New Public Health Blog from PLOS blogs!

I can’t believe that this is my post number 101. Actually, I had planned to do something special with blog post no. 100, but I only realised that it was my anniversary post when it was published. So the celebration will have to wait for post number 500.

However, post number 101 can also be special and actually I think the topic is quite appropriate: A public health science blog hosted by PLOS blogs has arrived! It is simply called ‘Public Health‘ and has five contributors coming from different backgrounds but all with an interest in Public Health.

PLOS Blogs public healthThe blog looks very promising and the posts currently posted are well written and interesting. I look forward to following the blog and hope for many discussions.

Public Health 2.0

Not surprisingly, I am especially happy to see that the topic of social media and public health is discussed on the blog. In the post Public Health 2.0: Electric Boogaloo by Atif Kukaswadia of Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada draws attention to strengths and weaknesses of social media in public health. It is clear that Atif comes to this with an epidemiologist’s perspective (being and Ph.d. candidate in Epidemiology), but he raises some important questions about acknowledging that social media exists and that regardless of whether people with scientifically founded knowledge make use of social media or not, people spreading untrue or perhaps even harmful public health information will continue to do so. This is in my opinion an important argument which needs to be made also to the social media skeptics.

The post is full of great links, so newcomers to the topic of public health 2.0 should take a look at the post and join the discussion.

Social media and science conferences

Atif Kukaswadia opens the blog post with discussing what makes a good conference, and how it not necessarily what happens during the presentations and in the conference room, but rather the discussions that continue (or perhaps first starts) in the lunch room and during the coffee breaks. This make me wonder, if Atif Kukaswadia has been to the Science Online conferences, which acknowledges exactly that. These conferences are built up following a so-called ‘non-conference’ format and brings more space for the in-between-sessions-stuff. Based on my experiences the ScienceOnline people are the most advanced users of social media before, during and after conferences. For newcomers to social media in conferences it is actually quite overwhelming and a little extreme – but none the less a great eye-opener for the power of social media in conferences.


Science Online pluses and minuses

How long can a conference continue after it has ended? I don’t know the answer, but I know that Science Online 2012 is definitely not over yet, despite the fact that the last plenary session ended more than two weeks ago. On the Wikipage of the conference the list of blog coverage after the conference just seems to keep growing, and on Twitter #scio12 tweets keeps rolling in. People I didn’t meet at the conference, I am now meeting two weeks later, meaning that I can still add names to the list of “people I met at Science Online”. Quite amazing.

It is great to read other people’s reflections on the conference, their follow-up sharing and their excitement over Science Online 2013, although it is almost one year away (a wikipage for planning Scio13 is already going strong).

As many of the Science Online related blog posts already portray, it is easy to become a fan of this little big unconference. Even though this was my first experience with the original Science Online conference (I attended Science Online London 2011), I felt so very welcome and almost automatically as member of a group or family I didn’t know I was a part of until I joined them there live, in Raleigh, NC.

The hundreds of interesting topics which came up during Scio12 could fill hundreds of blog posts, but here I’d just like to share two things that I really like about the conference, and articulate two of the weaknesses which I encountered.

Science Online 2012 pluses (two reasons why Science Online is great!)

  • It is full with passionate people. People who have a passion for communicating science, whether they are scientists, journalists, editors, communication officers etc. Beginners, longtime experts – they are all there with a passion which they are willing to share!
  • Titles are not important. On the name tag what is important is communicated (a great example of science communication to the point!). And this it not what your title is, which institution you represent, or where in the world you are from. Your first name is central (because this is by which you should approach other people). Second comes your last name, so that you actually have a fair chance of finding people  later on; and third of course their Twitter name, so that you can contact them! Especially the non-existence of titles and affiliations makes you feel equal with your fellow conference participants. No worries in approaching someone who then might turn out to be your favorite blogger or head of communication in the coolest organization.

