A lovely confusing mix of journalists, science communicators, Google+ enthusiasts, communication experts at seminars

My own educational background is interdisciplinary. Public Health is interdisciplinary at its core and adding journalism to it adds a world of not just traditional journalists as we know them from newspapers, radio and television but also communication experts in various forms. Working with social media at Medical Museion in Copenhagen have added a new group of people coming from the world of technology, enthusiast in social media etc. This grand mix of people have all been represented at the different seminars I have been so fortunate to attend over the last couple of months.

Some of the seminars and conferences I have mentioned here previously, but I thought I’d just give a small insight into some of the events I have attended where science communication is discussed directly or indirectly.

London – scientists – social media – enthusiasts – TWITTER

I have already shared some thoughts from my participation at Science Online in London this September in Changed by Science Online London 2011? Thinking back on it the keyword for me from the conference was lots of enthusiastic people. A complete different crowd of people from my previous world. Real scientist eager to share their knowledge and spread the word about the potentials in social media. It was about live-tweeting. Not only about what you heard, but also what it made you think of or how you liked (or disliked) what you heard. Quite a crash introduction to a new world to me. Can’t wait to joining the “big brother” conference ScienceOnline2012 in North Carolina in January 2012!

Crisis communication – Experimentarium – Science Media Centre – UK – Denmark

The Experimentarium (the Danish Science Centre) hosted a conference in October called When Science Meets The Headlines. Participants were a great mix of journalists, communicators, scientists and researchers. The conference was divided into three session. The first session focused on the current situation in Denmark when it comes to researchers/scientists engagement and efficiency in communication to the public. Both journalists, researchers and communicators shared their perspective. Unfortunately, the mention of social media was almost nonexistent – perhaps as a symptom that it is not used, perhaps due to an oversight from the organisers. Second session was a presentation of the English Science Media Center (SMA), an independent venture working to promote the voices, stories and views of the scientific community to the national news media when science is in the headlines. Three speakers from London joined and gave a (over?) positive description of the SMA. Personally, I really missed a more critical perspective and some reflexion on where it might work less well. Third part was then a discussion of the future of science communication in Denmark. Again, it was surprising to see of how little attention was given to the potential in social media. A big shame! It was however clear that the main objective from the organisers side was a promotion of a future Danish Science Media Centre hosted or driven by the Experimentarium. No debate was initiated on who would be most appropriate to host such a centre or whether the needs in Denmark might be different from the UK and therefore require an alternative strategy and organisation. This was a shame. Despite some critic of the conference it was however all in all a very inspirational day with a really good mix of participants.

Google+ – communication officers – Social Media Club

In October an organisation which I had not heard of before, hosted an afternoon session on the wonders of Google+. The organisation, which calls itself Social Media Club Copenhagen had invited three speakers to share their experiences and knowledge about Google+. I am not sure how many of the participants had a health background, but I definitely felt like a minority group. Instead the room was full of people from the communication office of this and that company, from media organisations and other communicative people. Although only one speaker was actually from Google it felt a little bit like all three of them had been paid to salute Google+. Perhaps their recommendations were very heartfelt and real, but it did just seem like a little bit too fantastic. Despite a seminar where I wasn’t quite sure what I got out of it, it did reawaken a curiosity to this new platform and  I took home some useful G+ tips which were shared during and after the seminar. Eg. the ‘Hangout’ features seems to contain lots of potential as useful tool!

Journalists – social media – drinks – debate

The Copenhagen section of the Danish Union of Journalists have applied a wonderful concept called “Drinks and Debate”. Every last Friday of the month they invite members to meet up at Library Bar in Copenhagen and participate in a debate and enjoy one (sometimes two) free cocktails. In October the theme was what journalism can learn from Social Media. Once again this was not a crowd of health people, but a majority of journalists who for a great part (still) feel threatened by this scary phenomena of social media. Astrig Haug from the Danish media hos Berlingske talked about her experiences with using social media and shared thoughts on Danish media’s adoption (or lack) of social media. Interesting thoughts on how newspapers are still thinking in print articles when writing to the net and the need for the journalist to adapt to a changing world were brought forward. Astrid Haug encouraged journalist to turn their heads towards the bloggers for inspiration both as information sources but also for their methods and style. For example by being better at putting themselves out there and also expose what you don’t know. All in all an inspiring debate.

