Terra Sigillata

Alright. I understand the prohibition on not taking photos of presenters’ data.

However, prohibiting Twittering?

Use of cameras and all other recording devices (this includes digital, film, and cell phone cameras, as well as audio recordings) are strictly prohibited in all session rooms, in the Exhibit Hall, and in all poster and oral presentation sessions. Twittering (see above) and other forms of communication involving replication of data are strictly prohibited at the Annual Meeting or before publication, whether data presented are in the Exhibit Hall, poster area, poster sessions, or invited talks, without the express permission and approval of the authors. Persons caught taking photos, video, or audio recordings with any device or transmitting such information with any device will be escorted out of the hall or rooms and not be allowed room re-entry. Repeat offenders will have their meeting badge(s) revoked and will not be allowed to continue to attend the meeting. This policy is necessary to respect the willingness of presenters to share their data at the meeting as well as their publication opportunities.

What next?

Prohibiting e-mailing from the meeting?

Prohibiting talking to fellow scientists when one returns from a meeting?

I’m only being halfway facetious when I say that I expect a letter threatening action for copying verbatim the paragraph above.

Or am I overinterpreting the warnings? Do they just mean no TwitPic’ing?

P.S. I did at least learn from the newsroom page that professional or semi-professional bloggers can be considered members of the working press on a case-by-case basis but that paid & registered ASCB members can get press credentials.

Update 06 December 2009: Below in comment 10, we received the following clarification from Dr Rex Chisolm, Chair of the ASCB Public Information Committee (and Dean for Research at Northwestern University):

Let me try to clarify on behalf of the ASCB.

I serve as chair of the ASCB public information committee and have discussed this with the executive director of the ASCB. The prohibition as written is being interpreted (…although I can see why) too restrictively. The real goal is to limit specific tweeting of prepublication data, not the general concepts, the enthusiasm (or not) for an idea heard at the meeting, or comments about the meeting itself.

The ASCB enthusiastically endorses spreading of exciting stories from its members and encourages an open discussion about the meeting. After all, science is about debate and discussion. On the other hand it is important to respect authors presenting data prior to publication. Hence the policy against cameras and against tweeting of SPECIFIC data elements.

I am working the the ASCB leadership to “officially” modify the policy on the ASCB website.

But I want to assure all meeting attendees that as long as the rights of the authors to not have specific data widely disseminated without their permission, we would like to encourage sharing about the meeting.

Rex Chisholm
Chair, Public Information Committee
American Society for Cell Biology

Thank you, Dr Chisolm, for clarifying this issue for our readers and, I anticipate, for attendees of the American Society for Cell Biology Annual Meeting who may be a bit confused.

Comments

  1. #1 Joe
    December 6, 2009

    Considering how inefficient twittering is, I gotta think that it is an oversight to omit live-blogging and e-mail. I bet someone complained. I wonder what will happen when they discover the ability to take notes by hand …

  2. #2 Colum McAndrew
    December 6, 2009

    I attend an AGM each year where it is explicitly stated that press must leave at the start of the meeting. A bit weird when some of the delegates are members of a journalism union! They have also frowned upon someone blogging from the auditorium forcing them to go to another room where there was a video feed. Never really understood this stance myself. It’s like security. It is not total and if someone is committed to tweeting / blogging they will and can do so.

  3. #3 Comrade PhysioProf
    December 6, 2009

    Twittering (see above) and other forms of communication involving replication of data are strictly prohibited at the Annual Meeting or before publication, whether data presented are in the Exhibit Hall, poster area, poster sessions, or invited talks, without the express permission and approval of the authors.

    I think the important qualifier is “involving replication of data”. It doesn’t say anything about “summarizing findings”, “criticizing arguments”, etc. As I read that, so long as you are not doing anything that is “involving replication of data”–which could fairly be read as requiring the direct transcription of primary data–then you are in the clear.

    Of course, these schmucks were fucking morons for not writing this policy in a more clear and explicit fashion. What kind of dumbfuck uses a word like “involving” in what is supposed to be a specific injunction on behavior? Certainly no lawyer wrote this thing.

  4. #4 Christina Pikas
    December 6, 2009

    it says no cameras in the poster session – so like, if it were my first professional poster session, and I wanted to take a photograph to show my mom, I would be thrown out of the meeting? That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.

  5. #5 chemgeek
    December 6, 2009

    I’ve never really understood these rules. If you present your findings at a conference like this, isn’t the point to tell as many people as you can? Do they expect the attendees to forget everything once the Powerpoint is off? I would ban methods that are disruptive, but if it doesn’t flash or block someones view, then allow it.

