Tag Archives: scio13

ScienceOnline2013 – interview with Karyn Traphagen

Every year I ask some of the attendees of the ScienceOnline conferences to tell me (and my readers) more about themselves, their careers, current projects and their views on the use of the Web in science, science education or science communication. So now we continue with the participants of ScienceOnline2013. See all the interviews in this series here.

Today my guest is Karyn Traphagen, the Executive Director of ScienceOnline (blog, Twitter).

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 and other) background?

I was born in New Jersey (please don’t hold that against me).

I suppose, in retrospect, I was one of the Apollo generation kids and that has affected me more than I realized. I clearly remember being a very young child and standing by some adults who were debating whether or not we would really get to the moon and back. I grew up with the Gemini missions and Apollo missions. My entire elementary school would gather in the gymnasium around one television to watch launches and splashdowns.

After I started kindergarten we stayed in the same house until I graduated from high school (remarkable when you learn that I have moved 26 times since then). I was the oldest of four girls. My father was part of my life until I was in middle school (and then he entered my life again after I had my own children), but it was my mother who really instilled in me the interest and discipline and confidence that make me so curious and adventurous.

One of my favorite memories is constructing furniture with my mom. In those days there were no IKEA designers with clear instructions. We had all those foreign diagrams and crazy languages to guide us. I learned at an early age how to persevere, tinker, and make it work. I guess you could say we had a Maker culture and DIY house before the terms were popularized.

I also had an amazing chemistry set (which no doubt is illegal these days).  Of course, all the illustrations were of boys, but that didn’t bother me one bit. I had a picture of my mom before she was married and she was working in a lab with all manner of science glassware. I thought that was the best picture ever of my mom. Even though she stopped working in the lab to get married and have us kids, I thought it was perfectly normal to want to do science. It didn’t even occur to me that I couldn’t figure these things out. I also had a small mirror microscope that was nearly impossible to get to work. But I still had slides and slides of samples I collected. Even today my office is full of geologic and botanical specimens I’ve collected.

It wasn’t until later in life that I realized we were really poor growing up because I always thought we had the most amazing house. It was a tiny rental duplex. But we had file cabinets full of paper, pens, glue, tape, crayons, cardboard, glitter, and all sorts of creative stuff. What I didn’t realize was that it was all cast-offs from mailing rooms and offices (the paper was discarded stationary and onion skin paper for carbon copies). So, again, my mom was ahead of the times with re-purposing and recycling even before the first Earth Day had been organized.

Speaking of Earth Day, I can remember as a young girl how much I loved that first festival. My best friend and I were so impressed that we started our own Anti-Pollution Club. I doubt we really did very much to affect the trash and pollution in our town, but I know it did change us.

Another thing that changed me was the monthly arrival of the National Geographic magazine. Someone must have given us a subscription, because I’m sure we couldn’t have afforded it. But I (absolutely) loved reading about Jane Goodall. I wanted to go sit in the jungle and be like her. I would lose myself in the photos of space and dive in the ocean with Jacques Cousteau. I would crawl down into the earth with the stories about insects and their habits. And volcanoes! Who knew, at that time, that I would live in Hawai’i for a while and get to walk on newly cooled lava and then watch red hot lava flow into the ocean? My love of science owes a debt of gratitude to NatGeo for the visual imagery and stories they brought to me.

In high school, I was part of the “advanced track.” This meant that I had double periods of math and double periods of science every year. Double periods of math! I was invited to be part of the school’s Math League team. I hardly noticed that there were only two girls on the team. Double periods of science meant lots and lots of labs. Let’s just say that having a lab partner who sutured our fetal pig back together each night should give you a glimpse of the kind of classmates I had. But I also played violin, taught myself guitar, and sang in the choir. I became a thespian and loved drama (apparently, both on stage and off). You see, it was just the beginning of my interest in everything. I owe it to my mom that I always thought that if I was interested in something I could just go out and learn it and do it. So, I just kept doing that.

I graduated from high school early. In part, because of a dare/challenge. There were three of us who thought it would be great to graduate early (no idea why we thought that at first). The school told us “No, you can’t do that. It isn’t allowed, it’s never been done.” Hmmpff. That’s one of the surest ways to get me to try to make something happen. So, we looked at the specific policies and rules in place, and found a loophole that would allow us to graduate in three years (by doubling up on some coursework). We appealed to the school board, and they agreed. We were the first to do that. It also meant that I was in the graduating class of female students who were first invited to apply to West Point. I didn’t go to West Point, or any of the other amazing opportunities I was offered. Instead, my education and career “trajectory” began to look more like I was tacking in a sailboat.

The short story is Life and Family (capital L and F) became priorities for various reasons. The result is that along the way I got married, had 2 daughters (both awesome), had my 2 youngest sisters come into our house under our guardianship, had my other sister live with us for a time while she finished her undergrad degree, ran several entrepreneurial endeavors, learned a lot of new things, and moved a lot.

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

Trajectory assumes a smooth path that obeys the law of gravity and as I’ve already noted, my journey has taken a rather torturous, meandering route. But (and please forgive me for this), as Tolkien’s oft-quoted poem says: “Not all those who wander are lost.”

While meandering, I hiked and backpacked all 46 of the Adirondack High Peaks (becoming an ADK46er along with my husband and our 2 daughters). I have taught physics to high school students, undergrads, & grad students. I did research with cadavers to help develop a tibia index to make more biofidelic crash test dummies. I coded. I studied (and taught) ancient languages and their writing systems, like Ugaritic, Aramaic, Biblical Hebrew, and Babylonian. I studied Tolkien linguistics (and created a Tengwar Primer). I created miniature medieval calligraphy pieces (with period techniques for pigments and gilding). Less academic, I taught myself how to make molds of my own ears so I could design elf ear prosthetics. Yes, really.

I coached a cross country team. I bicycled a few century rides. I went to South Sudan to help train teachers whose lives had been disrupted by decades of war. I studied in Stellenbosch, South Africa. I taught English during some summers in Hungary. I took students on week-long sailing trips in the Bahamas. I worked at the Museum of Life and Science (Durham, NC) with the Animal Department—lemurs and snakes and bears, oh my!

And, then my life also took a turn back to Space. I’ve been to several NASATweetups (now called NASAsocials) where I was able to meet people like Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson (& amazing NASA people) while we watched rockets launch missions to the moon and Mars. My name is on a chip on the Mars Curiosity rover! I absolutely love how NASA has re-invented itself in the public eye.

Eventually, all the experiences and education came together in a kind of perfect storm that led me to Bora and Anton and ScienceOnline.

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

ScienceOnline! It’s an amazing privilege to represent the ScienceOnline community and work to build the projects, tools, and resources that create the opportunities for conversation, community, and collaborations. I’m so grateful for my friendship with Bora and Anton and for their trust in me and their encouragement to take the momentum from the last 7 years of conferences and move forward, as an organization, in new and exciting directions.

We have topical events (ScienceOnline: Oceans; ScienceOnline: Climate and more) being developed. Regional events around the world are springing up. Tools and resources (such as ScienceSeeker are being developed. And then, of course there are the logistics of a new organization to work on.

I think the distinctives that characterize our events are our focus on conversation and relationships. There are many valuable science conferences and associations that are more presentation focused, but we prioritize face-to-face meetings between people who have met or work together online so that they can build relationships which will lead to new collaborations and better science communication.

What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most? You are obviously a veteran blogger. And you’ve been using Twitter for at least two years longer than I have. What platforms and what types of online activity you found most useful, or most gratifying to use? How does blogging figure in your work? How about social networks, e.g., Twitter, Google Plus and Facebook? Do you find all this online activity to be a net positive (or even a necessity) in what you do? What new platforms or method of online communication, if any, are you excited about?

I don’t blog as much as used to, or as much as I would like. My current personal blog is stay-curious.com and I still have all these ideas, but a lack of time. I’ve been writing for ScienceOnline (organization documents, grants, policy, copy for projects, etc) but it’s not the same! I miss having time to introduce people to aspects of the world they live in that they may not have noticed.

Twitter has been a wonderful way to stay involved online with content creation when I don’t have the time to do long blog posts. I think the various social media platforms are invaluable for data acquisition, data sharing, data analysis, science outreach, professional development, community, and communication. I like to explore ways to exploit the tools in ways their creators never imagined. A good example of this is how Fraser Cain (of Universe Today) took the Google+ hangouts to a completely new level with virtual star parties. I don’t think the Google developers ever dreamed that telescopes would stream live images of distant worlds into our homes via G+ hangouts. This excites me for the future because there are tools we haven’t even created yet and new ways of sharing information and community still to discover.

I’m most excited about the platforms we have yet to create.

I can’t imagine not being online. But I do sometimes need to unplug (albeit briefly). I love to get out in nature to hike, explore, collect small things. I like to be alone. I like to think. I’m training for the Rocketman Triathlon which will have the bicycle portion go through the launchpads at Kennedy Space Center! Oh, and I’ll be doing the triathlon with Camilla Corona, the NASA mascot for the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). She’s a rubber chicken. After that, I’m looking forward to exploring Alaska in May.

What is the best aspect of ScienceOnline for you, now that you are the Executive Director? How is it different from when you were just an attending participant?

Well, I’m an introvert (amazing how many of the attendees seem to claim this trait). It has become much easier to talk to people because they all know who I am now. It is harder for me to remember all the new people though! I have some ideas for next year to help with this (but I’m not telling yet!)

I love the creative details that I’ve been able to bring to life at the conferences, but I’m so excited to be thinking big picture, to draw in all my previous experiences/skills and work to enable others to bring out their own potential and skill.

I’ve been most surprised by the opportunities to mentor. I guess I keep thinking “Who am I to give counsel or advice? I’m still growing up!” But apparently, I guess I have lived a fair bit and done a few things and it may be helpful to a handful. So, yes, I do enjoy encouraging and listening to some of the members of our community who have come to me in that way.

I know you always have surprises for all of us – including some that even Anton and I don’t know about until the conference starts! Is there one of those little surprises that you are willing to reveal in advance, right now?

I do love to surprise and delight people. At tweetups I often bring toys (as you know!) to give people something fun to try out and play with. For the conference(s), I try to think of ideas to keep it fresh, to make it fun, to make people more likely to think creatively. I work hard at cultivating an atmosphere that allows conversation. Sometimes breaking down the “professional” barriers by playing with some origami or LEGO blocks at a table helps people to interact in a more casual and engaging way.

What does the future hold?

If I knew that, do you think I would tell you? All I can say is that I’m always ready for an adventure.

Thank you so much! It is exciting to see ScienceOnline move into the new future under your leadership.

 


ScienceOnline2012 – interview with Simon Frantz

Every year I ask some of the attendees of the ScienceOnline conferences to tell me (and my readers) more about themselves, their careers, current projects and their views on the use of the Web in science, science education or science communication. So now we continue with the participants of ScienceOnline2012. See all the interviews in this series here.

Today my guest is Simon Frantz.

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 background? Any scientific education?

I was born and grew up in a part of NW London best known for being the setting in Zadie Smith’s novels. No one in my family did anything in the sciences, but I was fortunate to grow up when series like Life on Earth and Cosmos first appeared on our TV screens. I had no idea that I was part of a privileged first generation that had the whole world and universe as our home, but it had an indelible effect on me.

I earned a degree in biochemistry, then spent around seven years in the lab researching the genetics of cardiovascular diseases. I won’t admit how long ago that was, but let’s just say I know how to do Maxam-Gilbert DNA sequencing.

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

For several reasons, I realised that academia wasn’t the life for me. But I didn’t know what I wanted to do next. So, effectively I gave a year’s notice by choosing to work on a one-year grant instead of the three-year one that I was the named researcher on. I pretty much stumbled from there into journalism. I’d be lying if I said I always thought I had a talent for it, or wrote for the university magazine in my spare time, or enjoyed writing papers. A friend of a friend was starting up the UK version of WebMD, and wanted to hire someone with a science background who was willing to start at the bottom. Fortunately for me, this person hired a great team of experienced journalists and he was a great editor and teacher, kind and patient but ruthless with the red pen. I couldn’t have asked for a better learning experience.

