It’s time again to write the wrap-up post that reflects the amazing convergence of ideas, efforts, resources and funds that made the annual ScienceOnline conference possible. ScienceOnline2011, the fifth annual conference, was the biggest, longest and most intense yet, and so this will be our longest thank-you post. (We thanked the sponsors of ScienceOnline2010 here, ScienceOnline’09 here, the second event here and the first event here.)
ScienceOnline2011 almost didn’t happen.
Our fourth annual conference, ScienceOnline2010, was a resounding success in January 2010, but the months after were hard on both me and Bora. As I mentioned in the opening remarks (prezi here and video here and here), we each had personal and professional challenges that lasted into the summer — baby and a new job for me, Pepsigate and new job for Bora. We put conference planning on the back burner, and wondered if we’d really have the time and energy to devote to this ongoing volunteer project (a “labor of love” we called it last year, and repeat this year with even more pride and satisfaction).
October came, and we couldn’t resist the gravitational pull of ScienceOnline2011. This time around, we pledged to each other, we’d do it differently, by delegating key responsibilities to others, raising funds differently, and making the event not only bigger but more polished. Our goal remained the same: facilitate a meeting in which online conversations could be continued face to face, thereby helping to build the greater community of science communicators, educators, journalists and researchers.
Let the long list of blog and media coverage serve as record that that community, and the BlogTogether spirit, is strong and thriving. Ed Yong was one of the first to publish a post-event report, Scattered reflections on Science Online 2011 (#scio11), and when we read this:
It gave us a chance to take relationships that had begun on a screen and cement them in the flesh. It allowed us to trade ideas with like-minded people, and to gaze deeply into our navels so that we can do better at the things we love. As someone said on Twitter, it’s more like a family reunion than a conference.
we knew that the idea we’d conceived over coffee one day in 2006, and nurtured in the years since with chats over coffee or slivovitz or via late-night gchat, was real. Real because of the 293 people who participated on site — with hundreds if not thousands more taking part on Twitter and in the livestreamed sessions. Real because sponsors and volunteers and discussion leaders and keynote speakers and our spouses — we love you Erin and Catharine! — and so many others are committed to coming together to share, explore, question, listen and narrate in order to reflect the importance of science in our lives and how the Web can be used to share our passions for science.
Spend an hour or two reading through the #scio11 posts, or listening to their voices in this podcast from Alok Jha, and you can’t help but be amazed by the intelligence and thoughtfulness and politeness of our community. Thank you, one and all.
Please give us your feedback so we can make ScienceOnline2012 even better.
Special thanks goes to the following individuals and organizations who helped sustain this conference. Please thank them for making ScienceOnline2011 possible — click through to their sites to learn more about each person or organization.
Sigma Xi was founded in 1886 to honor excellence in scientific investigation and encourage a sense of companionship and cooperation among researchers in all fields of science and engineering. For the fourth year in a row, Sigma Xi opened its beautiful center for our use, and Meg Murphy made sure we felt at home.
Research Triangle Foundation, the granddaddy of science parks in the U.S., has been a friend to the conference for a few years now (they helped us even our accounts with a last-minute grant for 2009). Once again, RTP hosted our opening reception and keynote talk, this year by Robert Krulwich; the tasty beer and Pearse Lyons Reserve whiskey was provided by Alltech. Cara Rousseau and her colleagues also helped us stuff the grab bags of science swag.
Our institutional partner
The Contemporary Science Center is a catalyst for transforming science education in North Carolina, using innovative models of teaching and learning to inspire teachers and students statewide to embrace scientific engagement. Like last year, CSC Executive Director Pamela Blizzard enthusiastically agreed to help by handling our accounting (as individuals, Bora and I can’t accept foundation grants and donations). Her center is based in a hands-on learning lab in the building of our ScienceOnline’09 institutional partner, the Museum of Life and Science, and it’s a perfect place to encourage high school students to get the science bug.
