Tuesday, 18 December 2012

SpotOn London

This post is a bit "better late than never", even though it's been just over a month since SpotOn London happened. And I'm not too sure what I can actually say about the conference, other than it was amazing, and there was cake!

Actually, no, I can say more than that. SpotOn was an unusual conference for me in that I'm used to the traditional academic conferences where you have people presenting their latest research, followed by a few questions from the floor, and then on to the next thing. SpotOn was a series of sessions which were almost completely panel discussions, where questions from the floor made up the vast majority of the conversation. Add to that format science communicators, tools developers, researchers and policy makers, and you've a potent mix of people to really get the conversations going.

The whole thing was kicked off by Ben Goldacre's gloriously chaotic talk about, um data and randomised trials and stuff, featuring such nuggets of information as that it's possible to buy Uranium off Amazon (but they won't ship it to the UK) and some gleeful choices of words that made me glad I wasn't drinking tea at the time I heard them. 

The second keynote was given by Kamila Markram talking about the publishing process, and drivers for open science, in the context of frontiersin.org - a combination publishing and social networking platform for scientists.

Both keynotes (in fact, all the sessions) were videoed, so I recommend going and having a listen.

I got tapped to sit on the Data Reuse panel, along with Mark Hahnel of Fighare and Ross Mounce, even though my voice was still a bit ropey. Gratifyingly, the session was standing room only, and we covered topics including open data, reuse, credit for making data open, data publication and citation, peer-review of data and impact of data. (If you don't have time to watch the video the storify of the session does a good job of capturing all the main points, and a few asides too!)

The other things that have stuck in my mind (a month or so later) include:
  • The Assessing Social Media Impact session, where we could tell we were making an impact because of the rapid number of spammers targeting the #solo12impact hashtag. (Storify here.)
  • Preaching to the choir in the Incentivising Open Access and Open Science: Carrot and Stick session, where there was plenty of talk about making other people do things to make science open, but precious little about how to do it yourself. I subscribe to the view that it's either important, so we should do it, or it's not, so we shouldn't and should stop talking about it! And with the whole carrot and stick thing - yes, researchers are not donkeys, but they are human, and we are herd animals! Lead by example! (Storify is here.)
  • The ScienceGrrl crowd - flying the flag for female scientists!
  • The fact that of all the badges being given out, the first one to completely disappear was the one saying "Data is the new black"
All in all, a really good conference for meeting new people and getting fired up about all sorts of really cool stuff. I'll be back next year!