Mixing it all up and seminars to come

Attending these different seminars and conferences have been very inspiring for me. The quality as varied but all have has contributed to increase my understanding of social media and its current and potential role in communication broadly and in science communication specifically. What I now await is a Public Health conference that could put social media on the agenda. Sadly the upcoming annual of conference European Public Health Association (EUPHA) which takes place in Copenhagen 9-11 November, does not have it on the programme. The social media presence prior to the conference has also been very limited. A hashtag #EPHconference  have however been promoted and I’m curious to see whether it will be used. Right now I’m sceptical but hoping to be positive surprised! Later this afternoon I’m heading to a seminar at Videnskab.dk (a Danish science communication website) about the visibility of Danish research and a preview of a new international research platform called ScienceNordic. Will share more about this seminar later on.

Blog post recommendation: How to use Twitter at your next medical conference

I have a few times now written about Twitter and its use in relation to research (eg. the post 10 Ways Researchers Can Use Twitter and my own Twitter experiences at Science Online London 2011). Following up on this I thought I’d just recommend a blog post I came across today. The post is entitled How to use Twitter at your next medical conference.

In the article, Christian Sinclair, a blogger at KevinMD.com, gives a quick overview of how Twitter can be used at medical conferences, but the list applies to any kind of conference. Twitter can for example be a good initiator of discussions and to interact with eg. the moderator of panel discussions. It can be a useful tool to identify people working in the same area as yourself and set up meetings during the breaks, but also as a tool to capture information during the presentations and share it with not only others but also yourself after the conference where you can refer back to your tweets.

Admitted, it is hard to explain and understand how using Twitter during a conference actually works, but I think this blog post highlights some good points, and most of them reflect very much my first experiences with the recipe of Twitter+Conference.

I look forward to seeing this used in Public Health conferences. Perhaps it will even play a role at the upcoming European Public Health Conference which will take place in Copenhagen, Denmark, 9-11 November 2011. At least they have a Twitter account (with so far 10 followers), and who knows there might even be a hashtag for the conference at some point….

Changed by Science Online London 2011?

Joining Science Online London 2011 was for me my first time in real life to meet up with people working in the area of online science communication. The conference tagline “How is the web changing science?” and the title itself was as spot on and appealing as possible. But did the two days in London give answers? Did it change my views? Did it change me? As written in my previous post I did not expect Science Online London to provide a full and complete picture of online science communication and rightly so it didn’t. Although a little disappointed in parts of the conference I do actually think it changed me a little bit…

Twitter overwhelmed and exited

Science Online London will surely, for me personally be associated with me my first live-tweeting during sessions. Quite a surreal but also exiting experience.

To those who are not so familiar with Twitter, let me very quickly describe the stage. Using the assigned hashtag (#solo11) for the conference, participants can report/tweet live from the sessions. Limited to a 140 characters I was amazed of the parallel discussions that were going on. It really challenged my multitasking capabilities. Shall I follow the Twitter discussions, focus on the presentation or try to split myself between both? Fully aware that this use of Twitter is nothing new and revolutionary, it was definitely new to me.  In the beginning I found it incredibly confusing and disturbing, and although I still have not really decided on what I think of it I must admit that it has a lot of useful components to it. Below some:

1) It gives a completely different feel of the ‘vibe’ in the audience and makes it possible to interact with and identify participants interested in the same topics as oneself.

2) It gives tons of additional information as tweets very often include links to associated websites, blogs, articles etc. That said, all this additional information is also a little stressful and may take attention away from the presentation and discussion.

