If academia and industry were ScienceOnline. . .
Jan14

If academia and industry were ScienceOnline. . .

Next week in the state capital of North Carolina, 450 science communicators of various flavors are meeting for three days at ScienceOnline2012 to learn from one another the most effective ways to, well, communicate science. I’m really excited because several of my C&EN and CENtral Science colleagues will be joining me from the DC HQ, including our benevolent overlord, sister in Gatorhood, and C&EN Online Editor, Rachel Pepling, and my Santa Fe science writing bud and fellow Ryan Adams enthusiast, Lauren Wolf. Even Sarah Everts – our beloved Canadian – will be joining us from post in Berlin. In fact, the attendees will include folks from over 25 US states and a dozen countries. As a wee blogger during the mid-noughts, I was fortunate to join the co-founders – Anton Zuiker and Bora Zivkovic (with Brian Russell and Paul Jones) – to help lead sessions at what was then the 2007 NC Science Blogging Conference. This crowd-sourced meeting is now known as ScienceOnline and has grown to be one of the most highly-sought online meetups in the world, having spawned similar meetings such as Science Online London. Someone – I can’t recall who – called ScienceOnline the South-By-Southwest (SXSW) of science communication. Most readers know that I was originally a Jersey kid. We were raised (or forced by peers) to be full of self-important hubris and my undergrad education was a four-year battle of one-upsman(woman)ship. That piss and vinegar got diluted out of me – in a good way – during residencies in Gainesville, Florida, and Denver, followed by the middle-ground of Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, where I began writing a science blog. I realized that in these places, outside of the influence of the New York-New Jersey-Philadelphia corridor, that one could be a solid, critical scientist, while also being a human being. (Although I realize it’s even been tougher in NC now with the harsh competition of workforce reductions, especially in pharma.) Co-founder of ScienceOnline and general BlogFather Bora Zivkovic, now blog community manager for Scientific American, wrote a characteristically long post about the nature of this unconference. Bora writes a lot – a real lot – but even his greatest admirers may often miss the richest of his gems. This was one that should be of particular focus to any nervous folks attending for the first time: The ScienceOnline Community ScienceOnline2012 is a community-organized, community-planned, community-funded, community-owned and community-run conference. The ethos of the meeting is that this is an egalitarian community. Nobody is VIP, nobody is a priori a superstar. One becomes a superstar by virtue of being here (including virtually, yes). Participating in ScienceOnline is a...

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Visualizing Chemistry Education with Untamed Science
Jan13

Visualizing Chemistry Education with Untamed Science

Well, I’m coming up on 10 days on my new job at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences working on science communications for our new wing, the Nature Research Center. Beyond my creative and uniformly brilliant co-workers, I’m blown away by how many remarkable people I’ve met from around the state and world by just being at the Museum. Among those were the filmmakers from the visual science education operation, Untamed Science. Co-founders Rob Nelson and Jonas Stenstrom. I learned that I was very fortunate to get an audience with Jonas as he was visiting from Sweden where he coordinates the team’s international science education efforts. He first met Rob, a native Texan & Coloradan, while both were studying in Australia. Joining them was their local documentarian partner, the talented Michelle Lotker. Untamed Science describe themselves as “a group of scientists and filmmakers that have united with one simple goal – communicate science in a fun way to the next generation.” Their portfolio of free video and text content covers the spectrum of biology, physics, chemistry, earth science and technology. Their target audience began as middle-school students but many of the details are those that parents (yes, me) might not know. I had a fabulous time sitting with our nine-year-old daughter last night to go through about a dozen of their videos and podcasts. Bedtime was delayed significantly – thanks, folks. But rather than write text for y’all, here’s a 1:45 video where Rob and Jonas explain what their diverse team does: VIDEO (sorry, I couldn’t embed it) An here’s more from their About page. The Untamed Science gang take apart special topics in video tutoring to pieces around seven to nine minutes that are designed to stand alone or are part of a learning module with text for teachers to use. Some of these are produced as part of educational partnerships such as one with Pearson Publishing for high school biology classes – here’s a great example on cone snail toxins. Each of the team members are multitalented in visually-exciting sports such as spelunking and SCUBA diving. These skills are incorporated into the learning – such as hang-gliding to illustrate atmosphere and air currents. And it’s not lost on me that every segment shows the team members out and about doing something physical, not just extreme things – a great example for our video game-immobilized generation. Chemistry Education The reason I’m bringing this to the attention of C&EN readers is because of their “The Chemistry Calendar: Chemistry Is All Around Us” series developed for the International Year of Chemistry in collaboration with several entities in Sweden including...

