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December 2005


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Conference blogging

One of the fruitful application of blogs in the life sciences is to provide realtime coverage of conferences. Summaries and reviews of scientific meetings have been a traditional part of the scientific journals such as the Trends-series by Elsevier. However, they usually appear several months after the closing of the conference and often do not provide insights beyond the abstracts book, as they rather attempt to make everyone happy rather than focussing on the highlights.

Blogs can emphasize outstanding presentations immediately, and allow for a more independent view of the conference, even if it is biased by the personal preferences of their authors. Smaller workshops, which might produce interesting outcomes from panel discussions usually lack media coverage and could use blogs (or wikis) to disseminate results. The matter is not completely free of complications - some meetings are "closed meetings" and implement strong limitations on the media coverage. Bloggers need to be aware of that, even though most would not identify themselves with The Media. However, most organizations running scientific conferences would probably appreciate "live" coverage.

Some conferences were already covered by bloggers: nodalpoint's Greg Tyrelle featured the ISMB 2005, for instance. Free Association, the blog of the editors of Nature Genetics is currently providing coverage of the Third Seattle Symposium in Biostatistics: Statistical Genetics and Genomics . I will participate in a proteomics workshop next week and will cover the meeting to some extent here.

It would be helpful if we would create a repository (some blog or wiki) that would provide links to ongoing coverage of conferences by bloggers, possibly in a similar fashion to the TravelBlog.
Stew (guest) - 2005-12-05 12:34

Good idea

Conference buzz about a particular topic does come across much better in personal communication than in meeting reports. Ditto things like questioners poking holes in papers.

A repository might also be useful in that you can refer reticent conference organizers to it to prove that there's an appetite for more personal reports as an adjunct to traditional journal writeups.

spitshine - 2005-12-06 13:14

Blog or wiki, self hosting?

The question remain how to set the site up. In principle, it should be a piece of cake to either run Wordpress or Serendipity on some hosting platform or to use a blogger (or twoday) account that one could register with to post about his (or her) travel or to provide links to other sites. Still, one would have to take (some) care of layout, promote the idea...
Preferences for blog or wiki? I tend to think that a blog might be more useful.
Neil (guest) - 2005-12-07 07:10

Would such content be useful?

In many cases, conference blogging is a rather transient activity which really serves only as notes to jog the mind of the blogger later on, rather than as a source of useful content. Still, I guess it could serve as a useful resource in alerting readers to new information "as it happens", provided the blogger wrote enough to be useful. I like the idea though.

Perhaps better would be an open access online repository of conference proceedings, which are generally only published for the benefit of attendees or else summarised briefly in journals.

spitshine - 2005-12-08 21:59

Quality of conference content

I too am critical about the content for conference blogging was (me included) delivered so far, this needs to be improved and more details need to be included.

The open repository for conference proceedings does not strike me as too important. Often, you can get the content from the individual websites already and centralizing those might be of limited use only unless may be one would be able to comment on it.
Stew (guest) - 2005-12-11 01:04

I don't think that conference blogging is a good substitute for official proceedings, but it is extra, free information of a kind that is currently lacking. Extra, free information of highly variable value, admittedly.

Another question might be how many people are likely to actually submit anything? Any conference blogging repository might be pretty barren for a fair while.

Er, that note of pessimism aside, might a blog with one post per conference, with conference blurb and link to the official proceedings (when they come out) in the post body and any links to the reports submitted as comments work?

It doesn't address attendees who want to post a report but who don't have a blog - maybe they'd just leave them as comments? - and people whose blogs disappear overnight taking the report with them. Might be simpler than a wiki, though.
bio (guest) - 2005-12-12 21:42

Good idea but how about...

Good idea but how about podcasting. It will be a good idea to have the talks or interviews with some of the speakers by podcast. In meetings such as the ISMB there are many interesting talks and workshops at the same time.

that way i could do somthing usefull in my way to work.

Stew (guest) - 2005-12-12 23:56

A bit optimistic? :)

Heh. Presumably any conference blogging would be done in your spare time on the back of being at a conference because of your research interests - anything more ambitious than a write-up on the journey home (or in long between-interesting-sessions times) sounds unlikely to me. Would be admirable dedication to the good of fellow scientists, I suppose...
bio (guest) - 2005-12-13 11:17


Yes, maybe it should be done by the conference organizers as an extra service. I mean, you can go to some talks and listen to other in the podcast. In fact, if your lab budget is not high enough to assit the confference you might want to subscribe to the podcast. Or you might have some students going to the conference and others listen to the talks from home and have a more interesting and interactive group meeting.

Technically speaking it should not be expensive and the result is that science is closer to everyone. And the conference has a higher spread.

I hope this kind of service will be a reality in a near future in conference as big as the ISMB for example.
spitshine - 2005-12-15 01:09

Blogs and conferences

The lightweight publishing platforms (vulgo blogs) can be of obvious help to the organizers of conferences but I cannot think of them as being a required service.
I was thinking more of providing a site or resource for scientists attending conferences.

Stew: It is exactly the write up that I would be interested in. If you want to blog about anything, your are much more likely to take usefuls notes and understand the talk rather than sitting through it.

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