Sadly, this didn’t last long. When the dot-com bubble burst in 2000, we all found ourselves out of a job. I ended up at Nature Publishing Group as a sub-editor for Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology, and a chance conversation with the editor of Nature Reviews Drug Discovery led to a move to launch their news section, which I ran for over 5 years. After that, I worked as web editor of The Scientist, and then as an editor on the Nobel Prize website, before landing at my current job as deputy editor of BBC Future, the science and technology website on BBC Worldwide that launched last February.

I’d love to say there’s been a master strategy behind my career trajectory, but the truth is that by and large it’s been a series of happy accidents. All I can advise is: make your own luck, work your butt off; work with people you admire and who are better than you; constantly challenge yourself; realise that your last piece is not going to write the next one for you, as John McPhee said, and that no one owes you anything, no matter how long you have been in this game.

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

BBC Future is taking up all of my time at the moment, but thankfully it’s a hugely enjoyable way to spend my time.

We launched the site in response to audience feedback; people said they wanted science and technology content that took a deeper dive at subjects that weren’t in the news, and they wanted it done in a “BBC way”. Almost everything we’ve seen within our first year suggests that there is an active appetite for this type of content. So, our current goals are to create more, and more varied, content that satisfies this appetite – for instance, we’re just launched a video series made by BBC Earth, and we have more video series in the pipeline.

What makes this such a joy is having a roster of great writers, including many past and present Science Onliners like Emily Anthes, Sam Arbesman, Cathy Clabby, Rose Eveleth, Jason Goldman, Maria Konnikova, Christopher Mims, Kelly Oakes, Jennifer Ouellette and Ed Yong. Another goal is to add more Science Onliners to this list.

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

Almost everything that’s going on is interesting – we’re in this amazing, if somewhat unsettling, time in which there’s never been a better moment to experiment. There are two particular areas of interest that relate to what were trying to do at BBC Future. One is explanatory journalism. We have writers like Ed Yong, Claudia Hammond and Tom Stafford writing great articles that explain and add context to scientific and medical topics. The next step for us is to find ways of covering more areas, cover them in different and compelling ways, and get more writers to try their hand at this form of journalism.

The second aspect is the growing popularity of longform content online. I’m not keen on the phrase “longform”, and there’s no general agreement as to its definition, other than “content that isn’t short”. Definition aside, it’s great to see the adage that shorter is better online being confounded. Apps like Instapaper and Pocket have made it easier for people to find and save articles, and websites like Longform.org, Byliner and Electric Typewriter are great repositories for classic and new articles. IMHO, The Atavist stands head and shoulders above the general longform pack in terms of the quality and sheer inventiveness of what they’re producing (if you haven’t read David Dobbs’s and Deborah Blum’s articles, I urge you to do so).

I think that this format is tailor-made for science and tech stories – from an editorial perspective I think there is fertile ground for articles that are longer than Nature/SciAm/etc features but shorter than a popular science book. (I think several popsci books would be better served in a 20-30k-word feature format, but that’s another argument.) I still have some reservations about sustainable business models for longform content in specialised areas, but it’s great to see people behind projects like Matter and Aeon experimenting with this genre and creating fantastic stories in the process – Ross Anderson’s article on bristlecone pines and Cynthia Graber’s profile of a modern-day Frankenstein being just two examples of must-read articles. We’re exploring this area in a somewhat more traditional way; for instance, we’ve just published an account of three science writers who became biohackers. We are keen to do more of this, and if possible help to promote other outlets that want to publish similar content.

When and how did you first discover science blogs? What are some of your favourites? Have you discovered any cool science blogs by the participants at the Conference?

I discovered health blogs first, while I was at Nature Reviews Drug Discovery. Derek Lowe’s blog In The Pipeline was the one that first caught my eye, it still remains an exemplar of what a blog can be: insightful, opinionated and witty. Science blogs appeared on my radar later, around the time that Seed launched its blogs. My list of favourites are far too numerous to name, many of which I learned about at Science Online, but that only highlights how much the area has evolved. Five years ago, my RSS feed was filled mainly with news channels. Now it’s filled with blogs.

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

We don’t publish blogs at the moment, though you could argue that our columns are a form of blog – the writer’s voice is as important to us as what they choose to write about. My opinion on who should write for us is anyone who cares about a subject and wants to tell the story in the most compelling way – be they a BBC stalwart for decades or a person just entering the world of blogging. So awareness of all the great blogs out there is an important part of my job, as are networks like Twitter and Facebook. When you aren’t part of the news cycle, social recommendation becomes important in terms of raising awareness of your content.

What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2012 for you? Any suggestions for the 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 evening before the conference began summed up everything that I value about the conference. The hotel bar was full of people meeting and laughing: whether it was old friends and colleagues, online friends or people meeting for the first time. There were no name badges and therefore no hierarchies; experienced heads were talking to any newbies who were willing to introduce themselves.

I’ve been to two Science Onlines and the overwhelming feeling I’ve had from both is how much I have to learn. I love the idea that I can sit next to someone on the bus, or stand next to them in the queue, and they can blow my mind about their research, or make me intensely jealous about their site, or even help me control my email inbox better (thank you Walter Jessen!). And I love the spirit in which this is done, we all want to do what we do better, and people discuss this without any airs or graces, irrespective of their level of experience.

The other aspect I appreciated most is the effort that you, Anton, Karyn and everyone else put in to make sure that every detail is covered, from the wi-fi to the quality of the coffee in the mornings. On these details, great conferences and experiences are made.

Thank you so much…and see you tomorrow!

ScienceOnline2012 – interview with Sarah Webb

Every year I ask some of the attendees of the ScienceOnline conferences to tell me (and my readers) more about themselves, their careers, current projects and their views on the use of the Web in science, science education or science communication. So now we continue with the participants of ScienceOnline2012. See all the interviews in this series here.

Today my guest is Sarah Webb.

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 background? Any scientific education?

I’m a science journalist, but I came to science writing and journalism about 10 years ago while I was a chemistry Ph.D. student at Indiana University. Though I finished, I went straight into journalism internships after I defended my Ph.D.– at Discover magazine and as a AAAS Mass Media Fellow at WNBC-TV. I stayed in the New York City area for 8 years until my husband and I moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee last August.

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

My brain has always been split between science and the humanities. In college, I double-majored in German and chemistry. I did a Fulbright fellowship in an organic chemistry lab in Giessen, Germany before I started my Ph.D. work.

When I decided to move away from research, I first explored science writing through a master’s level journalism course taught by Holly Stocking in the Indiana University School of Journalism. She pretty much hooked me on science journalism from day one. At the same time I was volunteering at a local hands-on science museum, WonderLab, so I’ve had my hands in informal science education, too.

After my Ph.D. defense and internships in New York, I took on various types of freelance work. One of my favorite projects was working with a team at the graphic design firm C&G Partners in Manhattan on the permanent astronomy exhibits at Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. I worked as a content developer, gathering images, objects and research information for the exhibit writer. All my skills– my science background, my research skills and the ability to call scientists up on the phone to ask about their work– played into that project.

Since that work wrapped up in 2006, I’ve worked as a freelance science journalist, writer and editor.

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

My big project lately has been a book and website with more than 30 close friends and colleagues. The Science Writers’ Handbook: Everything You Need to Know to Pitch, Publish and Prosper in the Digital Age will be published by Da Capo Press in April 2013. I contributed one chapter on “The Diversity of Science Writing,” how to build a balanced mix of work both inside and outside of traditional science journalism. I am also the editor in chief of our book’s newly launched blog and website. (Emily Gertz and I will be giving a BlitzTalk about the site at ScienceOnline 2013).

Like many freelance journalists, I keep my hands in many different projects. I spend the bulk of my time writing news and feature articles for journals and trade publications. But I have written about science for a variety of kids’ publications, and I have written for many general interest science magazines including Discover, Science News, and ScientificAmerican.com

In terms of goals, I really want to spread my wings into more narrative writing– longer magazine pieces or even, potentially, a book of my own.

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

I started my own blog 4 years ago. It’s an independent blog, Webb of Science, that has become my primary digital calling card and a way for me to introduce myself to readers, sources and the world at large. In setting up the website for The Science Writers’ Handbook, I’m more of a project manager and editor, but I’m posting there, too.

Twitter is my primary social network for work. Facebook, for me, tends to be more about connecting with friends from all parts of my life. One of my goals this year is to build an active Google+ presence. I think social networks are increasingly important (if not essential!). Time management is always tricky, but it’s worth the investment.

Thank you. See you next week!

ScienceOnline – crossing a river with Anton Zuiker

I have been conducting these ScienceOnline interviews for years now, and somehow I never got to interviewing you – one of the founders! It’s high time, don’t you think? So, without further ado, 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 background? How did you get into medical journalism?

Thank you, Bora. Like you, my last name starts with a Z, so I’m used to waiting for everyone to be called to the front of the classroom to speak. I think that that was one of the early experiences that taught me to pay attention to others. So, it’s been a pleasure to read your interviews through the years and to admire all the unique individuals who have been drawn to ScienceOnline. You’ve done an amazing thing in asking them to share a bit about their lives. The Web — the world — is a better place when we can stop to listen to each person’s story.

I live in Carrboro, North Carolina. I came here 12 years ago, and before that the longest I’d lived in one place was five years as a boy in Idaho. I’ve also lived in Ohio, the South Pacific, Hawaii, Illinois, U.S. Virgin Islands, Arizona, Minnesota and California. I’m the oldest of five sons. My father was a Peace Corps Volunteer (1965-67, Dominican Republic) and coordinator for the VISTA program, then became an attorney. My mother was a parochial-school teacher and principal. In 1981, my parents were watching the nightly news when the television sparked and died. They put it in the closet and never got another, probably the most important parenting decision in my life. I’m a voracious reader because of them. On St. Croix, the house we rented had stacks and stacks of National Geographic, and I set my mind to becoming editor of that journal. Inspired by the photos, I joined the eighth-grade photography club to learn to develop my own pictures.

My high school years were spent in DeKalb, Illinois, my mother’s hometown. I played varsity soccer, was elected student body president, edited an award-winning literary journal, worked summers detasseling hybrid seed corn and walking soybean fields, and with a couple of friends formed a juggling troupe named for the 18th-century Swiss scientist Daniel Bernoulli (our terrific physics teacher suggested that). My dad regularly took me and my brothers into Chicago to visit the Museum of Science and Industry and to see the Blackhawks and White Sox and Cubs (he taught me how to keep the box score, and always have hope), and his stories about being a hard-working vendor — ‘Beer, here!’ — were often more interesting than the games we’d come to see. Dad also taught me to think about the consequences of my actions, and to keep a record of my activities. My mother encouraged me to make new friends and to persevere when my math homework brought me to tears.

When I entered college at John Carroll University in suburban Cleveland, I knew I wanted to be a journalist and to live a life of service, including following in my father’s footsteps and joining the Peace Corps. I also thought long and hard about becoming a Franciscan friar, but decided to become a different kind of father. I fell in love, but moved to Hawaii, where I got to interview astronomer Jerry Nelson in the Keck Observatory. Eventually, I returned to Cleveland, married Erin, and worked as an arts magazine editor. Together we joined the Peace Corps and went to the Republic of Vanuatu, later returning to the U.S. via Australia, Asia and Europe.

So, geographically, I’ve been around. Around the world, quite literally. And philosophically, I’ve learned to be open to that world and its possibilities. My parents taught me to make the best of each and every situation, and how to talk with people to find our similarities and marvel in our differences.

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

You’re probably still wondering how I got into medical journalism. That came out of my time in Vanuatu. Erin and I both got giardiasis and dengue, and she also got vivax malaria. We saw Hansen’s disease and filariasis and malnutrition and ciguatera poisoning. In the heat of the tropical days, I swayed in the hammock reading the Control of Communicable Diseases manual. When later we moved to North Carolina for Erin to get her masters of public health, I learned about the science and medical journalism program at the UNC j-school, and studied under Tom Linden. I was taking Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases when SARS broke out, and one of the class instructors happened to be Ralph Baric, a coronavirus expert. By now, I knew I was never going to be editor of National Geographic, so instead I was aiming for the New Yorker: my masters thesis project was a 12,000-word narrative feature about acute HIV among college students.

