I'm sorry to my more serious readers, but I just could not resist when I saw this. The ad placement next to a story about our work on sexual versus asexual reproduction is priceless. The full story appears here on the UPI site. The paper is here on the Molecular Biology and Evolution site.
I am a very frequent attendee and eager participant at scientific conferences: I have logged ~100 in my ~20 years in science. To me, meetings are easily one of the top five things that make being a scientist so much fun. Exchanging ideas (new & old), meeting people (new & old friends), showing off your work (usually new, but sometimes, old), having a good time (which never gets old!)....these reasons are all part of the experience. But sometimes meetings just get you fired up about something(s) and you leave with a fire lit under you. This was one of those for me. And although I knew that I would enjoy myself at Science Online 2010 (aka #scio10) and meet at least some of the criteria above, I was not prepared to leave with my rear side roasting with so many ideas and so much inspiration.
The jazz I got from #scio10 comes from three intertwined categories:
People. Meeting and interacting with people is my favorite conference activity. It's especially great when I first meet someone in person whose work I have followed. This is true for science meetings, but it worked on a wholly different scale for me at #scio10: of the 200+ attendees, I had previously met no more than 10 in person. However, I knew at least 50 more from their online work—mostly science bloggers. Come to think of it, that's probably alot like what happens at a graduate student's first scientific meeting, and I am reveling in that re-found sense of discovering a community that fits. And then there are the people that I met for the first time who I knew nothing about in advance. There are always new people to meet, especially when attending conferences for the first time. But I was stunned by the fraction of people I met who fell in the category of "why did I not know you before?". I can just hope that some of those folks had the same reaction to meeting me!
The intersection of people and content was probably the most amazing thing about this meeting. I have never seen such a meritocracy. Sure, science is based on merit, but there is a real ladder to climb and sometimes a glass ceiling to break. The participantsat this meeting ranged from a 9th-grader who writes science computer games to internationally known science journalists (and a HUGE range in between). Many (probably most) of the presenters were self-made experts in newly emerging areas, some in the process of earning PhDs etc., and some that don't need to play in the academic world. Even in the currently-difficult times for both science and journalism (and many other things), there was a clear sense of "Yes we can!" that permeated #scio10 .
Technology. As if the people and content weren't enough, in these three short days I also experienced some serious surges in my use of and appreciation for technology. For the first time ever, I didn't bring a pen or pad of paper to the meeting. I took all of my notes on my iPhone, which was the only device I used while onsite. In my office is a two-foot pile of legal pads and notebooks containing mostly illegible notes from 20 years of previous meetings. But in my difficult transition from paper to electrons (I am a very slow keyboard typist), I have gotten lazy about note-taking over the past years. So I was glad to find out for myself that I am a reasonably adept two-thumb note taker! And I can email myself my notes with one click!
I also jumped in with both feet to Twitter. As an occasional tweeter (@johnlogsdon), I use the medium for some things, but I had not yet figured out the ratio of function:fun. By using the hashtag #scio10 all of the meeting tweets were instantly readable by all of the twitter-ers (onsite & off) in REAL TIME. By the end of Day 1, I was hooked. As of writing, my total (13-month) tweet count is 235—of which ~70 were sent during the three days #scio10 (which currently total >6300)! Granted, some of those tweets were part of the fun game played at Saturday's banquet, in which the fastest tweet with the right answer won a prize. I apparently have mastered speed-tweeting, since I won one of the prizes: a signed copy of Rebecca Skloot's forthcoming book "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" (see image above).
There's so much more that I didn't say here, but I hope that my account will give you a sense of how pleased I am to have participated in #sci010. Thanks to Bora Zivkovic (pictured above), Anton Zuiker and everyone else (including the generous sponsors) who contributed to ScienceOnline 2010!
I thought that I would devote my 2010 inaugural post to a report of three Nasonia genomes that appears in todays' Science. The genome paper is accompanied by a really interesting News Focus that appears in the same issue of Science.
A small group in my lab (Andrew Schurko, Danielle Mazur and me) contributed some analyses of the meiotic genes in the Nasonia vitripennis genome. Unfortunately, due to space considerations, our work fell on the cutting room floor for the Science paper. However, we do have a complete report of our findings that is in press at Insect Molecular Biology.
UPDATE: The Nasonia genome special issueof Insect Molecular Biology is now available online. Our paper, "Inventory and phylogenomic distribution of meiotic genes in Nasonia vitripennis and among diverse arthropods" is here.