for next year? Is there anything that happened at this Conference – a session, something someone said or did or wrote – that will change the way you think about science communication, or something that you will take with you to your job, blog-reading and blog-writing?
What stood out for me was the diversity of people there – researchers and writers mingling with artists, editors, librarians and educators. That’s definitely one of the things that distinguishes Science Online from other science or writing conferences I’ve been to. My one suggestion for next year: we need a bigger room for the pitch slam! I love that session.
Thanks, Bora.
It was so nice to see you again and thank you for the interview. I’ll see you around.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Andrew Farke

Continuing with the tradition from last two years, I will occasionally post interviews with some of the participants of the ScienceOnline2010 conference that was held in the Research Triangle Park, NC back in January. See all the interviews in this series here. You can check out previous years’ interviews as well: 2008 and 2009.
Today, I asked Andy Farke from the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology in Claremont, CA to answer a few questions.
Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Where are you coming from (both geographically and philosophically)? What is your (scientific) background?
I grew up in rural South Dakota, with a high school graduating class of only 16 students. From a very young age, I had always been fascinated by paleontology (the study of past life, including dinosaurs). Because I didn’t know any better, I started writing to paleontologists whose names I found in some of my books, asking for assistance with little research projects that I had devised. One thing led to another, and the next thing I knew I was competing (and placing) in the Intel Science and Engineering Fair. (I feel just a twinge of personal pride over this, because I did rather well despite lacking access to the large research university labs and formal school programs that so many of my competitors had!) One of these projects led directly to my Ph.D. work at Stony Brook University, which I finished in 2008. Today, I’m a curator at Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology in Claremont, California. Not only do I work as a researcher, but I’m also fortunate in that our museum is partnered with a high school (The Webb Schools), and many of the students from there are quite active in our museum’s research, outreach, and other activities. Because of my own experiences, I’m firmly convinced that science can be done by anyone, and that science should be accessible to everyone.
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
A good portion of my career (indeed, beginning in high school) has been devoted to understanding the horned dinosaurs (Triceratops and their relatives). I’m particularly interested in how their massive skulls, measuring up to 3 meters in total length, functioned. Horned dinosaurs are odd, in that they have giant sinuses beneath the horns. Some researchers had speculated these sinuses functioned as shock absorbers during horn-to-horn combat, based on the observation that bighorn sheep and other modern horned animals also have big sinuses in their skulls. It turns out that we really don’t understand the sinuses even in modern animals – so many of my research efforts have focused on unraveling this problem. Other research projects have included describing and interpreting the evolutionary relationships of some new species of horned dinosaurs, paleopathology (the study of injury and disease in the fossil record), and the paleontology of Madagascar.
Andy Farke pic.jpg
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
Right now, I’m working on advancing open science in my own field of paleontology. Open access publishing is certainly a part of this – I’m a volunteer section editor for paleontology at PLoS ONE. Paleontology is a science that relies heavily on lengthy descriptions and quality illustrations – but recent trends in science publishing mean that more and more of the “good stuff” is either consigned to effectively invisible supplemental information or just not published at all. It’s my hope that not only will electronic publications like PLoS ONE and Palaeontologia Electronica increase the exposure of our research, but that they will improve the quality of our research by allowing paleontologists to publish complete, well-illustrated descriptions of specimens from the start. Second, I’m a firm proponent of increasing data sharing and transparency. The vast majority of quantitative studies in paleontology quite frankly aren’t reproducible – the numbers behind the statistics are locked up on someone’s hard drive. With the ease of including supplemental information or depositing data in online archives, there is simply no excuse for this situation. So, I (along with several colleagues) am working on changing this attitude in our field.
What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
I think it’s really cool that it’s so easy to connect scientists with other scientists, and scientists with interested members of the general public. That’s part of the reason why Matt Wedel, Mike Taylor, and I founded the Open Dinosaur Project. In short, this project allows anyone with an internet connection (regardless of education, profession, or geographic location) to participate in dinosaur science. Our volunteers are helping us to amass a giant database of dinosaur limb bone measurements from the literature and museum specimens, which we’re analyzing to understand the evolution of dinosaur locomotion. Every aspect of the project is open – from data collection to publication. Our volunteers provide measurements, suggest analytical approaches, and much more. Most of the participants will be co-authors on the resulting paper!
How does (if it does) blogging figure in your work? How about social networks, e.g., Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook? Do you find all this online activity to be a net positive (or even a necessity) in what you do?
I blog at The Open Source Paleontologist as well as The Open Dinosaur Project. Through these blogs, I trade research techniques and philosophies with colleagues and try to advance the case for open science within our discipline. Blogging has been a great way to meet other researchers, developing friendships and collaborations that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Facebook in particular is most widely used in paleo, and it’s proven to be useful for keeping up with everyone else’s research activities. There’s no doubt that all of this online activity is a huge positive.
When and how did you first discover science blogs? What are some of your favourites? Have you discovered any cool science blogs by the participants at the Conference?
I can honestly say that my earliest exposure to science blogs was through A Blog Around the Clock, and my reading list has ballooned since then. Among others, I always look forward to updates on Dave Hone’s Archosaur Musings, Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week, and Save Your Breath For Running Ponies (the funniest science blog, period). From ScienceOnline2010, I was happy to discover the blogs of Cameron Neylon, Jean-Claude Bradley, and Dorothea Salo, among others.
What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2010 for you? Any suggestions for next year? Is there anything that happened at this Conference – a session, something someone said or did or wrote – that will change the way you think about science communication, or something that you will take with you to your job, blog-reading and blog-writing?
My favorite part of ScienceOnline was getting to meet so many folks I had only heard of or communicated with through the Internet – people like Pete Binfield and Janet Stemwedel. Even better were those unexpected meetings with so many other open science advocates. I left the conference energized and excited about carrying on the push for open science!
It was so nice to see you again and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Mark MacAllister

Continuing with the tradition from last two years, I will occasionally post interviews with some of the participants of the ScienceOnline2010 conference that was held in the Research Triangle Park, NC back in January. See all the interviews in this series here. You can check out previous years’ interviews as well: 2008 and 2009.
Today, I asked Mark MacAllister, Coordinator of On-Line Learning Projects at the North Carolina Zoological Society to answer a few questions.
Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Where are you coming from (both geographically and philosophically)? What is your (scientific) background?
Mark Macallister pic.JPGI was born and educated in the Midwest–grew up in northwest Illinois, spent a lot of time on my grandparents’ dairy farm in southwest Wisconsin, and went to undergrad school at Oberlin College. I then came south for the first of three tours of duty in North Carolina, including grad school at UNC-Chapel Hill. Also mixed in there is time spent living and working in Salt Lake City, St. Louis, Buffalo, Toronto, London and Chicago. I’m still a Midwesterner at heart, and really miss long sightlines and cold winters. But I love North Carolina, especially my current and quirky hometown of Pittsboro–it’s kind of like “The Andy Griffith Show” where every third person is a massage therapist. I work for the North Carolina Zoological Society, which is based in Asheboro, but telecommute from my shed-in-the-woods office in Pittsboro.
Philosophically, I tend to find myself most interested in the place where technology, education (especially K-12 but also for adults) and environmental advocacy come together. I feel that each one of those can be improved by the application of the other two–if that makes any sense. I’m an early adopter in all three, and have been lucky enough to be able to be involved in somewhat radically new things in each area. I’ve been self-teaching on computers since 1982, beginning with a Kaypro running CP/M. My Master’s degree is in Environmental Policy and Law, meaning that I took half my coursework in UNC’s Political Science department and the other half through the Law School. And, as far as teaching goes–one of the nicest compliments anyone ever paid me was to call me a “natural teacher,” meaning that I don’t have a teaching license but I somehow manage to pull it off.
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
After grad school, my wife and I moved to Salt Lake City. I spent five years out there working on wilderness advocacy. I did a lot of research in the field–getting paid to hike and camp in the deserts of southern Utah was a great gig–and also in the public document rooms of various state and federal agencies. The advocacy groups I worked with were involved in mining, grazing, water rights, logging and other threats to wilderness preservation. What I began to notice toward the end of my tenure there was that many issues that appeared to be landscape-related were actually endangered species-related, and as a result I began to become more interested in species preservation.
We came back to North Carolina and in 1996 I went to work for the Chatham County Schools administrative office. The state was just beginning to wire classrooms, the Internet was just beginning to find its footing in terms of K-12 education, and Chatham understood early on that a significant teacher training effort would need to follow close on the heels of the effort to get everything wired. My job was in many ways focused on creating an atmosphere of support for integrating the Internet into classrooms; in other words, I was asked to help teachers understand why adopting technology was in everyone’s best interest, and then to work with them to actually help them gain those skills. Not long after we got started, Chatham was recognized as one of the ten top technology school districts in the country.
While this was all going on, I found myself thinking more and more about the content of the K-12 curriculum. It seemed obvious that a wonderful way to interest kids and meet curriculum goals was to focus the whole deal on the study of animals and wildlife, and to do so with technology-rich methods. I approached the Education Curator at the North Carolina Zoo, and not long after that we were partnering to build two websites focused on field-based wildlife research. These sites eventually evolved into FieldTripEarth, which is one of the many things I’m working on these days. I’ve been at the Zoo for ten years now, and have seen through a variety of other projects, ranging from teacher education (in both the US and Africa) to social media planning to field-based informal education.
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
I’m often thinking about “raw learning materials” (this is David Warlick’s term, see Landmark Project) and how to best put them into the hands of students and teachers. I’m not particularly interested in curriculum–that is, in designing and assembling big packages of resources that teachers can then plug into their classrooms. Rather, I’m curious about how best to make original source material available to classrooms and, better yet, how to put those classrooms in contact with the people that actually generate those source materials (By source materials, I mean first-person narratives, photos, video, datasets, maps and so on that, taken together, tell a story about what a scientist or other field researcher is working on). FieldTripEarth wheels and deals in exactly this currency, and we’ve been successful in providing classrooms a way to access these materials from researchers working all over the world. What they do with them is, for the most part, up to the students and teachers–we do offer some generalized strategies for using the materials found on the website, but for the most part we urge everyone to apply them to meet their specific needs.
What I wish I could spend more time on–or at least be more successful at doing–is bringing various classrooms into substantive contact with each other. I don’t mean waving at each other through Skype…rather, what I’m on the lookout for are ways to help students in various locations work together to solve learning problems, to interview field scientists, to author a video about a particular topic, and so on. I think there’s a lot of potential in this, but I’m not convinced that teachers and administrators will buy into it.
More generally, I’m interested in teaching process and thinking skills to whoever will sit still long enough to learn them. What we commonly call the scientific method can of course be used to learn in any academic or technical area. Unfortunately, most schools aren’t teaching thinking as an organized process; that’s why I try to focus on the work being done by field researchers, because I consider them role models of sorts when it comes thinking that is both multi-disciplinary and systematic.
I have some other goals, of course. I’d like to figure out a way to make hiking and biking more a part of the K-12 classroom. I’d like to read and write more, and to think out loud with colleagues more frequently.
How does (if it does) blogging figure in your work? How about social networks, e.g., Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook? Do you find all this online activity to be a net positive (or even a necessity) in what you do?
I’ve never really taken to blogging as part of my work, though I do read several blogs focused on politics and policy, both of which are hobby horses of mine. Twitter and Facebook are a relatively small part of my professional life, mostly because right now my employer focuses more on their utility in serving members than in educating them. I think these tools form a net positive, but will be much more relevant once we figure out how to use them as educational, rather than informational, resources.
What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2010 for you? Any suggestions for next year? Is there anything that happened at this Conference – a session, something someone said or did or wrote – that will change the way you think about science communication, or something that you will take with you to your job, blog-reading and blog-writing?
The best thing about the conference was witnessing the various interests people brought with them–as well as the varying levels of expertise. It helped me remember that this is still such an evolving area. The sessions were all strong, but for the most part my strongest impressions were formed outside of the meeting rooms.
As far as suggestions for next year–it would be cool to invite some consumers of science communication and let us see how they put it to work in their lives. There was a bit of that at 2010, but there’s a lot of untapped experience out there.
And while we’re at it, I’d love to have a session focused on the question “How do we make our students’ experiences with technology at school at least as rich and relevant as the experiences they are having outside of school?”
It was so nice to meet you and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Andrew Thaler

