Terra Sigillata

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It’ll be a few days before I can get together posts on this past weekend’s ScienceOnline’09 conference in frigid North Carolina. The Friday Fermentable Live! was a terrific success and it already looks like there are seven posts out there (for example, Eva Amsen on her Nature Networks blog, Expression Patterns, put up an account with vasectomy-like precision).

I had the honor of participating in two sessions: one on gender and allies in STEM, online and off, with the youthful Alice Pawley and Zuska and another on pseudonymity/anonymity and building online reputation with PalMD. Speaking of which, I got to finally meet Miss Baker’s Extreme Biology AP student, Anna, who got the online interview scoop on my real identity. and our good friend Ernie Hood at Radio In Vivo who had the radio scoop. Anna, your career can only go up from here.

Of course, the conference would not have been possible without the leadership, organizing, fundraising, and grant writing skills of Anton Zuiker and Bora Zivkovic. I’m extremely fortunate to share a meatspace community with these gentlemen year-round and I am richer for it. Being close to the planning and execution of this conference, I’ve been privy to a lot of the logistics required to pull this off – if you were amazed by their efforts just by being there, you’d be a hundred-fold more blown away by knowing what they did for the last 10 months or more – with demanding day jobs, kids, spouses in the health and law professions, and other science communication events they organize all year. I’ve been involved with another meeting about this size for an institution that could pay for a professional meeting organizer to handle everything that Anton and Bora did for SO’09 – it costs about $55,000.

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Above: Award-winning journalists and authors, Tom Levenson (The Inverse Square Blog) and Rebecca Skloot (Culture Dish), deliberating a point for the ScienceOnline’09 session, How to become a (paid) science journalist: advice for bloggers.

Photo credit: me, Sigma Xi Center, 17 January 2009.

While you saw a lot of Anton and Bora – in fact Bora is truly everywhere – a truly unsung but instrumental hero in these proceedings was the Sigma Xi Center itself. Meg Murphy and the headquarters of Sigma Xi: The Scientific Research Society made an in-kind donation of their facility from the Friday night WiSE event with Rebecca Skloot’s inspired performance through the Sunday afternoon lunch.

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If I calculate correction from their site, we received a waiver of over $10,000 for use of the conference center. I know that we severely taxed their wireless system but it is a beautifully designed facility with a great mix of rooms and places for informal convergence. I can also say that Sigma Xi routinely makes available the use of their facility year-round by the local scientific community and general science-oriented public. We are so incredibly fortunate to have this resource and partner in online science communication and education locally and around the world.

Sigma Xi has 500 chapters across the US, Canada, and around the world. If you are not yet a member, look here for your local chapter contact and join to be part of Sigma Xi’s efforts in your local or regional scientific community.

These unconference events are so different from the average society meeting and would not be so enriching if not for the contributions of each and every person involved. Chris Heuer had a post yesterday at Social Media Club, Recognizing the Service Contributions of Unconferences, to, well, recognize the service of anyone who served in a leadership role for any session at any unconference over the past few years. It’ll take a few moments to fill out this form with URLs, dates, and events. You get to put this stuff on your CV for professional service anyway and this is a great way to document your hard work as people who value these activities filter into academic leadership roles and promotion and tenure committees.

I’ll have some more substantive posts about the sessions but probably not until the weekend. Today, I will share the joy, and perhaps a tear of two, with the inauguration of President Barack Obama – oh, and the rest of the day job.

Comments

  1. #1 Tracey
    January 20, 2009

    It was great to see you again at the conference… thanks for being the money-taker at dinner. And that’s a great picture, btw.

  2. #2 Pat
    January 24, 2009

    For us an unexpected impact of ScienceOnline09 (ok actually of the wine tasting) was that Tom and I are now Willamette Valley Pinot Noir fans. We tried one from Patton that was almost as good as the Lemelsen and we now have several in the wine cellar (AKA the basement). Thank you!

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