An important thrust to my career trajectory, though, also came from my time in the Peace Corps. That was in the late 90s, and I recognized that when I was done on my island with no running water and no electricity, my childhood dream of being in print would have to change with the World Wide Web. I got a job at an Internet startup company in January 2000, just in time to watch the tech bubble burst from the inside. But I created my first website, became a blogger, and never looked back.

Over the last decade, you and so many other friends and colleagues have helped me combine my passions for journalism, community development and connecting on the Web. We call this the BlogTogether spirit — supporting individuals as they connect through social networks, and then creating ways for them to come together for face-to-face conversations. Those conversations, we’ve seen, promote the golden rule: blog about others as you’d have others blog about you. (I didn’t become a priest, but I’ve found my mission, you could say — or sing, as David Kroll did in Minister of Ether.)

I’m not going to be editor of National Geographic. I may never get into the pages of the New Yorker. But I do hope my career keeps me involved in supporting thoughtful observations about our world.

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

I have a great job, as communications director for the Duke University Department of Medicine. It’s in a vibrant academic medical center, and we use a blog to reflect the activities of our faculty and trainees, such as Nobel laureate Robert Lefkowitz. I was in his office a while back, and loved hearing him talk about how science and humor are alike in helping us see connections.

I recently figured out an important connection in my own life. My paternal grandfather, Louis Sisco, organized the annual Sisco Picnic, and I often helped him set up for that. His devotion to gathering the extended family, and his attention to the details in planning the event, rubbed off on me. I’m pretty sure that’s one of the reasons I’ve spent the last 10 years organizing events and meetups, from the Narratives of HIV series to BlogTogether Backyard Barbecues to our shared ScienceOnline conferences. This year, though, I’m taking a break from organizing events. ScienceOnline has become an official organization, and Karyn Traphagen is charging ahead with great momentum and ideas – hers is a detail-oriented mind that my grandfather would admire. I now serve ScienceOnline, Karyn and the rest of our community as chairman of the board, and I will focus on that role. I’m excited to see where this all goes.

Not having to sweat the details of the conference means I have more time to write, and so I’m more actively writing on my blog. I’ve learned that the more I write on my blog and in my personal journal, the more balanced I am. That’s helping me to spend more time with my daughters, who need me to encourage them through their math homework, and two-year-old Oliver, who needs me to explore in the woods with him just like my dad did when I was young.

I’m in my forties now, and spending this decade learning to be a better storyteller. I love to hear great stories at the Monti, and Jeff Polish inspired me to convene the Talk Story narrative variety show. Karyn showed us postcards she wrote to her mother, and my friend Carter Kersh has gone on to tell two stories at The Monti, for which he’s been nominated for the Hippo Awards. I’ve stumbled through a few of my own stories. I may never be a great storyteller, but I do know that I’m becoming an even better listener. If my gift in life is to facilitate conversations and help other people share their stories, then I’ll continue to do that as humbly as I can.

Through my writing, my listening, my living, I’m trying to be ever more thoughtful, kind, patient and passionate.

You once described your life philosophy as crossing-a-river. What does that mean and how does it work?

I’ve spent a lot of time at the edge of the water – watching contemplatively as mountain rivers cascade, or expectantly as ponds begin to freeze over, or contentedly as the sun sets over oceans and seas in which I’ve just surfed or snorkeled or paddled. As my family moved around, and my parents taught me to find opportunity in each new place, I came to see my life as a journey across a wide river strewn with stepping stones, each stone offering new possibilities for forward or lateral movement toward that other river bank. Some steps are shorter and seemingly less memorable, others further and riskier. I’m certain I’ve fallen in a few times – the story I’ve told my daughters the most is the one about rafting on the New River, tumbling over and losing my favorite Greek fisherman’s cap – but I’m also sure that each moment has strengthened and deepened.

(As I’m writing this, sitting in 3CUPS sipping keemun hao ya, there’s a young guy at the next table over, strumming an ukulele. That makes me remember meeting the gentle giant Israel Kamakawiwoole and Big Island lutier David Gomes. Part of the allure of my crossing-a-river metaphor is the joy in looking back at the steps I’ve taken and the people I’ve met along the way.)

When I graduated from college and decided to move to Hawaii — away from the woman I dearly loved — a mentor told me something simple and profound. “Anton, if it doesn’t work out, you can always come back.” I took it to mean that I need never feel trapped, or choiceless. After two great years in Honolulu, I did return to Cleveland as Erin was finishing college. Ever since, she’s been my companion on that river crossing.

You have been blogging for a very long time, you are one of the pioneers of the form, and you have helped many other people start their own blogs. How do you see the evolution of the blogging form in the near future, both regarding your own blog, science blogs, and blogging in general?

As I used to explain in our Bloggging 101 tutorials, blogging developed in some of the same ways as the early Internet, from What’s New pages to filtering lists to personal-perspective journals. After all these years, blogs can be any or all of these types of online writing.

Social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook and YouTube and Flickr and Instagram have given us tools to share short messages and photos and videos. It feels to me that blogs posts have lengthened (you’re the outlier, of course!), and are more essay like. Last fall, we held the Back to the Blog meeting at Duke University to discuss some of the trends in blogging, including minimal styling, responsive design and using social media to alert your networks to your new posts.

I’m still gung-ho about blogs. I still know more people who don’t have blogs than I know people who do blog. That’s a lot of people to recruit to the blogging life.

That includes scientists, of course. One of the early foundations of the ScienceOnline community was the colorful tapestry of science blog networks, and now in ScienceSeeker we have a fantastic tool for mining the rich daily output from science blogs. But even in my own institution, Duke University, there aren’t that many scientists actively blogging. You remember the keynote speaker at our first ScienceOnline conference back in 2007: Dr. Hunt Willard suggested it would have to be the postdocs and fellows who would need to be trained to use online tools. At Duke, Dr. Zubin Eapen and the cardiology fellows are a shining example of that; Dr. Matt Sparks is another. It’s going to be fun to see others take up online science just as avidly and successfully.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my own blog recently, both in terms of the design and my writing style. I started my blog in 2000 to honor my grandfathers and relatives, and to share my own life and work and travels. I think of my style as storyblogging, in which I start with a current happening, relate it to a story in my or my family’s past, and make an observation. After 13 years of writing, I’d begun to doubt whether I had anything else to record. And, yet, when I search my archives for an anecdote or reference I’m sure I’ve blogged before, I don’t find it. I’m only halfway across my river, so I guess I’ve got a lot more to share. But I also know that Narcissus sat along the water and reflected on himself to unhappy consequence, so I want to challenge myself to add other layers to my blogging, such as deeper exploration of one of my areas of interest. You’ve written much about niche blogging, so maybe I’ll finally develop a niche other than myself.

You have been involved, for a long time, in different nodes of the blogosphere: science blogs, medical blogs, technology blogs, food blogs, local North Carolina blogs — what have you learned from these different communities? What’s on your blogroll of blogs to read daily?

I’ve learned that no matter the subject or node, when interesting people are given the tools — pencil, press, microphone or weblog — to delve deeply into their interests and reflect their areas of specialty, we end up with an awesome deluge of information, insight and inquiry. Niche blogs are great for the ways they focus on a topic or industry, and I understand your argument for writing only about one’s area of expertise. But I’m also convinced that when a writer steps out of his or her niche to provide glimpses of other interests or fragments of experience, we learn more about the person. And knowing more about each other helps us relate to each other better. I believed that at the beginning of the BlogTogether experiment, and over the last seven years, the ScienceOnline community has simply astounded me with its respect and friendship and inclusiveness and camaraderie.

I’ve been reading Dave Winer for a decade, learning from him and using his new World Outline tools, and I cherished the chance to go for a bike ride with him last summer. Michael Ruhlman and Ilina Ewen and Dean McCord are my food and beverage inspirations. 33 Charts, by Dr. Bryan Vartabedian, is quite relevant to my medical communications job. I read design blogs, web technology blogs, blogs by business leaders and venture capitalists, and personal organization blogs. I use Reeder to scan RSS feeds, and I’m rebuilding my river here. On Sunday evenings, I iron my shirts for the week, listening to podcasts by The Monti, Story Collider, StoryCorps and Joel Dueck.

Family looms large in your life and in your writing. Your personal blog is essentially a chronicle of several generations of your family, with you as an acute observer and eloquent archivist. Tell me what family means to you. Are you hoping that your children will continue preserving the family’s stories?

When I was in the fifth grade in Idaho, my mother was my teacher. One day, her assignment to the class was to write a story about the first snowflake to fall in winter. Around that same time, my father would gather me and my brothers in the kitchen, where he used the bare white wall to show his Peace Corps slides. In the mailbox each week, we’d get typewritten letters from my grandfathers: Zuiker Chronicles, from Frank the Beachcomber, were travelogues and camporee reports, while the two-page ‘peek into grandpa’s diary’ detailed the daily routines of Grandpa Sisco. The narrative lives of my ancestors were a daily presence in my youth. I’m a writer because of them.

In middle school, one of my favorite authors was James Michener. I read Caravans and Space, and when I read The Source, I became enamored with archaeology. Years later, on a holiday break during college, I visited my father on the island of St. Thomas. He hooked me up with a friend working on a dig in the hills where construction for a mall had uncovered a pre-Columbian Arawak village. I spent just a day there as a volunteer, carefully brushing dirt and picking out charcoal from a fire pit. Even the tiniest of details of the past, I learned, are important for understanding human history.

The Zuiker Chronicles Online and The Coconut Wireless weblog at mistersugar.com – in many ways, these are my ways of sifting through the little details in the lives of me and my family, and trying to find meaning in the connections.

Erin, my wife, has taught me so much about communication, about being honest and open and always aware of circumstances and contributing factors. While she can gab on the phone for hours, I get twitchy after 60 seconds on the phone, so we make time each week to just sit and talk, and we make sure to listen to the other, looking for the small details about each other that we didn’t know or recall. When we started our family, Erin helped me understand the importance of communicating with our children, reviewing the days activities and reciting bedtime routines. That’s a concept — the small just, just ahead — that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately as I try to incorporate a river of news into my work and blogging.

My children lovingly joke about my blogging, and they know I’m trying to be a better storyteller. But what I hope they take with them into their adulthood is the appreciation that I was present in their lives, much as my father was present in mine, and his father and grandfather before. I hope they feel the connections to those who have come before. I hope they extend those connections into the future.

Even more than medicine and science, your writing revolves around community, storytelling and food. You have been a force in gathering and growing the local online (and offline) community around stories and food. Tell me more about some of the projects and events you organized over time, and what looms in the future?

My mother has no sense of smell or sense of taste. She made a delicious Crock-pot Swiss steak, and tasty chocolate chip cookies, but I didn’t really know what garlic was until I got to college. Our dinners weren’t gourmet, but I do remember them as family meals, all of us sitting down together (no books allowed).

Erin’s mother happens to be an amazing cook, and I quickly figured out that my culinary ignorance offered me a perfect way to hang out in the kitchen, learn how to cook, help out with the dishes, and generally show Erin’s parents that I was going to be a good companion for their daughter. It worked. Now, I love to cook for Erin and our children, and of course I chronicle our meals at home and out on my blog. Most Sundays, I roast a chicken according to the instructions of Michael Ruhlman, whom I’ve hosted three times for food blogging events. I enjoy the process of reading recipes, gathering ingredients and putting them together for something tasty, such as the slivovitz that we enjoyed last week. One lesson I learned: don’t make kimchee, with its fermented shrimp paste, when your wife is six months pregnant.

Good food, good wine, good friends, good conversation — I crave these, and The Long Table has been one way I try bring them all together. Our first dinner was quite fun, with a bunch of people standing up to tell their own food-related stories. With ScienceOnline in good hands, I hope to do more of these dinners in the next few years. I still want to organize a food blogging conference, and maybe someday we can do a conference on food-science blogging.

What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most? What platforms and what types of online activity have you found most useful, or most gratifying to use? What new platforms or method of online communication, if any, are you excited about?

Well, the intersection of story and science is what got me into medical journalism, and it’s what still drives me today. The ScienceOnline community is filled with great examples of science stories told well. I’m watching #scio13 and ScienceSeeker daily to keep up. And the blitz demonstration sessions at ScienceOnline2013 will surely introduce me to new platforms and approaches.

