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Category → Blogging community

Well, How Did I Get Here?

To celebrate National Chemistry Week, the esteemed synthetic chemist blogger See Arr Oh put out a call for folks to describe to younger folks how they got where there are in the broad field of chemistry:

What do you do all day? What chemistry skills do you use in your line of work? 

How do you move up the ladder in chemistry? What do I need to do to be in your shoes?

The resulting answers from other bloggers — and any respondents, for that matter — will be compiled at his blog, Just Like Cooking, in what’s called a blog carnival. Specifically, contributors to blog carnivals are asked to respond to a theme or a series of questions. In this particular case, we are tagging our posts with the hashtag, #ChemCoach.

Here’s the list and below are my responses. You may find it helpful to play this Talking Heads video while reading my answers.

Your current job.

What you do in a standard “work day.”

What kind of schooling / training / experience helped you get there?

How does chemistry inform your work?

Finally, a unique, interesting, or funny anecdote about your career*

The most important question to ask yourself - If I were just coming into the field, would I learn something useful from your story?

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L’Embarras Des Richesses: ScienceOnline2013 and ScienceWriters2012

In this quiet moment on a rainy Saturday evening in North Carolina Piedmont, I lie here in awe of the breadth of creative talent and boundless enthusiasm that this place attracts.

Tonight at 5:00 pm Eastern time, a couple hundred folks or so learned that they had not scored a slot in the lottery for the remaining spaces at ScienceOnline2013. I won’t be there this year either but I can certainly understand the disappointment. This simple idea of Bora Zivkovic along with Let’s-Get-Together-and-See-Where-This-Goes Guy, Anton Zuiker, has grown from a small gathering of likeminded online science enthusiasts to become the South-By-Southwest of science meetings, now under the exceptional leadership of Karyn Traphagen.

I encourage everyone to stay on or sign up for the waitlist. Lots of plans change between now and late January so registration slots will most certainly open up.

Y’all come! Click for details.

But in the meantime, you might consider another possibility that just happens to be available this year very near to the same GPS coordinates: ScienceWriters2012, the annual conference of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing and the National Association of Science Writers.

Scheduled for October 26-30, 2012, ScienceWriters2012 will be headquartered at the very same hotel with a program crafted by a broad group of science communicators that include a subset of ScienceOnline folks. (For the record, we’re called Science Communicators of North Carolina, or SCONC.).

Here, look at the schedule yourself.

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Was Demi Moore smoking synthetic marijuana?

My substance abuser writer and researcher friend DrugMonkey (@drugmonkeyblog) just tweeted a CNN story suggesting that actress Demi Moore may have suffered adverse reactions after smoking a synthetic cannabimimetic product:

A woman called 911 soliciting help for actress Demi Moore, whom she said was “convulsing” and “burning up” after “smoking something,” according to a recording of the call obtained Friday from the Los Angeles Fire Department.

[. . .]

“She smoked something — it’s not marijuana, but it’s similar to incense. And she seems to be having convulsions of some sort.”

Reports of tremors and seizures have been accumulating in association with synthetic marijuana products. These products are generally composed of an herbal material that is spiked with one or more synthetic compounds that act at cannabinoid CB1 receptors.

The “burning up” described by the 911 caller in the story would be consistent with some reports of serotonin-like syndrome associated with synthetic marijuana use.

The US Drug Enforcement Agency is currently regulating some of the psychoactive compounds as Schedule I substances, illegal for use or sale as they are deemed as having no medical value. Individual states have also issued bans on compounds containing even more related compounds in these products. However, marketers have been skirting laws by using compounds not expressly deemed illegal in state or federal statutes.

Moreover, analytical crime laboratories across the nation have suffered extensive budget cuts making it difficult to keep up with the demands in determinig which products are illicit.

On a personal note, the synthetic marijuana story that DrugMonkey, dr_leigh, and I have been writing about for two years is growing increasingly disturbing. I just received my second reader email in three months from a father whose son shot himself to death while allegedly addicted to synthetic marijuana products. We’ve been in touch with the US DEA to inquire as to whether similar cases are currently under investigation.

Just as DrugMonkey wrote awhile back (I have to find the post), adverse drug effects with celebrities are usually required before aggressive government action is taken against illicit drugs (death of University of Maryland basketball player Len Bias from cocaine and a congenital cardiac abnormality).

