Terra Sigillata

Science blogging conference

The 2007 NC Science Blogging Conference came off as a great success thanks to the vision, passion, and general butt-busting of Anton Zuiker, Bora, Brian, and Paul and the sharing of wisdom by all the speakers. A fellow health professional-turned-journalist remarked to me that professional meeting planners couldn’t have done a better job. Organization, advertising, facilities, securing sponsor support, and publishing a blog anthology would have been overwhelming to a group five times the size. Thank you all!

A comprehensive list of posts surrounding the entire conference was put together by Bora and I am still digesting much of what I learned from fellow bloggers and journalists present.

The viral nature of registration was interesting to watch, as the innoculum of 25-30 original registrants gave way during the last week to the limit of 150 with an ultimate registration of over 210 (actual attendees were in the ballpark of 170).

Beyond the actual content of the conference, I was struck most by the strengthening of the science blogging community. I got to know my friends and colleagues better, including fellow bloggers under the ScienceBlogs masthead. But I also made many new friends who came from across North American and the UK whose blogs I’ll be adding to the blogroll when I can get my act together. I was also refreshed by the spirit of improving general science literacy in the US and encouraged by the abundance of K-12 educators present – these are the folks I want teaching our child.

Bora (whose interview with Nature just showed up a few minutes ago) did a great job introducing the whole idea of science blogs to the uninitiated and got some great press coverage as a result. Duke’s Dr Hunt Willard talked about the necessity of scientists communicating with the public as well as fear and/or lack of incentives for scientists to do so in our current academic research model. Dr Janet Stemwedel was a reluctant user of PowerPoint in presenting an overview of the various ways bloggers approach science.

In the afternoon breakout sessions, I chose to attend Jean-Claude Bradley’s demonstration of Open Source/Open Notebook wiki-based laboratory notebooks as used in his anti-malarial drug synthesis project at Drexel. Then, the medblogging workshop with Anton raised some questions about how to evaluate reputation, credentials, and expertise when reading health information blogs. Something I’ll probably post on later is the virtues of science/medical bloggers self-disclosure of potential conflicts of interest as illustrated by Ivan Oransky’s Lancet editorial about diabetes bloggers. I would be very interested next year in having this topic discussed in the main session by all of the attendees.

At one of the several post-conference dinners, I broke my semi-abstinence from alcohol to share a few well-crafted, award-winning microbrews with well over a dozen bloggers. Even US Congressman Brad Miller (D-NC-13) joined us for the duration and was gracious enough to be photographed with Prof Steve-Steve. I’m certain that the friendships and ideas shared this weekend will be the nucleus for further gatherings and discussions, online and off.

There is much more I could cover here (and add links to fellow bloggers) but these are just the highlights as I’ve some pressing deadlines. But heartiest thanks to everyone – the organizers, the speakers, the sponsors, the media, and all those who traveled to our little hamlet to be part of this fabulous experience.

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  1. #1 Utenzi
    January 22, 2007

    It was a very well run conference. I was quite impressed with the opening remarks as well as both the morning session speakers. I hope that Anton and Bora follow up on this since they obviously have a talent for running conferences.

  2. #2 Dr. Free-Ride
    January 22, 2007

    Actually, Congressman Miller represents the 13th district. (And he drank on of my little sampler beers! But I had already chosen a big beer by then, so it was OK.)

  3. #3 Abel Pharmboy
    January 23, 2007

    Thanks – I fixed the faux pas. The 13th is a newly-formed district, hence, my mix-up. BTW, it was great to finally meet you in the meat-world and learn that you are just as warm, thoughful, and wicked-smart in person as I thought you were from your blog. Still, I can’t top the description from BlueNC:

    Janet Stemwedel is a cross between your favorite science teacher in high school, your best friend in college and the girl next door who just happens to have an IQ of a million and eight, but for some reason you aren’t intimidated by her.

    Thanks for coming across the country for us!

  4. #4 Zuska
    January 23, 2007

    Oh, that is indeed a spot on description of Janet! Except I would add: she has a life almost any nerd girl would love to have. At least, any nerd girl whose passions also run to ruminating about nerdy stuff just as much as actually being in the lab. And yet, despite her having it all (looks, brains, career, sprogs), you just can’t find it in your heart to be jealous because she is so damn wonderful!

    Abel, it was great to meet you and I am counting on this just being the first of many times so that we don’t have to be too regretful about not having had enough time to talk. It was lovely to be back in NC. I’m thinking I need to go back for a longer visit, maybe a mini-vacation in the spring.

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