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We are going on an adventure!! to #SciO13


This is an OMG moment. Why you ask? The answer is simple…as I write this only 23 days, 21 hours, 44 minutes and 1 second stand between me and the conference I have been waiting a year for. If you are close to me, I apologize again for having to hear about my nerdy infatuation, but ScienceOnline 2013 is going to be epic.

For the peeps that don’t know what I am talking about, I believe a little 411 is in order. ScienceOnline is what has been described as the “unconference” conference. A gathering of the gurus, newbies, and the all out craziest minds of the online science community to talk about my favorite topic. ScienceOnline seeks to promote conversation, community, and  collaboration amongst scientists, journalists, bloggers, tweeters…you name it, they have it.  I have never been in attendance, but when I got wind of what this was all about, naturally I had to get in on it.

So as I begin to think about which shoes I am going to pack (I believe Dr. Bik would agree that this is a critical part to every adventure) and all the thought-provoking talks I am going to see, I have been following #SciO13 on the twittersphere for the latest updates.  There was one tweet in particular that struck me, from Caren Cooper @CoopSciScoop talking about her goals for ScienceOnline. Reading through this, and being a big goal maker myself, I felt inspired to write about the things I am looking forward to and most interested in taking away from (and contributing to) at #SciO13. This is a topic that has actually been on my mind for a while now, but I am excited to finally put it down and share with you.  So here it goes…

The Big Goals

I figured it would be best to align these with the 3 major C’s of ScienceOnline, so that I know I am getting the most out of my experience and covering all of my bases if you will.

1. Conversation: It’s really no secret….I love to talk to everyone. I think I missed the whole “do not talk to strangers” train when I was little or something, but so far, being a social butterfly hasn’t let me down and I have a feeling there are going to be a lot of butterflies just like me at this conference. My goal is to put a face to, give a hand shake, and maybe even have a drink or two with all of my favorite online names (too many to put here, but I will find them all). I am most excited for the stimulating conversations that are going to ensue about the most pressing issues in Science, online communication, and public outreach.

2. Community: Community building is a topic some of my colleagues and I have put extensive thought into over the last couple of months.  How do we best set up a line of communication between the public and us as researchers? Or perhaps even more importantly, how do we build a strong community within our department (students, faculty, staff)? Not only am I looking to expand my online community at #SciO13, but I am also on  the look out for the best tools, both online and other places, to bring back and build up the community here at SDSU.

3. Collaboration: I am a scientist by trade, but people from all different backgrounds flock to ScienceOnline. I am looking forward to talking with peeps from disciplines across the board and maybe taking away a new outlook from journalists and writers on how to best portray science or think about communication.

The Little Goals

1. Balance: As a graduate student with a plate as full as Mt. Everest, I am definitely interested in talking to others whom of which I know take on even more than I do and seeing how they survive without sleep. What are their secrets? What kind of caffeine drip they prefer?….Just kidding…but I am interested in the balance. How does one balance both an online presence and a budding research career, and still look great doing it?

2. Communication to an older generation: Often I feel like the focus of our educational system lies in bringing science to children in the classroom. However, I am interested in bringing science to the older as opposed to the K-12 generation. However, how does this work for those who might not be so versed in Twitter, WordPress, or even the the internet?  How do I bridge this generational/technological gap? A topic I hope to delve more into.

3. Learning how to sell it: Of any group I have come across, I find that the online science community is the best at “getting people to buy what they are selling.” Now what do I mean by this? In order, to have a solid online presence, you have to be able to synthesize information in not only a way that the public will understand, but in a way that they will also buy. They know how to present themselves and their science in ways that people keeping coming back and demanding more. This is a skill that I have been working on and I believe strongly translates into other avenues of the research process (such as grant writing). Thus, I would love to take a page out of the books of the best and learn a thing or two about workin’ it.

The (Um…Random?) Goals

1. Ask Carl Zimmer pretty pretty please would he sign my copy of Science Ink.

2. Perform a little diddy at Open Mic…7+ hours traveling from San Diego to N.C. I am bound to come up with something….

3. Science of Beer: I don’t know why this has always fascinated me, but I am making it a goal to attend this… because it’s awesome (…and liquid nitrogen beer floats intrigue me)

ULTIMATE GOAL: LEARN AS MUCH AS I POSSIBLY CAN….and then tell all my friends so they too can have the knowledge-y goodness.


So I don’t know if you could tell by now or not…but I am quite excited…. yes this is what I look like….


ScienceOnline 2013 will be an adventure indeed and I hope that you will join me. I will be tweeting my whole experience from @Alex_Warneke using the conference hashtag #scio13. I will also try to post periodic updates here as the weekend progresses about what I have learned and how I am getting along on what I have set out to do. For those of you going to the conference, can’t wait to finally meet you.

I leave you with this…the top 3 talks and their descriptions from the ScienceOnline wiki that I won’t be missing and you will definitely be hearing more about. (Though…looking at the schedule…I don’t know how I am going to pick!) Stay tuned.


