Christina's LIS Rant
Sunday, January 20, 2008
  NC Science Blogging Conference Wrap-Up
Now that I'm home I thought I would post a quick summary of the conference. (BTW- I keep getting strange things when I visit the wiki site - like really old versions of the pages and something was written over one of the pages)

First, it was very well organized. Some conferences run by for profit companies or professional societies don't go this smoothly! The hotel was close and reasonably priced. My room was very nice, and the hotel went out of its way to ferry people around and make sure we had what we needed. It would have been nice if the bar had been laid out so people could socialize and congregate, but that's really pretty minor in the course of things.

Sigma Xi was a great host ("zi" if anyone else forgot their Greek). The center was very attractive and the wireless was great. The food was fabulous (the pulled pork with the NC-style sauce, oh and the cole slaw and the hush puppies, and the locopops ... amazing, now I'm hungry again!).

The goodie bag of swag was packed full. The bag itself was from the local museum and unlike some from other conferences, I'll probably use this frequently. I have enough science magazines to last me for a while, and a business card case, a massager, a USB laptop light, a beautiful coral reef calendar...

The dinner beforehand, the drinks at the bar both nights, and the socializing between sessions were all very useful. I really got a chance to talk for a while with scientists in many different research areas as well as with other interested parties such as science journal editors, PBS consultants, ethicists, gender studies-interested scientists, other science librarians/information scientists, scientific software engineers, museum workers of all sorts, writers... They taught me a lot about what they do and how they use their blogs. With all of this, there is still a need for a ton more research on how scientists blog. Also, what it means for a scientist to blog for an organization, event, or experiment. I really need to get my article edited and submitted to a journal. I want to dive back into another study on the topic, but I'll have to figure out what it should be next. (btw- Tara's article on science blogging has not been published yet, I was afraid I'd missed it. I'll link when it's out)

As for the actual sessions - they were great, too. It's unfortunate I could only be one place at a time. The marine research one actually reminded me of something I'd heard from other bloggers and also something a book author I was sitting next to at dinner mentioned: blogs are a great place to put the extra stuff - stuff that is in excess of what's needed for a journal article or a book or a film, or maybe stuff that isn't enough for a journal article or ... So maybe I should say what I mean by that. Eric Roston will be using his blog to put out a lot of information he found for his forthcoming book, The Carbon Age. Really good stuff, but it just didn't fit into the book. Likewise, the marine researchers go out on extended cruises but sometimes only four papers result. One thing they will do is to communicate with land-based researchers to get their guidance on things - like if they don't have that flavor of expert on board. Now they can use blogs for sort of mini reports of new science. Things that maybe aren't enough for an article, but are still the results of cool research. They can post these things very quickly, too.

We didn't resolve in this session what the difference is between live and real-time blogging, and we didn't figure out what the difference is between blogging for an organization and for yourself (I think most agree that blogging for an organization should still be only lightly controlled and not be overly restricted).

A theme I can't support that I heard at the end of the conference is that science bloggers should go full time and they should be paid to do nothing but blog-- I think some of the best contributions come from scientists who get material through their research, their reading to keep up in their fields, and their attendance at professional conferences. I really think this should be in addition to other forms of communication. With that said, I think we still should try to actively recruit unheard voices. We need many more scientists in all research areas to really establish this as a new way of doing business.

Unfortunately, there are many disincentives for female and underrepresented group scientists to blog at all, even more so with their real life identity. I don't know how to help this - at all - but I think we can learn something from the adoption of other ICTs. Big things need to happen to fix the face of science - but it's a chicken and egg thing, too. Visible female and underrepresented group scientists will recruit more, but the low percent that exists have too much riding on being seen like everyone else, or better than everyone else, to perhaps actively recruit... don't know. Luckily Pat and Zuska (and others) are on the case. I'm sort of building up a backlog, but this would make a great study (women and science blogs...)

As far as open data goes -- this is huge right now, and plenty of computer scientists and librarians and archivists (a special flavor of librarian in case you didn't know) and discipline specialists (bioinformaticists, astronomers, etc.) are on the case (with some help from NSF funding). There are several issues related to culture (getting people to contribute, learning what people need to be able to trust and reuse data), information representation/organization, information retrieval, and data structures required for such massive piles of data. There are also preservation issues (migrate the data, what format to store it in, etc). I totally support what J-C is doing but I also think that if many, many labs do this, we'll need some better way to search and organize than google (IMHO). BTW - I also feel pretty strongly that it is the wrong way to go to look to Congress for a mandate for open data! (ok, if you are a scientist and reading this, do you want Congress to force you to publish your hard-earned stuff and then have all of the Canadian, British, German, etc., scientists dine out on it without sharing their own?). It has to come from the relevant international professional societies and journal publishers, sort of from the bottom up, and so that it impacts everyone with interests in that research area.

The closing session on framing and the science debate was not well done and that's too bad because there was a large audience who were prepared to listen. By presenting the information on framing poorly, they probably lost some support instead of gaining support. As for the science debates, well, it's hard to see how they would make a difference. AAAS has gathered the statements of the candidates and that stuff is pretty telling. So I'll leave this for now, but I will try to weave in more thoughts in future posts.

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This is my blog on library and information science. I'm into Sci/Tech libraries, special libraries, personal information management, sci/tech scholarly comms.... My name is Christina Pikas and I'm a librarian in a physics, astronomy, math, computer science, and engineering library. I'm also a doctoral student at Maryland. Any opinions expressed here are strictly my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer or CLIS. You may reach me via e-mail at cpikas {at} gmail {dot} com.

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Christina Kirk Pikas

Laurel , Maryland , 20707 USA
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