Wednesday, June 24, 2009

EGEE at the British Science Association Conference

Enabling Grids for E-sciencE took a wider than usual detour this week to the British Science Association’s Science Communication Conference in London’s very swanky King’s Place. EGEE co-chaired a session with Kat Arney from Cancer Research UK on “Public engagement with science on the web – a practical guide”. Speakers included Neasan O’Neill from EGEE and GridPP, and Ed Yong from Cancer Research UK and the Not Exactly Rocket Science blog. Completing the trio was Chris Smith from the Naked Scientists radio programme - who didn’t actually turn up naked.

The session kicked off with a speed-tweeting game for Twitter newbies - the audience wrote a tweet about their pet project on a user friendly and low tech piece of paper and discussed it with their neighbours. These tweets will appear on Neasan’s Twitter feed over the next few days so look out for the best ones. My favourite advertised the British Infertility Counselling Association event on 25th June: “Banking Crisis: What should be done about the sperm donor shortage?” That one really wrote itself…

Ice broken, the main purpose of the session was to stimulate discussion about these new and emerging tools for science communication – blogs, podcasts, videoblogs, Facebook and Twitter. Which of these are worth engaging with and which ones are just a flash in the pan (some fall into both camps at the same time we decided). Kicked off by the entertaining case studies presented by the speakers, the discussions ranged from how to measure the impact of these potentially time-consuming activities, to the clash between fast-paced communication tools and slow-moving organisations. You can follow some of these discussions on the SCC2009 Twitter stream. This feed was displayed on-screen throughout the session, showing comments from the room, from a parallel session and those watching at home. Watching a live commentary on your session from unknown members of the audience certainly added an extra, slightly nerve-wracking dimension to proceedings for the organisers! Now feeling slightly addicted to this simultaneous audience interaction from the real and virtual worlds, the EGEE Dissemination team is hatching some innovative ideas for our own conference in Barcelona, EGEE’09.

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