Report from ScienceOnline2012: making science more visible

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Last weekend I attended ScienceOnline2012, a remarkable gathering of scientists, journalists, bloggers, librarians, students and more who came to meet offline, away from their usual presence online.  To me, the purpose seemed to be to meet-up in person and to share digital solutions for making science and ourselves more visible and translatable.

According to Gilles Grenot (@ggrenot) who followed simultaneously online from Paris, France, during this three day, truly packed conference (held at N.C. State University) there were 17,000 tweets and nearly 450 people involved in the conversation.  In reality, ScienceOnline2012 was more than 70 discussion sessions and workshops and additional demonstrations, even science lab tours and spiced with much fun.  Personally, I won a book, made new friends, and learned a tremendous amount to enhance my own digital world.

[quote style="boxed" float="left"]Get visible or vanish.[/quote] To my surprise the conference began with anthropologist and former NFL cheerleader (really), Mireya Mayor, PhD, who's keynote title was "The Vain Girl's Survival Guide to Science and the Media" (listen here). Already I was stunned at the novelty of the speaker slides where Slide 1 displayed 6 videos playing at once, thankfully on mute.  I admit it was hard enough to pay attention to the introduction with these jungle videos and rock climbing and lemurs in front of me.  However, the speaker herself, author of "Pink Boots and the Machete," was totally inspiring and obviously tuned into science and the media.

The novelty just kept going.  Even during coffee breaks I met many chatty immunologists, entomologists, ecologists, a guy from Australia, and another from Berlin.  I think these people are so accustomed to facing their vulnerabilities by being out there online that they’re past anything that self-confidence limits.  Many seemed just glad to meet the real person, for example, “Gwen” instead of @bug_girl, her Twitter handle.  I can’t believe I missed an especially popular session on Blogging Science While Female, one that led to a long online thread about sexism on the internet (search #bswf on Twitter).

The topics had appeal for everyone, everything from publishing to journalism, art, education, medicine, technology, math and more.  Even the online technology to support the conference created a “wow” factor – a fabulous scheduling tool that worked on my iPhone, never crashed, a wiki for conference resources, and an exportable file of attendees and their blog addresses.

For me, visualization was a theme that I followed, attending “dealing with data” and “making beautiful maps” so I can geocode a data set.  But there was so much more, like scribing a meeting with graphics and using various “altmetrics” to gauge readership.  Here are a few links that you might find interesting:,,,, and

I’m confident there’s much we can incorporate within science at Duke. Already we have the free Duke Wordpress that provides space for our own blog posts. There must be some truth to this phrase I’m quoting from the conference: “publish or perish has become get visible or vanish.”

Last, but not at all least, I want to give much applause and congratulations for probably the best conference I have ever attended.  First kudo to our own Anton Zuiker who organized the entire conference along with Bora Zivkovic and Karyn Traphagen.  These people are fabulous in-person creators of digital media that’s moving us all forward.