Research Remix

August 18, 2011

my #scifoo

Filed under: Uncategorized — Heather Piwowar @ 2:12 pm

I was lucky to be one of 300 scientists, science educators, science publishers, and science writers who descended on Google last weekend.  #scifoo is an annual event hosted by Google, Nature, and O’Reilly: a hothouse for ideas and collaborations across science.

It sure worked for me.  Buzzing, buzzing with ideas and new people I’ve met and opportunities and future conversations.  I’m still black and blue from pinching myself to prove the conversation I just had was real.

I do hope that #scifoo is a conference of the future.  I gather that a lot of work goes into pulling the right group together, so I’m not sure how scalable it is.  But it sure makes great use of face-to-face opportunities, something desperately lacking in our current conference-paper culture.

You may have noticed that there wasn’t much #scifoo tweeting or blogging while it was going on.  That isn’t because it was discouraged per se.  If anyone wanted something off-record they could just make that clear at any point, and we agreed to respect it under a “FrienNDA”.  No, the reason there wasn’t much external commentary during is that we were all too busy participating.  The groups are small, the conversations intense, the hours long…. no time to tweet.

(Also, I think it was group that was pretty light on blogging and tweeting behaviour in general.  18/270 (7%) listed blogs on the blog page wiki before the conference and 32/270 (12%) listed twitter handles in their brief bios, as suggested.  oh!  just found 35 on lanyrd )

So now a summary, eh?  Not sure it is possible but I’ll highlight a few things.  I’m keeping names out of it because don’t know who wants to be blog-google-findable about what and I tend to be conservative about that…if something is interesting, ping me and I’ll make the connections.

Some of my highlights:

Sessions I attended:

  • Fascinating session about science revolutions, when they happen easily vs with difficulty.  Wish this one had been longer, it was just starting to get meaty.
  • Really interesting session about tradeoffs between resiliency and efficiency.  Lots of use cases, esp economy and environment, but I was mapping it my head to research progress.
  • Talking impact beyond the impact factor with someone who has every reason to love the impact factor but wants something better
  • Open Science, Open Data (co-led), Open Protocol Database, lots more….  we had good sessions around these areas.  So help me I’m not able summarize them right now.  Discussions about differences in disciplines, whether publishing blog posts in journals is problematic, what attributes of the Inglefinger rule are worthwhile, how data can improve discoverability and links between our research outputs….

Because my knitting, open data, isn’t really a field per se I spent a bit of extra time hanging out with people talking about this… the chances for me to do this in person are few and far between so it was fantastic.  This did come at the expense of going to many of the wild sessions on time, space junk, oxytocin, DIY nurse kits.  Drat!

Personal conversations:

  • Bus ride with someone from the National Research Council Canada about how to work toward widespread policies for open research data
  • Bus ride with someone from Microsoft Research who came at issues familiar to me from an entirely different perspective.
  • Met one of the authors of an early report on Data Sharing, published before publishing on Data Sharing was cool :)
  • Science education!  Wow there are some great movers and shakers in education.  Thank goodness.
  • A strong desire to find someone willing to model the impact of the submission+publishing delay on medical progress.  [Any takers?  Run with it and cc @sommerjo]
  • Yeah…. I’m not going to try to list them all.  There were a whole bunch of cool people doing cool stuff, working to improve the world as they saw it.  Evidence charts, rare diseases, publication bias and data withholding, reproducibility, discoverability, software collaboration, postdoc forums, indebtedness cultures, science exchange, citation policy, citizen science.  I have academic crushes on their work, and look forward to watching where it goes.  [if this is your stuff and you want your name on it here, add to comments or let me know and I’ll link to you]

Last but not least, one of the great things was to meet again — or in person for the first time — a few acquaintances who are now one step closer to friends.

Immediate impact for me:

  • We’re pitching a conference to O’Reilly: Research into More Effective Research.  Your ideas wanted!
  • I now know some science journalists and they know me.  This is big, because I want my research to make a difference
  • Gave a demo of our total-impact system and got some feedback and good leads.  It needs developers/new ringleaders, ping me if interested!
  • Was reminded that the Citizen Science Alliance is awesome and that I want to write up a proposal to leverage that power
  • Lots more twitter buddies, and more faces to go with the twitter buddies I already have

Long term impact:

Check back with me later :)


  1. I have an academic crush on your work, and look forward to seeing where it goes.
    BTW… you knit?!! lol

    Comment by propelled — August 18, 2011 @ 4:21 pm

  2. So great that some concrete things are coming out of the open science sessions. Thanks for running the open science session with me (and others), you were very busy with a lot of open science scifoo stuff!

    Comment by alexholcombe — August 19, 2011 @ 1:45 pm

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