I mentioned my high school physics teacher above. He assigned our class to work in teams on an experiment. My buddies and I wanted to study the Doppler effect, so I borrowed a tape recorder from my Grandpa Sisco, and met Kevin and Craig on a quiet country road late one night. We drove our cars past each other at different speeds, Craig in his Camaro with horn blaring, me in my Catalina with the tape recorder on. Just now I had to look up Doppler on Wikipedia to refresh my knowledge, but that experience of learning together with friends never dissipated.

Collaboration, clearly, is key these days in science. At Duke, a lot of my communications plan aims to help our investigators connect with their faculty colleagues to explore new multidisciplinary and team-science collaborations. On the Web, I’m interested in exploring how we can build personal network publications, something beyond multi-author blogs and something that can feature contributions from those who aren’t already writing on the Web. Many of my friends and relatives still do not have blogs of their own, and I’m interested creating some sort of online publication with them. Marco Arment’s new app/pub, The Magazine, and the writing platform Medium are helping me think about the possibilities.

You’ve been at every ScienceOnline conference, of course. What’s most memorable of any or all of them? How do you hope ScienceOnline2013 is similar or different?

Actually, ScienceOnline2013 is going to be my first. Learn why in my blog post on The Coconut Wireless.

What I’ve most enjoyed about ScienceOnline is watching the interactions, seeing the passions, witnessing the partnerships. You and I started with a conversation in a cafe, and we’ve gained a friendship and a community. I sincerely hope that all who attend ScienceOnline2013 and the many other events to follow will similarly be better persons because they openly engaged in the conversation.

Please share three descriptive words you hope people would use when talking about you.

Passionate. Pleasant. Present.

ScienceOnline2012 – interview with Anthony Salvagno

Every year I ask some of the attendees of the ScienceOnline conferences to tell me (and my readers) more about themselves, their careers, current projects and their views on the use of the Web in science, science education or science communication. So now we continue with the participants of ScienceOnline2012. See all the interviews in this series here.

Today my guest is Anthony Salvagno.

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 background? Any scientific education?

My name is Anthony Salvagno (@thescienceofant) and I am a biophysics PhD student at the University of New Mexico. I was born and raised in New York and attended SUNY Albany for my undergrad where I received a BS in mathematics and a BS in physics. Originally I intended to do astronomy research, but after an internship at the Arecibo Obsedrvatory, I changed my career path and became deeply interested in biology.

Now I am an open notebook scientist, which means that I publish and share all of my research openly in real-time. I’ve been pursuing open notebook science for the past 4 years and have a wealth of knowledge to share. I’m always looking for others who share their science, and am always willing to talk to peers who want to share but aren’t sure how. If you fall into either category or just want to have a conversation feel free to contact me!

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

My research is comprised of two completely different topics that are enveloped by my open notebook. The first project is called Shotgun DNA Mapping. Essentially, I can unzip DNA using a microscope objective and a high-powered laser (optical tweezers). Our lab has an algorithm that allows us to simulate this mechanism, and we can then compare our actual results to a library of simulated results. We are testing this with the yeast genome, but hope to one day expand it to the human genome.

I also study how heavy water affects living organisms. Back in the early 1930’s Dr. Gilbert Lewis first purified heavy water (D2O) from naturally occurring water. He then tested how tobacco seeds would grow in 99% D2O. This launched a series of experiments by a lot of scientists studying how heavy water affects various organisms. The research trail ends around 1969, with a lot of questions left unanswered. My research picks up where these studies left off and I extend them by using deuterium depleted water. I’m asking if life evolved a use for D2O since it occurs naturally in drinking water at very low concentrations.

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

I have too many passions to deal with! It’s almost spring time so that means it’s time to start my vegetable garden real soon. Food is a passion of mine and my brother and I are hoping to open a food truck in Albuquerque in Fall 2013. There is a lot to learn about the food industry, food trucks, and business management and I’m learning all I can.

I also enjoy graphic design and do random odd jobs every now and then. I specialize in designing creative business cards and invitations. I also have dabbled in logo design and like to think I’m proficient in brand management. I’m working on a couple of graphic novels when I have time (still in the writing phase), and I’m also working on a story-time style book for adults.

As an extension of graphic design, I love

ScienceOnline2012 – interview with Sean Ekins

Every year I ask some of the attendees of the ScienceOnline conferences to tell me (and my readers) more about themselves, their careers, current projects and their views on the use of the Web in science, science education or science communication. So now we continue with the participants of ScienceOnline2012. See all the interviews in this series here.

Today my guest is Sean Ekins. Sean Ekins is a scientist who works from Collaborations in Chemistry as well as blogs and tweets  as CollabChem. He works collaboratively with other scientists all over the world on drug discovery, computational approaches for toxicology, tools for collaboration, mobile apps for science (Green Solvents, Open Drug Discovery Teams, TB Mobile). He is adjunct faculty at 3 US universities (UNC Chapel Hill, University of Maryland and UMDNJ) and on the board of several companies and organizations such as the Pistoia Alliance. He is currently focused on neglected disease research as well as how we can do drug discovery for rare diseases openly. He is technology focused and spends most of his time writing and occasionally winning SBIR and STTR grants so that groups he works with can develop their ideas further. He appreciates a good beer with his friends and reading to his two young children.

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 background? Any scientific education?

I was born in Cleethorpes and lived nearby in Grimsby (an industrial area which is like Elizabeth, NJ..but on the east coast of the UK) until I was 18. I got interested in Biology because my uncle had left some of his high school books (when he went off to medical School) at my grandparents and I liked flipping though them. Ultimately I would study from a later edition of the very same book I read as a small child. I always remembered the picture of Crick and Watson for some reason. So I wanted to be a doctor but that was nipped in the bud. I managed to fail most of my exams (except biology) and just scrape into Nottingham Trent Polytechnic.

I then did a HND in Applied Biology and had a year in industry working at Servier (a French Pharmaceutical Company with an R&D site near Windsor) that really put me back on track. After this I went to the University of Aberdeen (Scotland) to do a masters in Clinical Pharmacology then stayed there to do a PhD. So I became a different kind of doctor. By this point I was interested in Drug Metabolism and different models for understanding how drugs behaved or interacted with each other and I was aiming for a career in the Pharmaceutical industry. In the early 90s the industry started to decline and constricted dramatically in the UK so I thought I better go to the US and do a postdoc. I landed in Indianapolis in 1996 to work at Eli Lilly and that really started me off again, kind of rebirth.

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

So once in the USA I started doing similar work at Lilly as I had in Aberdeen, but focused on one enzyme (CYP2B6) involved in drug metabolism. This was the runt of the litter basically that no one was interested in much. Well that gave me a bit of flexibility and I started to dabble in computational software for understanding which molecules might bind to my enzyme. I basically started a new career doing computational drug metabolism or chemistry. I was having fun and realized I could do the same work with every enzyme my colleagues were working on. It was a kind of crazy time, by day I was at the bench and by night working on the computer. So in the days before a centralized database, I pulled the data they produced off the pinboard (it was all on a single sheet of paper), and used it to model every enzyme the group worked on.

I then left to work at Pfizer with my own group working on drug-drug interaction prediction while also keeping up on the computational side. Lilly then quickly hired me back to head a new group on computational ADME/Tox. Basically doing what I did as a postdoc but now the datasets were getting bigger as they started high throughput screening for lots of toxicology and metabolism related properties. I was now 100% an in silico scientist (using a computer for doing all my science) by 1999. I also started some collaborations with academics at this time which enabled me to publish research outside of the proprietary work at Lilly, this has been a continual thread to the present, each year adding more collaborators.

My next step was to join a start up in late 2001 that was using primarily computational tools to do drug discovery. I stayed with them until 2004 then joined a software company (eventually sold to Thomson Reuters in 2010) developing tools for systems biology (essentially connecting the dots between all the biology data being collected and superimposing all the genomics and proteomics data). I now focused more on integrating my models for drug-drug interactions into these tools and working on grants.

This was when I started to work from a home office which I have been doing ever since. By 2004 I had built up a nice range of publications on predicting drug interactions so I was able to obtain my DSc (science) from the University of Aberdeen in 2005. My next change of focus was getting the chance to edit a book for Wiley on Computational Applications for Pharmaceutical research and development at around the same time. This opened the door to edit a series (10 books to date) for them and coauthor 3 more books on computational aspects of toxicology, emerging technologies and collaborations.

From 2006-2008 I worked for small companies and startups getting grants and contracts working on drug discovery and pharmacoeconomics. Then my old computational chemistry mentor from Lilly recommended me to a software company in San Francisco developing a collaborative database for scientists. I have worked for them on neglected disease (Tuberculosis and malaria) work since then 3 days a week, leaving some time to carry on my academic collaborations and other consulting.

I am fortunate in that my work week rarely gets stale. I get to work on an amazing range of projects like understanding the evolution of nuclear receptors across different species from looking at the profile of bile salts that bind to them and modeling it in silico. Another day I might be building a model for a human drug transporter and predicting which other drugs may be substrates or inhibitors. I might be predicting which molecules from a drug company might interact with an ion channel called hERG, to help predict likely cardiotoxicity (something that goes back to my work at Lilly).  I might also be searching through FDA approved drugs to see if I can find new uses for them against a rare disease, or thinking of a dataset we could use as the basis of a new scientific mobile app. And that is just the 2 days of the week I set aside!

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

Most of my time has been focused on demonstrating we can use the masses of data accumulated on compounds screened against Mycobacterium tuberculosis to build models that in turn can be used to suggest molecules to test. In this way we can dramatically focus on testing fewer compounds. All of this data is publically accessible. I would also argue that this approach can be extrapolated to other research areas. We are accumulating data but not learning from it fast enough to design the next experiment. When I am not doing this I am increasingly concerned about data quality and some of the things we take for granted like – why would the NIH release a database with significant errors, or a list of potential drugs without structures ? I spend about 50% or more of my time either writing papers to get my observations out there or writing grants for companies or with academics. I rarely write anything on my own so it is all collaborative.

It is difficult to predict exactly what I will work on from one year to the next – I try to move out of areas and jump into new ones because I find a project or collaborator doing something interesting which I think I can contribute too. What I find is this comes at the cost of starting from scratch, establishing your credibility with a whole new set of reviewers etc. It does not matter how many papers you have, how many citations or whatever your h-index is, because as soon as you work on something you have never published on before (e.g. green chemistry or whatever) or try to submit to a new journal I have found I spend a lot of time on these kind of transitional papers. Once you get accepted it’s a lot easier.

I like getting into new areas because you see things that are not obvious to those that focus on it for years. E.g. the green solvents app came out of me going by chance to a green chemistry conference and randomly picking a talk to listen to on green solvents. A group had worked on collating data for 2 years across pharma and then just hid it in a PDF. Being totally naïve to the topic I asked if there was an app with all the data and tweeted the idea. Alex Clark in Montreal responded and then had the app built in a few days and on the app store. It took nearly  a year though, to get a paper written and accepted on the topic because we faced an uphill battle with established scientists not understanding the value.

So I would say that is my passion going into new areas, establishing myself and publishing and learning a lot in a short time. I am in a race against time and I feel that even more acutely in the work on rare diseases because there are ~7000 of them and few have treatments, let alone cures. I know about so few and 7000 represents a Mount Everest of sorts. I met a parent of a child with a rapidly progressive neurological disease and that really gave me pause to think how we could help using all the tools I had worked on over the years, how could we speed up and disrupt pharmaceutical R&D – really that means just accelerate it beyond the way it has progressed for the past 50 years. Again it’s another case of adapting to change and some squeaky upstart saying lets try it this way. The great thing about each rare disease is the parents of children or the patients likely vastly outnumber the researchers so the balance of power is in their hands, they raise money and fund researchers to do what they need etc.

So my goal is to do science to help these people as much as I can while at the same time putting as much of what I do back into circulation through free apps or open papers etc..my goal for 2013 is put every paper I author primarily into open journals.

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

I like the speed of putting ideas out there immediately on the web compared with the process of write a paper, get it reviewed and maybe many months later see it in print. I also like the ability to give a talk or poster and put my slides on slideshare, figshare etc so anyone can find them.