Burroughs Wellcome Fund, an independent private foundation dedicated to advancing the biomedical sciences by supporting research and other scientific and educational activities, repeated its support of our conference for the fifth year in a row, and also offered an additional $5000 if we could find a matching donor. That match offer helped us attract a major grant from the National Association of Science Writers, which, combined with a grant from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, publisher of Science Magazine and EurekAlert!, (at double its 2010 level) made our dream of livestreaming our sessions a reality. Our thanks to Nancy Shute, Tinsley Davis and Robin Lloyd of NASW, Stewart Wills of AAAS (he also brought t-shirts for the giveaway table), and, as always, to our friend Russ Campbell, BWFund communications officer — we continue to be indebted to him for his cheerleading for our annual conference and his leadership in forming the Science Communicators of North Carolina (along with scientist and science writer Chris Brodie and science radio host Ernie Hood).
Science In the Triangle is an evolving experiment in community science journalism and scientific-community organizing, and the crew behind SITT was again instrumental in helping us make ScienceOnline2011 a much more professional endeavor, with a nicely designed program and donor poster designed by Tessa Perrien, the conference iPhone and Android apps programmed by Ben Schell, video support by Ross Maloney, and of course the strategic consulting by Christopher Perrien. Sabine Vollmer and DeLene Beeland, contributors to the SITT blog, also provided some great coverage of the conference in addition to their posts about science in this region.
Public Library of Science, which has been with us since the beginning, provided a grant to pay for the Friday books-and-beer happy hour at Casbah, where we served locally brewed beer by Triangle Brewing (cask-conditioned ale!) Fullsteam and LoneRider Brewing. Nature kicked in a grant to help pay for the Greenway biodiesel-fueled bus that shuttled us from the hotel. At the happy hour, everyone got a book by one of 25 authors in attendance (a list of publishers donating books is below). Then, we spread out among nine restaurants in Durham’s Brightleaf Square District for group dinners.
Juniper Networks is a high-performance network infrastructure company, and a first-time sponsor of the conference. Carter Kersh has been following our growth for years, and he helped Juniper become our first named sponsor for ScienceOnline2011 with a very generous cash grant.
Creative Commons is familiar to many of us for its dedication to making it easier for people to share and build upon the work of others, consistent with the rules of copyright. Thanks to John Wilbanks for providing a generous cash grant.
Thermo Fisher Scientific is a corporate leader in serving science, enabling its customers to make the world healthier, cleaner and safer. Keith Bisogno liked what he heard about the conference and provided a cash grant. He’s also looking for a freelancer to take on a social media project; contact Anton for more information about this opportunity.
Chemical & Engineering News, a weekly magazine published by the American Chemical Society with a blog network of its own, provided a grant to pay for custom-printed Field Notes notebooks — two of these went into each of the swag bags, and about 600 of the notebooks will go to North Carolina high school students engaging in science projects.
The U.S. Environmental Protetion Agency, which protects human health and the environment, provided a cash grant and welcomed a group for a tour of its RTP labs.
Sigma Aldrich, a leading life science and high technology company, provided a cash grant and swag for the bags, including the magic-8 cubes.
RTI International, one of the world’s leading independent, nonprofit research and development organizations, returned as a sponsor, and Patrick Gibbons has already pledged support for ScienceOnline2012!
APCO Worldwide is a communications and public affairs consulting agency; David Wescott is their rep in the Triangle, and he’s been a strong supporter of the conference.
The National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, which facilitates broadly synthetic research to address fundamental questions in evolutionary biology, repeated as a sponsor by providing travel grants to two contest winners (learn more here).
The North Carolina Biotechnology Center, which seeks to provide long-term economic and societal benefits to North Carolina by supporting biotechnology research, business and education statewide, was back for the fourth time with with a biotechnology event sponsorship grant, this year pegged to the wifi support.
CrossRef promotes the development and cooperative use of new and innovative technologies to speed and facilitate scholarly research. They were a sponsor of the 2008 and 2010 conferences, and returned this year with another cash grant.
North Carolina Sea Grant, which provides research, education and outreach opportunities relating to current issues affecting the North Carolina coast and its communities, once again provided a cash grant, arranged by Katie Mosher.
Science lab and museum tours
On Friday, Counter Culture Coffee welcomed a group to their weekly coffee cupping, and we sent groups for lab tours hosted by the Duke Lemur Center and Duke Forest (thank you to Karl Bates for facilitating these), Nasher Museum of Art, NC Museum of Natural Sciences, EPA, Golden LEAF Biomanufacturing Training & Education Center, UNC TV and the Aquarium at Fort Fisher. Thank you to Nancy Shepherd, Russ Campbell and Ernie Hood for coordinating the lab tours.