Continuing with the tradition from last two years, I will occasionally post interviews with some of the participants of the ScienceOnline2010 conference that was held in the Research Triangle Park, NC back in January. See all the interviews in this series here. You can check out previous years’ interviews as well: 2008 and 2009.
Today, I asked Andrew Thaler from Southern Fried Science to answer a few questions.
Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Where are you coming from (both geographically and philosophically)? What is your (scientific) background?
thaler-headshot.jpgI’m originally from Baltimore, but moved to North Carolina 8 years ago for undergrad and never looked back. I currently live in Beaufort, NC. I’m working towards my Ph.D in Deep Sea Population Genetics at the Duke University Marine Lab. I was the kid who wanted to be a marine biologist since I was six.
Philosophically I guess you could call me a Happy Fatalist. We’ve profoundly changed the world and anthropogenic influences on the environment are going to be the driving force for almost all societal change in the foreseeable future, but I’m less panicked about the way things are changing and more excited to be part of the largest experiment in human history. Most of the changes we’re going to see in the next few decades are unavoidable, we’ve passed the tipping point. People are often afraid to admit that, but eventually we need to not just reduce our impact on the environment, but also preparing for the major changes that are going to happen. We love to promote the myth of a balanced environment that’s somehow being upset, but the environment is always changing. The sooner we accept that environmentalism is about human values and not so archetypal perfect environment, the better off we’re going to be in the long run.
So I come from the position that we need to shift our focus from how to prevent changes to how we’re going to deal with the inevitable.
My scientific background is largely in marine biology and population genetics, with a brief segue into mycology for a couple of years.
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
I started off working as an Aquarist Assistant at the National Aquarium in Baltimore rearing seahorses. That was my first real chance to design my own experiments. I was part of the Syngnathid Breeding Program, and some of my seahorses are still swimming around aquariums throughout the world. From there I upgraded to a lab tech in a Mycology lab before entering grad school. I started my grad career studying the biodiversity of deep sea fungi that occur at methane seeps. No one had ever really looked at deep sea fungi, so I thought I was all cool breaking new ground. As it turns out, there just isn’t that much fungi down there, or if there is, it’s very elusive. I’m currently putting together a crowdsourced guide to conservation genetics geared towards managers and the general public.
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
Right now I’m just trying to make it through my Preliminary exams intact. Blogging is acting as my stress relief outlet (which is why most of my posts recently have been jokes about Global Draining). Other than that, I’m brewing experimental beers. My last batch I replaced all of the grains with green tea leaves to create a sort of Green Tea Pale Ale. It should be ready in a couple weeks, so I’ll let you know how it turns out.
What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
I’ve been really excited about Twitter lately. Suddenly I have a huge collection of experts available whenever I need them. Just send out a quick question and I usually get 5 or 6 answers by the end of the day.
How does (if it does) blogging figure in your work? How about social networks, e.g., Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook? Do you find all this online activity to be a net positive (or even a necessity) in what you do?
My undergrad institution was one of the first to get Facebook, so I’ve been on it for pretty much my entire academic career, so I have no idea if it’s been a net positive or negative. Twitter for sure is neutral, I get tons of help from my twitter network, but it can also be a huge time sink. All in all I feel like online activity follows the old (ways to be more efficient)/(ways to procrastinate) = no net change.
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 got into science blogging through Kevin Zelnio, who I share an office with. My favorites are for sure the marine blogs – Deep Sea News, Oyster’s Garter (which I guess is Deep Sea News now too), Malaria, Bedbugs, Sea Lice, and Sunsets, blogfish. I met nearly all the cool science blogs I follow from Science Online 09 and this years conference.
What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2010 for you? Any suggestions for next year? Is there anything that happened at this Conference – a session, something someone said or did or wrote – that will change the way you think about science communication, or something that you will take with you to your job, blog-reading and blog-writing?
This was the first time I went in with a smart phone, and the amount of content that was streaming out of the twitterverse was astounding. It was almost like I could listen in on four conferences at once. It might be nice to have a closing keynote to bring everyone back together at the end of the meeting as well as the beginning.
It was so nice to see you again and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.
Thank you and I can’t wait for the next conference.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Andrea Novicki

Continuing with the tradition from last two years, I will occasionally post interviews with some of the participants of the ScienceOnline2010 conference that was held in the Research Triangle Park, NC back in January. See all the interviews in this series here. You can check out previous years’ interviews as well: 2008 and 2009.
Today, I asked Andrea Novicki from the Duke CIT blog to answer a few questions.
Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Where are you coming from (both geographically and philosophically)? What is your (scientific) background?
Andrea Nowicki pic.JPGHi, thank you so much for asking. I’m currently employed at Duke University in the Center for Instructional Technology as an academic technology consultant for the sciences – I work with faculty who teach science or math, to help them figure out how to effectively and efficiently help students learn, using technology. My work is a satisfying combination of science, education and technology. Scientifically, I began as a marine biologist as an undergraduate and in early grad school; still, marine biology feels like my natural home. I became inspired by a summer course to study neural systems and behavior, because investigating changes in behavior at the level of changes in molecules in single, identified neurons was both exciting and satisfying. After a couple of postdocs and a tenure track faculty position, I stepped away from research and teaching and I went sailing, driven by a restless sense of adventure. I’m now back in academia, working with smart, interesting people.
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
I have been involved with some great projects; if there is a theme, it is change, both in my research projects and in my career. I’ve investigated the neural pathways that mediate color change in squid and octopus and I participated in research cruises identifying midwater ocean animals. On land I worked with insects, monitoring and altering activity in single neurons that correlate with behavior change, and predicting and then, satisfyingly, finding a neuron with particular characteristics.
I (and many other people) began to question the traditional lecture way that science was taught and early on, I began using computers and technology to help students learn biology.
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
My goals? Do I have to be realistic? I’d like to contribute to making science accessible; I’d like for everyone to recognize the beautiful complexity and interconnectedness of the natural world at all scales, and find joy of figuring out for themselves how things work.
What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
I’m excited about the increased openness and social nature of science. In my grad school days, the model was that successful scientists kept to themselves until they published, and then only in reputable, peer-reviewed journals; anything else was considered frivolous and distracting. Now, because of the web, science is now more public and more accessible (accessible both technologically and in presentation style). I’m a huge fan of Jean-Claude Bradley’s open notebook science approach, ever since I heard him speak at the first science blogging conference. This project (and many others) make the process of science more open. Passionate blogs by students and post docs as well as people who run their own labs show what science is really like – it’s done by caring people with feelings and emotions, not just some distant, always-right white-coated professor. This openness about the process, as well as the explanations of results made accessible (like at researchblogging.org) have the potential to illustrate the appeal of science to everyone.
I’d like to see people use some of the new visualization tools to explore publically available data sets to make new discoveries, just because they are curious, regardless of their final degrees or institutional affiliation.
How does (if it does) blogging figure in your work? How about social networks, e.g., Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook? Do you find all this online activity to be a net positive (or even a necessity) in what you do?
I lurk on numerous blogs, and I love scienceblogs, it’s a great way to keep up on how science is changing, and visit my favorite topics. I’m very fortunate, in that monitoring how people use technology to communicate science (for science education) is part of my job. I follow people on Twitter and find it a useful way to find new ideas and resources, and contribute occasionally. Although I do have an account on Facebook, I rarely look at it.
I do contribute to a blog, but it’s more about technology in education than about science, and is part of my job. As a confirmed introvert, I find blogging difficult. I am, by nature, a lurker. I’m in awe of people who can toss off a post without thinking it over and over and over.
In other words, all of this online activity is necessary for my work; I do not contribute enough, but I benefit tremendously.
What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2010 for you? Any suggestions for next year? Is there anything that happened at this Conference – a session, something someone said or did or wrote – that will change the way you think about science communication, or something that you will take with you to your job, blog-reading and blog-writing?
Every session I attended was thought-provoking! Stacy Baker’s students stole the show again; my notes have many observations about their attitudes towards technology. I also welcomed the sessions by librarians – their ability to find information, and think about how it is organized will continue to be invaluable.
I observed that the conference had many people attending who were not exactly science bloggers (people like me, for example), which showed how many options there are for people to participate in science online in some way, even if they are not, strictly speaking, science bloggers.
There’s still something wonderful about meeting someone for the first time after you’ve already read their writing – it’s like you can peek into their brain. When you meet a blogger (or any writer), your first impression has already been formed and modified and added to, and their physical appearance is irrelevant. It’s an almost utopian ideal – people are judged by the quality of their thoughts, not what they look like.
At one session, during a discussion of Google Earth and GIS, Cameron Neylon thought aloud about using visualizations as a way of distributing data, which is something I had been thinking about, as a way of making science, and raw data, more accessible. He, of course, said it more elegantly and I will be thinking about this for some time. How can good visualizations be used as a way of distributing data, in a way that does not immediately shape a conclusion but allows for exploration?
It was so nice to see you again and thank you for the interview. I’m sure I’ll see you before then, and I expect you’ll join our event again next January.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Fabiana Kubke

