The wifi at the hotel is a little tentative, so I'll save detailed posting about the Science Blogging Conference until I'm back on the west coast. In the meantime, I wanted to note some of the questions raised in various sessions during the conference:
- Is it enough (for the good of scientists and/or society) for the population at large to think science is cool, or is it also important that most people have at least a basic understanding of science?
- What's the deal with scientific publishing and the news cycle? In particular, is it scientists, scientific journal editors, the traditional media, or all of them who perpetuate the system wherein newly published scientific papers get a swarm of news coverage on the same day (based on maybe 5 days worth or advance notice in which the journalists can do their legwork on the story) and then they pretty much fall off the media radar? Are the advantages to the scientists and the journals of gaining the public's attention for a moment worth the challenges this poses for clear and accurate science journalism? Does the whole thing convey a misleading picture of science (as product rather than ongoing process)? Does it encourage the public's already short attention span?
- Will tenure and promotion committees -- especially in the sciences -- come to see blogging as a valuable professional activity? When? What will it take to bring about this change?
- Given the daunting demands on the time of K-12 teachers, is there a practical way for them to harness some of what's happening in the blogosphere to help get their kids engaged with science class? Are there things bloggers could do to make themselves better resources for educators?
- On a related note, how do blogospheric travellers (teachers, students, interested non-scientists, journalists, etc.) distinguish between the good, the bad, and the pseudo-scientific? In the absence of peer review of blogs, how can you tell who knows their stuff? Among the gazillion blogs out there, how do you find the blogs worth reading?
- Is accuracy the highest virtue in the teaching and reporting of science? If it isn't, what virtue is more important?
There were some interesting discussions around these questions, with persuasive claims on different sides. Of course, I'd be interested to hear what my esteemed commenters have to say about these questions.
The audience at my talk. Yes, I took a picture of them.