Communicating Science

This topic is certainly not limited by gender, but the inspiration for it came from a blog post from Extreme Biology (hosted by Ms. Baker, a high school teacher, and written for/by her students) congratulating four Extreme Biology Students who were chosen to write their own blogs on Nature Publishing Group's Scitable, "a collaborative learning space for science."  Although the girls have not yet started their blogs, this was my first introduction to Scitable, which looks like a great resource for students of all ages and includes links to e-books on effective science communication and career paths.

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  • I ran into this in The Science and Entertainment Exchange blog and thought about the fact that there are many levels of people to whom we may want to communicate what we do.  I, for one, find it relatively more easy to talk about aphids, their roles and vectors of plant viruses, the fact that they're born pregnant, that they make up an amazing part of the biota flying around in the atmosphere and can, despite their small size, travel hundreds of kilometers.  Really cool stuff.  

    I'm doing other work with biodiversity informatics (just the name is impenetrable!) and designing databases to hold and share information about the flies that my colleagues are out collecting.  The act of putting data into a database, the attention to detail and problem solving about how to share this information with someone in a similar or entirely different branch of biota (plants, frogs, whatever) causes much more glazing over of eyes of my listeners, so I tend to talk about aphids.  Figuring out how to present what we do in a way that might excite and interest our audience is something to be cultivated.  The other problem is fitting this into a 10 minute talk!!

  • Congratulations to May Berenbaum for being awarded the prestigious Tyler Award for Environmental Achievement.

    “Professor Berenbaum has done more to advance the field of entomology and explain its significance than nearly any other researcher today,” said Tyler Prize Executive Committee Chair Owen T. Lind, Professor of Biology, Baylor University. “Her expertise on bees and the causes behind declining bee populations has further positioned her as a leading resource for the media, policymakers and peers.”

    Given how packed any presentation by May is whenever she speaks, she is, undeniably a rock star and "bee maven!"

  • Hi All!  I attended the Science Online 2011 conference - what an AMAZING gathering of science communicators in ALL forms.  Miss Baker and her students attended and were SO IMPRESSIVE!  I will definitely be following their blogs. 


    Also keep an eye on the conference wiki for notes/postings about videos of the various conference sessions as well as blog posts from the meeting:


    Note that in addition to aggregating blogs, a movement is afoot to aggregate podcasts in as well! Stay tuned!

    • So cool that you got to go.  I hear that registration opened and closed all on the same day in November--quite a popular conference!  I listened (or tried) to a couple of sessions online, but unfortunately the streaming kept cutting out, so I'm looking forward to catching the videos when they post them.  


      Sheril Kirshenbaum blogged briefly about one session that I was sorry to miss, “Perils of blogging as a woman under a real name.”   I was able to catch (sort of--audio & streaming were abysmal here) the session that included Dr. Isis (who blogs pseudonymously at On Becoming a Domestic and Laboratory Goddess).  Entomology has bloggers working both under their real names and pseudonymously and it makes me wonder if those not blogging under their real name are more likely to "speak out" and "argue" (against Sheril's observation of a cultural norm for women), but still retain (my observations of those pseudonymous bloggers) the rest of her observation that "women tend to create communities, and mentor and co-market one another behind the scenes, rather than in more public or traditional forums." 

    • I am anxiously awaiting the posting of the video for that session--it's one I'm really interested in.

      Several friends of mine blog at with their real names--and have received many unpleasant threats, including calls to employers, threats of rape, and threats to their children. 

      I think as long as that toxic online environment exists--and science communication with the public is devalued among scientists--there will continue to be a mix of real name/pseudonym bloggers. 

      Employers view blogging in mixed ways--as someone who is unexpectedly on a job search (layoff in May), it's hard to know what to conceal and reveal.

      The SciOnline conference is good evidence that there is a community of bloggers, both visible and invisible.  (and yes, if you didn't register in the first few hours, you were out of luck!) 




    • Just a few more links ;)  Cristine Russell wrote a great overview piece about the conference:


      And I think the main conference page, not the wiki will have video links and an archive of all #scio11 tweets:

    • Kathryn Clancy (who is also here at the University of Illinois, but the background photo for her blog is not from around here!!) has a nice summary of points before and during the panel on blogging under a woman's real name:



      And some of the videos from participants have been posted from the conference: 

      Science Online 2011: Even when we want something, we need to hide it.
      A few years ago, I was standing outside the building where I taught, unlocking my bike. It was one of the first days of the semester, and I ...
  • Don't miss the AAAS site:

    and the AMAZING Understanding science site: (which recently won a couple of awards)

    and the sister site Understanding evolution
  • Yes, Gail, the Lehigh Gap Nature Center is authorized to award continuing education credits.  They've been doing some other workshops on conservation and ecology.  A number of local univeristy faculty are doing research there, and two of them are also on the Board of Directors.  This is an amazing project, maybe one of the only Superfund sites that has been turned back around to regrowth.  A group of local folks bought one side of the gap on the Lehigh River, a location that also has the Appilachian Trail.  On the north side of the gap is a long running zinc plant that polluted the north side of the Kitatinny Ridge from there east.  It looks like the moon.  REmember it from when I was a kid in this area.  Oops, sorry to go on about them so long!  I'll talk to ESA about resources for teacher training.  I know they have some good stuff. 
  • Hi all,  Gail this is a timely discussion for me as I will be doing a workshop for teachers on how science really works at a local nature center.  We hope to get them out in the field a bit doing some work on current projects.  I'll have to check out this Web site, Scitable, for possible inclusion.  It was amazing to be that one of our non-scientist board members suggested that we do such a topic.  So I expect that this wil be expanded beyond just teacher workshops.  And a host of people who I have mentioned this too, including scientists, say this is an important communication to be making. 



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