Thoughts on ScienceOnline’09
I just returned from the ScienceOnline’09 conference in Raleigh, NC. It was one of the more unique conferences I’ve been too. There was just enough structure to it to prompt vigorous debate in a variety of topics covering science blogging, communication, and education. For someone new to science blogging, it was energizing to meet so many enthusiastic people dedicating to science communication and I left with a much broader outlook on what this whole thing is and what it can become.
The stand-out session for me was on using blogs as an educational tool in the classroom. This is a big deal for me one of the end goals of my career is to be an educator. We’ve done a great deal of incorporating blogs into the classroom and things like TiMIZ really engage the students. One of the ideas discussed that I really liked was maintaining a lecture notes blog where the students can post their notes and ask questions. I can see how this would be really useful for some of our larger lectures, where it may be difficult to engage every student in the classroom, and it provides great feedback to the lecturer on what points the students interpret as important. Other ideas involved online discussion forums, both public and private, or liveblogging field trips.
Kevin, from Deep Sea News and The Other 95%, along with Karen James from The Beagle Project Blog, Rick MacPherson from Malaria, Bedbugs, Sealice, and Sunsets, Talia Page from Space Cadet Girl, Vanessa Woods of Bonobo Handshake, the wonderful Anne-Marie from Pondering Pikaia, and Meredith Barrett from Lemur Health Conservation, led an excellent session about adventure blogging from remote places. While the discussion was good, the real gem was hearing everybody’s disaster – and not so disaster – stories.
The sessions on Sunday were also excellent. Kevin and GrrlScientist led a good discussion on nature blogging and how it differs from science blogging. Greg Laden from Greg Laden’s Blog, Rick, Karen, and Mark Powell from blogfish talked about censorship and blogging, especially as it pertains to the employer/employee relationship. I ended the conference by attending a discussion of science blogging networks, which I’m not sure are really necessary, but there were plenty of strong opinions from many angles.
You’ll notice tons of new links in the blogroll, all great people I met this weekend. Some highlights are:
- Blogfish – Mark Powell is a really thoughtful and insightful blogger on marine conservation and ocean issues, and he gave me tons of things to ponder over the next few days.
- Cephalopodcast – Invertebrate love from Jason Robertshaw.
- The Flying Trilobite – Glenden is an excellent artist with a pension for avian trilobites.
- Malaria, Bedbugs, Sea Lice, and Sunsets – sure, it was quietly added to the sidebar several weeks ago, but a great blog deserves to be highlighted again.
- The Beagle Project Blog – lots of good stuff from Karen James, who’s working with the Beagle Project to build a replica of the HMS Beagle and sail it around the world.
- Deep Sea News has a new home and a new look.
Two sessions that got me thinking about the direction of my own blog were centered around transitions in your blog as your career progresses and whether or not to maintain anonymity (and how one goes about doing that). For me, I’m using this blog as a tool to create a track record of public outreach and education, and to voice my opinions on various marine, mycological, and mundane issues. Since I’m using it as a mechanism for career building, I see no reason to be anonymous (in this case that would actually be counter-productive).
I do, however, like the handle “Southern Fried Scientist” and I’ll continue using the moniker as my blog identity for two reasons. First, the Southern Fried Scientist is a character. He thinks like me, talks like me, and cares about the things I care about, but he’s only a part of everything I am, and there are things in my life that are not in his. The Southern Fried Scientist doesn’t talk about my personal life, my graduate program. He doesn’t complain about wrongs done to me. And – as much as possible when one’s passion and profession are so tightly intertwined – he doesn’t talk about his research and, although he will showcase student work that is online and intended to be publicly available, he does not talk about his students.
He does study deep sea and shallow water marine fungi, as do I.
The other reason I’m continuing to use my handle as my primary blog identity is much more mundane and pragmatic. Many of the discussion sessions came back to the same point – we need to manage the information about us that exists on the internet. Part of that management plan is controlling how people find this blog. I have no problem with everyone knowing who I am, but I don’t need every Google hit on my name to point back here.
I’m not going to go and dump all my personal information on the main page for anyone and everyone to see. I don’t feel that’s necessary. There are plenty of breadcrumbs scattered throughout this blog that it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out. Of course, you could always just ask.
Thanks to Bora for organizing an excellent conference.