Where at #SciO13 is Alex San Diego?:

Why should scientists “do” outreach? Pt. 1

The perennial discussion about scientists ‘doing’ outreach intensified this year, with lots of opinion and some data about who’s doing it, who’s fault it is that so few do it, what the roadblocks are, and how to alleviate them. Rather than host yet another tiresome round of the blame game (e.g. Scientists should do more outreach! Scientists suck at outreach!), the goal of this two-session track is to create a take-home resource for scientists hoping to do more and/or better outreach or trying to drum up enthusiasm for outreach in their departments/institutions and for those hoping to recruit more scientists to do outreach. In this session, we will focus on why scientists should want to do outreach. Drawing on the collective ScienceOnline expertise, we will brainstorm a list of ideas for incentivizing outreach that take into account the limitations (time, etc.) and barriers (stereotypes, etc.) that researchers face.

- If the currency of a scientific career is peer-reviewed papers and grants, how can scientists be encouraged and supported to take time away from these activities for outreach?
- What are the incentives to do outreach, and what are the limitations and barriers?

Science Art as Science Outreach

A discussion of how art can be a powerful tool in communicating complex scientific concepts and can reach an audience that may not normally find an interest in science. The commonly-held belief is that science is dry and art can add passion to it but the reality is that it works both ways. Science can be a huge inspiration. We will include discussions of examples using art as an effective tool for science communication and outreach, and want to get a list of examples going on the wiki page. Creating art can also enhance mastery of scientific concepts and ideas and we will draw from studies and examples to discuss ways of incorporating artistic creativity into science education.

- What artists, authors, creators use their art to communicate science?
- Can being scientifically accurate hurt the creative process? Enhance it? Both?
- What comes first? Science or art? Science can inspire art but it can also be incorporated into a creative piece.

Blogging in Grad School: Pro’s, Con’s, and Potential

Blogging as a graduate student is a great way of keeping abreast of topical research as well as using one’s expertise to communicate science to the public. It might also turn into a great segue out of the lab and into a career in science communication. However, your P.I. might not agree. In the current climate of job shortages, not just in academia, it would be great to discuss the value of blogging and networking (and building an online presence and brand) while working on an advanced degree. But what are the pitfalls of making the decision to do this? How do you navigate the negative vibes coming from your mentors and often peers? And lastly, what are the long term effects of blogging in grad school?

Do you worry about how your P.I. views your blogging (or do you keep it a secret)?
Do you use Twitter to publicize your blog?
Has blogging in grad school helped or hindered you on the job market?


Article published in the magazine “Crónicas de los Tiempos“, in April 2002This is the year 2070 I have just turned 50, but I my appearance is of somebody of 85. I suffer from serious kidney problems, because I do not drink enough water. I’m afraid I do not have much time left to live. I am one of the oldest people in this society.

I remember when I was a child of 5. There were lots of trees in the parks, houses with beautiful gardens, and I could enjoy having a shower for half an hour. Everything was very different then. Nowadays we use towels with mineral oil to clean our skin. 
Before, women had beautiful hair. Then, my father washed his car with water coming out of a hosepipe. Now, my son does not believe that water could be wasted that way. Now, we have to shave our heads to keep them clean without the use of water.
I remember there were SAVE WATER warnings on outside posters, radio and TV, but nobody paid attention. We thought that water was to last forever. Now, all the rivers, lakes, dams and underground water beds are either dry or contaminated. 
Industry came virtually to a standstill and unemployment reached dramatic proportions. Desalination plants are the main source of employment and workers receive part of their salary in drinkable water.
Assaults at gun point on the streets for a jerrycan of water are very common. Food is 80% synthetic. Before, the recommended quantity of water to drink for an adult was 8 glasses a day. Nowadays, I am only allowed half a glass. We now have to wear disposable clothing, and this increases the amount of litter. We are using now septic tanks, because the sewerage system does not work for lack of water.
The outside appearance of the population is horrible: wrinkled, emaciated bodies, due to dehydration, full of sores caused by ultra violet radiation, now stronger without the protective shield of the ozone layer. Skin cancer, gastrointestinal infections and of the urinary tracts are the main causes of death. 
Due to the excessive drying of the skin young people of 20 look like 40. Water cannot be produced, oxygen is also degraded due to the lack of trees and vegetation, and the intellectual capacity of the new generations is severely impaired. Scientists investigate, but there’s no solution to the problem.
The morphology of spermatozoa in many men has changed. As a consequence, babies are born with deficiencies, mutations and physical deformities.
Government makes us pay for the air we breathe, 137 m3 per day per adult person. People who cannot pay are expelled from the “ventilated zones”, with huge mechanical lungs driven by solar power. The air is not of good quality, but at least people can breathe. The average life expectancy is 35 years.
In some countries, where there are still some green zones crossed by rivers, these are guarded by heavy armed soldiers. Water became a very coveted treasure, more precious than gold and diamonds.
Where I live, there are no trees, because it seldom rains. When it happens to register some precipitation, it is of acid rain. The seasons have been severely affected by the atomic tests and by contamination from the 20th century polluting industries. We were warned to look after the environment, but nobody cared.
When my son asks me to talk about my youth, I tell him about the green fields, the beauty of the flowers, the rain, how pleasant was to swim and fish in the rivers and dams, to drink all the water we could, and how healthy people was.
Then, I feel a lump in my throat! He asks: Daddy! Why there is no water?
I cannot help feeling guilty, because I belong to the generation who contributed to the destruction of the environment or simply did not take into account all the warning signs.
Now our children pay a very high price!
I sincerely believe that within a short time life on earth will not be possible, as the destruction of nature reached now an irreversible stage.
How I would like to go back and make mankind understand… …that we still had time to save our Planet Earth.

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