If academia and industry were ScienceOnline. . .

Bringing together science advocates of all ages and stature since 2007.

Next week in the state capital of North Carolina, 450 science communicators of various flavors are meeting for three days at ScienceOnline2012 to learn from one another the most effective ways to, well, communicate science.

I’m really excited because several of my C&EN and GlobCasino colleagues will be joining me from the DC HQ, including our benevolent overlord, sister in Gatorhood, and C&EN Online Editor, Rachel Pepling, and my Santa Fe science writing bud and fellow Ryan Adams enthusiast, Lauren Wolf. Even Sarah Everts – our beloved Canadian – will be joining us from post in Berlin. In fact, the attendees will include folks from over 25 US states and a dozen countries.

As a wee blogger during the mid-noughts, I was fortunate to join the co-founders – Anton Zuiker and Bora Zivkovic (with Brian Russell and Paul Jones) – to help lead sessions at what was then the 2007 NC Science Blogging Conference. This crowd-sourced meeting is now known as ScienceOnline and has grown to be one of the most highly-sought online meetups in the world, having spawned similar meetings such as Science Online London. Someone – I can’t recall who – called ScienceOnline the South-By-Southwest (SXSW) of science communication.

Most readers know that I was originally a Jersey kid. We were raised (or forced by peers) to be full of self-important hubris and my undergrad education was a four-year battle of one-upsman(woman)ship.

That piss and vinegar got diluted out of me – in a good way – during residencies in Gainesville, Florida, and Denver, followed by the middle-ground of Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, where I began writing a science blog.

I realized that in these places, outside of the influence of the New York-New Jersey-Philadelphia corridor, that one could be a solid, critical scientist, while also being a human being. (Although I realize it’s even been tougher in NC now with the harsh competition of workforce reductions, especially in pharma.)

Co-founder of ScienceOnline and general BlogFather Bora Zivkovic, now blog community manager for Scientific American, wrote a characteristically long post about the nature of this unconference. Bora writes a lot – a real lot – but even his greatest admirers may often miss the richest of his gems.

This was one that should be of particular focus to any nervous folks attending for the first time:

The ScienceOnline Community

ScienceOnline2012 is a community-organized, community-planned, community-funded, community-owned and community-run conference. The ethos of the meeting is that this is an egalitarian community. Nobody is VIP, nobody is a priori a superstar. One becomes a superstar by virtue of being here (including virtually, yes). Participating in ScienceOnline is a badge of honor and a matter of pride – it means “I am a part of the small but cutting-edge community that is changing the worlds of science and science communication”. Even those who tend to get treated as VIPs by other conferences – New York Times and The New Yorker columnists, senior scientists, Pulitzer Prize winners, familiar NPR voices, CEOs, top bloggers – love the fact that, once a year, they are equal to undergrads, high school students (and their teachers), beginner bloggers, programmers, artists, librarians, and others in the community. Everyone is a superstar in their own domain, and a n00b in others. Everyone has something to teach and something to learn. It is a lot of fun. A lot of networking goes on. A lot of intense learning goes on. Many, many collaborations and projects got started here, and those often turned into gigs and jobs later on. Some of those projects would then be first announced to the world at the next meeting.

I’ve been most fortunate to be a contributor and beneficiary of this community.

And I very much wish that we behaved this way every day.

So, we’ll see some of y’all next week.

And for those of you among the 56% of first-time attendees: stop me (if I’m running around madly) and say hello and tell me who you are.

You’re simply a friend I haven’t yet met.

An apology to my readers

I have changed the title of my previous post to more accurately reflect a comment by Michael Eisen that sharing PDFs of journal articles is an act civil disobedience toward the scientific publishing enterprise.

I had previously compared the practice to the Underground Railroad or Napster music file sharing. I deeply regret the use of the analogy of PDF file sharing to the Underground Railroad, a network of abolitionists who facilitated the safe escape of enslaved African-Americans in the southern US to freedom in the North and northward to Canada.

I, in particular, should be especially sensitive to making such an ill-considered analogy of one of the most degrading episodes in US history to an intellectual discussion of sharing scientific papers.