Continuing with the tradition from last two years, I will occasionally post interviews with some of the participants of the ScienceOnline2010 conference that was held in the Research Triangle Park, NC back in January. See all the interviews in this series here. You can check out previous years’ interviews as well: 2008 and 2009.
Today, I asked Fabiana Kubke, who came to the conference all the way from New Zealand, to answer a few questions. Fabiana writes on Building Blogs of Science which is syndicated on SciBlogs.co.nz
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?
Kubke-Bora2.jpgI grew up in Argentina, where I did a Biology degree at the University of Buenos Aires and started working on developmental neurobiology. I then got the chance to do a PhD at the University of Connecticut (also in developmental neurobiology) after which I went to the University of Maryland to do a post-doc in neuroethology (barn owls sound localisation). There in Maryland I met Martin Wild who was doing a sabbatical, and asked me if I would consider moving to New Zealand to work with him. Next think I knew, all of my stuff was on a ship headed to the South Pacific and I had a one way ticket to New Zealand. Martin gave me the physical and intellectual space to become independent PI, and after many (emphasis on many) years of being on soft money I am now a Senior Lecturer (like an Assistant Prof) at Auckland. I love the research as much as I love the teaching and student supervision. I learn a lot from my students, they always manage to keep me on my toes and challenge my way of thinking.
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
The main intellectual driving force for me has been to understand how brain circuits change during evolution to give rise to different behaviours. So I have always been jumping around different aspects of the problem (comparative embryology, anatomy, physiology), which means working with lots of collaborators. I mainly focus on the auditory system of birds because since vocal communication is so crucial in reproduction then vocal signals need to be well represented in the brain. The other advantage with working with birds is that many behaviours that are thought to be ‘of the human domain’ (like mirror recognition, episodic memory, tool manufacture) are also expressed in birds (just not all in a single species). This means comparative anatomy can provide nice cues as to what a circuit needs to have to get those behaviours expressed.
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
Oh, heaps of stuff. After attending Kiwi Foo Camp in 2009, I got engaged with a great local community that wants to make things happen. It blew my mind. I found myself thinking a lot more about primary and secondary science education, Open Data, Open Science, etc. Not that it wasn’t in my mind before, but now it was around navigating how to make things happen. I became more actively involved in the discussions and that started challenging the way I do things. And I became less shy about seeking advise and doing stuff that are not the typical thing for an academic (like SciBarCamp, Science Online 2010, a Science Communication conference, the OLPC programme, etc). I am still mainly doing research, teaching and training, but I am spending heaps more time thinking about the ‘how’ and ‘why’. I would love a few years from now to look back and see that I have changed my ways to contribute to a better scientific environment. The main challenge for now is to keep an eye so that I can maintain a good bite:chew ratio.
What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
A friend of mine from Uni in Argentina (Diego Golombek) does a lot of popular science stuff back home, and I always quietly envied him. I looked into starting a local series of popular science books in New Zealand similar to his, but kept hitting walls and never got the project off. Then I met Peter Griffin from the Science Media Centre, and next thing I knew I was writing a blog. It changed the way I read science altogether, and the way I think about it. Then soon after, the opportunity to start a Citizen Science project came up and we set it up online. The web provides a great platform to build bridges between scientists, between scientists and the community and to demystify science (and scientists!). And I hope I can be a part of that process.
How does (if it does) blogging figure in your work? How about social networks, e.g., Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook? Do you find all this online activity to be a net positive (or even a necessity) in what you do?
When I was a Uni student in Argentina, the country was transitioning between the dictatorship and the new democracy. There was a lot of soul searching on what was the role of a free (as in no student fees) and autonomous university in society, and what was our responsibilities as scientists. My generation started their scientific careers with these issues in mind. I see some of the same issues being raised in social networks, this time around the issues of Open Science and Open Access. Most of these discussions I follow on FriendFeed. I leave Facebook for family and friends. On Twitter, I tend to follow a more diverse group, and a lot of people interested in OSS, open government, education. Social networks have become sort of a lifeline to me, and people’s generosity with their ideas and support never ceases to amaze me. I am lucky enough to find people to follow that are motivated, energetic and courageous about building a better system, even if it is by making small changes in their specific area. The discussions are always stimulating, and I am always learning and discovering something new.
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 don’t really know; in my mind it is as if they have always been there. I guess I first came across them through topical google searches, and slowly built a list of blogs to follow. I am actually surprised when I find one I haven’t seen before, but every now and then it happens (as when going through the scio10 list). I have to say that my favourite blog is Ed Yong’s (the boy can write!). But my favourites tend to shift depending on what is occupying my mind at a given time. The great thing about scienceblogs is that I am always able to find a blog to help me think through any issue. New Zealand is a small country, and as a result the scientific community is small. It is hard to travel to meetings or invite speakers from abroad, so blogs (well, the bloggers really) take on a crucial role in providing me with a lot of food for thought.
What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2010 for you? Any suggestions for next year? Is there anything that happened at this Conference – a session, something someone said or did or wrote – that will change the way you think about science communication, or something that you will take with you to your job, blog-reading and blog-writing?
I think it was great to share the room with a lot of the people I follow online, and to have awesome chats with some of them. (Of course I felt it was too short to talk to everyone I wanted to talk to!). I would love to see more round table discussions rather than presentations. I still got heaps of feedback on ideas I have been toying around with, enjoyed hearing more about other Citizen Science projects, and left with a much better understanding of the science communication community. One specific thing, is that after chatting with Steve Koch, he got me to be invited to be an academic editor for PLoS One (for which I am very grateful). Cameron Neylon alerted me to the fact that UK universities are considered ‘commercial’ (so I changed my blog license). Overall, the big take home message for me was that even the great writers in the room started by learning how to communicate. And that means read/study/read/study/write. So I am doing a lot more studying these days, and hoping to use a lot of what I learn in also becoming a better lecturer.
It was so nice to see you and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.
Kubke-Bora1.jpg

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Jeff Ives

Continuing with the tradition from last two years, I will occasionally post interviews with some of the participants of the ScienceOnline2010 conference that was held in the Research Triangle Park, NC back in January. See all the interviews in this series here. You can check out previous years’ interviews as well: 2008 and 2009.
Today, I asked Jeff Ives from the New England Aquarium to answer a few questions.
Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Where are you coming from (both geographically and philosophically)? What is your (scientific) background?
Hi! Happy to be a part of ABATC! I work at the New England Aquarium spreading the word about the institution’s work on research, conservation, exploration and animal rescue. I’m an English major who grew up on the border of Oregon and Washington. However, with the help of all the talented scientists I come in contact with, I am learning the ropes of ocean science.
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
I started out substitute teaching middle school and high school. Then I moved on to work in educational publishing. That experience helps me today as I communicate complex scientific ideas to a mass audience.
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
The Aquarium has built a strong online presence based on researchers and aquarists blogging their work with the animals directly to the public. I am excited to promote their stories to the online community. My goal is always to improve those online resources and get them out to more people. At the same time, I’m always looking for ways to build connections with people working on similar projects.
What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
When the Aquarium began working on these kinds of web projects, I was focused on getting researcher and animal stories out to the public. Now that we have hundreds of stories, photos and videos to our online content, I find myself more focused on organizing and promoting this content. In addition to our use of facebook, twitter, tumblr and other social networks, the Aquarium is getting involved in peer reviewed reference websites, pooling blog resources and using content for online issues advocacy. The Aquarium recently launched its own social network along these lines.
How does (if it does) blogging figure in your work? How about social networks, e.g., Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook? Do you find all this online activity to be a net positive (or even a necessity) in what you do?
The Aquarium uses the blogs and social networks to connect with an audience for our animal stories and conservation message. I would agree with many of your interviewees who have called this a necessity. These social networks seem to be baseline outreach strategy. Like many of the folks at Science Online 2010, I’m always on the lookout for game changing online tools, and trying to imagine the future of online communications using those tools. Here’s hoping projects like Google Wave and cloud storage live up to the hype.
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 was a longtime fan of Deep Sea News before they moved off of Scienceblogs. They were a gateway drug for reading this blog, Zooillogix and Shifting Baselines. Now that I’ve been to Science Online and met other bloggers, I’ve expanded my RSS subscription to the megafeed… which isn’t easy to keep up with, but I enjoy trying! I was really happy to come to the conference and meet the folks from Southern Fried Science, The Beagle Project, NASA blogs, Cephalopodcast, Flying Trilobyte, Oyster’s Garter and a bunch more…
What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2010 for you? Any suggestions for next year? Is there anything that happened at this Conference – a session, something someone said or did or wrote – that will change the way you think about science communication, or something that you will take with you to your job, blog-reading and blog-writing?
I liked the unconference format of many of the presentations. I’d like to see more of that kind of small group, facilitated discussion. I was also a big fan of seeing Google SideWiki at the conference and I’d love to see more service providers present to pitch their tools and ideas to the community.
It was so nice to meet you and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.
Anytime. As long as the invites keep coming, I’ll be there!
Jeff Ives pic.jpg
[photo taken by @SFriedScientist during the conference ]