I am fascinated by the creative part of science. I have rarely had the vision (or aha moment) of the final paper idea before doing the research that led to it. But I can see how using the web and other tools may speed up the science to the point where the write up has to be automated or sped up too.  What tools could help with ideation? I do all my science on a computer,  all my papers are written on a computer..why not have all my ideas provided by it too.  Writing on a beermat or back of a napkin is one thing but is the iPad a good substitute? I have blogged by phone (painful), by iPad in a moving car (very slow) so I cannot see it as actually being ‘science communication anytime by any device’. A stationary position helps and some paper to draft ideas is handy. I say that as I stand typing this on a laptop surrounded by piles of papers and notes.

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

I blog frequently about anything I see scientifically, perhaps the science I or others publish. I have an interest in collaborative elements and that may be what sets my topics apart, the collaborative angle.

I have found that I do get a sense of instant gratification from blogging by putting what I am thinking (for good or bad) out there on the web. My blogs have started collaborations, they have led to numerous papers. I even had a person quite high up at the NIH, send a rant by email to me and about 70 other scientists after one of my blogs caught their attention. It would have been better if they had posted it on my blog because the whole world could see what they were thinking too rather than just a select audience.  I have also had other experienced scientists support my views on my blog.

I tweet (I was slow to come to it) more at conferences which I in turn use for ideation and as a persistent memory device. For me it is just an extension of technology development and the marketing ideas as I tweet a link to blogs, slides, posters, papers etc… I have websites, linkedin etc which help bring in business but my science collaborations happen primarily through who I know, their connections and personal interactions. I have found that email blasts and blogs and tweets occasionally bring in collaborations too. The web represents another tool for reaching people as far as I see it. I do not live in it. I live with 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?

I had been reading my friend Antony Williams blog as ‘ChemConnector’ for a long time.  A few years ago my wife pointed me to ‘In the Pipeline’ and I like that a lot because of the topics relevant to pharma, the comments are usually funny too. Since ScienceOnline I have been following lots of attendees and they point to good blogs so my eyes have been opened. I have to ration my time using Twitter and Flipboard, but I would point to David Kroll who writes very clearly.

What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2012 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 sessions on ‘information overload’ and ‘open science’ were highlights for me. The former made me think up an app that would bring all the information from the web and Twitter together. I got chance to work with Alex Clark again on this and we launched it early in 2012 called Open Drug Discovery Teams (a flipboard for science). We focused it on rare disease topics so we could help people share ideas, molecules and data and it inspired an IndieGoGo fundraising effort, numerous posters, a paper, a Youtube video etc..I think it’s still taking off and has potential to be developed for other uses. Over the year I have tweeted molecules and data into it so I can see the potential. If I had not attended the conference I doubt the app would have been developed. I would be keen to see what ideas people come up with that relate directly to the conference – perhaps it could expand my theory that conferences now are useful idea generators as much as for social networking.

The standard of the other blogs from the community have made me step up the quality of what I put out, I still have a way to go but if what I write gets someone in the mood to try some computational tools or connect to collaborate, I will have achieved something. So if there are folks at the next meeting who need a guest blogger or someone to throw their data at to model, then please get in touch. If you have ideas to improve what I put out I want to hear that too.

Antony Williams made me realize that blogging and everything we put on the web is as important as all the papers and patents because this can be used for altmetrics too. Being at ScienceOnline2012 made me realize that there were hundreds of other scientists on the same wavelength. Science communication is important and there are many ways to do it, even Twitter is useful as a tool for science.

 

ScienceOnline2012 – interview with Chris Gunter

Every year I ask some of the attendees of the ScienceOnline conferences to tell me (and my readers) more about themselves, their careers, current projects and their views on the use of the Web in science, science education or science communication. So now we continue with the participants of ScienceOnline2012. See all the interviews in this series here.

Today my guest is Chris Gunter.

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 background? Any scientific education?

Thanks for having me visit! I have a Ph.D. and postdoctoral training in genetics (so as I tell my Lilkid, I went through like 27th grade). Geographically, I am from Georgia and have lived all over, most recently in Huntsville, Alabama. As of January 2013, I’m back in Atlanta.

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

About halfway through my postdoc, I decided to go into professional science editing, so I worked at the journals Human Molecular Genetics and Science, and then spent almost 7 years as the editor for genetics papers in Nature. As I said in the story I told for The Monti at ScienceOnline2012 [and then wrote up for The Story Collider], that job is like riding the Knight Bus in Harry Potter, all the time.

For the last four years, I served as the Director of Research Affairs for a new institute called the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology. I wore many hats but several involve communicating our science to the public, from colleagues doing hardcore lab work through to politicians and local disease support groups. It was always a challenge to take the same paper we had coming out in Nature, for example, and summarize it for geneticists and for our donors who are not scientists.

On the side, I started a business I called Girlscientist Consulting in 2010, and for that I do science writing and editing for a number of academics and companies. I’ve also created and populated some twitter accounts, and advised on social media strategy.

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

Right now, I am trying to create a new career in scientific outreach and communication. At the end of 2012, I moved to Atlanta to live near family, and am going to take a giant leap into the unknown, career-wise! I aim to pursue a number of projects in science communication and outreach. On my better days, I think of it like declaring free agency; on my worse days, I think of it as a trip to the poorhouse (but a fun trip!). There are some books in my head that want to be written, and a bunch of interesting collaborations in genetics and genomics.

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

There are so many, but I will pick one:  earlier in 2012, a new colleague Anne Osterrieder and I published a commentary in the journal Genome Biology. We proposed that all scientific papers should have an additional, short section in the back called “outreach” or “outreach resources.” The section would list 2-4 links to media that can help the non-scientist or even the non-specialist understand the advances reported in that paper. For example, we created a section for a paper on long noncoding RNAs by linking first to a game at CSHL on understanding transcription, and then to a video explaining transcription and splicing, and then to a blog post on noncoding RNA.

Right now I am talking with a few journals/publishers to get this section actually implemented. The benefits are huge:  scientists simply must do a better job of conveying their work to people outside their micro-field of specialty, and science communicators can be inspired to create even more high-quality resources which will be linked to and used. Winning all around!

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

I am lucky enough to be an editor on the Double X Science website, which lets me hang out with some of the coolest kids in science blogging. This came about through me meeting the awesome Emily Willingham and Jeanne Garbarino at Scio12! Blogging does not come naturally yet but they are kind enough to let me keep working on it.

My medium of choice is Twitter, and I’ve tried to get more and more working geneticists/genomicists to use the service. A recent success was the 6000+-person American Society of Human Genetics meeting in November 2012. I was asked by the chair of the program committee to stand up with him at the closing session and summarize the meeting based on what people were tweeting with the hashtag #ASHG2012. Given that I’ve experienced much scorn from hard-core scientists about the usefulness of Twitter in academia, I view this as a victory for social media!

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?

Of course, Double X Science is awesome.

This year, I asked to write for Nature’s Soapbox Science section – Laura Wheeler and Lou Woodley, the ladies who run it, are excellent and the site has so many good resource posts.

I greatly admire the crew at Last Word on Nothing, and got to meet some of them at Scio12. And I got to share real North Carolina barbeque with Ivan Oransky of Retraction Watch and Embargo Watch, both of which I follow even if they sometimes raise my blood pressure.

In my subject area, the people at Genomes Unzipped are great, even if we don’t agree on everything. If you’re interested in the intersection of genetics/genomics and the law, Genomics Law Report is the place. And the site GenomeWeb has a Daily Scan blog full of insider tidbits as well as snark. The titles make me laugh regularly.

What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2012 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?

You know, being an editor at Nature means you go to a LOT of meetings. In my field there’s also a hierarchy of who’s publishing at the very top tiers, and who is not at the moment, and yada yada. The spectacularly awesome thing about ScienceOnline2012 was that it was so not like that. I met so many cool people whom I had read on Twitter and in blogs, and they were friendly and approachable. I was Scared. Out. Of. My. Mind. to be trying something new at The Monti’s storytelling night, and people were supportive before, during, and even after. That feeling of community has lasted and helped me make the career decision to move into science communication rather than traditional academia.

 

 

Why horses and slivovitz are essential for writing science online

After years of me interviewing attendees of ScienceOnline conferences, yesterday Anton Zuiker turned the tables on me. We talked about my past, present and future, my professional and personal life, about horses, slivovitz, family, science, ScienceOnline community, support for new generations of science writers, and lots more. Go read it here:

An interview with Bora Zivkovic

Why the NYTimes “Green Blog” Is Now Essential

A few days ago we woke up to the news that the New York Times is eliminating their environment desk.

Predictably, the immediate reaction of many was “oh, noooo!”.

After all, whenever we hear such news, about a science or health or environmental desk being eliminated at a media organization, this means the reporters and editors of that beat have been fired.

But New York Times did not fire anyone. Instead, they will disperse the environmental reporters around the building. Instead of all of them sitting together, chatting with each other, they will sit next to other people, chatting with political, economic, science, health, education and other reporters.

The concern also arose as this piece of news came as a part of broader news of cost-cutting at the New York Times and actual impending layoffs of high-level editors.

And concern is certainly warranted. But there is potential for this to be a good thing. It all depends on the implementation.

My first reaction, quoted here, was that this may be a way to modernize environmental reporting at the Times. After all, reporters were not fired, the senior editors may be. All the environmental expertise is still at the Times, but now outside of its own ghetto, able to cross-fertilize with other beats, and to collaborate with reporters with other domains of expertise.

My cautiously positive reaction to this news probably comes from my recent thinking (and blogging) about three aspects of modern media. One is about the distinction between beats and obsessions. The other one is about the importance of expertise in today’s journalism. And the other one is the distinction between push and pull models of science (and other) communication.

Let me parse these a little bit more….

Beats vs. Obsessions

I wrote at length about this before, but let me restate it briefly, the part that is the most relevant to this situation.

….But another way the difference is explained is that an obsession is actually broader, not narrower, by being multidisciplinary. Instead of looking at many stories from one angle, it focuses on a single story from many angles. This may be a way to solve some Wicked Problems….

By dispersing environmental reporters from a dedicated desk to other desks, New York Times eliminated the environmental beat. Now environmental reporters are free to follow their own obsessions – whatever aspect of the environment they most care about at any given time. In essence, The New York Times is starting to quartzify itself (did I just invent a new word? I bet Quartz folks will be pleased). Instead of the environmental vertical, The New York Times will now have an environmental horizontal – environmental angle permeating a lot of other stories, as environmental reporters talk to and influence their new office neighbors.

Importance of Expertise

I have argued many times before, and most recently and forcefully here, that having or building expertise on the topic one covers is an essential aspect of modern journalism. Being a generalist will become harder and harder to do successfully. Specialization rules. And there are many kinds of expertise and ways of being a specialist.

It is much easier to turn an expert into a journalist than a journalist into an expert (though that is certainly not impossible), and there have been many calls lately (here is just the latest one) for journalism schools to insist on science, and even more importantly on math and statistics classes as requirements for their students.

I will now make an assumption that all NYTimes environmental reporters actually have sufficient expertise to report on the environment. They are now bringing that expertise to other desks. And they are now forced to discuss this with people whose expertise lies elsewhere. They will get into debates and discussions. They will teach each other. They will change each others minds on various things. They will be prompted by those discussions to dig in deep and do some research. That will inspire them to write the next piece and next piece, possibly in collaboration with each other. By forcing cross-fertilization between people with different specialties, NYTimes will force them all to learn from each other, become more sophisticated, to tackle more complex and nuanced stories, and to produce better articles. That’s the theory… We’ll see if that happens in practice. It all depends on implementation.

Push vs. Pull

You may have seen this excellent post that Danielle re-posted the other day.

I know I talk a lot about push vs. pull methods for science communication, but the earliest appearance of the concept on my blog is this brief but cool video clip. Soon after, I described and explained the concept in much more detail here and here. I have since applied it to a bunch of other topics, from the role of new/upcoming journalists to the different reporting strategies for different areas of science to strategies for gaining trust in the broader population to differences between science reporting on blogs vs traditional media to narrative storytelling in science.

I have argued many times that, despite the proliferation of many new outlets that may do reporting better, traditional big venues, like The New York Times (and just a few other ‘biggies’, like BBC, Guardian, Washington Post, The Economist, PBS, NPR and not many more), will continue to play an important role in the media ecosystem for quite some time. These are trusted brands for far too many people who grew up in that world. And they generally do a good job, even if nobody can be perfect, and expert bloggers are quick to point out errors as they appear.

