Genetic Future

A while back I pondered the possibility of creating icons for conference presenters to add to their first slide to alert bloggers/tweeters in the audience about whether the presented data was “blog-safe”. This was provoked by a recent episode illustrating general confusion among bloggers (in this case, me) and scientists about the use of social media at conferences.

Fellow Australian-turned-UK-resident-scientist Cameron Neylon has now put together a handy set of slides for presenters to label both “blog-safe” and “no-blogging” presentations. The slides have a ccZero license and so are freely available for download and modification; the original icons can be found on Cameron’s Flickr account and Christopher Ross’ website.
I think these slides are a great start, and I’d encourage anyone interested in the interface between science and social media to consider modifying them for their own presentations. I’d see the slides as being useful in a variety of situations:

  1. In cases where the default conference policy is that bloggers need to seek advance permission from speakers, Cameron’s “blog freely” icons are a way of letting the audience know that this permission is openly granted.
  2. In cases where the default conference policy is open blogging, presenters now have a way of politely asking bloggers in the audience not to send potentially sensitive unpublished data out into the tweetosphere (although I’d agree with Anders’ comment on Friendfeed that the wording would probably be better phrased as a request rather than the “you are not permitted to…” on the current slides).
  3. In cases where the default conference policy is unclear or non-existent (currently the majority of cases!) these icons give presenters the ability to make their own position clear to everyone in the audience.
Previous discussions on this topic have made it very clear that there are a wide range of positions on what the default policy should be: in my experience so far most web-savvy scientists are reasonably comfortable with an open blogging policy so long as it doesn’t violate journal embargo policies (which it won’t, at least for Nature and Science), while some (especially clinicians) are more reluctant to share their unpublished data with the world out of fear of being scooped or misinterpreted. 
These are issues that will need to be hashed out between scientists, conference organisers and journals; but in the meantime, having a mechanism for allowing researchers to clearly state their position will hopefully be useful. If you like the icons, please use them and promote them if you can; if you have suggestions for modifications, please add them in the comments thread on this post or over at Cameron’s blog.
I’d imagine most presenters would want to move the icons to take up some real estate on an otherwise standard introductory presentation slide, rather than have a whole slide devoted to them – but I guess it depends how sure you want to be that people get your message. Remember, every presenter who uses these sorts of icons is increasing awareness of social media in the scientific community, which I’d argue is an Entirely Good Thing.
Here’s a preview of Cameron’s “free blogging” slide:
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