Science blogging 2008

I’ve never been to a scientific conference before. I’ve been to plenty of Library conferences, and quite a few on digital information, publishing or the web, but not a scientific one. I’m not sure whether Science Blogging 2008 strictly speaking counts as a scientific conference, but it was definitely a conference and there were many scientists present so I’m chalking it up as my first.
It was a stimulating day – a very friendly and lively group of people and a well-focused theme covering a variety of viewpoints. I did notice that amongst the speakers the Anglo-American-Australian contingent dominated, apart from two presenters from Germany. It would’ve been good to have a stronger view from other European countries. I wonder too what is happening in the Asian scientific blogosphere (is there an Asian Science Blogging conference?). There is such growth in Asian science activity and publishing activity (e.g. NPG’s new Asian journals ) I would imagine there ought to be blogging activity too. Perhaps NPG’s Tony Bouquet can give us an update sometime.
Two things at Sciblog08 impressed me particularly, and four other things I found particularly interesting. I did have a few regrets too.

I’m impressed

I was impressed by the amount of online activity – before, during and after the conference. This includes all the remote participants watching the live video or following via livebloggers. I wonder if all this could be tied in to the conference better, but perhaps the answer is to bring my own laptop next time. (Actually I’m tempted to follow Henry Gee’s example and buy some crocs an Asus eePC).
I was also impressed at the zeal and seriousness of the discussion about scientific communication and how to improve it. There wasn’t quite an overarching vision of the future of scientific communication, but plenty of elements of that future were discussed, from the semantic web and open notebook science to microblogging and feed aggregation. The sense that “something big is happening” put me in mind of the early 1990s as the web was getting underway, and particularly the lively discussion about UNITE (the Universal Network Interface To Everything) in ca. 1993.

I’m interested

I was interested to learn more about researchblogging.com – and the forthcoming Nature Network service to make it easier to track blog reports of published literature. I’m glad they dropped the “peer-reviewed” from the title – as it is based on DOIs I presume that it is not limited to peer-reviewed literature.
Shortly before the conference I was persuaded to sign up to FriendFeed, having been meaning to explore it for some time. Matt Wood’s session on microblogging – mostly Twitter and FriendFeed – therefore interested me. Later on I looked at the FriendFeed room for the conference and I really started to get a sense of the power of FriendFeed and I am almost hooked now. I still have a questions, but that’s for another time.
After the conference Martin Fenner posted on his blog an interesting categorisation of blogs which I think is also very interesting. There are so many kinds of scientific blogs it is difficult now to make a meaningful statement about all of them together.
The final challenge of the conference – to persuade a senior scientist to start blogging – also caught my imagination. I have three targets in mind already, but am not very sure how much success I will have.

I regret

I’m sorry I missed some of the parallel sessions. “Bored of blogging” and “How to make your blog better” were probably very interesting but I did not attend them. Since I’ve only just started to blog I’m not yet bored of it, and I struggle to make my blog at all let alone make it better. I also regretted not being able to talk to more people, though I think I spoke to about 30 people in total which is a lot for me. There’s never enough time.
I hope to catch some of the attendees again at the next Nature Networks drinks evening. I suppose NN drinks are like SciBlog Tweets – microconferences in between the main events. People keep talking about “the next conference” so I assume there will be another.

About Frank Norman

I am a librarian in a biomedical research institute. I've been around a few years, long enough to know that exciting new things fall into the same familiar patterns. I'm interested in navigating a path for libraries as we slip from print through to electronic information resources.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Science blogging 2008

  1. Henry Gee says:

    Hi Frank – if you get an Asus Eeeeeeee, don’t do what I did and leave the AC adapter in my hotel room, and have to borrow one from that kind Dr R. O’Hara of Finland. The low battery life of the Asus is a bit of a bore, and somewhat surprising given that its memory is solid-state and has no moving parts, as a hard drive does.

  2. Maxine Clarke says:

    What a lovely post, Frank. My favourite I have seen yet of the sci blogging conference. It is a positive report yet asks some pertinent questions. There is a lot that we need to do to focus this nasecent discipline, where ideas and exchanges bubble up everywhere in spontaneous fashion, not least in respect of open and honorable data sharing. (Then one reads awful accounts of deliberate fraud and fakery in other quarters in the next few days…)
    Your post captures the energy of this youthful meeting, the “can-do” attitude, and also asks some of the necessary questions.

  3. Frank Norman says:

    Maxine – Thanks. I thinks it’s usually a lot easier to ask questions than provide answers!
    I did get a sense that things are changing now, and developments that have been gathering will soon push through into a new world of communication.

  4. Joe Dunckley says:

    Re- Impressed: Oh. Yes! Next time*, we should have the friendfeed on the projector, with a ~30 sec auto-refresh.

    Have Nature actually decided that there will be a next time, or have we all just decided for them?

  5. Richard P. Grant says:

    I think Nature intended to have a next time if this was successful.
    Seriously considering paying my own way if I can’t repeat a sponsorship deal..

  6. Maxine Clarke says:

    I haven’t had the chance to ask Matt and Corie about next year, but I know there is a lot of enthusiasm “from the ground” (ie. us) for it. Sci Blogging did cost the company quite a bit, though, so I am sure that if anyone can come up with some friendly, generous sponsors, that would help a lot to nudge the decision in the positive direction!

  7. Maxine Clarke says:

    Joe- by next year, won’t FriendFeed be so last year? 😉
    We probably will have some whole new gee-whizzery by then (which is a pity as I really like FF!).

  8. Frank Norman says:

    I’m sure we could get some friendly nutritional supplement manufacturer to sponsor us …
    It was nice that the event was free, but I would certainly happily pay a reasonable amount to attend a future event.
    @ Maxine, Perhaps we will have FriendFeed 3.0 by then? 😉