But, nobody but a few crazy news junkies, all of whom are probably in the business anyway so not the target audience, reads any newspaper, including The New York Times, every day, every page, every article. I’ll tell you a secret – print edition of The New York Times lands on my front porch every night. My wife reads some of it sometimes. It is there mostly in case something I see online is so long that I want to sit back and read it on paper rather than on screen. Or if a friend of mine publishes something so I want to cut it out. Or my name appears in it, and I want to cut it out and save it, to show my Mom.

But back in the old times, when I actually read newspapers on paper, how did I do it? I pick up the paper. I open it up. I take out all the sections I am not interested in – Sports, Auto, Business, Real Estate, Classifieds, etc. – and throw them directly into the recycling bin. Then I read the parts I am interested in (front sections, domestic and world news, opinion, Sunday Magazine, Week In Review, Book Review). When I was a kid, I read the comics first, then TV and movie listings, then Kids section, perhaps some nature/science, perhaps some sports.

Other people have their own preferences. If there is such a thing as “Environment” section, or “Health” section, or “Science” section, how many people do you think automatically recycle them and go straight to Sports instead?

A dedicated Environment section is a pull method. It pulls in readers who are already interested in the topic. Others never see it. And being online doesn’t change a thing – it works the same way as on paper, in its own ghetto, isolated from the stuff people actually read.

The ‘push’ method inserts science/health/environment stories everywhere, in all sections of the paper, linked from all the pages of the website. It includes science/health/environment angles into many other stories. People interested in politics, economics, education, art, culture, comic strips, whatever, get a steady diet of relevant information mixed into their breakfast. They can’t avoid it any more. It is pushed onto them without their explicit request.

Let’s hope that The New York Times is thinking this way, as that would be the best possible outcome.

Central importance of the Green Blog

The managing editor Dean Baquet was reported to say this about the Green Blog: “If it has impact and audience it will survive”.

That is disappointing. Green Blog’s destiny is not, and especially now should not, be decided by the vagaries of traffic. It has suddenly become much more essential to the Times than they know, or so it seems. Let me try to explain…

Dispersing all the environmental reporting all around New York Times is a potentially great “push” strategy – feeding the unsuspecting readers a steady diet of environmental thinking.

But dispersing all the environmental reporting all around New York Times also makes it very difficult for the “pull” audience, the readers who are interested in environment, to find everything. People who are interested in environment, people like me, will be forced to look into automatically recyclable sections, like Business or Real Estate for articles with potentially environmental angles. That takes time and energy we don’t have, so we’ll rather miss those articles.

Now, some tech-savvy know-it-all is likely to post a comment “Use Tags”. Sure, you are a programmer, you know what tags are. Can you explain that to your grandma? Can you teach her how to use them?

No, the answer is Green Blog.

Green Blog should now become not just a cool place for interns to build their reporting chops, but also:

– place where all environmental reporters link to, explain, describe and quote from all their articles that appear elsewhere in the Times,
– place where someone puts together, every week, a summary and round-up of all environment-related Times articles of the previous week,
– place where all environmental reporters come to crowdsource their stories, get feedback and expert information from readers as they are working on their more and more complex stories
– place where all environmental reporters come to see each others work, now that they are not sitting next to each other,
– a central place where people like me can come and at a single glance see all of the Times environmental reporting in one place, and
– a central place where someone like Andy Revkin can check each day to see what else is going on in the Times regarding environment, so he can blog about it on Dot Earth.

This is like what ethologists call the “central foraging place”, like a beehive. Honeybees (readers) get information (blog posts) from other foragers where the flowers (NYT articles) are, so they go there (following links) to get nectar. They then return to the hive (Green Blog) to deposit the nectar (their comments), to tell others where else the flowers are good (e.g., on other sites beyond NYT) and to get new information so they can go for another run, again and again.

Now that there is no Environment desk and no Environment editor, the Green Blog should assume those two roles.

Now, if only higher ups at the Times get to read this post. If you know them, can you share the link to this post with them?

Image: Everystockphoto.com

ScienceOnline2012 – interview with Allie Wilkinson

Every year I ask some of the attendees of the ScienceOnline conferences to tell me (and my readers) more about themselves, their careers, current projects and their views on the use of the Web in science, science education or science communication. So now we continue with the participants of ScienceOnline2012. See all the interviews in this series here.

Today my guest is Allie Wilkinson (blog, Twitter).

Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? What is your background? Any scientific education?

I’m a freelance science journalist/multimedia specialist. It’s a bit funny that I’ve ended up here actually. In looking through some old files recently, I was reminded that I had taken a nature writing course back in college– so I guess the interest in writing was always in there somewhere. I have a bachelors degree in environmental studies (heavy on the marine science coursework) and a certificate in conservation biology. Indecision as to a specific thesis topic is what brought me to a science journalism masters program. I figured I would buy myself some time to figure it out, and learn a valuable skill in the process. What I learned was that I really love sharing science with the world. Even if this career choice had been my original goal, I don’t think I could have planned my education any better if I had tried. The science background, the communications training, and the art minor seem to be the right combination for a science journalist that loves visual aids.

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

Right now I’m working on a few ideas for feature articles, and running This Is What A Scientist Looks Like, a community project I started last year to dispel the myth of the stereotypical scientists. I’m also doing a lot more photography, and getting my feet wet with video again. I worked on the USGS Coastal and Marine a geology podcast two summer ago as a video editor, but I’d like to get more experience behind the camera. I’m sure ScienceOnline2013 will spring a few new projects as well.

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

Visuals. If you caught my ScienceOnline2010 session, you’ll know by now that I’m a pretty big advocate for the use of visuals in science communication. I think visuals have the power to grab someone’s attention, capture an idea more simply, or enhance a story. And for some, there is no denying what you see with your eyes. So I’m trying to practice what I preach and devote more time to learning and doing– data visualization, photography, and videography. My goal for this year is to produce more video content, and really get a handle on planning and filming. Most of my video work to date has been editing, but I want to leave the figurative cutting room and start manning the camera. (So if any video enthusiasts in NYC want to offer their expertise, or anyone without expertise wants to learn as well, let’s get together!)

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

I really just want to get science out there, in whatever format works best. As you can tell from the last question, visual science communication is a big passion of mine. I’m also a technophile, and social media junkie. I think we’re at an exciting time in the history of science and science communication. The Web is changing how science can be done and allows opportunities for scientists to engage more directly with the public. Journalism is in transition as well, but I think the Web and mobile technology provides so many new opportunities to share the complete story, and integrate supplementary materials in a way that you simply can’t with print. The iPad versions of magazines that I’ve recently read are astounding. I love that they are interactive and you can learn more abut a graph or image, or watch a corresponding video, right there in the article.

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

Blogging is a great way for me to experiment with writing about new fields that I usually don’t cover. It allows me to get more personal or casual if necessary as well. It’s also a valuable skill as many online media outlets run on blogging platforms such as WordPress. I’m also on all the major social networks, and use them to varying degrees and purposes. Is it a net positive? ABSOLUTELY. I’ve gotten clients due to the fact that I know my way around social media and blogging. I’ve generated story ideas. I’ve interacted with editors, which makes the idea of pitching them far less scary. I’ve had the opportunity to network and interact with people I wouldn’t normally get to in the real world. If you’re in science communication or science journalism today, you should be on social media.

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 in 2008, through the first class I was taking in grad school. My professor said that the new media environment wouldn’t have the budget for a separate reporter, photographer, videographer, etc., and that we would have to be one-man-bands capable of doing it all. Our first assignment was to start a blog for a week, and the rest as they say, is history. My favorite blogs are Science Sushi, Neurotic Physiology, and Not Exactly Rocket Science. I think for the most part, most of the blogs I read I have discovered through ScienceOnline in some way or another– whether it’s meeting bloggers at the conference, or ScienceOnline community members sharing links on Twitter.

What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2012 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 ScienceOnline2012 for me was getting in to the ever-popular Duke Lemur Center tour. After trying to get in every year, last year was the first time I succeeded. And then as with every ScienceOnline conference, the inspiration and the people. This is a time of year that I feel like I’m really in my element, and think “these are my people!” The discussions that take place at the conference and in the after hours are incredible, and so many collaborations and projects are born out of ScienceOnline. You leave the conference having a giant list of ideas that you want to work on. Last year’s keynote, and the buzz about it afterwards, made a huge impression on me. Hearing Mireya Mayor’s talk, and how she spent her whole career dealing with comments like “Well you don’t look like a scientist” is what inspired me to create This Is What A Scientist Looks Like.

ScienceOnline2012 – interview with Cathy Clabby

Every year I ask some of the attendees of the ScienceOnline conferences to tell me (and my readers) more about themselves, their careers, current projects and their views on the use of the Web in science, science education or science communication. So now we continue with the participants of ScienceOnline2012. See all the interviews in this series here.

Today my guest is Cathy Clabby (Twitter), a former longtime newspaper reporter, contributing editor to American Scientist magazine and onetime MIT Knight Science Journalism Fellow. In 2012 she jumped with both feet into digital publishing. She is senior editor of Life on Earth, the innovative biology textbook under development by the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation for the iPad only.

Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?

After so many years in print media and collaborating with digital storytellers, I’ve become a digital storyteller myself working on Dr. E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth. It’s an incredibly exciting project and I am very grateful to have been invited to join the small team creating it. One day the book will be 41 chapters that deliver a standards-based curriculum and gives high school students good tutoring on all the central topics of biology. Sounds familiar, yes? But it’s also intended to be something entirely new. With multimedia muscle we hope to show students biology like it’s never been displayed before, whether that be tours of DNA replication machinery inside (lots of) cells or helicopter tours of Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique, where a grand experiment in restoration ecology is underway.

I very much believe in this “book” and want to contribute as well as I can. I’ve become obsessed with taking the intelligence of high school readers seriously and figuring out ways to use storytelling to excite them about science. The longer I’m involved, the more ways I also see that I need to retool.

No longer can I be merely be a (decent, I hope!) word person waiting on artists and multimedia peeps to do their thing. I need to be able to size up the resolution of images; work the tools of iBooks Author, including the powers of Keynote; work up storyboards and narrations for videos; and try to absorb the fierce opportunities of multimedia. It’s an exciting new way of thinking but not always easy to learn on the job. All I can say is that I am on a steep side of multiple learning curves.

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

Like so many of us, I fell for the Web the moment I laid eyes on it. I’m an avid consumer and my life is richer for it. As a former newspaper science reporter, I’m particularly intrigued by how this democratization of publishing has invited so many experts into public discussions about scientific findings and the rest that were once dominated by journalists. You know what I mean. Scientists are writing in engaging and informed ways about topics they understand deeply that science journalists frequently were learning on the fly. More times than man of us may like to admit, the content is simply better.

But I also worry about the loss of some of the roles that traditional media played in science coverage. For one, newspapers reached a really broad audience. I always relished the fact that I wrote for everyone, from the cafeteria staff at North Carolina legislature to the governor of the state when covering science for The News & Observer in Raleigh. That paper is lucky; it has advertiser support to run science features once weekly composed by a very able crew of freelancers.

But no one there is working the beat as news beat, on the prowl for deeper stories on ethical breakdowns, political interference with science, and the rest. The New York Times does that beautifully on the national level obviously but I don’t see their reporters too often developing confidential sources at major research universities such as Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill or NC State. Will the web ever deliver that sort of news on the regional level? If so, who will pay for it? Those questions remain important to me.

What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2012 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 attended the first ScienceOnline back in 2007, I’m happy to say. That was the first place I ever saw someone sitting at an event, pop out of a chair, turn and take a picture of those around him and sit in his seat to post that picture on a blog. I was intrigued. But last year was so different. What struck me most was the variation and caliber of digital publishing that I learned about. Two people stick in my mind. One was Olivia Koski of Atavist. I was fascinated to learn about the ways her Brooklyn-based outfit was merging so many multimedia tools to give authors an independent way to share their work. I’m all for that sort of democratization. The second was Scott Rosenberg, the executive editor of Grist, which is tackling something I really believe in: covering environmental issues in informed and understandable ways. If there is a more important story than ecology and the environmental at the dawn of the 21t century, I’m not seeing it. So many smart people there were trying to do something new really well.