It was wrong, period. I apologize deeply to my friends, students, colleagues, and any others who were offended by my thoughtless mistake.

#icanhazpdf: Civil disobedience?

Some lively Twitter banter has arisen this evening regarding the practice of sharing PDFs of scientific articles when one does not have personal or institutional access.

Specifically, some among my stead have taken to tweeting requests for articles using the #icanhazpdf hashtag.

For non-open-access articles, does this practice violate a publisher’s copyright?


(And I welcome input from my ACS overlords.)


Update 24 December: I have changed the title of this post to reflect a comment below by Michael Eisen that sharing PDFs of journal articles is an act civil disobedience toward the scientific publishing enterprise. I had previously compared the practice to the Underground Railroad or Napster music file sharing. I deeply regret the use of the analogy of PDF file sharing to the Underground Railroad, a network of abolitionists who facilitated the safe escape of enslaved African-Americans in the southern US to freedom in the North and northward to Canada. I, in particular, should be especially sensitive to making such an ill-considered analogy of one of the most degrading episodes in US history to an intellectual discussion of sharing scientific papers. It was wrong, period. I apologize deeply to those offended by my thoughtless mistake.

Call For Social Media Success Stories in Academia

"Do you know the way to San Jose?" (with apologies to Dionne Warwick, Burt Bacharach, and Hal Davis, 1968)

We’re packing up the world headquarters of Terra Sigillata this afternoon and high-tailing it out to San Jose, California, for the annual meeting of SACNAS – the Society Dedicated to Advancing Hispanics, Chicanos, and Native Americans in Science. It’s a tremendous organization comprised of several of my former students and faculty colleagues from over the years and I’m ecstatic about reconnecting with them.

With the initiative of my colleagues – Alberto Roca of MinorityPostdoc.org and Danielle Lee of The Urban Scientist at Scientific American blogs (plus a whole host of online activities) – we pitched and were accepted to present a session on Blogging, Tweeting, & Writing: How an Online Presence Can Impact Science and Your Career.

I’ll be discussing how a responsible, online presence on blogs, Twitter, and Facebook can enhance networking opportunities for graduate students, postdocs, and faculty. Specifically, I’ll introduce how I’ve increased the exposure of my students who are RISE Scholars at North Carolina Central University. In this NIGMS-funded grant, I’ve been helping my students capture their research experiences in their own words (with previous review by their P.I.’s of course, to prevent accidental disclosure of unpublished data). The students have been surprised by the level of engagement and support they’ve received in the comments from scientists all around the world.

But I know of many other students who use blogs and Twitter to engage with the scientific community in ways that brings them positive recognition outside of their academic and laboratory work.

To better prepare for this session, I’d like to gather some advice from you, Dear Reader:

Who are some of students, trainees, and junior faculty, who best exemplify the use of social media for career advancement?

Are you a student who has had Good Things happen to you because of your social media activities? How did that transpire?

If you have any responses, please drop a link in the comments with a brief explanation – or longer if you’d like! And also feel free to recommend the sites and stories of others. I’ll be sure to promote your responses in tomorrow’s talk and direct attendees to this post for future reference.

The three of us thank you so much in advance for your suggestions!

What does Jonathan Sweedler think of bloggers? #scio12

Professor Jonathan V. Sweedler, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Credit: The Sweedler Research Group website (click for source).

We just learned yesterday from C&EN’s Linda Wang that Dr. Jonathan Sweedler has been named as successor to Dr. Royce Murray as editor of Analytical Chemistry.

The next editor-in-chief of Analytical Chemistry will be Jonathan V. Sweedler, James R. Eiszner Professor of Chemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and director of the Roy J. Carver Biotechnology Center, the American Chemical Society, publisher of the journal, has announced.

Sweedler will succeed Royce W. Murray, professor of chemistry at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who will retire from the journal at the end of this year. Murray has served as editor-in-chief of Analytical Chemistry since 1991. Sweedler, currently an associate editor of the journal, will take over the position on Jan. 1, 2012.

Regular readers of Analytical Chemistry have grown accustomed to Dr. Murray’s colorful and lively editorials in each issue. Discussion of one of these, on the “phenomenon” of science bloggers as a serious concern to scientists (“Science Blogs and Caveat Emptor”), was my most highly-read and commented post since we joined GlobCasino.

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