ScienceOnline is a big, exciting deal. It is one of the few times when science writers come together to talk face-to-face, and scientists and students who write can learn from the best. I’m incredibly excited to attend and participate for my FIRST time, but Ng’s post made me realize that I haven’t stopped to consider why I’m excited. I’m not just feeling contact-excitement, like a contact-high, from the contagious enthusiasm among writers and scientists that I follow on Twitter. I can quickly think of several reasons I’m eager:
1. I’ll get to meet everybody that I follow on Twitter! Well, not quite everybody I follow on Twitter will be there, but a high proportion of them. I’ll glean key advice and insights. Of course, this assumes that I will overcome my networking-phobias and introduce myself, and remember names, faces, and pseudonyms well enough to engage in conversations. I don’t expect it to be like meetings of biologists where we stand around, nod with (intended) intelligent expressions, and occasionally chuckle. ScienceOnline will be a group of communicators – certainly this is the one place where conversations will come easy to science nerds, albeit possibly in rapid exchanges of 140 character sentences.
2. I’ll get to meet people who write for a living – wow. What else can I say, but that is pretty cool.
3. I’ll get to meet people who are like me: scientists for a living and writers or bloggers in their spare time.
4. I’ll get to see Bora in his element as BoraZ rather than as a chronobiologist who I consult with about grant proposals because I like to hear him say “well, if I were still doing research, then what you have here is exactly what I’d want to do…”.
5. I’ll have an epiphany, no, I’ll have multiple epiphanies that help me find my blogging voice, that help me write my book, and that help me…recognize an epiphany when I have one, because that’s how far I still have to go.
6. I’ll co-moderate not one, but two sessions about citizen science. Not sure how this will play out. I know unconference supposedly means that everything is decided by the attendees, but I secretly think it is code for “skip sessions & mingle in the hall.” I’m a co-moderator because the organizers want to add newbies into the mix to diversify perspectives and attendees asked for sessions about citizen science, which is my area of expertise. I’m thrilled about these sessions because one is with THE science cheerleader, Darlene Cavalier, who is like pure energy, buzzing, crackling, lightning streaks, always in motion, and the other is with Holly Menninger, who is like an ideal college roommate, ready to stay up late, laughing and trying to figure out the meaning of the universe.
7. I’ll meet SciCurious. I’m curious how the secret identity thing works and will such people be dressed for a masquerade ball.
8. I’ll meet Carl Zimmer again, and hope he fondly remembers when a friend and I arranged for his Darwin Day visit to Ithaca.
9. I’ll find out who finds citizen science interesting and which of the many fascinating aspects have the most appeal. Maybe that will lead to some collaborative work in the future.
10. Maybe I’ll find a student science writer who is perfect to work for me this spring and summer with citizen science via the Great House Sparrow experiment! Job announcement coming soon! (part-time, temporary position)
11. I’ll visit my parents and siblings and my undergraduate alma mater. ScienceOnline is hosted at North Carolina State University, where I received my undergraduate degree. Go Wolfpack!
Overall I expect ScienceOnline to be a great experience. My only worry is that it will push me out of the “ignorance is bliss” zone and into the “Medusa” zone. When I am very naïve about a topic and completely unaware that I shouldn’t be so comfortable with my lack of qualification, I can do anything – publish research about it in high profile journals, blog about it, speak about it – I try to make meaningful contributions. When I learn too much and fully recognize how little I know, then I might as well see the snakes on Medusa’s head because I’ll turn to stone, losing confidence to do anything. So, if I suddenly look at you as though your head has sprouted snakes and run the other direction, please take it as a compliment that your expertise is overwhelming.