Thank you for the interview!

ScienceOnline2012 – interview with William Gunn

Every year I ask some of the attendees of the ScienceOnline conferences to tell me (and my readers) more about themselves, their careers, current projects and their views on the use of the Web in science, science education or science communication. So now we continue with the participants of ScienceOnline2012. See all the interviews in this series here.

Today my guest is William Gunn.

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 background? Any scientific education?

I’m William Gunn, better known as @mrgunn around these parts. I should probably change that to @drgunn at some point as I did complete my PhD in Biomedical Science some time ago. Right now, I live in Menlo Park, right in the middle of Silicon Valley, and it’s great being surrounded by nerds and geeks of all types. It’s quite a change from the small town in Mississippi where I grew up!

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

Your readers may be interested in hearing why and how I decided to leave academia. When I was in grad school, I didn’t get career advice so much as I got advice on how to be a successful researcher – diversify your projects, how to write papers and grants, etc. It took me a little while to realize that my best prospects lay elsewhere, and my early exposure to the web and science blogging was the main thing that helped me broaden my horizons. I was drawn to the sense of innovation and excitement of the startup world, so after completing my PhD, I worked for a small diagnostics startup in San Diego. They’re using some neat technology and have the potential to do for all clinical assays what 23andMe has done for genomics. I established the biology program these and then as the technology matured, the skills they needed changed, and the work became less interesting to me, so I moved from the biotech to a tech company, although one still very much involved in research. I’m now working at Mendeley in a role that has a great deal to do with science communication.

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

One of my main interests these days is altmetrics. I’m really fascinated with how the web is enabling new ways of publishing, and altmetrics is the study of how these new forms are impacting science. These are things like datasets, code, blog posts, and other scholarly outputs in addition to traditional papers and the metrics that describe their use, attention, and reuse. I’m working on finding some case studies that illustrate the different kinds of influences scientists receive and the broadening influence they have in society and on the web.

Another big passion of mine is research reproducibility. I’m working on an initiative with Science Exchange, a scientific services marketplace, to study the reproducibility of published biomedical research. We’ve joined with PLOS on this initiative to understand reproducibility and to promote good practices. I’m also an organizer of a few local events such as Science Online Bay Area, which is our little monthly discussion salon satellite of the yearly Science Online meeting, and Open Data Bay Area, where the open data community gets together to talk about data sharing, analysis, and reuse. Of course, I’m a big advocate for public access to federally-funded research and I spend some time writing and speaking on that topic as well.

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

I’ve always been interested in the way the web makes it easy for people to get together around a topic with relatively little of the posturing and hierarchical organization that characterizes our offline interactions. Being able to geek out about an interest, no matter how obscure, with a group of people who are as into it as you are is really what drew me in, even in the days of USENET, back before we had the web as we know it today. So just being able to write about personal genomics or text-mining Pubmed or whatever and have it read by thousands of people all over the world is really what I think is so amazing about the web as a communication medium.

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

Blogging figures heavily in my work and always has. When I was in grad school, I maintained a research blog and now I write the blog for Mendeley. I use Twitter and Google+ extensively as well, but don’t have much use for Facebook. Someone recently said, “Twitter is about who/what you want to know now, Facebook is about who you knew in high school and college.” When I talk to grad students and postdocs about making the transition from academia, I always tell them they should have a blog. In fact, it was my blog that got me my current job, and I couldn’t do my job without the help and inspiration of my online colleagues.

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?

The first blog about science, besides my own, that I discovered was Gene Expression, by Razib, who later joined the Discover Blog network. I have been following scienceblogs.com and the various other networks that have arisen since their conception, but there’s always new people starting up, like Karthik Ram and Carl Boettiger, two ecologists with a open science flair.

What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2012 for you? Any suggestions for the 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?

Well, I guess you can say what I took with me was the inspiration to start Science Online Bay Area 😉

Thank you! And see you in January!

ScienceOnline2012 – interview with Mindy Weisberger

Every year I ask some of the attendees of the ScienceOnline conferences to tell me (and my readers) more about themselves, their careers, current projects and their views on the use of the Web in science, science education or science communication. So now we continue with the participants of ScienceOnline2012. See all the interviews in this series here.

Today my guest is Mindy Weisberger (Twitter).

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 background? Any scientific education?

Hello, and thanks for having me here! To be perfectly honest, I still feel like a bit of an oddball in the science community, even though I’ve been producing science videos for over a decade. Before that, I had no science foundation whatsoever; unless you count a long-standing obsession with science fiction. Science filmmaking was something I fell into unexpectedly, but I enjoyed it so much that I decided to stay awhile.

I went to film school in New York City and started out shooting super-8 films and directing and editing punk rock music videos for local bands (which I sometimes still do). For years, my production experience was all over the map. I shot musicians and performance artists, directed documentaries and experimental short films, edited everything from celebrity wedding videos to pro wrestling promos, and had a brief stint writing and producing fashion news. Eventually I found my way to the American Museum of Natural History as a media writer and producer; first in the Exhibitions department and then for Science Bulletins, a video production division covering the latest developments in astrophysics, Earth science, biodiversity, and human biology and evolution. AMNH is where I discovered that science could be just as dynamic, ‘in-your-face’, exciting, and messy as a punk rock show—the transition was more natural than I expected.

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

Whatever the media project, I’m always trying to tell a story—as much with images as with words. Working on so many different types of films and videos turned out to be a great foundation for meeting the varied goals of museum exhibit media, because it left me comfortable working with different story formats and visual techniques. Most of the exhibit videos I produced had a linear story to tell or science to explain: the final days of doomed South Pole explorers, traditional silk-making still in practice today, diversity in bats, research into the biomechanics of T. rex, or the future of space exploration. Meeting with and interviewing the scientists was always the highlight of every production; taking their innate enthusiasm and finding the best way to communicate it to viewers, whether the scientists appeared on-camera or not. But I’ve found that when they did appear in the videos, viewers responded very positively. Putting a human face to scientific research is an incredibly effective method for helping museum visitors to forge a connection to the science—no matter what the story is about.

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

Since late 2011 I’ve been with Science Bulletins, part of AMNH’s National Center for Science Literacy, Education, and Technology. I write and produce the News—short, monthly videos that display at museums (including AMNH), science centers, and on the Web, highlighting current scientific research. One month’s-worth of production could cover diversity in our early ancestors, the discovery of a new galaxy cluster, and the mating habits of urban coyotes. Running time for these videos is under two minutes, so language and images have to be as spare and efficient as possible—a great exercise for any writer or filmmaker. The visual needs can change from story to story, depending on what works best to get the science across. A video about brown widow spiders in southern California was edited almost entirely with photos, while one about Twitter tracking a cholera epidemic combined photos with animated maps and motion graphics, and a story about Sally Ride Science’s MoonKAM project included video. Though sometimes the biggest challenge is just making the story selects for the month when there is so much incredible research going on.

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

As a kid I used to spend hours at the library immersed in the card catalog—remember those? Sometimes I had a destination in mind and sometimes I didn’t, and would happily open drawers randomly and flip through the entries until I stumbled across something interesting. The Internet is like that. It can lead you to exactly what you’re looking for, but its greater value is that it can put you in touch with things you never suspected you were looking for. For me, the biggest payoff from using the Web for science-related research is the way that a single starting point can link me to writers, images, papers, and videos that I probably never would have known about in the first place, let alone been able to track down. Blogs, Twitter and other social networks work that way too (sometimes with the added bonus of actual conversation with the writers.) They guide you across the threshold, but—I’ll paraphrase from “The Matrix”—it’s up to the reader to find out how deep the rabbit hole goes.

What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2012 for you? 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?

Are people usually this happy to be at a conference? It was my first, so I didn’t have anything to compare it to. But happy people are more approachable, which certainly helped me jump in. I’m glad that my first session was Perrin Ireland’s excellent Science Scribe 2.0—I ended up sketching my notes for every event that followed. Turns out that doodling with intent meant that I remembered more of what I heard, and helped me connect ideas from session to session. I could go on and on about how awesome everyone was in general (because they really, really were), but I hope to tell them face-to-face this year, now that I’m somewhat over the ‘new kid’ butterflies.

And was it inspiring? More than I ever expected, as projects and collaborations started cropping up in the months after. The dust from ScienceOnline12 had barely settled when Kevin Zelnio penned his I Am Science post, triggering a flood of personal recollections from other scientists on Twitter. I edited a sampling of tweets into a short video (which he ended up using as part of the project’s Kickstarter.) When The Story Collider launched an evening of I Am Science stories, I worked with Ben Lillie and Erin Barker to produce a video for the show. Some of us at Science Bulletins will be leading a session for the first Science Online Teen conference on science storytelling using video and animation. I’m also thrilled to be co-moderating sessions for ScienceOnline2013 with Rose Eveleth (Animating Science), and Psi Wavefunction (Summing it Up: The Data on the Cutting Room Floor.) Being a part of any community means more than having resources you can draw upon—it means you become one of those resources yourself. And this particular oddball hopes to continue doing both—at ScienceOnline2013 and beyond.

Thank you! See you in January!

ScienceOnline Thanksgiving message 2012

See more details.

ScienceOnline2012 – interview with Maryn McKenna

Every year I ask some of the attendees of the ScienceOnline conferences to tell me (and my readers) more about themselves, their careers, current projects and their views on the use of the Web in science, science education or science communication. So now we continue with the participants of ScienceOnline2012. See all the interviews in this series here.

Today my guest is Maryn McKenna (blog, Twitter).

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 background? Any scientific education?

I’m a journalist working in several different channels: I blog (for Wired), write medium-length pieces (as a columnist for Scientific American), write long-form pieces (for a variety of magazines) and write books: so far, Superbug, about antibiotic resistance, and Beating Back the Devil, about the CDC’s disease detectives.

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

I fell into science-writing sideways — in my case, through studying theatre, becoming a dramaturg, realizing I was about to starve, going to journalism school and coming out as a finance reporter. My first newspaper job involved doing analyses of sleazy savings and loan deals. That made me into an investigative reporter, and my next two newspaper jobs involved investigations into public health issues: in Cincinnati, cancer clusters near a closed nuclear-weapons plant, and in Boston, the earliest cases of Gulf War Syndrome. On the basis of those I ended up working in Atlanta as the only reporter assigned to full-time coverage of the CDC, which basically meant wheedling my way into (many) outbreak investigations.

This is a good place to answer the education question. I didn’t study science as an undergraduate; I studied science writing for my masters’. But once it was clear I was going to be a public health reporter, I used journalism fellowships to do post-graduate work, including a year at University of Michigan studying the social history of epidemics and a year with the Kaiser Family Foundation studying emergency rooms.

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

I am in the proposal stage for a book that will look at the intertwined histories of antibiotic development and modern agriculture. My goal is to figure out how to free up enough time from the rest of my life to work on it!

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

I’m fascinated by how communities self-assemble on Twitter, and I’m increasingly interested in how social media can be used to support public health, for instance through crowd-sourced surveillance.

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

Blogging (first at Blogger starting in 2007, then Scienceblogs, then Wired) has been essential to my re-invention: from a newspaper reporter to a freelance journalist, and from writing only about public and global health to venturing into food policy as well. Blogging gave me a publication space, gave me an identity, gave me an audience and community. My professional life now could not exist without it. In addition, I’m on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, Pinterest and some semi-closed networks such as GoodReads, and I feel as though all of those support and extend what I (try to) do. Twitter in particular is essential to me — not just for community but also for identifying and researching stories.

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 “discovered” science blogs around the time I stumbled into blogging myself, and I don’t think I could say at this point who first caught my eye. “Favorites” is a very hard question to answer, both because I read so many — my RSS reader has, literally, hundreds of subscriptions in it — and also because I fear to accidentally leave out people whose work I really do like. But if I only have time to read a few, I will always go first to my Wired colleagues and friends Deborah Blum and David Dobbs; to Ed Yong, of course; to Tara Smith for her insights and Mike the Mad Biologist for his outrage; and to Maggie Koerth-Baker not just for her choices but for her pitch-perfect voice. For deep dives in diseases I love Contagions, Body Horrors and the mysterious Puff the Mutant Dragon. And for knowing what’s up on the food-policy side of my life I rely on Mark Bittman at the New York Times, Tom Philpott at Mother Jones and Helena Bottemiller at Food Safety News.