On Saturday and Sunday, more than 100 individuals participated as session moderators, discussion leaders and demonstration presenters. Without them, there would be no ScienceOnline, and we thank them for their program suggestions, ideas and proposals. See the official ScienceOnline2011 program page or download the program PDF to understand how these individuals provided their experiences as a way to spark the session conversations.
The generosity of our sponsors, noted above, also helped us pay for boosted wifi at Sigma Xi on Saturday and Sunday, again provided by SignalShare. We can’t say enough about the service SignalShare provided — and not just the great wifi coverage that allowed us to use more than 50 gigabytes of bandwidth in less than 48 hours. Last year, we described Joe Costanzo as “talented, hard working and simply the nicest guy we’ve met.” Same this year. Joe, monitoring Twitter and seeing that we had a stranded attendee back at the hotel, even jumped up from his computer at one point to retrieve the person. And Joe found the talented video crew that ran the livestreaming, including our new friend, Ken Waagner.
Many thanks also to Duke Clinical Research Institute for loaning us five laptop computers, and to Andrea Novicki of the Duke Center for Instructional Technology for bringing cable locks to secure the laptops (a formality, since our attendees have got to be the nicest, most trustworthy people around).
Saturday’s banquet at the Marriott RTP, our main conference hotel, was a blast because of the passion and charisma of Meg Lowman, director of the Nature Research Center, and science comedian Brian Malow. They gave two funny, informative and memorable performances. Joanne Manaster and Carin Bondar also gave us the Film Fest awards.
Free books, and the grab bag of science swag
Karyn Traphagen (note the ‘y’) sent word to us early on that she wanted to help, so we asked if she’d take on the books and swag project. And did she — Sultan of Swag indeed! Karyn took the conference to a new level, working closely with the 30 science book authors (2010 and 2011 titles) among the registrants to get loads of free books from their publishers. The Friday night books-and-beer happy hour at Casbah showcased Karyn’s creativity and hard work, with everything from stacks of kraft paper-wrapped books to the #scio11 logo cutouts in paper luminaries to the fold-up author maps to the author readings on stage. (btw, the blame for mixing a happy hour and author readings falls on Anton; your feedback is telling us not to mix the two next year, and we learned the lesson.)
Books (see Karyn’s Authors posts) were donated by:
- W.W. Norton (Blood Work, by Holly Tucker) — Norton donated 300 copies so every attendee could have this book!
- Duke University Press (Breast Cancer Recurrence: Comprehensive Expert Guidance, by David Kroll)
- Grand Central Publishing (The Science of Kissing, by Sheril Kirshenbaum)
- Carin Bondar (The Nature of Human Nature, by Carin Bondar)
- Bellevue Literary Press (Written in Stone, by Brian Switeck)
- Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (The Honest Look, by Jennifer Rohn)
- Free Press/Simon & Schuster (Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA, by Maryn McKenna)
- Quercus (How to Live Forever, and 34 other really interesting uses of science, by Alok Jha)
- Houghton, Miflin, Harcourt (Newton and the Counterfeiter, by Tom Levenson)
- Gotham Books (Bonobo Handshake, by Vanessa Woods)
- Alpha (The Complete Idiot’s Guide to College Biology, by Emily Willingham)
- Harper Collins (Born For Love: Why Empathy is Essential & Endangered, by Maia Szalavitz)
- W. W. Norton, (Get Me Out, by Randi Hutter Epstein)
- Island Press (Escape From the Ivory Tower: A Guide for Making Your Science Matter, by Liz Neeley)
- Scott & Nix, Inc (Brain Cuttings, by Carl Zimmer)
- Harper Collins (Here is a Human Being, by Misha Angrist)
- Oxford University Press (Explaining Research, by Dennis Meredith)
- C Q Press (NYTimes Reader: Health & Medicine, by Tom Linden)
- Cambridge University Press (Formative Experiences: The Intersection of Caregiving, Culture, and Developmental Psychobiology, by Constance Cummings)
- University of California Press (Changing Planet, Changing Health, by Dan Ferber)
- Penguin Press (The Poisoner’s Handbook, by Deborah Blum)
- JHU Press (Living Well with Heart Failure: the misnamed, misunderstood condition, by Mary Knudson)
- Simon & Schuster (The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear, by Seth Mnookin)
- Broadway (Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It’s Becoming, and Why It Matters, by Scott Rosenberg)
- Rodale (On The Grid, by Scott Huler)
- Cambridge University Press (Mathematical Methods for Optical Physics and Engineering, by Greg Gbur)
- Basic Books (Unscientific American, by Chris Mooney)
- Pantheon (Reef Madness, by David Dobbs)
- JLDunbar (Bang!, by James Dunbar)
Karyn also spent countless hours providing graphic design services, including refining the ScienceOnline2011 logo (and that on top of many hours that Fabiana Kubke spent rebuilding the logo) and tweaking sundry other items.
