A Blog Around The Clock

Continuing with the tradition from last two years, I will occasionally post interviews with some of the participants of the ScienceOnline2010 conference that was held in the Research Triangle Park, NC back in January. See all the interviews in this series here. You can check out previous years’ interviews as well: 2008 and 2009.

Today, I asked Beatrice Lugger, the founding editor of ScienceBlogs Germany, to answer a few questions.

Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Where are you coming from (both geographically and philosophically)? What is your (scientific) background?

i-e52e78975b29a4c23dd0be18cc0165f3-Beatrice Lugger pic2.JPGHi Bora. Thank you for asking me. I am a German woman from Bavaria. I live and work in Munich, the Oktoberfest city, famous for its beer, lederhosen and dirndl, King Ludwig’s castles, the Alps and the beautiful lakes in the surroundings. I must say I am a real Bavarian although I don’t have a dirndl. But I appreciate living in this megacity that resembles more of a village. I love bicycling, hiking, skiing, swimming or glider flying and can do it all in or very close to Munich. This is no tourist information. This is the truth.

Born in Landshut, Lower Bavaria, I came to Munich to study chemistry at the Ludwig Maximilian University. There at the University, in the late 1980s, in the time of forest dieback and the Chernobyl disaster, most teachers had still no idea of sustainability. As two fellow students and me managed to focus on ecological chemistry, which we additional studied at the Technical University, one of our teachers at LMU started his lecture with incensed shouting: “We are infiltrated here. For me the green in my soup is enough.” I tried my best to undermine the system but realized I won’t succeed that much in the research system itself. Simultaneously I couldn’t imagine working three years or longer on just one topic for PhD. I am too curious and I love communication, so after my Diploma I started writing. I worked for a small journal called “Politische ├ľkologie” for some years and then became a freelancer, writing for German newsmagazines and newspapers. To be honest, I did not write that much about ecological topics, but wrote continuously. I appreciate taking looks into different labs, talking and discussing with scientists and not at least trying to transport the information to a broader public.

Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?

With several years of writing my personal ambition changed. I still want to give people the best information. I still like to look into the labs and talk to scientists. But my interest is today focused more and more into the question how to provide first hand information from scientist themselves, how to start a dialogue between both sides – the public and the researchers – and how to overcome prejudices and, really, existing language barriers. One first step into this direction was with the first internet-hype around the year 2000 netdoktor.de, a medical portal, where we did not only offer lots of medical background information, but invited people to chat, email and get in direct contact with experts online. Later I certainly noticed and added one blog after another on my list to follow. Some years later I was asked to start scienceblogs.de in Germany by Hubert Burda Media. This was like Bingo for me. Within some months, the perfect team around me, the bloggers and me were ready to launch the website, which is still very successful. On the Scienceblogs.de platform we also started the first official blog of the Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting, with which I am actually very engaged.

What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?

These days my children and the Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting are taking up most of my passion (and time). First joining the conference in 2008 I have never been at such an impressive and ongoing meeting before as in Lindau. It is not only because there are Nobel laureates you may talk to. It is mainly that you can feel the energy and will from the young researchers to care for the future, to seek solutions, to overcome old rules and more. I hope we can transmit some of this through our current blogs and social media activities. And I very much appreciate the idea of a new dialogue between generations, which is supported by the Lindau Meetings. The young should not stop to listen and ask for the expertise of older generations and the experienced should share their knowledge and give a helping hand. This dialogue is building our future – and has ever before, but we stopped talking to each other.

What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?

If one considers the web as the business card of mankind then I hoped there would be more science and reflections in it. This implicates Open Access to all papers, sharing lectures, videos (also here from generations of scientists), platforms for a profound exchange – for scientists and for the public -… and a critical open dialogue about the upcoming science topics. Blogs do a lot for this. But I think there is a need for worldwide platforms to discuss further steps in a sense of humanity. We could start ethical dialogues from the very beginning. Today for example in ‘synthetic biology’ an ethical debate would be very helpful. Not that we are very close to a human made creature. But we need to discuss about all the opportunities. Is there a need for certain bacteria? Would we allow them to live outside of labs? Is it really in some way like playing God or is this nonsense? …

How does (if it does) blogging figure in your work? How about social networks, e.g., Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook? Do you find all this online activity to be a net positive (or even a necessity) in what you do?

To be honest, I do not have my own blog. I blogged for Scienceblogs.de as long as I have been the editor in charge there. And today I blog for lindau.nature.com. I would love to blog more, but I don’t have the time for it – working and two children. So I became a fan of twitter. As I am working alone in my home office this is one of the possible ways for daily science and online media chats to come to me. It is perfect, if you select the perfect ones to follow.

Have you discovered any cool science blogs by the participants of your favourite science bloggers at the Conference?

Sure! You! And many others. Durham was the place to be to meet with many and it is hard to pick up just some of them – for example John Timmer from Ars Technica or Carl Zimmer, PZ Myers and many more. It was a real fun to finally meet Simon Frantz, the colleague from nobelprize.org or talk to Scott Huler, who also published his books in Germany.

What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2010 for you?

I especially enjoyed all sessions about Citizen Science such as Science for Citizens, Trixie Tracker or the Open Dinosaur Project. I have not been that aware of that topic before, maybe because in Europe there are not so many activities in this direction. But this fits exactly to my idea of overcoming old rules that separated scientists and science from the public. The more people engage themselves in sciences the easier I think a profound dialogue is possible. And the web is the best tool for citizen sciences – and the dialogue.

Is there anything that happened at this Conference – a session, something someone said or did or wrote – that will change the way you think about science communication, or something that you will take with you to your job, blog-reading and blog-writing?

We had a small session about our social media activities which cover the Lindau Nobel Laureates Meetings, looking forward to find further and better ways of interaction between science generations with the help of the Web. All fellows in this session came up with great ideas and we have now realized some of them on our new central social media site. This was very helpful – and not all ideas are realized yet. So thank you very much for this opportunity and thanks to our attendees for their input!

It was so nice to see you again and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.

i-614ff8f871f0f54329a0ed8665a1b102-Beatrice Lugger pic1.JPG