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Dorothea Salo

Continuing with the tradition from last two years, I will occasionally post interviews with some of the participants of the ScienceOnline2010 conference that was held in the Research Triangle Park, NC back in January. See all the interviews in this series here. You can check out previous years’ interviews as well: 2008 and 2009.
Today, I asked my SciBling Dorothea Salo to answer a few questions.
Here are the questions. No rush. Remember that you are free to add, delete, fuse, split or edit the questions:
Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Where are you coming from (both geographically and philosophically)? What is your (scientific) background?
Thanks, Bora; this is a privilege.
Dorothea Salo pic.jpgI live and work in Madison, Wisconsin, which in my not-at-all-unbiased opinion is one of the best cities anywhere. My apartment is a little way south of Monona Bay, so on my walk to work I am lucky to walk past marvelous examples of urban fauna, coyotes and rabbits and loons and herons and several different sorts of duck, and even in winter the wild ice-fisherman in his natural habitat.
Philosophically, I am a devotee of electronic text; I love its flexibility and adaptability, and I want there to be much more of it, much better arranged and designed. I am also an ardent but grounded-in-reality open-access, open-data, and open-science advocate.
Scientific background? I have none. The closest I get to science is philology. My educational background, library degree aside, is in literature and linguistics, with particular expertise in Spanish. My parents are anthropologists, if that helps? I used to help my dad chase down journal articles in the library when I was a wee sprat. Obviously something stuck.
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
I’ve been a librarian since 2005. Before that, I’ve been a little bit of a lot of things — typesetter, SGML/XML specialist, census data-entry grunt, ebook standards wonk, database programmer, other odds and ends. I’ve been a blogger since 2002, and I became a SciBling last year with Book of Trogool.
What I do in libraries is run what’s called (rather horribly) an “institutional repository,” which is generally intended to be a digital archive for the born-digital research (and sometimes teaching) output of the university. I am notorious in library circles for questioning outright the ideological, technical, and organizational assumptions on which IRs were founded, but here I am still running one — you can take the scholar out of the study of the Spanish Golden
Age, but you can’t take the Don Quixote out of the ex-scholar, it seems!
Running an IR means being at the intersection of a lot of library specialties heretofore considered separate: outreach and marketing, collection development (because materials don’t just magically appear!), metadata, systems and technology, copyright management and education, scholarly-communication advocacy, digital preservation, and so on. I don’t do all those things equally well; in fact, I’m rather bad at several of them. But this new specialty requires people who can be jacks-of-all-trades without going mad, and that’s me in a nutshell.
I also teach in library school now; I’ve done a course twice introducing proto-librarians to computer-based technologies in libraries, and I’m currently teaching a collection-development seminar online for the University of Illinois.
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
Well, in not too long I shall be an institutional-repository manager without an institutional repository! Our digital library and IR are planning to merge atop a brand-new technology stack, and so I am kept hopping working out how
to migrate materials from the old platforms, as well as helping elucidate requirements and design content models and work processes for the new system.
I’m quite excited about this! We’re moving from a very siloed, inflexible set of systems to a platform with almost infinite flexibility. With great flexibility comes great responsibility, of course, so in a way we’ve let ourselves in for a lot more work — but it’s work that will vastly improve the services and user-experience we
provide, as well as position our technology better for the future, so it’s absolutely worth the effort.
The work I do crosses a lot of library and institutional processes, as I said, so I have plenty of service work to keep me occupied as well: helping plan for electronic thesis and dissertation programs on several Wisconsin campuses, serving on a library scholarly-communication committee, being a voice for research-data preservation, keeping an eye on plans for a campus multimedia clearinghouse, answering the occasional copyright question as best I can (not being a lawyer), whatever crosses my desk.
Last year I published an article about author-name metadata in IRs. I’m thinking about following that up with an article on metadata processes generally, and how they differ from processes in the MARC cataloging that librarians are used to. I think what I have to say may inform how research libraries approach getting cataloging staff involved with digital projects such as IRs, digitization, and research-data conservation.
(I don’t have a journal nailed down for this article yet, so if anyone would be interested in it… of course, any journal that doesn’t allow postprint self-archiving need not apply. That means you, Cataloging and Classification Quarterly, even though this idea sprang from one of your CFPs.)
What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
Preservation, definitely. The way scientists work on the Web right now is very much “follow the shiny and let $DEITY sort all the information out later.” This kind of experimentation is absolutely necessary, of course, and I would never discourage it — but from the point of view of the scientific record, it’s terrifying. How much scientifically-useful material vanished during the death of Geocities or ma.gnol.ia? What happens to a research-project wiki when the project is over? What happens to grant-funded datastores when the grants end? Google started a research-data project and then abandoned it, while Microsoft has just announced a similar one; I’m not taking any bets about its longevity. So what happens to important data on a commercial service that folds?
In print, we have evolved an entire ecosystem consisting of authors, reviewers, publishers, and libraries so that we don’t forget what we’ve learned from research. We don’t have that ecosystem for digital research materials yet, especially when we get beyond the published book and article. I expect to spend most or all of my career helping build such an ecosystem.
It’s not easy to think about. Grant agencies don’t have a long-term perspective. Government isn’t necessarily the answer; the UK killed the Arts and Humanities Data Service, and the US did its best to kill the education database ERIC. Publishers as a class (and with exceptions) won’t do anything that doesn’t make them money, and digital data looks like a money-loser. Research libraries haven’t yet stepped up to the plate, for the most part (and with exceptions). Institutional administrators tend to live in cloud-cuckooland with respect to the scientific record, and campus IT is too beset with short-term priorities to give this problem the broad perspective and ongoing funding it needs.
Wait, wait… you were expecting me to answer “open access,” right? Sorry. That’s not a use of the open Web in most of science. It should be, but it’s not. Scientists just go right on handing over their birthright to big-pig publishers for a horrendously expensive mess of pottage. I’ve given up believing they’ll change that without external demands. No, my open-access hopes are pinned on research funders: grant agencies and institutions. (I did say I was notorious for this
kind of thinking…)
How does (if it does) blogging figure in your work? How about social networks, e.g., Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook? Do you find all this online activity to be a net positive (or even a necessity) in what you do?
I was informed last year that my previous blog was causing some of my work colleagues such serious distress that they were hesitant to work with me. That obviously wasn’t a situation I could allow to continue, so I shut the blog down after seven years, weeded its archive, did some hard but necessary thinking, and started over at ScienceBlogs with a somewhat more focused and buttoned-down effort. I keep much more of a firewall now between my job and my blog, and that seems to be working out better so far.
I have several Twitter presences and am active on FriendFeed, and I find both networks invaluable for current awareness, for keeping up with my professional friends, and for getting to know innovative researchers and thinkers. I do not have a Facebook presence because I do not trust Facebook to do the right thing with my personal and social-network information. (I have Google Buzz turned off for similar reasons.)
Even considering the trouble it’s gotten me into, which has been quite serious, I do believe that online interaction has been a net positive for my career. I’ve not even been a librarian for five years yet, and my h-index is pathetic 8212; yet I’m a fairly prominent name in my field, and here I am being interviewed by the eminent Bora Zivkovic! You can’t tell me all that would have happened without the (old) blog. The idea is ludicrous.
Even more than that, though, online interaction allows me a broad perspective on what’s going on in libraries and in the research enterprise that would be painfully difficult, perhaps impossible, to acquire any other way. Publication is slow, and getting hold of published literature is often an exercise in frustration. With RSS, Twitter, and FriendFeed, much of what I need to know comes right to me.
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?
Oh, gosh. Um… I’ve been reading blogs even longer than I’ve been writing them, so I honestly can’t recall which science blog was the first I ever read. I started out with techblogs, mostly, but the blogosphere has diversified and so has my blog reading.
Effect Measure is probably my favorite science blog; I love it for the intersection between science and public policy, which is another piece of the puzzle I work on as an open-access advocate. I don’t know why ScienceBlogs hasn’t recruited Cameron Neylon’s Science in the Open yet, and I’m also a devoted reader of Michael Nielsen, even when the math goes right over my head (which is less often than it might do; Michael is a gifted explainer). I can’t wait for his book to come out!
I’ve picked up subscriptions to Dr. Isis and Janet Stemwedel because of their presence at Science Online. And I must of course mention the other members of ScienceBlogs’s information posse: Christina Pikas, whose wry brilliance is always great to read, and the affable and knowledgeable John Dupuis, whom I finally got to meet at the conference.
For popular-science news, Ars Technica’s Nobel Intent is my go-to spot. I met John Timmer briefly at Science Online, and wish we’d had more time to talk. I am a tremendous fan of everything Ars Technica is doing, and the class and intelligence with which they do it. (I do wish they’d make more of an effort to reduce the kyriarchy in their comments, because I find many of their comment streams so unreadable that I hardly ever open them… but I understand why they don’t.)
What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2010 for you? Any suggestions for next year? Is there anything that happened at this Conference – a session, something someone said or did or wrote – that will change the way you think about science communication, or something that you will take with you to your job, blog-reading and blog-writing?
I met so many wonderful people! That’s always the best part of a conference. I also did some impromptu consultations about data management, during which I was able to point some people in good directions and make connections between people that mightn’t have happened otherwise. I am “pathologically helpful,” as a librarian friend of mine says about librarians, so being able to help, right there mid-conference, was fantastic.
As I said over on Trogool, my biggest takeaway from the conference was my stark realization of how remote scientists feel from the librarians who serve them, and how dangerous that is for science librarianship. That realization is informing my work on research-data management at my workplace, and I have a feeling it will make a substantial difference to where I spend my outreach and interaction energy, online and face-to-face, in the future.
It was so nice to meet you and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with John Timmer

