Semi-live Blogging Scienceonline09: Day 2

Here we are on day two. Day 1 ended late, thanks to Dr. Freeride’s generous party hosting.


Right now I’m in the nature blogging session. We’re discussing what is nature blogging, and how it is distinguished from science blogging. The discussion has wandered, but there is a common thread about nature writing having more to do with the wonder of nature, but this can be used to pull people into the science.
Karen James twittered the question about the difference between science and nature blogging. Richard Carter replied from the UK with “Nature blogs are unlikely to cover the Large Hadron Collider.”
We got onto collaborative sites. This is something I find interesting, because of the potential to use this data for “real” science (and there are statistical problems that are fun to fight with).
Whilst this is going on, there’s a session on impact factors in another room. Lots of discussion on FriendFeed.
Next…. The next session is “You can’t say that!”. We’ve decided to keep some anonymity by calling the three panelists PZ1, PZ2, PZ3 and PZ4. They are all chomping on communion wafers as I write1. The session is about how blogging and the day job interact, e.g. if you say something controversial about other scientists. What responsibilities do you have? Should one not say something? What rules are there?
We’ve started by talking about whether journalism is a good model – there are similarities, but there are different. We are not journalists, our responsibilities are different.
PZ2 described being told that every post had to be approved by the company. He was not happy, especially as this was a blog on blogger.
The issue has come up over whether to be pseudonymous – PZ3 suggests not doing this if you’re comfortable blogging under your own name. Instead (and a couple of other PZs say the same thing) be proactive about making sure your employer is aware of the blog and sort out what you can say.
Crackergate has been raised, and PZ4 said that the University of Minnesota has been supportive – all the letters the university got were binned, because they didn’t want to be pushed into acting by the public (it was also pointed out that PZed has tenure).
We’ve just had the suggestion that we form a bloggers’ union. Great idea, but if we went on strike, would the world notice?
Even More: I’m now in a session on searching the scientific literature (and following Martin Fenner’s commentary on the science blogging networks session on Frendfeed). I wonder if it’ll be useful. Alas the computer can’t hook up to the projector.
One suggestion: use Google Books search or Amazon to find books with chapters on (say) space elevators, and then it can give a link to catalogues (Firefox plugin called “libx” to do this: has to be configured for the institution. Can even login through the proxy. Neat).
For searches: use a research database to work out the best keywords (“control vocabulary”) in Inspec (?), rather than google.
e-book databases: Safari (computers).
Now talking about semantic markup: get the data available in a usable form online.
The ACS (American Chemistry Society) is even more evil than Elsevier, apparently. Does Dr. Freeride know?
Digitized: google books. Database for taxonomy names, and the literature describing the species. Aluka (?). Botanic database, digitized specimens to measure, interact etc.
How to find a database: start with science.gov, google scholar.
A lot of “walk-in access” to the public university library, to get help. Can even get access to software: SPSS, Matlab. Problem: mis-use (e.g. teenagers coming in and playing games, and denial of service attacks launched).
Oh, public librarians wants to be bothered about searches etc. Librarians as matchmakers (e.g. know people who are doing open notebooks). Also, using & developing social networks.
OK, that’s it.

1 Yes, an in-joke. But one most people should get.

About rpg

Scientist, poet, gadfly
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4 Responses to Semi-live Blogging Scienceonline09: Day 2

  1. Kristi Vogel says:

    It used to bother me when friends and acquaintances, who had little or no experience with academia, would dismiss tenure as an elitist privilege that was often abused or exploited. Now it bothers me that they may have been correct, in a few circumstances.

  2. Bob O'Hara says:

    I must admit I find the whole tenure thing rather odd too.

  3. Cath Ennis says:

    Bloggers’ Union, eh? “Give us what we want or we’ll stop posting photos of cats?”

  4. Bora Zivkovic says:

    I thought the quip about the bloggers’ union was the funniest thing anyone said at the conference. Since it was obviously meant as a joke and since everyone laughed in the room, I hope nobody actually took it seriously ;-)