Science Online 2013 – day 1 – keeps surprising me

What a day..I should say that a terrific storm last night contributed substantially to the exhaustion I am feeling as I write this so I will keep it short and expand more fully in future blogs. But I have to get my thoughts down as I filter my experiences through what I heard and said today.

Today was the first full day of Science Online held here in Raleigh at the NC State campus and the second year I have attended. I am still humbled to be in attendance, surrounded by approximately 450 colleagues from all different disciplines from scientists to journalists to advocates. This year was different it started with CONVERGE speakers  headed up by Doug Ellison a Visualization Producer from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. His talk was a great lead in to the conference, and it made me realize how much science I have missed (e.g. unmanned missions to Mars- for example) in other areas as I have focussed my career in drug discovery to the detriment of a general scientific interest. Sure I have seen the pictures relayed back but its been a passing interest not a continuous one. It made me realize perhaps I need to step back and try to be more receptive to other sciences. I have even missed out on all the great audience engagement  JPL have been doing as described by 3 members of their social media group. I know where some of my future spare time will be going. Forget spending as much time reading the Economist, etc..I am heading to see what the JPL folks are doing!

The meeting was also different this year as I co-moderated a session with Antony Williams called ‘Leading scientists towards openness’ . We had a really great audience and the discussion went in many directions but I think we got a broad array of answers. So we look forward to summarizing that in future.

I also Attended the ‘Inject some STEAM below the STEM- get in at the roots’ session led by Emily Coren and Glendon Mellow. This was more on the art side and got me thinking how I could get my own young children interested in both art and science and strategies to do this.

Following great discussions over lunch I opted for ‘The impact of electronic and open notebooks on science’ session lead by Kristin Briney and Anthony Salvagno. This had great follow up discussion on the pros and cons (scooping, errors etc)  of openness in the form of open lab notebooks and ways to put your science out there. Anthony is a proponent of blogging his science in WordPress, something I have started to do occasionally. I learnt about Research Gate – virtual bench, and using the iPhone to document science proceedures via video it.

The final session for the day was ‘Science Online and rethinking peer review’ led by Jarrett Byrnes and Ashutosh Jogalekar.  I was particularly interested in this after my experiences in publishing and some of the amazing diversity of peer review in the last year. I mentioned posting reviewer and editor comments and the challenges I experienced. I think there is much that still be done here and broader transparency would help.

To round off the day I got to attend the meeting dinner for a few hours – had a great discussion with a fellow chemistry blogger Michelle Francl-Donnay who was recently profiled in the Chemical Heritage Foundation magazine. Yes, Antony Williams, Michelle and I had our picture taken by Carmen Drahl, and that does not happen often- thank you Carmen.  At the end of the day, Michelle basically reaffirmed that one can have multiple personas in and out of science and they can co-exist online and offline. Hmm got me thinking it is time to take stock and figure out what I want to do in life!! Who knows who I will meet tomorrow and what great discussions will happen and where that will take me. That is what I like about Science Online – Please keep those surprises coming.

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