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The Sciences

Reflections from ScienceOnline 2010

By Chris MooneyJanuary 18, 2010 3:52 PM

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I was thrilled to attend this fast-growing conference and get to see great peeps like Sheril K, Darlene Cavalier, Carl Zimmer, Tom Levenson, Isis, SciCurious, Jennifer Ouellette, and many, many more.

I didn’t always attend the panels (and only spoke on one, last minute) but I did have some reflections:

1. Science and Entertainment: Beyond Blogging –  Tamara Krinsky and Jennifer Ouellette: Hollywood getting into science = definitely cool. But will Hollywood’s ace marketers ever see a real need to court science bloggers to get the word out about films, given the relatively small size of our audiences and the vastness of their ad budgets? Not clear to me how much *we* matter, at least so far.

2. Trust and Critical Thinking – Stephanie ZvanPZ MyersDesiree SchellGreg LadenKirsten SanfordYes, science on the web is a total mess. But trying to “certify” good/accurate science bloggers, vs. bad/biased ones, is an idea that poses more problems than solutions. And anyway, bloggers aren’t the gold standard of scientific accuracy–scientific societies, the NAS, the IPCC, etc, are. Science bloggers should raise the profile of these organizations, and prop up the sense of their credibility, rather than slapping quality labels on various science blogs.

3. Broader Impact Done Right – Karen JamesKevin ZelnioMiriam GoldsteinJeff Ives and Beth Beck. It is exciting to learn how some recipients of federal research grants have built websites that have been effective at public outreach and thus at fulfilling the “broader impacts” stipulation of the grant. However, I seriously doubt that most grant recipients are innovating in these ways. Throwing up a website is not, generally, a good way of publicizing research, unless you really know what you’re doing, and plan to carefully measure your traffic and influence. More generally, why on earth do we have vast scores of different grant recipients all called upon to publicize their individual research projects separately? Why isn’t there some joining of forces, and some decisionmaking about what science really needs highlighting before the public, and which scientific teams are best equipped to do so?

Those are my semi-random opinions from ScienceOnline 2010. I’m so glad that I attended, and hope to do so again next year!

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