Science blogging conference

A few days ago I mentioned that I was going to attend a one day conference on the topic of science blogging. Yesterday was that day and the conference was very good. The organizers (Anton Zuiker, Bora Zivkovic, Brian Russell & Paul Jones) did an excellent job--particularly when you consider they were pulling this off with a shoestring budget and a lot of volunteer time. The meeting was well organized--Anton seemed to be everywhere at once making sure everything was running well--ran on time, and the speakers were fantastic.

After some beginning remarks by Anton about the conference and Bora about science blogging in general the main program started. The morning session was comprised of two lectures with lots of Q&A afterwards. The lectures were by Hunt Willard, director of the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy, who gave a very informed and pertinent lecture on how best to approach disseminating science knowledge whether via blog, print media, or even press conference. Dr Willard's had a lot of experience in science research and education and it definitely showed in his presentation. It was polished and concise. He conveyed an amazing amount of insight in just one hour.

The second session was by Janet Stemwedel, an assistant professor of philosophy at San Jose State University, who's also got a PhD in Physical Chemistry. She's got a blog that addresses ethics in science. An area that's really needs more attention.

After being so impressed with Willard in the first session I was expecting the second session to be a bit of a letdown. I was very mistaken. From the start Stemwedel was engaging and energetic. Her message of popularizing science was nearly evangelical and she delivered it with aplomb. My main problem was focusing on the message and not the messenger because Stemwedel was quite mesmerizing, due in large part to her energy and mien. Yet the message she was delivering was important. In this session Stemwedel focused on making the communication between researchers, as well as between researchers and the public, more immediate and informal. In the process hopefully scientists will seem to be more accessible and thereby making science itself more accessible to the general public. Or something like that. Like I said, I wasn't paying as much attention to the message as the messenger. My bad. In any case, blogs are the medium that Stemwedel thinks ideal for doing this service. If you want to see her Powerpoint slides, they're located here.

The contrast between these first two sessions was very interesting and I suspect intentional on the part of the organizers. The first session was very oriented towards a traditional approach towards getting the message of science research out to the public. The second session was a more populist approach centering around blogging. Both sessions were very well done and complemented each other.

After that session we broke for lunch and in many ways that was the most interesting part of the day. Since food wasn't allowed in the main auditorium we picked up a box lunch in the lobby and then went into one of the classrooms to eat. I went upstairs and sat at a round table with 6 other people--and about 6 minutes later 3 more people came in. The group dynamics of our discussion at lunch were quite amusing and I might post about that later this week. In any case, we went around the table and gave a brief bio of ourselves and why we came to the conference. It was an interesting group.

My ADD is getting to me so I'll stop here at the middle of the conference day. Always leave them wanting more is my motto. LOL


PI said…
Both my husbands were/are scientists and I think the lunch would have been my favourite part:)
Michelle sent me. Hope you enjoyed OZ.
Anonymous said…
It'd be great if you were to list some of your favorite science blogs. The only ones I'm familiar with are some of the tech/gadget blogs, such as Gizmodo and Engadget, and the blogs run by WIRED and GRIST. . . and those are definitely interesting. As a total layman when it comes to science, I'm always excited to get my paws on easily accessible but not totally dumbed-down information.

Here from M.
Anonymous said…
Sounds like you had an interesting day!

It is an interesting discussion I think, making science accessible, becuase surely there is a point where it ceases to become accessible as it is the realm of the professional. I would also suggets that there are levels of accessibility based on the audience it is directed towards!

Don't forget to tell us about the rest of the day!
Michele sent me this time but I will be back to check out part 2 on my own!
srp said…
Here from Michele this time.
Sounds like an interesting conference... I wonder if the ethics in science would have sufficed for the hour of ethics required to re-license every year in Texas. Hmmm. A thought.

Well, got to run. Are you expecting more "snow" later today? They say a winter mix here but the humidity is so low (not a common thing) I believe most will evaporate for a while before getting to the ground and by the time it does reach the ground it will be in the form of rain. Maybe we can play... I spy a snowflake!
Anonymous said…

Your description of the speakers make me wish I was there to experience those talks.

I like the idea of these science blogs you describe.

Michelle says hi.
Anonymous said…
Did ypu know that blogging is supposed to be the 'hot' thing for 2007. Apparently everyone will be catching on so perhaps it's not a bad way to promote science.

Just to let you know that you should be able to view the full size versions of my castle pics now :-)
Pearl said…
Sounds useful. For sure science literacy would be helped by taking away mistique and unquestionable authority and more people with a grasp on the principles getting it acros in plain language.
SilverDragon said…
Hi! Michele sent me... interesting topic.
Carmi said…
Your account of the experience makes me so wish that I could have been there. I am intrigued by scientists who can shape their messages for a mass audience.

Perhaps it's because I follow a similar mantra on the techie side: I make the difficult-to-understand aspects of technology easy to follow for the rest of us. I dunno, but folks like David Suzuki and Jay Ingram have always been my heroes. Thanks for the timely reminder.

Yay blogging!
kenju said…
I suspect lunch would have been my favorite part, because sitting down with some of the other scientists attending would be the way I'd like to learn about the conference subject matter.
Mrs. Fun said…
Interesting. I can't say i have read a science blog, or maybe i have and didn't know it. I hope to hear more. I will be bck.

Here via Micheles today :)
Star said…
Apparently, a good communicator is a good communicator no matter what the meium. Intresting that there was a seminar on the topoic of blogging in science.
Anonymous said…
Thanks for sharing this with us. I've been waiting to hear about the conference. I've bookmarked Stemwedel's blog and will be investigating in the near future.

Via Michele's,

Anonymous said…
Back from Michele's to make amends for my lack of attention! ;-'p

colleen said…
Very interesting! Did you meet other bloggers besides the presenters? Did you let on that you are a blogger?

Here comes my ADD....

...... It happens without any notice.
colleen said…
Oh michele...and I don't know if that last comment took. It acted funny. I'll come back later and check.
utenzi said…
We actually had color coded dots on our convention nametags for that sort of thing, Colleen. I had dots for blogging and scientist. The dots I didn't have were for journalist and educator.
Begered said…
I would have never guessed that there were conventions on that topic. How are world is changing!
Very interesting conference, Dave...I too would have had a favorite part---LUNCH! (lol) Sorry about that my dear...Like I said yesterday...all that science is just beyond my little pea brain...!
Here from Michele's tonight!
Nancy said…
Glad this was a good experience for you. Ya never know how they can turn out.

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