What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2012 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?

For me it’s the face-to-face meetings above all. Writing is a lonely business, especially for freelancers, and most especially for people like me who live in parts of the country where there are not dense artistic cultures. (I live mostly in Atlanta: great for public health, not great for random creative interaction.) To have so many people rejoicing in each others’ obsessions is fantastic. Even more, though, I love ScienceOnline because it brings me gently face-to-face with my unknown unknowns; that is, the conference and community introduce me every year to so many people who know more about my subjects than I do. I always come away not only with fresh ideas but also with the knowledge that I have met people whom I can trust to educate me, with enthusiasm and without judgment, when I need them.

Important updates on ScienceOnline and OpenLab

Hello, lots of news today.

ScienceOnline

ScienceOnline now has a new homepage and URL at http://scienceonline.com – check it out.

Registration for ScienceOnline2013 opens on Monday morning at 9am EDT (followed by two more windows of opportunity later in the week). Get more information here.

The Program is now public – see it here.

OpenLab

The Best Science Writing Online 2012, the sixth annual anthology in the series, will be released this Tuesday, September 18th.

On that day, we will have an Online Chat – please join us on Tuesday at 12 noon EDT.

On the same day, for those of you who can make it to New York City on Tuesday evening, we will have an informal launch with a sale, reading (a few authors will be present) and signing, as a part of the #NYCSciTweetup. Join us if you can and bring your friends.

ScienceOnline2012 – interview with Matthew Francis

Every year I ask some of the attendees of the ScienceOnline conferences to tell me (and my readers) more about themselves, their careers, current projects and their views on the use of the Web in science, science education or science communication. So now we continue with the participants of ScienceOnline2012. See all the interviews in this series here.

Today my guest is Matthew Francis (blog, Twitter).

Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself?

”]”]I’m a physicist, freelance science writer, former college professor, ex-planetarium director, and wearer of jaunty hats. (And yes, that’s part of my standard biography.) I hold a Ph.D. in physics and astronomy from Rutgers University, and my undergraduate degree is from Central College, a small liberal arts college in Iowa. While I majored in physics, my minors were in math and English.

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

As you can tell from the “former” and “ex-” in the paragraph above, my career has followed an unpredictable trajectory. I fully expected to retire from teaching at a college, but when my university faced serious financial troubles, they decided to eliminate the physics department. However, I’ve always loved writing, so I decided to see if losing my job could be turned into an opportunity. In my last year of teaching, I began a blog, “Galileo’s Pendulum“, and in the last six months started writing a book. I am also contributing physics editor for “Double X Science“, a blog aimed at providing good science content for and about women.

“Galileo’s Pendulum” covers a variety of topics in physics, astronomy, and related fields, mostly for non-scientists. I try to mix some lessons about how science works in practice into my writing as much as possible, since it’s an area of common misconceptions. In particular, as a theoretical physicist, I try to emphasize the importance of evidence in all aspects of science, since it’s too commonly assumed that coming up with “theories” is a matter of sitting alone in a room and thinking hard. Real science is far messier and more glorious than that – and there’s romance even in the messiness.

A similar theme plays in my book-in-progress, which is tentatively titled Back Roads, Dark Skies: a Cosmological Journey. For this book, I am traveling to various observatories and labs across the United States where the real work of cosmology is done, meeting scientists and viewing the equipment they use. Cosmology is big science: many projects involve hundreds of researchers, and the ways they go about learning about the Universe are as important as their discoveries. After all, the most important question one can ask in science is, “How do we know?”

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

I still think of myself as an educator even now, though I’m no longer in the college classroom. I want to share the wonder of physics to those who think of it as something beyond them, or even something to fear. In this era when the very goals of education are being challenged (at least for the children of poor and working-class families), it seems more important than ever to stress the importance of science, not just in daily lives, but in our intellectual structure. Science can be a source of joy and wonder for everyone, whether they are scientists or not.

The Web and social networking allow me to connect with those who are truly interested in finding what I write. My audience isn’t huge, but it’s pretty diverse: I have people from Iran and clergy from Wisconsin, a few kids, and even a handful of professional physicists among my readers. I don’t think that would even be possible without the Web. Twitter is really my community, since I haven’t identified any other professional science writers in Richmond (yet at least). My best professional contacts in the last two years have come through Twitter, including the entire ScienceOnline community.

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 started reading Sean Carroll’s “Preposterous Universe” website many years ago, but the first science blog I followed in earnest was Phil Plait’s “Bad Astronomy”, thanks to his earlier website debunking the Moon landing conspiracy nonsense. (For those joining late: a small but vocal group of people deny we ever landed astronauts on the Moon, and have a long list of “evidence” to support this view. Even if you don’t believe the testimonies of the people involved in the projects, the evidence in favor of the Moon landings is really strong, and Plait has done a really good job collecting it and debunking the conspiracy theorists.) Through his site, I discovered Carl Zimmer’s “The Loom”, Ed Yong’s “Not Exactly Rocket Science”, Jennifer Ouellette’s “Cocktail Party Physics”, and Sean Carroll’s later blog, “Cosmic Variance”.

I hesitate to even begin listing the blogs and writers I learned about through ScienceOnline, since there are so many! Suffice to say nearly every science writer I follow on a regular basis is part of that community, and many of the others I learned about through my friends in the ScienceOnline extended family.

What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2012 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 loved the chance to meet my online friends in real life, and interact with them in a structured but still informal setting. A lot of the best professional connections were actually out of the sessions: talking with people about what they do, and how. The session that inspired me the most was the “Geometry and Music” session led by Deborah Blum and David Dobbs: using geometry (which I use extensively in research) and music (which I am obsessed with) to recognize shapes within narratives in your own stories.

My first ScienceOnline was 2012, and I had the privilege of leading a session, despite my newbie status. I hope to be leading at least one session in 2013 as well (hint, hint).

Thank you so much – hope to see you soon!

 

Upcoming events

Tomorrow is the fifth #TriSciTweetup, this time with a little more structure to it than usual. We’ll meet at NC Museum of Natural Science in Raleigh NC, for the inaugural Lightning Talks with Brian Malow on Thursdays at the Daily Planet Cafe. We’ll start at 6pm. At about 7pm several people (including myself) will get up and say something interesting and scientific for 5 minutes each, perhaps answer a question or two from Brian, or from the audience, then continue having fun until the Cafe closes later in the evening.

Open Laboratory 2012 is getting published on September 18th. There may be a live event in NYC on that day, in which case I will travel to the City and perhaps we can have a #NYCscitweetup associated with the event. More information TBA.

On October 15-20, I’ll be at the Society for Vertebrate Paleontology Annual Meeting in Raleigh NC. Kate Wong and I will report to you from there.

Science Writers (NASW/CASW) meeting is on October 26-30, also in Raleigh, NC. Registration just opened today. I’ll be there, as a co-organizer of one of the panels. This is a great opportunity to network with the best of the best science communicators, get the most current “state of the field” updates from top scientists, and to learn and network. Join us if you can.

Registration for ScienceOnline 2013 will open in about a month. More information what to expect – here.

ScienceOnline participants’ interviews

I decided to put together links to all the Q&As I did with the participants of the ScienceOnline conferences so far. Many people who came once try to keep coming back again and again, each year. And next year, I guess I can start doing some “repeats” as people’s lives and careers change quite a lot over a period of 3-4 years. I should have thought of doing this in 2007! And there will be (hopefully) more 2012 interviews posted soon.

2012 (about 450 attendees):

Dirk Hanson
Meg Lowman
Matthew Hirschey
Matt Shipman
Jessica Morrison
Elizabeth Preston
David Shiffman
Roger Austin
Katie Cottingham
Josh Witten
Michele Arduengo
Jamie DePolo
Chuck Bangley
Rebecca Guenard
Tanya Lewis
Kate Prengaman
Tracy Vence
Lali Derosier
Joe Kraus
Sarah Chow
Mark Henderson
Adam Regelmann
Kathryn Bowers
Trevor Owens
Emily Buehler
Kaitlin Vandemark
Michelle Sipics
Bug Girl
Adrian Down
Samuel Arbesman
Helen Chappell
Matthew Francis
David Ng
Maryn McKenna
Mindy Weisberger
William Gunn
Cathy Clabby
Allie Wilkinson
Bora Zivkovic
Chris Gunter
Sean Ekins
Anthony Salvagno
Anton Zuiker
Sarah Webb

2011 (about 320 attendees):

Taylor Dobbs
Holly Tucker
Jason Priem
David Wescott
Jennifer Rohn
Jessica McCann
Dave Mosher
Alice Bell
Robin Lloyd
Thomas Peterson
Pascale Lane
Holy Bik
Seth Mnookin
Bonnie Swoger
John Hawks
Kaitlin Thaney
Kari Wouk
Michael Barton
Richard Grant
Kiyomi Deards
Kathleen Raven
Paul Raeburn
Kristi Holmes

2010 (about 280 attendees):

Ken Liu
Maria Droujkova
Hope Leman
Tara Richerson
Carl Zimmer
Marie-Claire Shanahan
John Timmer
Dorothea Salo
Jeff Ives
Fabiana Kubke
Andrea Novicki
Andrew Thaler
Mark MacAllister
Andrew Farke
Robin Ann Smith
Christine Ottery
DeLene Beeland
Russ Williams
Patty Gainer
John McKay
Mary Jane Gore
Ivan Oransky
Diana Gitig
Dennis Meredith
Ed Yong
Misha Angrist
Jonathan Eisen
Christie Wilcox
Maria-Jose Vinas
Sabine Vollmer
Beth Beck
Ernie Hood
Carmen Drahl
Joanne Manaster
Elia Ben-Ari
Leah D. Gordon
Kerstin Hoppenhaus
Hilary Maybaum
Jelka Crnobrnja
Alex, Staten Island Academy student
Scott Huler
Tyler Dukes
Tom Linden
Jason Hoyt
Amy Freitag
Emily Fisher
Antony Williams
Sonia Stephens
Karyn Hede
Jack, Staten Island Academy student
Jeremy Yoder
Fenella Saunders
Cassie Rodenberg
Travis Saunders
Julie Kelsey
Beatrice Lugger
Eric Roston
Anne Frances Johnson
William Saleu
Stephanie Willen Brown
Helene Andrews-Polymenis
Jennifer Williams
Morgan Giddings
Anne Jefferson
Marla Broadfoot
Kelly Rae Chi
Princess Ojiaku
Steve Koch

2009 (about 210 attendees):

Sol Lederman
Greg Laden
SciCurious
Peter Lipson
Glendon Mellow
Dr.SkySkull
Betul Kacar Arslan
Eva Amsen
GrrrlScientist
Miriam Goldstein
Katherine Haxton
Stephanie Zvan
Stacy Baker
Bob O’Hara
Djordje Jeremic
Erica Tsai
Elissa Hoffman
Henry Gee
Sam Dupuis
Russ Campbell
Danica Radovanovic
John Hogenesch
Bjoern Brembs
Erin Cline Davis
Carlos Hotta
Danielle Lee
Victor Henning
John Wilbanks
Kevin Emamy
Arikia Millikan
Tatjana Jovanovic-Grove
Blake Stacey
Daniel Brown
Christian Casper
Cameron Neylon

2008 (about 170 attendees):

Karen James
James Hrynyshyn
Talia Page
Deepak Singh
Sheril Kirshenbaum
Graham Steel
Jennifer Ouelette
Anna Kushnir
Dave Munger
Vanessa Woods
Moshe Pritsker
Hemai Parthasarathy
Vedran Vucic
Patricia Campbell
Virginia Hughes
Brian Switek
Jennifer Jacquet
Bill Hooker
Gabrielle Lyon
Aaron Rowe
Christina Pikas
Tom Levenson
Liz Allen
Kevin Zelnio
Anne-Marie Hodge
John Dupuis
Ryan Somma
Janet Stemwedel
Shelley Batts
Tara Smith
Karl Leif Bates
Xan Gregg
Suzanne Franks
Rick MacPherson
Karen Ventii
Rose Reis
me
Elisabeth Montegna
Kendall Morgan
David Warlick
Jean-Claude Bradley

In 2007, we had about 130 attendees, but I did not think about doing Q&As yet at that time.