    At the American Chemical Society meetings I have attended, it is common (though I don’t know if it is actually allowed) for people to take pictures of posters. It beats having to provide reprints.

    If the data you are presenting is too sensitive or vulnerable or whatever, then maybe a public presentation of it isn’t the best idea.

  6. #6 Abel Pharmboy
    December 6, 2009

    With regard to ASCB, I’ve put in a query to their press office for clarification on their policy, as per CPP’s comment above about perhaps only relating to “involving replication of data.”

    I’m of two minds about this policy. I think this is silly for large society meetings. Folks there seem to rarely present their cutting-edge work so I really don’t see the reason to restrict distribution of the findings by the most widely-reaching avenues possible, as chemgeek notes.

    I can think of one exception: meetings like the Gordon Research Conferences. These meetings were established expressly as venues where individuals could feel more comfortable presenting unpublished data – abstracts are not even published. I haven’t been to a GRC in a few years so I don’t know if things have changed with camera phones, twittering, blogging, etc.

    The bottom line is that information wants to be free. But even with twittering and blogging, does anyone think that people will hold back communicating ongoing work today any more than they have in the past?

  7. #7 DNLee
    December 6, 2009

    That is so effed up. Live blogging science conferences is the final frontier of outreach. I think it really is a technophile vs. technophob generation split. Tweeting is mysterious and scary and done by young people or rebellious faculty….can’t have that. Some of my most visited posts were my posts when I attended the International Ethological Conference. I summarized results and introduced readers to scientists. I’ve done similar things at other conferences, even sharing pictures of poster presentations – with permission/link to the author.

    For awhile, I’ve been telling myself that science outreach isn’t just for the general public. We’ve got our work cut out for us helping fellow scientists understand the importance of and how to do ‘good’ science outreach. We need to host workshops at professional science meetings about to teach them about science outreach.

  8. #8 Anirban
    December 6, 2009

    Excellent post! I agree with your assessment.

    For me the only difference between Tweeting/blogging and communicating via web 1.0 and other channels is that you have a bit more control over who you give out information to at the first step. For example, you know exactly who you are emailing or calling up, whereas anyone can read your Tweets (well not if it is protected). Everyone will realize how flimsy this is as a rationale to ban twittering almost immediately though. Once the cat is out of the bag, there is no way you’ll get it back in!

    I also agree with you regarding large conferences and GRCs (hence the phrase “in the spirit of the Gordon Conferences”).

  9. #9 Mary Canady
    December 6, 2009

    I was there, saw the signs they posted, and did not tweet, but I think it may have been somewhat of a misunderstanding. The signs had the twitter logo at the top with a big red ‘disallowed’ emblem over it. Below, it said ‘Twittering and other forms of communication involving replication of data are strictly prohibited at all sessions, in the exhibit hall, and all poster sessions.’

    Granted, it did say ‘involving replication of data,’ but most of us saw the image at the top and didn’t want to chance it (which was a shame because part of Francis Collins’ talk was aimed towards encouraging scientists to spread the word about ARRA grant science).

    Now, they have clarified and said that ‘tweets about the meeting and even general takehome messages about exciting science are ok.’ I’ve given the feedback that the signs are what are scaring people–most attendees don’t read the website in detail.

    All part of this brave new world–I think guidelines and training should be given for these new science ‘journalists.’ Who will do this though?

  10. #10 Rex Chisholm
    December 6, 2009

    Let me try to clarify on behalf of the ASCB.

    I serve as chair of the ASCB public information committee and have discussed this with the executive director of the ASCB. The prohibition as written is being interpreted (…although I can see why) too restrictively. The real goal is to limit specific tweeting of prepublication data, not the general concepts, the enthusiasm (or not) for an idea heard at the meeting, or comments about the meeting itself.

    The ASCB enthusiastically endorses spreading of exciting stories from its members and encourages an open discussion about the meeting. After all, science is about debate and discussion. On the other hand it is important to respect authors presenting data prior to publication. Hence the policy against cameras and against tweeting of SPECIFIC data elements.

    I am working the the ASCB leadership to “officially” modify the policy on the ASCB website.

    But i want to assure all meeting attendees that as long as the rights of the authors to not have specific data widely disseminated without their permission, we would like to encourage sharing about the meeting.

    Rex Chisholm
    Chair, Public Information Committee
    American Society for Cell Biology

  11. #11 Comrade PhysioProf
    December 6, 2009

    I am working the the ASCB leadership to “officially” modify the policy on the ASCB website.

    If ASCB has a general counsel or outside counsel, I suggest asking one of these attorneys for assistance in drafting a clear unambiguous policy. These people are experts at predicting potential misconstruals and crafting language that avoids them.