Last Saturday more than 150 scientists, bloggers, journalists, students and teachers gathered in Chapel Hill for the North Carolina Science Blogging Conference. Organized by Anton Zuiker and Bora Zivkovic, it was a chance to meet, mingle, share and learn about the wonderful world of science blogs.
A recurring analogy at the conference was science blog as two-minute cocktail party conversation: Scientists should be prepared to explain their research to lay folk (or folk in other fields) in as few words as possible. Two morning-session speakers touched on the topic: geneticist Hunt Willard of Duke University mentioned the cocktail formula in his talk about promoting the public understanding of science. And Janet Stemwedel, a bioethicist at San Jose State University and author of the blog Adventures in Ethics and Science discussed the party dynamic in her talk about blogging as a scientist.
The conference crowd was well prepared for cocktail party talk. It was a good thing, too. Any scientists who didn’t come armed with a catchy anecdote might have been subjected to what Stemwedel called the Spinach Dip Blow-off:
“What exactly is it you do?”
“I study the interaction of … with … , which we hope will give us insight to the mechanism for…”
“Oh. Hey, is that spinach dip?”
In a way, the conference was much like a cocktail party too, with an interesting mix of topics and participants. A mix, or, if you wish, a cocktail in itself:
How to make a Science Blog Conference Cocktail.
1 cup of enthusiastic science bloggers
1 cup working scientists of various disciplines
1 cup science students
1 cup local science teachers
1 cup science journalists from a selection of publications
½ cup local press and other interested individuals
2 teaspoons of freebie science magazines, books, stickers, T-shirts, and flyers.
1 tablespoon of WiFi internet access and laptops.
Add ingredients at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Let settle for a few hours during some general talks. To encourage mixing, add coffee.
Over lunch, mix vigorously. Stir well (don’t shake!) during afternoon break-out sessions.
Your cocktail is now ready to be enjoyed with dinner or snacks.