3) It provides a good log book to refer back to afterwards. Especially to find all those interesting links that where shared. However, with several thousand tweets it really will be a challenge to find things. Perhaps Storify, which I was introduced to can help…

4) It gives you a chance to get an insight what happens in parallel session when the meeting have different tracks. Again, it may be stressful to read about what is going on in other sessions than the one you’re in, but talking to other participants afterwards one actually has an idea or what the session they went to was about.

5) Moderators of eg. panel discussion could, by referring to the Twitter discussions, get instant feedback from the audience and use this to adjust and ensure the panelists keep to the topic. Unfortunately, this did not seem to be practiced in all sessions of this year’s Science Online where for example a panel discussion on incentives to communicate research via the net ended up being a little bit too much off track (which btw contributed to fun tweets from people who no longer took part in the session)

All in all I got a lot of out trying this live-tweeting and perhaps it did change me a little. Some scepticism towards the live tweeting is, however, intact:

1) It is very distracting and as a presenter it must be strange to have your audience staring into their smart phones and iPads rather than at you. The presenter will also have the disadvantage of not being aware of the discussions going on while presenting which makes a very unequal starting point for subsequent real life discussions.

2) I can’t help but consider whether all this tweeting is  useful for people not attending the conference but instead following it online? It did seem like there were people attending only online, but I wonder what the tweets gives them

3) It is an overload of information and multitasking does take one’s focus a little bit…

Virtual people in real life, good discussions and a little lack of focus

Well, enough about my Twitter experience, although it did change me a little. Other great take homes for me was to meet in person some of all the people who to me so far only have exited in an online world. And being recognised just by my name by Twitter champion Bora Zivkovic was exiting. The opening session and first panel discussion was interesting and gave some good discussions about how to engage with the peer-reviewed literature through blogs, science journalism etc. And the keynote talk by Michael Nielsen on Open Science was interesting.

For many of the other sessions and in general for the two days there was in my view a lack of focus. The objective of each of the parallel sessions was not always clear which again influenced the presentations and structure for the discussions. The tag line “How is the web changing science?” is perhaps a little bit too broad for a two-days event? Or perhaps the learning objective and title for each session should have been a little bit more targeted.

Public health science online?

Coming to Science Online with a Public Health Sciences approach to science communication was it then relevant to be there? I would say yes, but many of the issues that comes up in public health science communication where not really brought up during the two days i London. Although the participants included people from the health sector people and the topic for some of the discussions where health related it did seem to me that the conference had a lot of focus on science communication among scientists in the more hardcore scientific disciplines. For me, it would have been interesting also to discuss online science communication of more qualitative research where there are fewer rights and wrongs and where ethics, emotions and feelings may play a much bigger role. How does that affect communication? How does it affects researchers willingness to communicate online? This would also be interesting in relation to the borderline between scientist-to-scientist-communication and involvement of a much broader set of stakeholders.

I look forward hopefully to joining Science Online 2012 in North Carolina in January or go to London again next year and hoping to be changed a little bit more.

Curious as to what other participants have thought of Science Online London 2011? Read other blogs and comments here. I especially agree with the some of the critic in the post “Lost in a shamrock and in many other places” (wish I had been there at Science Online London 2010 – it sounds like everything came together at that conference).

Will Science Online London 2011 give answers to how the web is changing science?

Science Online London 2011 will surely not be able to give the answer to how the web is changing science. For that there are too many answers. But I do look very much forward to joining others in London 2. and 3. September to listen to different perspectives of what role the communicative possibilities web2.0 opens up for, can play in science communication, and to learn from all those who have been in this field much longer than I have.

Science Online London, organised by nature.com and Digital Science is taking place for the fourth time. The objective of the event is to explore the ways in which the Web has transformed scientific research and communication.

Coming from a public health background where multidisciplinarity is as natural as breathing, I am exited to enter into another multidisciplinary world composed of a broad spectrum of technologists, data curators, science communicators and researchers who are going to discuss issues surrounding how science is carried out and communicated online.

If you are not able to join this could be a good opportunity to try out the world of Twitter and follow #solo11 where I am sure some of the participants will be tweeting live from the event. Or you can follow the live streaming from here.

More on how Science Online London 2011 might have changed me will follow…