This week there have been four examples where someone says (types) something and I respond, all heatedly and thinking it’s a great idea, I know what I’m talking about because I seriously PORE through the Twitter feed, and… maybe it wasn’t the most appropriate, well thought-out response. I’d better get my sh*t together because science blogging is not just putting some stuff out there, it is responding to the comments, both good and bad.
One: I post an article I found on Twitter, onto Facebook. When I get home, my in-laws (in town for the week) comment on it and I go off about it — and it turns out they read the whole thing, and I did not, and I was mistaken in my understanding of the article. I was composing a submission to “Jackass Quarterly”.
Two: I post an article I found on Twitter, onto Facebook. A family member offers a different interpretation of the study and I respond in a very riled up way. Later I understand what she is saying, which wasn’t really confrontational but just chatting.
Three: A family member posts a symbolic graphic regarding Occupy Wall Street on Facebook. Another family member (who doesn’t agree) responds (in my opinion) rudely. I post defensively and immediately, because of course my emotionally-driven posts are ALWAYS the best. Probably no damage done, but still.
Four: two prominent journalist/bloggers post a story on Twitter. I respond to the tweet, without reading the story. I am completely off and if I had read even the first two sentences I would not have made that mistake.
And now most of this will exist for eternity on the internet.
I thought I reacted this way only when I got manuscript reviews back, but apparently I’m always freaked out when someone doesn’t agree with what I think I know. To be a trustworthy scientist, science blogger, communicator - nay, person - I need to be able to keep my emotions in check, and to take the time to understand the issue. I will not make it on momentum or network connections, which will likely erode after my foot-in-mouth disease causes a tipping point in their good will. Luckily there seems to be no shortage of ways I can practice dispassionate discourse regarding things about which I’m passionate (passion <> understanding).
(addendum) Of course, some of these experiences also gave me insight into how to properly respond/interact. Namely, Four. The author to whom I tweeted responded to me promptly and dispassionately, pointing out the inconsistency in my argument but not drawing attention to my lameosity. That is elegant.
I got into science because I love animals. And plants. I love nature. I love thinking about pink dolphins (and any other color of dolphin) and poison dart frogs and even naked mole rats. I don’t know a lot about nematodes or microbes and I’m working through my thing with spiders, but in general I love biodiversity. And I am one of those people who loves to know it is ‘there’, that it is out there, somewhere, even if I never see it. Maybe that’s why I loved unicorns as a kid.
So it was in getting my undergrad degree in natural resource science that I first became aware that not everyone felt this way, and that I would need to temper my adoration/idealization of all living things if I was going to be able to have the conversations that a natural resource manager must have: about hunting, about mining, about river flows that cater to the air conditioning needs of all those desert-dwellers. And I’ve really come a long way towards understanding those sides of the story, I think. In fact not all animals and plants are great in all locations all of the time. Invasive species. Herbivores without the culling effects of top predators. Top predators in people’s back yards. There is a balance to the biodiversity on the planet, that has to do with space and time, and scale. It’s all very complex, and we learn more and more all the time about how the presence or absence of one seemingly unimportant species can be the undoing of an entire ecosystem.
As if by magic (or because everyone is dealing with a similar issue) the Ira Glass quote showed up in my G+ stream today (below).
So, I will try to blog. Maybe every day. And I hope that I can learn to be a better science writer, and my deadline is scio12 (January 19 2012, 2.5 months from now). Just kidding. My goal is to remove the clutter from over my voice. I might never be an Ed Yong or a Christie Wilcox or any of the #paceblog luckies. But I do believe that scientists have to learn how to do things differently, especially to communicate, and I do believe that I have to at least try to be the change that I wish for the world. I will need to blog about science and I’ll need to clear out my brain and ride out my insecurities and whatnot to be able to do that. And I am ‘blogging without a net’, ie making it public, although I reserve the right to edit and cull. I will have to trust myself and the many people who say ‘just write’ and maybe this will be my next contribution to the world. At the least I will spend a dedicated disciplined amount of time writing. And the College of the Environment (where I work, did I mention that?) has no shortage of science coming out of it that could be discussed and made accessible and compelling to non-science audiences. Okay then!
PS I came across this article last week (via Ed Yong of course): Inside the mind of the octopus I was blown away and shared it with as many of my networks as I could. It is this week making its rounds with preeminent science writers as one of the best works they’ve seen in a while. So, I guess my taste is good, at least!
I signed up for Science Online 2012 today. It’s like the future of science, okay — open science, science 2.0, all about communicating science. I am a scientist by training, and my job is morphing (in progress) to be more about communication (maybe, at some point, synthesis?) than about primary research. But the thing is that I don’t have a handle on narrative, or compelling blah blah blah. I’m a nerd, and I am a data hound, and I have never been very good at convincing people of things. Well, I do have a few papers published, but maybe I’m good at the scientist talk (though most of the papers were edited/revised HEAVILY) but I think I’m very much in my brain these days so I can’t spin a yarn like I need to. See, I’m using stupid sayings. Anywho. Maybe the reason I’m not great at debate or narrative is because I don’t believe that what I have to say is useful or compelling so I have never really learned how to make it so. But I know that when I feel passionately about things like science, nature, etc. people can feel my excitement. And if I practice I’m able to get those ideas across verbally, but it does take practice. Hmmm maybe that’s the key. Practice.
Via Scoop.it - The transformation of science
This is a fascinating discussion — or argument — between high-profile scientists and high-profile journalists that focuses on whether journalists should allow scientists to copy-check the stories written up about their (the scientists’) research. What it highlights is the gulf, which I was previously unaware of, between the two roles.
How does this affect the need and ability for scientists to share their own work in the current online/social media paradigm?
This is especially interesting given this post from this week that argues that it is a scientist’s responsibility to make sure that his/her research is properly shared.