Science Online minuses (A little bit of critique)

  • The conference brings together enthusiasts of science and communication. Most of them are either already good communicators or are thriving to become so. This provides a basis for valuable sharing of experiences and ideas, but not in all cases does it create a forum for fruitful for discussions. The eternal ‘battle’ of the ‘mean journalist’ and the non-communicating scientist often ended up dominating the discussions. And without the presence of either the bad journalist or the narrow-minded scientist, the discussion could at times end up a bit cliché and useless (or ‘in a rabbit hole’ as one of the people I follow on Twitter wrote). This was a shame for some of the discussions. I (perhaps naively) expected that at a Science Online conference focus would be more forward-looking and centered around how the social web might improve this journalist/scientist relationship. If the other discussion is wanted it might be better to bring in some bad journalists and some scientists who prefer staying hidden away in their lab or behind their desk and have them participate in the discussion.
  • What is science? To my knowledge there is no rule to how broadly science at Science Online should be defined. And that is how it should be. However, despite having met participants at the conference who do research in language, risk and other less ‘fact-based’ science, many of the discussions I participated in tended to centre around science which can be done in a lab, can be boiled down to numbers or relates to  theoretical science like physics and math. These are often difficult topics to communicate, so they deserve all the attention on the communication side that they can get. However, it would sometimes have been nice to have a more articulated discussion about how to communicate the much less fact-based science. I come from the area of public health. An area where there a lots of facts, but even more theories and unknowns. Ethical concerns, moral values, personal opinion, theoretical stand points all matters and makes communication of research in for example the wellbeing of asylum children, the best approaches to prevent stress from causing disease, behavior change’s role in preventing obesity etc. extremely difficult. It would be great if the challenges of communicating less ‘fact-based’ research could be discussed also at Science Online. Or at least that it is made clear that science is a broad thing and that the discussions may become blurry when they are all put under the one hat of “science”.

I guess my two ‘minuses’ could actually be converted into a suggestion for future sessions at Science Online 2013. For example the “Health/Medicine track” is still empty. Maybe this was a occation to make sure that the less medicine-oriented side of public health is also represented at Science Online. Will let the thought boil a little bit in my head..


Blogger – a hero or villain?

In Raleigh, NC! And ScienceOnline2012 starts in just a few hours. Yeah. During my trip here from Copenhagen, yesterday I was in many ways confronted with one of the topics which will most definitely be mentioned in today’s talks – blogs.

As if the airline knew that at least two people on their flight were heading to #Scio12, the inflight magazine opened up with the article “How to make a food blog”. Glorifying the blog as something every food lover should have. Interviews with food bloggers from across the world, who have made a name for themselves – though blogging. In the article the blogger is definitely in the hero category. (Couldn’t help thinking a similar thing should be done just focusing on blogging scientists and researchers from different fields – and it should figure in exactly an inflight magazine too!)

On the second flight, the inflight entertainment system offered the movie “Contagion”. A film about a flu pandemic causing deaths all over the world at extreme speed, followed by general panic and chaos amongst the population. One of the drivers of the panic and anger is a blogger (played by Jude Law) who doubts the intentions of the government and the pharmaceutical industry in stopping the disease from spreading. In addition, he claims to have found the cure for the virus by some homeopathic treatment, which people end up committing crimes for in their attempt to get it. All through the film, the blogger is the villain and a problem for the authorities and who in the end gets his (well deserved?) punishment.

It was interesting to see these two perspectives on blogging. I look forward to spending the day with lots and lots of bloggers, tweeters etc. (heros as well as villains and all those in between). I have a feeling it will be a blast (as a participant of previous ScienceOnline conferences told me at the bus stop yesterday). The Tweeting have definitely already begun and I fear a little how to make it through 450 people tweeting at the same time…..