And then Karyn was also coordinating the “grab bag of science swag.” The VIVO Network provide cash so we could order imprinted cotton tote bags from the Cloth Bag Company, and Karyn figured out how to fill it with all kinds of fun and cool science materials and resources, often coming up with creative ways for donors to be represented (Carl Zimmer gummy brains, anyone?).
Organizations, companies and individuals donated loads of materials for the bags: Ryan Somma (300 copies of his book, Clones), Joseph Hewitt (300 copies of 2010: The Year in Science Blogging), Brookhaven National Laboratory, Grand Central (Kirshenbalm!), Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, Birchbark Studio, Dryad, ThinkGeek (Annoy-a-tron!), Zygote Games, MemexPlex, Duke Medicine, Bronto, Scientific American, Mendeley, Central Science, Nature, American Scientist, NC Sea Grant, Dexy, Sigma Aldrich, NCSE, Geological Society of America, Scott Huler, Glendon Mellow, Mental Floss, Gotham Books, NASW, Jason Goldman, and others.
Meanwhile, Jason Goldman and a slew of reviewers put in many hours to pare the 900 entries to Open Lab 2010 down to the final 50 posts, six poems and a cartoon. We’re all eager to get our hands on the finished anthology.
Logistics and our volunteers
This year, we delegated the important role of logistics and volunteer coordinator to Dawn Crawford, a self-proclaimed social media maven who lived up to her Twitter moniker, SocMediaRckStar. She was awesome, and relieved the burden on Anton and Bora. Thank you, Dawn, for your leadership.
Our volunteer corps included Evelyn Lynge, Jennie Orr, Anna Lena Phillips, Gloria Lloyd, Doug Johnston, Allie Wilkinson, Ryan Shalley, Steve Diggs, Dipika Kohli, Maria Droujkova, Zach Byrd and Charles Yelton. Others helped out throughout the weekend, stuffing the grab bags, offering rides (thank you Fenella Saunders!), organizing the giveaway tables, keeping us on track, cleaning up and much more. Thank you to you all.
Food and coffee
Meals and refreshments were catered by the following: Fetzko Coffees kept us swimming in coffee and espresso drinks with their cool Kona Chameleon coffee truck, Crumb baked the morning muffins, Saladelia Cafe and Mediterranean Deli catered the lunches, OnlyBurger, Slippin Sliders and Parlez-Vouz Crepe brought their food trucks, and A Cookie a Day made the fun science cookies.
And now I turn back to my friend, Bora Zivkovic, who continues to amaze me with his energy, insight, humility and dedication to the community. He is both the inspiration for the annual conference and the around-the-clock heart of the event’s online and off-line activities; he organized the program after many months of brainstorming with our session discussion leaders, and blogged continuously to let the world know what we had planned. I’m proud of him for his working so tirelessly to become an expert on science blogging, and doing it in a way that every single person coming to ScienceOnline2011 wanted to start their weekend with a hug from Bora. He’s one of a kind.
Last, but certainly not least, we thank Catharine Zivkovic and Erin Shaughnessy Zuiker and our children for their forebearance, patience and support as we organized this conference.
And with that, we thank each and every one of you for your roles, big and small, in making this a most memorable conference. A toast of slivovitz — or that Kevin Zelnio aquavit, if you were lucky to get some — to you!
See you at ScienceOnline2012.