Science Blogging Conference Review

I can wrap this baby up in one word: Awesome! Obviously, my unbridled enthusiasm could use some perspective. I don't get out much. My time with the grownups - very bright grownups - is something I hope to repeat next year.

Kirk and Robert might have more subdued, mature reactions for you and I hope they'll chime in with their own posts or in the comments.

Bora Zivkovic and Anton Zuiker organized the event with the help of volunteers. WillR tended to the registration duties and BrianR was also helping out to make sure everything ran smoothly during the day. I'm sure there were other volunteers who worked hard to make the event seem effortless. Breakfast and lunch were provided and we had lots of goodies waiting for us. I'm going to provide a list at the bottom to give the folks who helped out a little more ad space and promotion. They deserve it.

Find out more below the fold...

After attending Converge South (MSM and bloggers) and the Science Blogging Conference (Scientists, Educators, Bloggers) I can tell you that scientists are a lot funnier than journalists. Converge South was terrific, but there is tension between bloggers and journalists, blogger/citizen journalists and journalists and journalists who wish they were bloggers. That tension was missing at the event on Saturday.

The scientists all seemed excited about using blogs to communicate with other scientists and with the general public. The educators all seemed to be excited about having another tool to help them communicate with and teach their students. The bloggers, well, we were just there for the free food.

OK, not really. I can't speak for anyone else, but I feel that science will have an increasingly important role in defining our progressive agenda and as a political blogger, I want to be able to understand the science and know how to effectively explain it to my readers. All three of them.

A yummy breakfast of croissants, scones and other assorted goodies was provided courtesy of Blogads and Burroughs Wellcome Fund. We chatted and went by the swag table to scoop up science journals, DVDs and all sorts of other fun stuff. Much of it was already in a handy tote bag provided by RTI International that we were given as we checked in. We were also given a great tee shirt sponsored by the Public Library of Science.

I had a chance to chat with Robert and Kirk before the morning session started. It was great to see them both. It was also great to see WillR and GeorgeB (whom I met at Converge South), but I missed getting a chance to meet BrianR. Maybe next time.

Bora and Anton started off the morning session which featured Hunt Williard, the director of the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy and Janet Stemwedel, who is an assistant professor of philosophy at San Jose State University, a physical scientist and a blogger.

Williard is a cross between a stand up comedian, your favorite Uncle Joe and the neighbor down the street you never talk to because his IQ of a million and eight intimidates you. He referred to blogging as an, "intriguing and yet scarily democratic method for communicating about science." At one point he referenced the space race and how it had become a part of everyday life without people understanding the science behind it. That, of course, got me thinking about which science in the present or near future will become a part of our daily lives and how bloggers can help facilitate a basic understanding. Of course, I want to understand the science myself and not just repeat bits and blurbs from others. (It's going to take more than attending a few conferences for that to happen!)

Janet Stemwedel is a cross between your favorite science teacher in high school, your best friend in college and the girl next door who just happens to have an IQ of a million and eight, but for some reason you aren't intimidated by her. She is a blogger and already understands the importance of the community that develops around a blog, at one point saying that these are people you would spill blood for. She's right. Stemwedel said that community and communication are key ingredients for human flourishing and blogs can be an important means for achieving that sense of community for scientists who are many times isolated in and by the work that they do.

After the morning sessions we were provided an excellent lunch that was sponsored by BlogBurst and JMP Software. Once again we had a chance to chat with folks we already knew and meet new people as we sat around the classrooms waiting for the afternoon breakout sessions.

I attended the afternoon session given by Rosalind Reid, editor of American Scientist Magazine, on how best to use graphics in our posts. I found the session very informative. Professional journalists might have already known quite a bit about what was discussed, but most of the folks sitting around me were very engaged in the points made by Ms. Reid and the conversations they started among the participants. I'm running short of time, but will update this post with a list of the sources and resources we were given. I will also be referencing this session in the meta post I have almost finished on copyright infringement. There were two important points I picked up in this session. First, many science illustrations don't stand on their own and need the identifying information attached to them in some way so readers aren't lost. The other is that many science journals, universities, etc will allow you to use their illustrations if you are on topic and using them to further the understanding of the science involved. Once again, I'll touch further on this when we discuss copyright infringement.

I was not able to stay for the second round of breakout sessions and hope Kirk or Robert will have something to say about them.

For those of you who missed the conference, but would like to read some of the best in science blogging from the past year, Bora pulled together an anthology and it can be purchased by visiting this link. You can download it and print it yourself or purchase the paperback edition. The link attached to his name above will take you to his blog where you can see his announcment of the anthology.

Finally, I would like to thank Bora and Anton for putting together a wonderful conference. I've never organized anything this big, but I have put together some pretty large fundraising events and know how hard it can be. They made it look easy and I know it was not.

Now, don't you wish I'd left it at "Awesome!"?


UNC School of Medical Journalism
Sixma Xi
American Scientist
Seed Media Group
Ecco/Harper Collins
Museum of Life and Science, Durham, NC
RTI International


Dang I wish I had been there.

I was mired in the miasma of international tax consulting. Your day sounds much more inspiring.

International Tax Consulting

Yuck....if I'd known I would have kidnapped you. You would have loved it. Next year we'll get a huge group to go. Also, we need to talk about Converge South for next/this year.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Wished you stayed for dinner...

Nice seeing you again SouthernDem. Poor Brad Miller, he sat next to me for dinner and I'm afraid I bent his ear nearly off on various issues, including a call for him to run for Senate.

there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right. MLK,Jr. to SCLC Leadership Class

there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right. MLK,Jr. to SCLC Leadership Class

He got a double dose.

I cornered him out on the street and did much the same : )

Where are the candidates?

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

you gotta love

a conference that turns you on to bloggers who write about (for me) nearly incomprehensible topics with post titles like:
Short distances: Newton still the man

Repulsive force

This stuff is a riot!

Thanks for the info! Glad to hear that rumor about the repulsive force is dead, it really bothered me.

See, we have a link between science and politics . . . they both have repulsive forces.

Nearly incomprehensible?


Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.