Continuing with the tradition from last two years, I will occasionally post interviews with some of the participants of the ScienceOnline2010 conference that was held in the Research Triangle Park, NC back in January. See all the interviews in this series here. You can check out previous years’ interviews as well: 2008 and 2009.
Today, I asked John Timmer from Ars Technica to answer a few questions.
Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Where are you coming from (both geographically and philosophically)?
Geographically, I come from New York City. I work out of a home office in Brooklyn, and do some work with two of the local biology graduate programs, helping teach students how to write grants and papers that are coherent and compelling. Most of my time is spent writing and editing science news and perspectives for Ars Technica. We don’t have a central office, which is why I get to work out of my home.
They’re a technology-focused site, so I often get asked to pitch in and cover various technology issues. A reasonable number of product introductions and announcements take place in New York, so I get to cover some of those, as well.
Philosophically, the overall goal I have for scientific communications is two-fold. One is to help people who haven’t worked in a scientific field understand how the real practice of science is probably different from the picture they got out of the US education system or from a lot of the popular press. There are very few “out of the blue” discoveries in science, or even the sort of linear idea -> hypothesis testing that science textbooks present. There’s always a history, a reliance on standardized techniques and analysis, a bit of luck and logic, good controls, etc. We try to bring that forward, make it part of the story, because it gives a more complete picture.
From a broader perspective, we try to emphasize how, even though science produces information that remains uncertain and may get revised in the future, it’s still pretty good at providing useful answers. We may get better answers in the future, but it doesn’t mean the ones we have now are wrong, or that we shouldn’t be basing decisions on scientific information. These days, sadly, we also have to emphasize that, when science is used as a basis for policy decisions, your disagreement with the policy doesn’t somehow negate the science.
Ars is a great fit for what I’d like to accomplish, since it has a reputation that was built on going a bit further into the technical details, and providing a better understanding of the development of technology.
What is your (scientific) background? Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
I have a PhD in Molecular and Cell Biology from UC Berkeley, where I did fly genetics. I switched to vertebrates, mostly mice and chickens, for various developmental biology projects in about a dozen years of post-doc and non-tenure track positions. Two projects stand out to me. In one case, I helped identify the gene responsible for a mutation that was first identified in 1923, very early in the history of mouse genetics. I also got very good at electroporating DNA into the developing nervous system of chickens, while they were still in the egg. You could express genes that altered developmental fates, or put in reporters with neural-specific enhancers, and so forth, and then let the egg develop for a few additional days. It was a really fun technique.
Two labs I worked in moved to institutions outside of New York – my wife jokes that the only way they could get rid of me was to move the lab out of state – and I had to stay behind, which helped convince me that it might be time to abandon the bench. There was a year of scraping by on various freelance work before Ars hired me as a full time employee. That included a bit of teaching, a bit of grant editing, some application programming, a lot of writing. Basically, I was trying anything I was halfway good at, hoping to find something that would both keep me interested and translate into a new career. Writing won out, although I still do a bit of the other things from time to time.
timmer pic.jpg
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
I think I largely answered those questions above. Ars is taking most of my time, and it’s giving me the chance to help produce the sort of coverage that I hope provides a valuable perspective on science. So, I guess my passion is proving that it can work. From an audience perspective, that means people find it compelling and informative, and we continue to grow our readership. From a content perspective, that means we keep the quality high while providing more material for that readership. Another goal is to make sure that writing for Ars is a valuable experience for anyone who does it, which means working with the writers on ideas, writing style, etc.
If all of that’s successful, then the big-picture goal – a bit more of the public understands the process and results of science a bit better, and can recognize when what they’re seeing from other media, or policymakers, or what have you isn’t scientific – should take care of itself.
I don’t see making science seem fun and exciting as a goal. Science takes care of itself quite well in that regard.
What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
To a certain extent, the fact that the web could enable someone like me to engage in this sort of project without having to go through the traditional route of journalism school or media fellowships is fascinating to me. But there’s a flipside to that. The same leveling of the playing field makes it easy for people to engage in projects to distort science when it comes to things like vaccines, evolution, climate change, etc. They can attract large followings, and have audiences that treat them as credible, even authoritative voices on scientific topics.
In some cases, they’ve built that audience from literally nothing, and have never gone the route of working for an established news site or blog. I think that’s a testament to the power of providing compelling content, even if it says bad things about what people find compelling.
So I’m interested in the credibility issue. If the web has ensured that you can more or less find someone willing to say anything, you enable the audience to self-select for sources that tell them what they want to hear. How do we get an audience to self-select based on quality and accuracy, even if that means receiving information that makes them uncomfortable? It’s something that interests me because I think having an answer is critical, and I don’t think we have one yet.
How does (if it does) blogging figure in your work? How about social networks, e.g., Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook? Do you find all this online activity to be a net positive (or even a necessity) in what you do?
Well, depending on who you talk to, what I do might be blogging, in which case it’s central. If what I do isn’t blogging, then I don’t blog at all. Which I think just indicates how fuzzy and irrelevant the lines are.
To a certain extent, we follow some blog conventions, and allow our authors to inject some humor, directly address the audience, and voice personal opinions about the news items we cover – in many cases, I think these add value to our coverage. At the same time, we tend to avoid pieces that are entirely opinion, limit the amount of ranting we do, and don’t get into back-and-forth arguments with other writers out there, which is fairly unbloglike. So, we’ve sort of treated blogging a bit like a prix fixe menu, and chosen the things that we think are effective and work with our audience.
Sometimes, when I do feel like ranting, i have considered starting my own blog, but the feeling quickly passes when I consider how far behind I am in all the projects I’d like to get done.
After resisting Twitter for some time, I started using it in 2008, and I now consider it essential. It connects me on a personal level with a great community of science communicators, even though I’m working on my own in a home office. They also point me to news that I might miss because it comes from a source I don’t follow. Some news sources I do follow, like NASA missions or the UCAR, are also great about tweeting what they’re up to.
The downside right now is that the information flow from Twitter is just about at the limits of what I can track. For example, I don’t follow you (Bora) anymore because I found that you just sent too much information my way, and I couldn’t keep up. You were a victim of your own success in terms of finding too many things I was interested in. I’ve got a set of Twitter handles from people I met at Science Online that I hope to sort through at some point, and find people who would add to what I’m aware of without overloading me. But, right now, I don’t have the time to go through that set, which probably tells me I’m at my limits anyway.
It’s a time management/attention span issue, something I’ve never been good with in any medium, and I’ve not found a way to handle it well for Twitter yet. But Twitter’s been so valuable, that I really feel compelled to try to do better.
When and how did you first discover science blogs? What are some of your favourites? Have you discovered any cool science blogs by the participants at the Conference?
I think I’ve been reading technology blogs for ages – it’s how i first discovered Ars, in a time when it was more clearly bloglike – and just gradually incorporated a few science blogs that I stumbled across as part of me regular reading. RSS made a huge difference to me, and really shifted my perspective on how to consume content. You could decide to follow someone, and software did most of the hard work for you. I’d guess I started using RSS somewhere around 2004.
I’d followed Carl Zimmer and Ed Yong, two of my fellow panelists, for a while because they’re simply excellent writers, but David Dobbs’ blog was a new discovery for me. I love a lot of Derek Lowe’s chem talk at In the Pipeline. I’d stumbled onto Janet Stemwedel’s blog a few years ago, and started following it because I’d met her back in high school at a summer science program. It turns out that she covers issues regarding scientific practice that are interesting, significant, and rarely discussed elsewhere, so it’s one I’ve kept following. There were a number of other attendees that I find myself reading semi-regularly, but don’t actively follow, like Abel Pharmboy and Dr. Isis.
Some guy named Bora, as well….
As for the new discoveries of Science Online, I found myself more interested in people who are trying new things, like video, event-based outreach, and so on. Blogging is pretty well established, and I’m pretty well immersed in text-based communications myself. But now we’ve got science festivals, direct communications from the field (even when the field is the North Pacific Gyre), video content from interviews, profcasts, etc. Maybe one of these will take off as an effective form of communication, in which case I’d love to watch it evolve from as close to the start as possible.
What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2010 for you?
First and foremost, meeting the people. It was a fun, interesting, and staggeringly intelligent group of people who are truly enthused about what they’re doing. I’d known of many of them for years, and it’s great to finally meet them.
One of the things I’ve missed from my scientific career is going to a meeting that involves an exchange of ideas. When i go to something like AAAS now, i’m there largely in receive mode, sucking in information. Science Online let me discuss, learn, synthesize, argue – to feel involved in a process again, one that involves a great community. So, it was really nice to switch back into a participatory mode.
Any suggestions for next year?
All of my suggestions would involve making the meeting longer, and I’m not sure if that’s really an option.
Is there anything that happened at this Conference – a session, something someone said or did or wrote – that will change the way you think about science communication, or something that you will take with you to your job, blog-reading and blog-writing?
I’ve always felt strongly that science is important enough that we want the best possible people doing it, and that talent is randomly distributed, with no regard to ethnicity, gender, or what have you. But science doesn’t seem to be attracting a random selection of people, which suggests to me that we’re missing some real talent, either because they never view science as an option, or get discouraged when they try to enter the field or develop their careers.
This came up in a couple of sessions and some personal conversations, since a lot of people care about underrepresented groups in science. And what really got driven home to me is what a careful balancing act it has to be. You want to hold up successful members of those groups, in the hope that they’ll be inspiring to others. But, at the same time, you ultimately don’t want to send the message that these people are rare or exceptional, and you don’t want to turn someone into a spokesperson if they’d just rather go about focusing on their career. And being out front on the leading edge of anything exacts a cost on them.
So, I think I came away with a bit more to think about there.
It was so nice to see you again and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Marie-Claire Shanahan

Continuing with the tradition from last two years, I will occasionally post interviews with some of the participants of the ScienceOnline2010 conference that was held in the Research Triangle Park, NC back in January. See all the interviews in this series here. You can check out previous years’ interviews as well: 2008 and 2009.
Today, I asked Marie-Claire Shanahan who teaches Science Education at the University of Alberta, Edmonton to answer a few questions.
Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Where are you coming from (both geographically and philosophically)? What is your (scientific) background?
MarieClaireShanahan pic.JPGHi Bora, thanks for the invitation. Right now, I am an assistant professor of science education at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. I love to ski and moving out closer to the rockies has been a dream come true. I am originally from rural eastern Ontario, and although most people think I must be joking I really did grow up in a maple sugar bush. I have taken a long way around to what I do now but have thoroughly enjoyed the journey.
I studied astrophysics and mechanical engineering before becoming a teacher, spent a couple of years teaching math and science in grades 6-12 before going to the University of Toronto to begin graduate work in science education. I had no idea what I was doing and thought that doing a masters would be a good way to get into curriculum development. Out of pure luck, I was asked by one of my professors to join her research group and ended up learning that there was fascinating field out there dedicated to understanding how people interact with science. I was hooked!
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
I started my graduate research with an interest in studying gender in science. My own experiences in engineering had been very mixed and I wanted to understand some of the frustrations that my colleagues and I had encountered. I was equally frustrated though by essentialist research that tried to tell me that all girls were the same. As a result, I moved away from the direct study of gender towards the study of identity. I completed my doctoral work, focusing on sociology of science and science education, by examining patterns of expectations that are established in science classrooms that influence students’ decisions to pursue science.
Since moving into a faculty position I have become interested in the importance of language in the interactions that people (both students and adults) have with science. In one current project, I am collecting audio and video recordings in elementary classrooms. I will be analyzing this to understand the ways that even young students use language to signal their affiliations with science and work through their understanding of concepts. I am also interested in the ways that subtle changes in the teacher’s language do or do not affect the students’ language in their conversations with each other and their contributions to the whole group. In the same sphere of science education for young children I am also working on developing strategies for adapting primary scientific literature for use in the classroom. Research by reading experts has shown how little attention is paid to teaching students how to read in science. I am currently working on developing and testing resources that teachers can use to introduce students to the language of science and engage them with cutting edge research.
In another project I have moved outside of the classroom to study interactions in online spaces. I am interested in the way that people use scientific language to position themselves as experts when involved in online discussions. I have been collecting and analyzing comments from newspaper websites for the past year, carefully examining the ways that commenters use scientific language and the way that others respond to them based on the language that they use.
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
The projects I mentioned and my teaching take up most of my time (plus as much skiing as possible). My more recent passions, though, have been in the intersections of identity and interaction in online spaces. I am intrigued by the possibilities offered by anonymity and pseudonymity. What types of online identities do people create for themselves, especially in relation to science? And how does that identity govern the types of interactions that they have? I spend more and more time reading science blogs and other personal presentations online and am working to conceive of an appropriate way to study these phenomena.
How does (if it does) blogging figure in your work? How about social networks, e.g., Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook? Do you find all this online activity to be a net positive (or even a necessity) in what you do?
I am definitely a reader of social media on the web rather than much of a participant or creator. It is certainly a net positive and it is fueling many of my research interests right now. I am working on becoming a more active participant so that I can better understand that aspect as well.
When and how did you first discover science blogs? What are some of your favourites?
Hmmm…I’m trying to remember. I think it was something silly like searching for the term “science blogs” in the hope of finding some blogs about science. Finding it was like finding a whole new community that I didn’t know existed. I was already developing an interest in science communication as it relates to public understanding and education. Finding science blogs (which then also led to other communities) really changed the way that I viewed science communication. I don’t feel right naming favourites though – my academic interest in them means that anything provocative and different might be my favourite of the day even if as a reader it might be something that I don’t agree with or might even find distasteful. So I think my view of favourite might be a bit skewed 😉
What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2010 for you?
The best aspect was definitely the people that I met and had a chance to listen to and interact with in the sessions. As I said, finding the blogging community was very eye-opening for me and attending ScienceOnline was an incredible extension to that experience. I found that my understanding of the ways that science communication is changing was really enhanced by ScienceOnline. Also, it was one of the most enjoyable conferences I’ve ever attended. I came away with new friends and that’s not something that usually happens to me at conferences.
It was so nice to meet you and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January (or even before, if my brother manages to organize a trip for me to visit him in Edmonton) for the ScienceOnline2011.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Carl Zimmer

Continuing with the tradition from last two years, I will occasionally post interviews with some of the participants of the ScienceOnline2010 conference that was held in the Research Triangle Park, NC back in January. See all the interviews in this series here. You can check out previous years’ interviews as well: 2008 and 2009.
Today, I asked Carl Zimmer from The Loom to answer a few questions.
Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Where are you coming from (both geographically and philosophically)? What is your (scientific) background?
Carl_Zimmer_hi-res_color.jpgGeographically speaking, I’m a Northeasterner. Grew up mostly in New Jersey, spent the single years in New York, and now dwell with my family in a little town in eastern Connecticut. In college I was an English major, but the freakish sort of English major who also took physics classes.
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
I’ve been a science writer for twenty years. I started out in the Dark Ages, when magazines didn’t have web sites. For my first ten years I worked on the staff of Discover, and I’ve spent the second half as a freelancer, writing newspaper articles, magazine columns, books, blogs, museum exhibits, and various other collections of words having to do with science.
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
I like to write about biology, broadly defined. That means I have to continually rethink how to do my job. Every branch of biology is moving ahead so fast, from genomics to macroevolution. But it’s all the same story. So I spend a lot of time thinking about how to map the connections, in plain English if possible.
What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
I’m fascinated by how different genres naturally generate their own rules. If you write for a museum exhibit, you have to be able to stop someone in their tracks and explain something in a brief space. But if you tried to write a book according to those rules, it would be a wreck. When blogs bloomed a few years ago, they brought with them a set of rules all their own. Writing a blog is a conducting a conversation, not delivering a monologue. Now I’m very curious about the new genre that’s emerging with the rise of iPhones, iPads, and other hand-held devices. I’m wondering if they’re going to create a new set of rules. Those rules might deal with how to combine words and images in new ways. Videos might become moving illustrations. I want to see what comes next.
It was so nice to see you again and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Tara Richerson

