Science Online 2012 feedback -- and ideas for #scio13!

Well, I survived.

Science Online 2012 took place this past weekend and it was a blast. There's already been quite a bit of discussion in blogs and on Twitter about how it went.

A very small selection of the them bits are:

But there's way more that I've missed, I'm sure.

One of the things the stellar organizing committee of Bora Zivkovic, Anton Zuiker and Karyn Traphagen are very good at is learning and evolving.

Hence, the feedback form goes out only a couple of days after the event!

So, I've listed below my answers to some of the questions on the form along with some other musings about the #scio12 experience.

  • The decision to allow only two moderators per session worked out very well. It definitely reduced the amount of sageing on the stage and promoted a lot more discussion and dialogue.
  • The session I co-moderated with my York colleague Tanya Noel went very well. It was on Undergraduate Education: Collaborating to Create the Next Generation of Open Scientists. We had a small but engaged crowd who were really interested in how to turn all the cool stuff we talk about at Science Online into action in the undergrad classroom.
  • It's hard to pick one session as the most memorable, but I'll go with What to do when you're the go-to online outreach person at your institution, moderated by Miriam Goldstein and Jai Ranganathan. I'm choosing it mostly because it's what I find myself more and more involved in -- outreach for my institution, both to students but increasingly to internal stakeholders. This session had a lot of nuts and bolts talk about using online tools to raise your profile and your institutions. And there were a lot of people at the session in the same situation as I am, where they are some sort of accidental expert.
  • There was one session I very consciously avoided, Making Book on e-Books, by Tabitha Powledge & Carl Zimmer. I avoided it mostly because I don't want to become some sort of professional ebook wet blanket guy, the role I sort of performed last year and at Science Online NYC this past September. This year, the panel was aimed at practical strategies, so I figured that should be the focus. Ironically, when I spoke to Carl about the panel later on he said he'd actually ended up being the voice of caution, raising the kinds of concerns that I've raised in the past. Life is strange sometimes.
  • How could the conference get better? One idea that's traveled around Twitter is to have a hackathon, probably at the end of the conference. I think that would be a great idea.

    Another thing that I really think is needed is to have some "pure unconference" slots in the programming, sessions that are proposed and organized at the conference itself. Perhaps a slot or two on Friday could be pitched & voted on Thursday. With the conference program wiki starting to take shape so far in advance every year, there's a danger that we'll just rehash the same few topics every year. This year an obvious topic that should have obsessed us on the program but somehow didn't was the whole Research Works Act/SOPA/PIPA controversy. The conference started the day after Wikipedia went black for day, after all. We should have had a chance to pitch a session on The Politics of Open Access or something like that. This also allows first-timers a chance to get in on the fun.

  • What sessions, topics or activities would you like to propose for next year's conference? Yes, the #scio13 program wiki is already up.

    I'm not sure if I have concrete ideas yet, but there are a few things that continue to interest me and that I might want to develop a bit more fully in collaboration with the Science Online community.

    • Institutional & personal social media outreach are topics that are certainly obsessing me -- how to get more faculty and others blogging, on Twitter and engaged with telling their stories to the world. The Goldstein/Ranganathan session above could certainly be expanded in different directions and I think that would be a lot of fun.
    • How to translate all the cool stuff we talk about at scio12, 13, etc, into the undergrad classroom is another topic that obsesses me. Obviously Tanya and I already touched on this but I think there's a lot more room to develop these ideas.
    • The new media landscape as it affects core values of sharing, openness and preservation. This is somewhat about ebooks but is also about data, lab info, journals and other stuff. It's hard to know now what will make sense for a session in 2013 but I can certainly see wanting to do something on ebooks & the cultural commons again. This is the session that I didn't want Carl Zimmer's ebook session to become because I kept butting in as the ebook bad cop. This may be my uber-obsession and possibly the most worthwhile to develop into a session.
    • The politics of openness is another idea, exploring where politics, publishing and money crash together. It's not pretty, but it needs to be explored. It makes me wish that there were more commercial and society publishers that sent people to Science Online.

    As for what maybe we could talk a little bit less about? Maybe we can move beyond having so many sessions about blogging. And the blogger vs. journalist strain of that is getting particularly old.

  • Random thoughts? I think it's really important to get people from the broader higher education world to Science Online. It would be great if reporters from places like The Chronicle of Higher Education or Inside Higher Ed added a conference like Science Online to their beat. Science Online is an amazing model for conferences in higher ed and beyond and I think the broader community could learn a lot from what we're doing. I think it would be valuable and useful for both sides Digital humanities THATCamps get a lot of press, but not Science Online? I think it's time.

Once again, a huge thanks to Bora Zivkovic, Anton Zuiker, Karyn Traphagen and all the other volunteers for yet another stellar conference.


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Politics of open access is such a hot topic, I agree. Thanks for sharing your insights on the meeting, and the great links here. I'm working on a new site, Science rEvolution [Big ideas, little words] and hope to join in the 2013 version.