How was it for you? Interview with Graham Steel

Graham Steel attended the Science Blogging Conference last week - but only virtually! He has been a strong proponent of Open Access, frequent commenter on PLoS ONE articles, a patient advocate and, more recently, a blogger on his own.

Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Who are you? What is your background? What is your Real Life job?

Dear Squadron Leader Zivkovic. Thanks for inviting me to contribute.

I remain a McNative and McResident of Glasgow, Scotland. For the last 20 years, my real life job has been dealing with motor insurance claims. Crash, bang, wallop, ouch, compo...

I suppose I've always been interested in science and technology though and as of 1999, for personal reasons, medical matters too. In some of my spare time, I decided to become involved in the charitable sector in 2001. Here is some background. Also see my profile at Nature Network for my current specific interests. Glycobiology is what I am particularly interested in.

Connecting people is my strongest attribution. I started doing this when I was four. Whilst I had completely forgotten, my Mum reminded me last week that when I grew up, a neighbour a few doors up ("Aunty Mamie") most generously included a four year old kid in her Will.

What do you want to do/be when you grow up?

To be honest, I would dearly love to be a full time professional lion tamer or maybe I simply have watched too much Monty Python... But seriously, I've started to get involved in formally collaborating with scientists/researchers and have a handful of manuscripts under construction. One of these includes a collaboration with someone from Sb...

If some or all of these get accepted for publication, judging from any feedback received, I'll take it from there. Since I'm interested in wide readership, all of these manuscripts are destined for OA Journals.

You were not physically at the Conference, yet you followed it virtually - by watching the streaming video of sessions in real time, participating in the chatrooms, reading and commenting on the participants' blog and on the Conference wiki. Next year we will try to stream all the sessions in real time - will that dissuade you from travelling or is there something about physical presence that you have missed by being thousands of miles away?

Well, I really enjoyed the Conference despite not attending in person. As you know, I blogged about my experience here . Whilst I got quite a buzz from "attending" my first Conference online, I personally would have preferred to have been there in person as I intend to be next year. That said, from my experience, from a technical perspective, what the organizers achieved was second to none and anyone interested in attending next year who is unable to be there in person, I can highly recommend virtual participation.

i-16a5ff8020afcdd026001d2b1fd0d6a2-Graham Steel.jpg

When and how did you discover science blogs? What are some of your favourites? Have you discovered any new cool science blogs while followin the Conference?

I have an interesting response - Shakespeare!!! It was this blog posting by Tara C Smith that was my introduction to science blogs. I think I spotted this about 18 months ago. I was alerted to the Macbeth/Prion story about 4 years ago by the then head of the UK's National CJD Surveillance Unit so I found it interesting that the story had come up again.

Yes, I have a several favourite science blogs and have included most of them in my blogroll . Following the Conference, I have indeed discovered some more cool science blogs. Overall, there's so much to choose from at Sb's and elsewhere and since I've now got such a diverse array of interests, it's kinda hard to keep up with it all really.... "Refine" springs to mind.

The blogosphere is awash with science blogs. A quick check confirms that over 40 posts have been posted in the last hour alone... I just spoke to my rocket science contact (Prof F. Magnet) who said that statistically, that's almost one per minute. Mazing !!

How did you end up being a blogger and where does the pseudonym 'McDawg' come from? You have your own personal blog and have recently joined the crew on the JoVE blog. What do you want to accomplish with your blogging?

A film-maker friend of mine from Kent, UK spent a year in Minnesota with wife and son in 2006. He set up a website and blog about their travels and recommended that I started my own blog.

Largely thanks to Coturnix, I picked up some of the basic required skills and I now blog about something at least every couple of days. Indeed I do also now contribute to the JoVE blog and it's cool to be part of the JoVE crew.

When I started blogging, I was keen to retain my Scottish identity, hence why I chose McDawg and McBlawg as my blogger name and the name of my personal blog respectively.

I much enjoy the two-way interaction with a blog as opposed to a 'traditional' website. I wanna have fun with my blogging but also want to cover some important issues too. This has been reflected in my blogging thus far.

I want to achieve as much as possible and who knows what might, will or won't come out of all of this.

You are a strong proponent of Open Access (OA) publishing. Why? What is your personal history regarding scientific publishing?

This one reminds me of a classic British "The Young Ones" episode from the 1984 called 'Time':
"RICK: Eh? [laughs, gets the joke] Well, what can I say? Have you got a spare couple of days?
NEIL: Yeah."

Yes I am Bora. My in depth thoughts/experience in this regard are contained in a Paper currently under construction - I completed my contribution a couple of months ago. In the meantime, it is worth flagging up this McDawg blog post which is very relevant and remains the most linked thus far. PLoS Pathogens was the first OA Journal that I came across mid 2006.

Not only could I access the Paper I was looking for, but the real eye opener was that I was able to access the entire Journal!

I recently did an extensive interview about my interests in open collaborations, OA etc. and the edited MP3 is scheduled to be broadcast/uploaded fairly soon here.

One of my main eternal frustrations remains not being able to share my extensive library of papers due to Draconian copyright restrictions. Creative Commons is a dream come true..... Indeed, I'm wearing one of my PLoS t-shirts right now =) Prof Lawrence Lessig, you remain a STAR !!

You do a lot of experimenting with music and video online. Can you tell us more about it?

Again, this (the music stuff) was covered in the afore-mentioned interview. I suppose the geek side of me is interested in experimenting in seeing what sizes/quality of files can be uploaded and streamed etc. Thanks to the Conference, I made contact with Deepak Singh since we share a lot of common interests.

Is there anything that happened at the Conference - a session, something someone said or did or wrote - that will change the way you
think about science communication, or something that you will take with you to your job, blog-reading and blog-writing?

Nothing in particular really jumps out as it was all so interesting. What I did learn though is, much more than before, how significant blogging is these days and how the role of a blog/blogger is going to continue to become a really important one. This is especially so in many important areas such as science. I'm all in favour of Science Debate 2008

It was so nice to see your online participation in the Conference - I hope you come in person next year, and thank you for
the interview.

I had been looking forward to the event for many months so I wanted to be as involved as possible via the 2.0 world wide interweb. Thanks Bora and we will hopefully meet in person next year.


Check out all the interviews in this series.

More like this