Continuing with the tradition from last two years, I will occasionally post interviews with some of the participants of the ScienceOnline2010 conference that was held in the Research Triangle Park, NC back in January. See all the interviews in this series here. You can check out previous years’ interviews as well: 2008 and 2009.
Today, I asked Tara Richerson to answer a few questions.
Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Where are you coming from (both geographically and philosophically)? What is your (scientific) background?
Tara Richerson pic.jpgSome people are military brats. I was a Post-doc brat. My adoptive father was an entomologist and the family moved around a bit when I was a child. I am Canadian by citizenship, but an amalgam of culture. Dad was a “gypsy moth-er” at Penn State and worked with the southern pine beetle crew at Texas A & M. We finally settled down in a small west Texas town and he began an academic career and continued research in biocontrols. For me, science was just part of life—not a subject in school or something separate to consider. I got to play with my dad’s old chemistry set (even the bottle of mercury) and learned to tease ant lions in the driveway. Discussions of parasitology at the dinner table were not looked upon as poor manners. I learned the value of intellectual curiosity by watching my father and many grad students in action. I learned about the wonder to be found in otherwise ordinary things—-how precious and intricate life is, not for supernatural reasons, but for all that there is for us to discover.
How I ended up as an educator in Washington state is a long story better suited for discussion over a bottle of pinot noir than a blog post. However, I will say that I am very passionate about public education. I believe that what happens in a classroom is about every kid, every day. While I am very proud of the students I have had who have chosen the sciences as a profession, it has been most important to me to develop happy, thoughtful, and confident young adults who are ready to meet the world on their own terms. At the risk of sounding too much like a Discovery commercial, the world is indeed awesome. I don’t want my students to ever think that the best years of their lives were in high school. The best years should always be ahead and it is my job to cultivate that spirit of adventure within them.
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
There’s never a bottle of Pinot around when you need one, eh?
I didn’t decide that I wanted to be a teacher until the month I graduated from college. I had been accepted to the first cohort of Teach for America, but the logistics didn’t work out and I ended up taking another year of classes and getting a teaching certificate. I taught science for five years at what was the largest junior high school in New Mexico. It was a trial by fire—and at age 21, I was not that much older than some of the students. I also went back and earned my Masters degree in gifted ed while I was working. Eventually, I left NM for Washington, teaching high school science for 10 years, working as an instructional coach, and picking up my K-5 certification. I also started my doctoral work in the area of motivational classroom environments and classroom grading. I do many presentations each year about grading practices, but have started to get into data visualization. I was working for the state of Washington in the areas of science curriculum and assessment, but have moved into educational technology this year due to state budget constraints and my need to have a personal life. Next fall will mark my 20th year as an educator.
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
I am someone who enjoys the journey more than the destination (other than air travel). This is not to say that I don’t have goals, just that I am not someone who gets upset by obstacles or serendipitous diversions. I really miss being involved with classroom science at the moment, but my current foray involving assessments for educational technology is a unique opportunity. So, for now, my job is taking up the largest chunk of my time (my commute is 70 miles…each way) and some of my passion.
I really enjoy working with teachers and the kinds of conversations I’m having about classroom instruction and assessment. My current niche involves grading practices. I realize that this is a turnoff for a lot of people—many have experienced some sort of grade trauma in their academic careers. I hadn’t intended to stumble into this area, but I have found that I am helping hundreds of teachers move in a new direction…and in turn, thousands of students. I have been asked to write a book and am hoping to do so this year.
Beyond all of that, I am having a rather torrid love affair with my house. I bought an old house by the water four years ago. It is my favourite place that I have ever lived. I enjoy watching the tides, working in the garden, and engaging with the guerrilla warfare that comes with the upkeep of a 70-year old home. It is a space that heals and rejuvenates me. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.
What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
I am intrigued with the possibilities of “open science.” I have just started thinking about this from an education perspective. I do think that being able to get information directly into the hands of students is very important. Science texts are interpretations of bits of knowledge—what will happen in classrooms as students are able to access scientists and their work in more timely and direct ways?
How does (if it does) blogging figure in your work? How about social networks, e.g., Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook? Do you find all this online activity to be a net positive (or even a necessity) in what you do?
I’ve been blogging for more than 5 years now. I started What It’s Like on the Inside because I wasn’t having the kinds of conversations in my professional life that I really wanted to have. My career was going through some transition and I needed a space to capture my thoughts and attempt to find people to connect with. Since then, my blog has become a very important part of my life. It has been the source of relationships and experiences I would never have had otherwise. I have also been using Twitter for the last two years. I use it differently from my blog—my posts to Twitter are more personal and random. I think that type of communication is important, too. I love the journey represented by my blog posts, but my life is more than just work. Twitter helps round out a more human experience for me. I am on Facebook, but I rarely post there. It’s not a social network that really works for me. I want to keep my eye on the future, not the past.
It’s odd because my current job is focused around supporting the use of technology (including social networking) in the schools, but my accounts do not necessarily connect with this. I can’t claim that I separate professional from personal (nor do I want to). I haven’t found a way to fully integrate them, either. I still use my original handle (Science Goddess) and don’t plan to transition over to my real name. This is not so much an issue of privacy at this point as it is a “brand” issue. I have five years of content associated with Science Goddess. I can’t abandon it. Identity theft can work in a direction where someone can step into someone else’s former online identity. So, I’m at a point where I have just quietly claimed both of my names and am building connections between them.
I do find the use of social media to be very positive. I think it is empowering for people of all ages and backgrounds. It is a way to let your voice be heard and connect with others. While it’s true that these platforms can also be used to harm, the benefits far outweigh the risks. The ability to exchange information, maintain relationships, and keep current is a necessity in my work. I could do these things without blogging and tweeting, but it would be far more difficult.
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 had several people ask me how I met Bora. I tell them that I knew him back when we were baby bloggers. At that time, he had an education-related blog and was involved with the “edusphere,” even hosting a Carnival of posts now and then. Bora has gone on to be a rockstar in the science blogging world. Me? Not so much, although I am definitely one of the oldest edublogs still in existence: A coelacanth of blogging with my simple two-column ad-less gadget-less layout. My RSS is fairly eclectic—a mix of science blogs I’ve found over the years, lots of education related feeds, and some things that are just for entertainment. Once in awhile I hear the claim that blogging is dying, when instead it should be looked at as evolving. Blogging has changed since I first jumped into the pool. I’ve seen many fabulous writers come and go, but part of the fun is finding new blogs to read…to see new people discover blogging and the opportunity to share and connect with others.
ScienceOnline 2010 impacted my Twitter feeds more than my blog reading. I found at least 30 new people to follow and I am enjoying those conversations immensely. I can’t help but think of my dad when I read the trials and tribulations of research, publishing, working with undergrads, and the humor and play amongst scientists. It reminds me of the view of science I grew up with and I really appreciate that.
What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2010 for you? Any suggestions for next year? Is there anything that happened at this Conference – a session, something someone said or did or wrote – that will change the way you think about science communication, or something that you will take with you to your job, blog-reading and blog-writing?
The best aspect of ScienceOnline 2010 was the diversity of participation. By that, I mean all of the different ways people connect with science: artists, researchers, writers, editors, librarians, bloggers, practitioners, students, and so forth. I loved the perspectives. We just don’t have that at educational conferences, which tend to be very specialized and cliquish. There is such value in having a variety of viewpoints at the table. When my dad was alive, we used to attend a conference together as often as possible. I really think he would have enjoyed the conversations at ScienceOnline. I’m grateful that he helped shape the beginning of my path there.
As for next year, I would like to see public education play a larger role. We did have some citizen science discussions this year; but, I believe that it is very important for scientists outside of public ed to become familiar with the issues educators are facing and how to get involved. There are some critical policy issues (e.g. Common Core Standards, No Child Left Behind…) that are going to have a broad impact on the science education of millions of children. We cannot deride the lack science literacy found among adults (or their adoration of pseudoscience) if we don’t pay attention to what happens in our schools. I am really afraid that by the time the scientific community starts to get involved with education policy, it is going to be too late. Those of us in education need you to arm yourselves with current information and raise your voice. I find it interesting that there was so much agreement with Michael Specter’s view of Denialism at the conference by the same people claiming that the U.S. is falling behind in producing students with math and science degrees or that public education is about teaching to the test. If you believe those sorts of things because of news soundbites or a conversation with a neighbour, then the level of denial can be just as harmful as those who believe the vaccine-autisum connection or that humans and dinosaurs co-existed. Be curious, scientists, about what is happening in public education. Be fierce about learning at every level.
My biggest take-away from the conference is how web 2.0 tools are being used out in the “real world.” We can talk a good game all we want in education about how we are (or aren’t) preparing students for life outside the classroom. But it isn’t meaningful unless we can actually connect what we do with what other professionals do. It would appear that institutions of all types are still figuring out how to leverage social networking platforms…to manage information in the cloud…and to take new tools and use them to communicate in new ways. These are things that we all have to figure out together. I hope that as those in sciences move forward, they will continue to find ways to partner with educators.
It was so nice to see you and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Hope Leman

