Can a scientific meeting be amplified? (9gisem – v)

ImageFrom 5 throgh 8 July we have organized the IX Girona Seminar, a scientific meeting organized by the Institute of Computational Chemistry of the University of Girona, that is held every two years in Girona. A few days ago we wrote a post in the #9gisem blogsite entitled The IX Girona Seminar, an amplified conference (note: posts in IQC’s blog written in English can be listed with tag “eng“). That post contained out intentions towards amplifying the #9gisem for a broader audience, similar to what uses to happen for more social events like those related, e.g., to web 2.0.

Amplified events and conferences are a concept that is not new, but neither old at all. We must thank Brian Kelly for his nice posts on this subject, including recent ones a few days ago Having An Impact Through Wikipedia (rediscovering amplified events) and Amplified Events: Plans for #IWMW10.

Once the meeting has finished, it’s time for evaluation of our goals. Among other minor things, we have posted at the IQC’s Blogsite, both in English (for all attendants) but also in Catalan (for the local/regional audience):

  • Live interviews with key scientits (podcast)
  • Daily opinion by one of the organizers (podcast)
  • Overview of the poster session (podcast)
  • Photos
  • Local press review
  • Lectures were recorded and will be deposited at UdG’s open digital repository.
  • Poster abstracts and poster pdf’s will be provided.
  • Lecture presentations (if any) will be provided.

Not everyone agreed with the conditions to record and store in the Internet (cc-by-nd-nc license). Good wi-fi coverage was available. Notebooks (and possible cellphones) were mainly used to check e-mail and browse meeting and city information, in our opinion.

Llive tweeting and blogging

What about live tweeting and blogging? We must admit that the level of tweeting was very low, actually only two of the organizers actually sent tweets. Thus, no conversation. Likewise, as far as we know those same people were the only ones to post to their blogsites.

This was a “hard science” meeting. Thus, probably participants must concentrate in the lectures to understand them. Moreover, what is the sense of tweeting, when almost all people who understand the complicated ideas are in the lecture room (about 100 people)? If someone outside the world is interested, he may apply for the lecture, or published/being published papers.

This class of meetings are not a social event. Probably the city of Girona knew of the meeting (indeed it did!), but had a hard time to understand the intrinsics of the science inside. Actually, we asked some participants what would they tell high school students or event Scientists outside Quantum Chemistry, but they had a tough time to say something really meaningful and useful.

Quantum Chemistry, or Density Functional Theory, or Particle Physics, is not an opinable thing. Is it Science, must be based on facts. Thus, it is difficult to tweet to the outside world, because conversations are likely not to exist, besides trivial ones related to tourism.

What about live broadcasting? Again, at the last moment we decided it was no worth spending time. The audience would be very low, while one of our researchers had to be dedicated full-time to take care of that.

Poster session podcasts

We had planned to records a one-minute podcast of each poster in the monday afternoon session. There were two difficulties: first, the number of posters was rather high, so an only camera could not handle all participants. Second, when we asked presenters to explain their poster to the general public, they actually could not explain their poster in plain words (it is really not easy!). Thus, we recorded only only our gradute students’s posters (about twelve, and will only be analyzed for internal research purposes.

This notwithstanding, we still think that providing one-minut explain-to-hour-monther podcast of posters is a good idea. Next time we will tell participants well in advance of this intention, so they can prepare a nice speech.

Reflexion

I think that a key point is missing, like it is missing from other aspectes of the world of Science: the interfase between the Scientists and the Public. This interfase may be human (a journalist, a science communicator) or a procedure (explaining in plain words to the public what the Scientits talk about). Since only the second approach was possible in our case, and since a 2.0 world involves directly Scientists, we think that there is an attitude problem . Scientists may think that time dedicated to adapt their language to another understandable, publicly comprehensible languate is not worth spending. But they also should think that usually they are payed thorugh taxpayer’s money, and thus public dissemination of Science is as important as the very progress in the Frontier of Science. They may argue, though, that they communicate usually, but that during scientifc meeting they concentrate in the focus of the scientific subject.

We are asking all participants to answer a survey so we may know the key reasons of not tweeting or blogging as far as #9gisem is concerned, but also their degree of being 2.0 Scientists. They may have valid reasons, but we would really like to know them.

Our organizing group should also improve things, and ask more explicitly participants to tweet and blog. Perhaps it will take still some time to amplify scientific events that deal with the frontier of science. Fortunately, we will have new opportunites every year (as organizers) and every now and then (as participants). We should continue to improve dissemination to the public and improve the public value and understanding of Science.

Photo: http://www.jblpro.com/press/jan09/JBL_LSR2300.jpg

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