SBC 2007 -- questions in the air.

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.

Comments are off for this post

  • chezjake says:

    Janet asked,"Are there things bloggers could do to make themselves better resources for educators?"
    Obviously, making it easier for them to locate pertinent posts would help a great deal. As a beginning, if Science Blogs could set up a channel that would collect all the "basics" posts and other items that bloggers tagged somehow as potentially being useful in pre-college education.
    Even better would be to set up an aggregator that could pick up posts from any science blogs (anywhere) that wished to participate and which were tagged in agreed upon ways that indicated where the blogger thought they'd be most useful. e.g.: "High school biology," "Elementary earth science," etc.
    Just like scientific literature, blog posts can be most useful if they are indexed to be found by those wanting/needing the information. Bloggers need to think less about what tags they think are appropriate and more about what tags will be most useful for potential readers.

  • Bill says:

    Even better would be to set up an aggregator that could pick up posts from any science blogs
    You might be interested in PostGenomic, which does exactly that.

  • Stew says:

    Sorry for the shameless self-promotion but: chezjake, check out Postgenomic (www.postgenomic.com), which currently sits one Seed server over.

  • coturnix says:

    I second chezjake on this. I try to tag my pertinent posts with tags like "basic biology", "Clock tutorials" and "science education".

  • Lab Lemming says:

    "Bloggers need to think less about what tags they think are appropriate and more about what tags will be most useful for potential readers."
    try this:
    http://lablemminglounge.blogspot.com/search/label/Irreproducible%20idiocy
    (And Stew thought he was self promoting...)

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