ScienceOnline2012 – a look at the sessions on students and online science communication

Is it possible to split oneself into several Is? Could I perhaps borrow Hermione’s time turner next week and thus be able to travel back in time? Both would be great solution to this small problem I have. Next week, I’m attending the ScienceOnline2012 conference (see more below) in North Carolina, and the programme is simply packed with super interesting sessions – many of them taking place in parallel.

I will not try to summarize the full agenda of the conference, but encourage you to take a look at it yourself. Even if you can’t attend there will surely be lots of live-tweeting from it.With a masters course in Public Health Science Communication coming up this fall at University of Copenhagen, (mentioned in earlier posts), it seems only relevant to try and make it to some of the sessions that focus on students and science communication. I have listed some of them below. It looks like a great place to get some inspiration on both tools to integrate into the classes (eg. blogs), and topics and themes to bring up. It will also be great to hear from students who themselves have blogged and acted as messengers of science.

Blogging in the undergraduate science classroom (how to maximize the potential of course blogs)

Thursday January 19, 2012 2:45pm – 3:45pm

This session will mainly feature a roundtable discussion of “best practices” for incorporating blogs into undergraduate courses. Possible topics that will be covered: Developing, evaluating, and grading assignments, incorporating blogs into syllabi, how blogging can contribute to learning goals, privacy versus openness, especially with respect to FERPA, and interacting with students with social media more broadly (e.g. twitter, G+, Facebook, etc).

Undergraduate Education: Collaborating to create the next generation of open scientists

Thursday January 19, 2012 4:00pm – 5:00pm

Science faculty and librarians can collaborate on many aspects of undergraduate education – two ideas are the focus of this discussion. First: How can we best help undergrads understand and explore the scholarly information landscape? In addition to formal sources like journal articles, informal sources (e.g., blogs) are of increasing importance/relevance, which raises a question: How do we get students to think about what formal and informal really mean? How do we – faculty, librarians and others – work together to teach students to navigate the disciplinary landscape and become productive and critical consumers of – and contributors to – the disciplinary conversation? Second: How do we introduce students to the great big wide world of open science? How do the various players in higher education communicate to the next generation the incredible depth and complexity of what going on out there? How do we raise (inspire? support?) the next generation of Cameron Neylons, Steve Koches and Jean-Claude Bradleys (not to mention the next generation of Dorothea Salos and Christina Pikases)?

Next generation of Bloggers

Friday January 20, 2012 10:45am – 11:45am

From classroom blogging, to blogging at Nature, these students had quite a year! They’d like to start by talking about their experience with blogging so far, what they’ve learned, where they’ve had problems, and where they’ve been successful. Then, they want to get ideas from the audience on how to start a 1 day conference in NYC for middle/high school students interested in blogging.

Students as messengers of science

Saturday January 21, 2012 9:30am – 10:30am

High school and undergraduate students have a unique place in engaging their communities through science, while becoming the next generation of scientists, science writers, and journalists. As an increasingly diverse pool of students engage their families in their pursuits through mentoring, research and other immersion programs, as well as writing and journalism, they lay the groundwork for making science accessible for the non-scientists in their lives, representing a range of diverse ethnic and socio-economic communities. How as educators and mentors do we nurture them as scientists and communicators? What skills and practices are key for helping young people reflect on learning while also developing effective communication skills? This session will foster a discussion of the barriers, challenges and best practices for creating the infrastructure, mentoring relationships, and building the confidence of students as they experience science to help them develop their voices. The session will also explore how we recruit readers of such sites, and will explore examples of online media connected with science engagement programs geared toward high school and undergraduate students that are creating a local culture of science, among traditionally underrepresented communities, with a local impact.

Some facts

ScienceOnline2012 is the sixth annual international meeting on science and the Web. The participants are scientists, students, educators, physicians, journalists, librarians, bloggers, programmers and others interested in the way the World Wide Web is changing the way science is communicated, taught and done.

ScienceOnline2012 – #scio12 across social media – will take place January 19-21, 2012 on the campus of N.C. State University, with some 450 participants