Continuing with the tradition from last two years, I will occasionally post interviews with some of the participants of the ScienceOnline2010 conference that was held in the Research Triangle Park, NC back in January. You can check out previous years’ interviews as well: 2008 and 2009.
Today, I asked Hope Leman to answer a few questions.
Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Where are you coming from (both geographically and philosophically)? What is your (scientific) background?
Leman01.jpgHope: I am 46 and Research Information Technologist at the Center for Health Research and Quality of Samaritan Health Services (SHS), which is a health network in Oregon. I live and work in the town where I was born, Corvallis (home of my alma mater Oregon State University) and am happy to work for the same organization that ran the hospital I was born in and for which my father, a general surgeon, spent most of his career.
I am a late bloomer in that I graduated only in 2009 from the master’s program (which I did via distance learning) in library and information science at the University of Pittsburgh.
My job at the Center is developing Web services for the research community locally and internationally and keeping up on the incredibly exciting worlds of Medicine 2.0, Health 2.0, Open Science, Open Research, Open Access, e-medicine, e-science, the e-patient movement, Participatory Medicine–as you can see, there is a lot going on!!
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
Hope: I am incredibly privileged to work for an organization that emphasizes professional growth and development. For instance, I started as a medical records clerk for Samaritan. That is really the ideal way for someone new to healthcare to learn how hospitals work. I learned what makes up a medical record, what kind of doctor does what and was surprised when I started in the field of health information management in 2002 how much of medicine was still paper based and how expensive and complex it is to transition to electronic medical records/electronic health records. I still follow the important subject of informatics closely (particularly via the work of Ted Eytan).
After about two years in the medical records department I applied for and was delighted to get a job as a library technical specialist (which is a paraprofessional position) in the larger of the two medical libraries at SHS and worked under my greatest hero, medical librarian Dorothy O’Brien (now retired). That was in 2004 and Web 2.0 and Library 2.0 were just taking off. It was absolutely exquisite timing for watching the revolution that is occurring in the field of medical librarianship vis-à-vis the rise of Open Access and the battle for public access to the published results of taxpayer-funded research. Dorothy gave me a solid grounding in the fundamentals of librarianship and also enabled me to explore what were then fairly new technologies like RSS.
In 2008, SHS established the Center I now work for and I got to know the director, Jana Kay Slater, who hired me initially to help with finding grants for our system and helping to monitor those SHS had already been awarded. We realized that we needed a Web-based service that SHS researchers and staff could use to easily search for grants and scholarships. We came up with ScanGrants.
SHS decided that ScanGrants was so useful that we should provide it free to those throughout the world who are looking for announcements of funding in the health sciences. I am really proud of ScanGrants. There really is no comparable free service. There are other free listings of funding opportunities, but they are not health science focused the way ScanGrants is.
Given our success with ScanGrants, we realized that researchers needed a free Web-based platform that would encompass the whole research continuum from looking for a grant to fund a particular project to finding places to publish and otherwise disseminate the results of the research conducted. Therefore, we are developing a service called ResearchRaven that will provide subscribable lists of professional conferences, and calls for papers for periodicals and conferences. I am really excited about this service, as I think it will be a boon to scientists and public health researchers who should not have to spend hours in Google and Bing and other search engines trying to figure out where they should submit their papers or who want to find out what kinds of meetings are being held in their fields. We hope to launch ResearchRaven sometime in the next few months.
As to my scientific background, it is embarrassingly sparse!! This is a source of great regret and mortification for me. I sadly confess to being an ignoramus when it comes to the basic sciences like chemistry. I just don’t have the aptitude or brilliance of the people I admire in the sciences. What I try to do is provide tools that scientists can use and publicize their efforts to make the scientific process more efficient and to render the results of research easier to disseminate for the benefit of researchers and, ultimately, for patients and their families.
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
Hope: Most of my time is spent on my beloved ScanGrants. I try to list as many announcements of grants, research fellowships, prizes for scientific achievement, travel grants for researchers and students and for patients to attend meetings of disease advocacy groups as I can manage. It is immensely rewarding to tell the world about everything from an essay contest on DNA for middle school and high school kids to a film contest on the subject of brain diseases to a grant for clinical research on breast cancer. It is great fun and absolutely absorbing to scan the Web looking for such listings. Most of the rest of my time at work is spent on developing ResearchRaven.
Outside of work, I am working very hard helping to organize the conference Science Commons Symposium – Pacific Northwest. I am really excited about that because it will bring together groups I hope will get to know each other ever better: those interested in Medicine 2.0, Open Science and Open Access plus librarians, technologists, information scientists and others in health and medicine. I am very fortunate to have recently attended ScienceOnline and to have seen a superb conference up close. I can see why you, Bora, and Anton Zuiker were applauded so resoundingly by the audience on the first night. Conference organizing is a lot of work!
The rest of my time is spent on trying to blog on all of these topics on my blog, Significant Science.
I use the interview format much of the time and it takes many hours to write up the questions and for the poor interviewees to slog through the questions. Serves me right that you are making me work as hard in this interview as I make the interviewees on Significant Science work!
As to my goals, my immediate goals are to see more and more adoptions by libraries (medical, academic, public) and offices of research administration of ScanGrants (and, eventually, ResearchRaven) and to see Science Commons Symposium – Pacific Northwest go beautifully.
My long-term goals are to see Open Science/Open Research become mainstream and for the increasing clamor by members of the public and the research community for greater public access to taxpayer-funded research to result in major reform of the current system, which is far too heavily weighted in favor of commercial publishers to the detriment of science and suffering patients. I applaud the initiatives of the Office of Science and Technology Policy and of the stalwart advocacy of groups like SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition in this regard.
Another of my long-term goals is to connect people in the health sciences with those in Open Science and those in the fields of informatics, search and librarianship so that people like John Wilbanks, Jean-Claude Bradley, E-Patient Dave, Dorothea Salo and Peter Suber and those in the private sector like the search engine designer Abe Lederman of Deep Web Technologies will all be able to address a multifaceted audience at a single conference at least once a year: one place, one audience, many constituencies.
My long term life’s work goal is to make science and medicine run as smoothly as possible so as to cure and prevent disease. People like Heather Joseph of SPARC and those listed above are making that happen.
What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
Hope: I love someone who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and so am passionate about advancing research in the area of neurodegenerative diseases and improving the quality of life of those with such illnesses. That is why I admire people like Jamie and Ben Heywood of PatientsLikeMe and Augie Nieto. The Heywoods are creating new paradigms of research, such as sponsoring patient-initiated clinical trials (like on lithium for ALS) and publishing about them in respected medical journals. When my friend was first diagnosed with ALS, I impressed with the practical advice and social support to be found for patients and caregivers on PatientsLikeMe.
Nieto is predicating his grant making on up front agreement by grantees to share the results of their research as much as possible. That seems like a no-brainer, but it has not always been the case. Funders like Autism Speaks are following his lead.
Additionally, I very much respect the pioneering work of those in the fields of Participatory Medicine like e-Patient Dave and Gilles Frydman of ACOR (Association on Online Cancer Resources). E-Patient Dave is a powerful advocate for the right of patients to obtain access to their own health data, for instance.
I am also very interested, as I have mentioned, in the whole debate about public access to taxpayer-funded research and was quite shocked that so many of the professional societies (who have a vested interest in the status quo given their lucrative revenue streams from their publishing operations) who argued on the forum on the issue that OSTP sponsored that only they could determine what good science is and that peons (i.e. scientists who don’t happen to be members of their societies and members of the general public who had funded the research in the first place) outside of their charmed circle are supposedly incapable of benefiting from access to the research results or contributing to activity in their specialties. I am hopeful that such positions will dismissed for the self-serving, science-impeding nonsense that they are.
I am also interested in the work of Science Commons in the areas of copyright, legal infrastructure and technical issues (e.g., matters of metadata) in science and very much look forward to actually meeting John Wilbanks at Science Commons Symposium – Pacific Northwest.
And there is the work of Peter Binfield on the matter of article metrics and all the work people like Jean-Claude Bradley and Steve Koch do on Open Notebook Science and Cameron Neylon’s work on the potential of Google Wave in Science and many other areas.
As you can see, there is a lot to be interested in these days!!
How does (if it does) blogging figure in your work? How about social networks, e.g., Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook? Do you find all this online activity to be a net positive (or even a necessity) in what you do?
Hope Leman pic.jpgHope: Blogging has been a huge boon vis-à-vis my ability to learn about Open Science and Medicine 2.0 and all of these subjects. I got into blogging in a funny way. As I mentioned, I love and care about ScanGrants. I am constantly working on spreading the word about it (like, say, in this interview!) and so asked Charles Knight of what was then AltSearchEngines (Charles now blogs elsewhere) to write it up. He not only very courteously featured ScanGrants but nurtured me as a writer and introduced me to the world of search, which gradually led me to the world of Open Science and Medicine 2.0. Charles is one of the best connected people in the world of search. I owe him a lot. As a result of my blogging I have been blessed with press passes to conferences such as Health 2.0, Web 2.0, the e-Patient Connections Conference and have been able thereby to hear excellent speakers and see new technologies that I would otherwise not have gained exposure to.
Via Charles, I got to know Walter Jessen of Next Generation Science which is an outstanding blog. Walter has been another formative influence and a very generous mentor and colleague (he also moderated a lively session at ScienceOnline2010 on the commonalities of and differences between Medicine 2.0 and Science 2.0).
Blogging has enabled me to connect with people (via the aforementioned press passes) I would not have otherwise met and has enabled me to learn in depth about the work of those I am lucky enough to interview. After all, if I am interviewing someone I had better know what I am talking about. Therefore, I do a huge amount of reading as I prepare my interview questions and I learn a lot from the answers I get from my subjects. My main vice is that I tend to go on at great length about how much I admire the people I am interviewing.
I like to think that the interviews I conduct are providing a window on important developments in health and science and are a ready resource of the cast of characters of all of these movements. (Another of my vices is mixing metaphors.)
As to social networks, I like Twitter very much, but they need to fix the bugs that drive us all crazy. Nothing is more annoying than trying to tweet and getting hung up for various reasons. I don’t tweet as much as I would like, as there is so much else to do. I do appreciate the trouble others take to retweet links to my blog posts–thank you, selfless viral marketers!
Facebook–ugh. I have an account, but do nothing with it. It is too gated for me and too me-centered.
I don’t spend nearly as much time in the Life Scientists room of FriendFeed as I would like (or the rooms related to librarianship, Science 2.0. etc.). There is a huge amount of really fascinating discussion in there. In a perfect world, I would spend hours reading the comments of Cameron Neylon, Bill Hooker, Martin Fenner, Jean-Claude Bradley, et al there.
I find all of this online activity to be a net positive. But I can say that because I am single person with few other interests and of rather obsessive-compulsive habits.
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?
Hope: I first discovered science blogs c. 2008 when I started blogging about search. That led me to write a bit for Walter Jessen’s Next Generation Science, as mentioned above. Next Generation Science is a marvelous resource for those interested in Medicine 2.0 and Open Science.
And those interested in Open Science and Open Notebook Science in particular should follow Jean-Claude Bradley’s Useful Chemistry and Steve Koch Science and anything Cameron Neylon writes. His blog is Science in the open, and then there is well, the one you run, Bora, A Blog Around the Clock. Where do you get your energy?
As someone very much interested in medical and science librarianship and thoughtful discussion on its role in Open Science, I recommend Dorothea Salo’s, The Book of Trogool .
The following people did not attend ScienceOnline, but their blogs are useful for those who want to keep up on developments in the field of Participatory Medicine and the e-patient movement. I suggest the blogs of e-Patient Dave and that of Ted Eytan MD. And you can follow what e-Patient Dave, the analyst Susannah Fox and other movers and shakers in Participatory Medicine and online health matters say here. And I just discovered this one of Charles J. Greenberg Cushing/Whitney Medical Library, Yale University. That is an excellent one about Open Access in Medicine.
What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2010 for you? Any suggestions for next year? Is there anything that happened at this Conference – a session, something someone said or did or wrote – that will change the way you think about science communication, or something that you will take with you to your job, blog-reading and blog-writing?
Hope: The best aspect of ScienceOnline2010 for me was simply the opportunity to attend (and to be able to give a little talk about ScanGrants) and actually meet people I had not met before but had only read about or corresponded with. They were all as charming and as brilliant in person as I had hoped. I met Jean-Claude Bradley, Cameron Neylon, Antony Williams of ChemSpider, Steve Koch, Walter Jessen and attended Dorothea Salo’s excellent session on institutional repositories and Peter Binfield’s on article metrics. During the months leading up to the conference, I also learned a lot about the immense amount of work that goes into planning conferences. You are an impresario par excellence in that realm, Bora! Talk about tireless.
In one session at ScienceOnline2010, I was impressed by a young woman who spoke very cogently about Open Access issues, both legal and technological, and wondered who she was and wanted to meet her. She turned out to be Victoria Stodden, who had made some very incisive comments in the OSTP forum on public access. I got to chat with her and later heard her talk on her ideas about legal aspects of publishing, sharing and blogging science. She is a truly innovative thinker and she definitely did change the way I think about science communication. I recommend, in particular, her paper “Enabling Reproducible Research: Open Licensing For Scientific Innovation,” which can be found here.
As to suggestions for next year, I hope that more people in the search industry will attend. Search needs to get into the Open Science space. The online reference manager/bookmarking services (e.g., Mendeley, CiteULike) attended and gave a good presentation and I kept thinking, “Where are the search engines?!” I imagine that as the conference grows ever more important, they will get a clue! I did get the chance to meet and chat with Sol Lederman of the Federated Search Blog. Sol is widely read in search, so here is hoping!
And I am hoping many more librarians can come next year. Dorothea Salo is doing yeoman’s work on bridging the worlds of online science and libraries.
I hope more people from the world of Medicine 2.0 can come, too. Perhaps Science Commons Symposium – Pacific Northwest will help in connecting the world’s of online science and medical and science librarianship. I have had a good deal of help from librarians in publicizing the symposium and I hope that momentum will lead to greater participation by them in the many movements that ScienceOnline so scintillatingly highlights. Librarians are cutting-edge techno whizzes.
I’d also be interested in a session on technologies for disabled scientists.
It was so nice to see you again and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.
Same time next year at ScienceOnline for me!