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Drugs of Abuse Tag-Team at Skeptically Speaking
Dec20

Drugs of Abuse Tag-Team at Skeptically Speaking

I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Canadian radio host Desiree Schell for her wildly-successful show, Skeptically Speaking. The episode on which yours truly appears can be accessed here. Launched in March 2009, the show airs live on Sunday evenings at 6 pm Mountain Time on UStream where one can discuss the show and asks questions by live chat. The show also includes a previously recorded segment with another scientist and is then edited and distributed for rebroadcast to stations and networks across North America. The shorter pre-recorded segment where I appeared to speak about my most popular topic of the last two years on this blog, synthetic marijuana compounds. I’m not entirely guilty of self-promotion here because I primarily wanted to mention that the first two-thirds of the show – the live part – was an interview with my neuropharmacologist friend, Scicurious, author of The Scicurious Brain blog at the Scientific American blog network and Neurotic Physiology at Scientopia. Sci has a gift for offering laser-sharp science in a hip, conversational manner. Here’s how the Skeptically Speaking team describes the show: With humour, enthusiasm and a lot of curiosity, Skeptically Speaking guides you through the fascinating world of science and critical thinking. We interview researchers, authors and experts to help listeners understand the evidence, arguments and science behind what’s in the news and on the shelves. A basic understanding of science, combined with a little bit of skepticism, goes a long way. Note: The term “skepticism” may be new to you. If that’s the case, click here. During her 40 minutes Sci gave a terrific primer on the classes of drugs commonly used, and abused, recreationally. There is then an interveiw with a male client from his residential program. My pre-recorded part was edited into the now-available podcast (Show #142, 27.5 MB) at around 41:10. But do download it and listen entirely to Sci’s part. Our segments ended up being quite complementary owing to the careful eyes and ears of host Desiree Schell and producer/editor K.O. Myers. Although I know Sci, I hadn’t known that she was to appear live until after my recording. I rarely like listening to my own voice (unlike many professors) but this one is a keeper primarily because it’s more for the general public rather than just us scientists. In fact, Des tells me that she interviews from the standpoint of the listener she envisions driving home in their car and she talked about driving under the influence of alcohol of drugs and how sometimes there are unrightful accusations of this, so there are lawyers specialized in this matters like the Hannon Legal...

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What does Jonathan Sweedler think of bloggers? #scio12
Oct18

What does Jonathan Sweedler think of bloggers? #scio12

We just learned yesterday from C&EN’s Linda Wang that Dr. Jonathan Sweedler has been named as successor to Dr. Royce Murray as editor of Analytical Chemistry. The next editor-in-chief of Analytical Chemistry will be Jonathan V. Sweedler, James R. Eiszner Professor of Chemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and director of the Roy J. Carver Biotechnology Center, the American Chemical Society, publisher of the journal, has announced. Sweedler will succeed Royce W. Murray, professor of chemistry at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who will retire from the journal at the end of this year. Murray has served as editor-in-chief of Analytical Chemistry since 1991. Sweedler, currently an associate editor of the journal, will take over the position on Jan. 1, 2012. Regular readers of Analytical Chemistry have grown accustomed to Dr. Murray’s colorful and lively editorials in each issue. Discussion of one of these, on the “phenomenon” of science bloggers as a serious concern to scientists (“Science Blogs and Caveat Emptor”), was my most highly-read and commented post since we joined CENtral Science. Since the international science communication conference ScienceOnline has been held annually in Dr. Murray’s backyard, we issued an invitation for him to attend last year. We thought that if he could meet these science bloggers, many of whom are practicing sciences and top-tier science journalists, he might learn how positive this community could be for the advocacy of our discipline. He politely declined. But with him stepping down as editor-in-chief on December 31st, perhaps he might have more time to join us this year when ScienceOnline2012 is held at the North Carolina State University ‘s McKimmon Center on January 19-21, 2012. In the meantime, we’d love to hear what Dr. Sweedler thinks of this blogging...

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