Geoff Brumfiel has done a great job in this article for Nature News on the promise and perils of conference blogging. On the promise side there is discussion of the wildly successful FriendFeed coverage of last year’s ISMB meeting, which ended up being aggregated into a journal article; in the perilous direction, I get a mention for my mildly disastrous foray into conference blogging at the recent Cold Spring Harbor Biology of Genomes meeting.
Conference organizers contacted by Nature had a wide range of policies on social networking. Many societies have banned digital photography in talks and poster sessions and some consider bloggers to be members of the media and subject them to certain reporting restrictions. However, almost nobody has developed a policy on when twittering is fair play. “This has not come up in the past but it may be something we consider in the future,” says Kevin Wilson, a spokesman for the American Society for Cell Biology in Bethesda, Maryland.
Nature generally supports social media tools, says Philip Campbell, Nature‘s editor-in-chief. And as long as it’s not a deliberate attempt to hype a new finding, he says that researchers should feel free to talk to colleagues who blog or twitter. Ginger Pinholster, the director of public programmes for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the publisher of Science, agrees. As long as the scientist wasn’t trying to promote his or her work to the public, it wouldn’t be a problem. She adds that blogging unpublished results is a problem that “we just haven’t run into yet”.
Although Cold Spring Harbor has opted for control, the organizers of the Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology meeting are choosing total openness. When this year’s meeting opens in Stockholm later this week, they are planning to fully embrace social networking tools. FriendFeed entries will be created for each talk at the meeting, and the entries for the keynote sessions will be posted directly to the meeting’s main website.