ScienceOnline2012 Report: Events & Thank Yous

It’s been a about a month since I attended the ScienceOnline2012 “unconference” on science communication. There have been many great posts summarizing the meeting, or specific sessions, or extending conversations started at the meeting, some of these ScienceOnline2012 posts are listed here. I’ve decided to add my voice as a set of thank yous, organized by the events that I attended.

I got to Raleigh just in time to hop the shuttle from the hotel to the McKimmon Center at NC State University. Before I even made it in the door I got to hug Bora – and no, I never did come down with nerdibacter12! I have enjoyed the intimate Sigma Xi center, which was the site for all the previous ScienceOnline conferences that I had attended. However I was immediately struck by the fact that the McKimmons Center is a REALLY nice facility! It felt like it was built for ScienceOnline, rather than allowing us to be in their building. There was a lobby area in front of two large rooms, one set up as Karyn Traphagen’s brilliant Cafe where I got coffee. The second large room was set up as a small auditorium and where I attending the keynote address, etc. On either side of the two large center rooms were conference rooms of various sizes. The whole layout of the center provided plenty of room and encouraged movement through spaces to other spaces. I think this flow and space was really essential for the success of the conference, and I thank NC State University and the staff of the McKimmon Center for hosting ScienceOnline2012. I request that you host future ScienceOnline conferences as well, if at all possible.

The keynote address was entitled “The Vain Girl’s Survival Guide to Science and the Media” and was delivered by Mireya Mayor, who told her personal story of how she got to science & how she is doing it as a mother of four. Just the other day Mary & I were discussing how new areas of science need new types of people – not just the middle-aged white guys in stuffy lab coats – and Mireya’s story is a great one of how she overcame society’s expectations of her in order to “do her own science thing”. I’m hoping to get her book “Pink Boots and a Machete” soon to learn more about her. Thanks Mireya for coming & sharing your story with the scio12 gang!

Then it was time to attend my first session & I was already torn. I chose to attend the  Dealing with Data discussion with Antony Williams and Kaitlin Thaney. Their session was great, including a lot of active discussion about peoples’ willingness to use shared data, but not to share data. If there had been two of me I would have also attended the  Science Scribe 2.0 hands-on workshop by Perrin Ireland. People who were in it said it was great & it is such a cool concept. After lunch I joined a very interesting Open Notebook Science discussion with Jean-Claude Bradley and was surprised that there is no great software for keeping an open notebook, even though NIH & other funding agencies are encouraging fundees to do “open science”. I then joined the Sex, Gender and Controversy: Writing to Educate, Writing to Titillate discussion with Scicurious and Kate Clancy - the discussion in this session inspired my scio13 program suggestion. Thanks to all Thursday session leaders!

Thursday evening shuttles took conference attendees to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. I’d been there before with my family but being there with finger food, beer & lots of friends & other attendees was great! One of the highlights of the evening was getting a “behind the scenes” tour of the museum’s new Nature Research Center, which is still being constructed but will open April 20th with an opening gala April 13th. With any luck I’ll be able to go back & visit the new center shortly after it opens, since it looks very cool & “hands on”. Another highlight was a brief talk by Meg Lowman, the director of the Nature Research Center. It was nice to see Meg again this year – last year she gave a great banquet talk. Thanks NC Museum of Natural Sciences for opening your doors to us!

A third highlight of the evening was enjoying delicious Kentucky Ale from Alltech & hanging out with David and Kate from Alltech. I met David last year & enjoyed catching up – Alltech is close to where I got my PhD so I caught up on favorite restaurants, etc. I just met Kate this year, but had a great time talking to her. At Kate’s suggestion I tried “branded” eggs from Eggland and in a side-by-side scrambled egg  taste test my daughter & I both tasted a difference. Kate explained to me that buying particular brands of food allows you to buy food produced or grown in certain healthy ways. For example, you might choose certain meat brands because you know they don’t use hormones & do feed their animals certain foods – like Alltech’s natural livestock feed supplements. I enjoyed my evening with David & Kate (among others) enough that I’ve been talking to people at a local beer store that my neighbor runs, hoping to be able to buy Kentucky ale throughout the year! Thanks Alltech!

After a short night of sleep, I joined the Using altmetrics Tools to Track the Online Impact of your Research discussion with Euan Adie and Martin Fenner, and then the The Semantic Web discussion with Kristi Holmes and Antony Williams. Both session were very good with lots of interesting discussion & perspectives. I was then torn by wanting to go to both to Making Beautiful Maps, a hands-on workshop with Tim De Chant or The Attention Economy: The Currencies for Social Media Influence and Exchange Rates for Attention workshop with Adrian J. Ebsary and Lou Woodley. I chose the later & got some info I think will be good for the social media workshop sessions Mary has in the works. After lunch I attended & presented in the Blitz talks, but I heard so much raving about the tours – again, I wished there were two or three of me to go around! Again, thanks to all session leaders!

In the evening I attended the conference banquet and enjoyed seven stories by seven attendees. The storytellers were guided and mentored by Jeff Polish, founder and Director of The Monti (and who also looks and sounds a bit like a hip Ray Ramano). The Monti is a cool “non-profit organization that invites people from the community to tell personal stories without the use of notes.” The ScienceOnline2012 Monti stories were amazing – no description possible, just go listen to them for yourself here (note, there is some ‘over 18′ content in some of the stories). Thanks to Jeff and all the storytellers – you guys are amazing!

Thursday evening I retired to the hotel bar with a LOT of other attendees for the informally organized “scisweetup”, which was a chocolate tasting event that brought out SO much chocolate & in SO many flavors! You can see pictures of it here. Thanks to the scisweetup organizers (without whom I might have spent the night in my room sleeping) and for all the other participants – I enjoyed your chocolate & I hoped you liked mine.

Saturday I went to three great sessions – the Digital Preservation and Science Online discussion with Trevor Owens and Abbey Potter of the Library of Congress as well as Bonnie Swoger with session notes available here. Then I attended the The Music of Science: An Effective Tool for Science Communication? discussion with Princess Ojiaku and Adrian J. Ebsary and learned about free audio editing software and more. My last session of the conference was the Genomic Medicine: From Bench to Bedside discussion with Misha AngristKristi Holmes and Sandra Porter. The day ended with a Cyberscreen Science Film Festival (unfortunately our entry, “Tip of the Week: Genomicus and genome evolution” didn’t make it to the final rounds). Then the conference ended with a plenary panel discussion: Check, check, 1, 2 . . . The Sticky Wicket of the Scientist-journalist Relationship, moderated by David Kroll, with panelists: Maggie Koerth-Baker, Seth Mnookin and Bora Zivkovic, which got animated and interesting. When Danielle Lee gave David an “Amen!” it brought back happy childhood memories! :) Thanks to everyone who made Saturday such an interesting day!

In conclusion, I’d like to thank everyone involved in making this great conference happen – the sponsors, the session leaders, and especially the organizers – Anton, Bora and Karyn! It was amazing, as you can see in the short video here that captures the spirit quite well.

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