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Maria Droujkova

Continuing with the tradition from last two years, I will occasionally post interviews with some of the participants of the ScienceOnline2010 conference that was held in the Research Triangle Park, NC back in January. You can check out previous years’ interviews as well: 2008 and 2009.
Today, I asked Maria Droujkova to answer a few questions.
Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Where are you coming from (both geographically and philosophically)? What is your (scientific) background?
MariaD pic.jpgAt any given time, I typically work on multiple mathematics education projects, as a leader or as a consultant. Geographically, I have connections with North Carolina, where I’ve been living for a while, and also Dusseldorf, Germany, New Orleans, LA, Moscow, Russia and Crimea, Ukraine – places where I lived and worked before. Philosophically, “progressor” from an old Russian science fiction book series, someone who facilitates progress, is close to my self-image. I visualize social changes around mathematics, and then work on making them happen. The main current directions of changes are helping children make their own mathematics, Math 2.0, and community-centered learning.
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
In the early 2000s, I started or led several large and central blog and forum parent and educator communities on early childhood education in runet (Russian internet). My main English site naturalmath.com started in 1996 with a few pages on multiplication, paradoxes and learner rights, and has been growing since then. I have been interested in game development since 2003, had a DoED grant to support some R&D for Natural Math and consulted for others. I am currently building a framework for math game development, including a taxonomy of math game mechanics and a game classification. Since mid-nineties I’ve been leading family Math Clubs of various types, with thousands of families involved over these years. I am leading six Clubs and unClasses right now, exploring grid and coordinate reasoning with 5-6yo, infinity with 7-9yo, and physics computer modeling, as well as Wonderland art math, with tweens and teens. In 2009, I started Math 2.0 Interest Group, with activities that include software development, conferences, weekly webinars, and asynchronous discussions. I defended a doctoral dissertation about metaphors in math in 2004, and continue to develop a metaphor-based theory of mathematical learning. I also have a MS in Applied Math, and even though I have not worked as a research mathematician since the nineties, having focused on education, I feel my understanding of relatively high-level mathematics is a particular strength.
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
There are five parts to my Natural Math Theory of Change: Mathematical Authoring, Psychology of Mathematics Education, Humanistic Mathematics, Executable Mathematics, and Community Mathematics. All of these directions come up in every project I do. Here are some immediate goals:
– Publish “The book of the Club” for every Math Club session we have, inviting all members to actively co-author, of course.
– Start and finish two collaborative Online Family Studies this Spring: Early Algebra and Multiplicative Reasoning, publish these two book drafts once people in the studies react/contribute/develop them
– Organize Math Online 2011, a conference for the Math 2.0 Interest Group
– Restructure naturalmath.com (yet again)
– Present the math game design framework at a conference, and get a couple of articles about it in print
– Start Math Fairs, global, collaborative (non-competitive) series of math events for families and Math Clubs
What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
– Citizen science
– Math 2.0
– Apprenticeships for kids, opportunities for participation in real communities of practice
– Community building for social change
How does (if it does) blogging figure in your work? How about social networks, e.g., Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook? Do you find all this online activity to be a net positive (or even a necessity) in what you do?
– Blogging is something I did a lot in early 2000s, but not as much anymore. I comment on a few blogs and I hosted a Carnival event last year, ironically, on a wiki.
– I mostly use Google Groups and wikis for my projects, because of the number of voices involved, and the network structure (definitely not “one to many”).
– I am active in many Nings, wikis, Twitter hashtag networks, Facebook and LinkedIn communities.
To answer the last question, I think of myself as living online. So the “net positive” question is isomorphic to asking if my life has a meaning. I surely hope so!
What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2010 for you? Any suggestions for next year? Is there anything that happened at this Conference – a session, something someone said or did or wrote – that will change the way you think about science communication, or something that you will take with you to your job, blog-reading and blog-writing?
I liked meeting people – that was the best for me. Also, the inspiration for Math Online 2011 was great. “Citizen science” is a phrase I have not even heard before, but it fits quite a few of my projects and those I find valuable, so I’d like to nominate it as one of the more significant content items.
As for suggestions, I would like to see several mindmaps, created by and for participants, and helping me to visualize the group as a whole. I envision them both as big pieces of paper on the wall (quaint, I know), and online entities we are all invited to edit. Here are some I want:
Interests – areas – fields – names
Online communities – areas – examples we love (and who is active in each)
Projects – area tags – leaders – active people – those who want to participate (this may be a table, rather than a concept map)
So, for example, I’d like to see what projects are active in citizen science, who the leaders are, and who at the conference is involved. Or, more generally, who is interested in a particular science area.
It was so nice to see you again and thank you for the interview.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Ken Liu

Continuing with the tradition from last two years, I will occasionally post interviews with some of the participants of the ScienceOnline2010 conference that was held in the Research Triangle Park, NC back in January. You can check out previous years’ interviews as well: 2008 and 2009.
Today, I asked Ken Liu from Scivee.tv to answer a few questions.
Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Where are you coming from (both geographically and philosophically)? What is your (scientific) background?
KL: I am a serial entrepreneur who’s been doing technology startups for the past 20 years in a variety of technologies, products and business models. My career has spanned the history of software, from shrink wrap software sold in retail stores (Computerland, remember them?) to open-source SaaS today. My business philosophy is akin to Darwinism–Innovate or Die, and quickly. Dreamt about becoming an astronomer or doctor as a teen, but ended up getting degrees in economics and international relations instead, But my love for science has remained to this day.
Ken Liu pic.jpg
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
KL: I was involved in a company during the dot com era in which the company was acquired in 3 years since it’s founding, and practically all the other major players in the market were also acquired by much bigger companies (Cisco, Nortel etc.) within the next year. So an entire industry came and went within 4 years. I am now spearheading business development at Scivee.tv, which aims to become the video platform for publishers, societies, universities and other institutions in the STM market. Every media segment–even newspapers–has adopted video and other rich media aggressively except STM, which by and large is still a text world. I have to conclude that the STM market is the most reactionary in adopting new technology in the age of Web 2.0+. In journals, for example, you can argue that the text format hasn’t changed since the days of Issac Newton, who would recognize an article of 2010 vintage published by the Royal Society. I find it baffling that science is all about making new discoveries, pushing ideas forward and expanding knowledge, at a breathtaking pace that occurs daily, yet the primary way to communicate those important findings and what scientists do is stuck in the 17th century. I am obviously exaggerating to make a point, but it’s not far from the essential truth.
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
KL: My mission and passion is to encourage adoption of video among the STM institutions. Currently, many say “oh, we put our videos on YouTube”, and that’s that. What SciVee is evangelising is it’s got to be more than that. Video and other rich media must be a more integral component to the mission of the institution, and its communications strategy, to serve its various stakeholders–members, authors, funders, government agencies, readers, and ultimately, themselves. Throwing videos to the great YouTube etherworld is an unconnected and unimaginative act. The vision is that within 5 years (should have been by now, as in every other media market), video is an integral component of any journal or scientific institution’s communication arsenal. Just look at any good content site, say the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal, and that’s what I mean. We at Scivee are not reinventing anything new; we are just applying known Internet and video techniques to the text-centric STM world. I have no doubt that our vision will be fulfilled, it’s just a matter of time.
What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
KL: Obviously it’s now video. At SciVee, we have a unique product called SciveeCast. SciveeCast is a synchronized video abstract that enables a viewer to see the presenter discuss highlighted sections of a journal article, poster, coursework, slides in a full multimedia presentation.
PubCasts enliven and enhance science communications and promote discovery. It’s also a more efficient way to absorb new research, especially in visual topics. A picture is worth a thousand words; a video is worth a thousand pictures. Finally, a new generation of scientists and readers expect and demand an interactive rich-media experience online. See sample: Bacterial Inclusion Bodies Contain Amyloid-Like Structure.
How does (if it does) blogging figure in your work? How about social networks, e.g., Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook? Do you find all this online activity to be a net positive (or even a necessity) in what you do?
KL: Both a necessity and net positive, to the point of being overwhelming. There is no way anyone can absorb all of it.
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?
KL: I have been reading blogs of various major publications such as Nature, Science, NY Times for several years.
What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2010 for you? Any suggestions for next year? Is there anything that happened at this Conference – a session, something someone said or did or wrote – that will change the way you think about science communication, or something that you will take with you to your job, blog-reading and blog-writing?
KL: From my perspective, I thought it needed focusing and go deeper into certain topics to gain coherence and substance. The audience accordingly is also quite eclectic, from students to scientists to a few vendors like me, although the core seems to be bloggers, free Internet, open access advocates. I also thought the focus on Twitter as the cool thing to do is misplaced; I felt it tried to separate the cool “with-it” guys from the rest. I am a curmudgeon who still clings to the old fashioned idea that usefulness is more important than the fact that something can be done for its sake.
It was so nice to meet you and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.