My trip to Science Online 2012

Here is an incomplete list of my impressions:

  • Jeremy Irons
  • John Wayne

Sorry, wrong impressions list. Here we go now. My impressions from Science Online 2012:

  • My friends from cyberspace are cool people and not Turing AI computers.
  • The depth and complexity of online interactions in science communication means these individuals act the same online and off.
  • It was pleasant to go to a conference that did not involve getting lectured at or deal with posturing competitors.
  • The correct spelling of the Canadian pronunciation of “about” is ab00t[1].
  • Open data/notebooks are a great idea. I’d probably get fired or arrested if I implemented them in my current job.
  • Yelling “penis” as a group is not particularly cathartic for me.
  • American understanding of curling[2] is a perfect metaphor when thinking about non-expert audiences for science communication.
  • Sit near Desiree Schell if you want to talk to interesting people about bizarre ideas that would make great Skeptically Speaking episodes, if she ever wanted to get the show canceled.
  • The Duke Lemur Center is an amazing place. Really. However amazing you think it is, multiply that by infinity. Then add one. Round up.
  • I made a joke referencing Bunnicula, and everyone got it. For better or worse, those are the people that go to Science Online.
  • Josh Rosenau, David Ng, Cristy Gelling, and I figured out how to fix education. Now, to get someone to listen to us.
  • The Monti reminded us that we all have good stories to tell. You just have to tell them. To other people.
  • There are celebrities. They work for major magazines/websites, have “editor” in their job title, and are at a conference filled with hungry, freelance science journalists.
  • Duke really needed to stop the ball on the last possession against Florida State.
  • I only need a ballpoint pen to uncork a bottle of wine. Maybe I am going on about this, but I had never tried it before – and it worked.

Honestly, for all my efforts at being cynical about everything, Science Online 2012 was easily the most enjoyable and inspiring conference I have ever been to. The organizers (AntonBora, and Karyn)  did an amazing job and the attendees really embraced the community concept.

I came away with two big thoughts:

  • When communicating, we need to celebrate the whole person and not just the skills relevant to the issue at hand.
  • We need to stop fighting over the small, niche audience that reads science blogs, but need to figure out how to cooperate to draw in the vast number of potential readers that are not yet in our niche.

Also, do not try to drink with marine biologists.


  1. Ok, I made that up; but all the Canadians seemed to like it. Granted these are Canadian internet nerds. So, anything that references w00t is automatically cool.
  2. Having had the misfortune of being in England in 2002 when the British women won the gold in curling, I already knew far more about curling than I ever wanted to know.

Author: Josh Witten

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