Tag Archives: Eric Michael Johnson

2012 Canadian science blog roundup and some thoughts on a Canadian science blog network

This is my 3rd annual roundup of Canadian science blogs and the science blogging scene in Canada seems to be getting more lively (see my Dec. 31, 2010 posting and Dec. 29, 2011 posting to compare).

As I did last year, I will start with

Goodbyes

Don’t leave Canada appears to be gone as there hasn’t been posting there since May 4, 2011. I’m sorry to see it go as Rob Annan provided thoughtful commentary on science policy on a regular basis for years. Thank you, Rob. (BTW, he’s now the director of policy, research and evaluation at MITACS.)

Cool Science, John McKay’s blog has been shut down as of Oct. 24, 2012,

Hi everyone. This will mark the final post of the CoolScience.ca site and it will be quietly taken offline in November. I will also be closing down the Twitter and Facebook accounts and moving everything over to my professional accounts that are all focused on communicating science, technology, engineering and medicine.

The Dark Matter science blog by Tom Spears, which I reluctantly (as it was a ‘newspaper blog’ from the Ottawa Citizen)included last year  has since disappeared as has NeuroDojo, a blog written by a Canadian scientist in Texas.

Goodbye ish

Marc Leger’s Atoms and Numbers blog’s latest posting is dated Oct. 23, 2012 but the pattern here seems similar to Marie-Claire’s (see the next one) where the posting is erratic but relatively regular (once or twice per month) until October of this year.

Marie-Claire Shanahan is posting less frequently on her Boundary Vision blog with the last posting there on Oct. 9, 2012.

The Bubble Chamber blog from the University of Toronto’s Science Policy Work Group seems to be fading away with only one posting for 2012, Reply to Wayne Myrvold on the Higgs Boson.

Colin Schulz’s CMBR blog hasn’t had a new posting since July 13, 2012’s 11 Things You Didn’t Know About Canada. In any event, it looks like the blog is no longer primarily focused on science.

The Exponential Book blog by Massimo Boninsegni features an Oct. 24, 2012 posting and a similar posting pattern to Marie-Claire & Marc.

exposure/effect which was new last year has gone into a fairly lengthy hiatus as per its last post in January 30, 2012 posting.

Theoretical biologist, Mario Pineda-Krch of Mario’s Entangled Bank blog is also taking a lengthy hiatus as the last posting on that blog was June 11, 2012.

Nicole Arbour’s Canadian science blog for the UK High Commission in Ottawa hasn’t featured a posting since Oct. 15, 2012’s The Power of We: Adapting to climate change.

Gregor Wolbring’s Nano and Nano- Bio, Info, Cogno, Neuro, Synbio, Geo, Chem… features an Aug. 4, 2012 posting which links to one of his nano articles, (Nanoscale Science and Technology and People with Disabilities in Asia: An Ability Expectation Analysis) published elsewhere.

Jeff Sharom’s Science Canada blog highlights links to editorials and articles on Canadian science policy but doesn’t seem to feature original writing by Sharom or anyone else, consequently, it functions more as a reader/aggregator than a blog.

The Black Hole blog which was always more focused on prospect for Canadian science graduates than Canadian science, hence always a bit of a stretch for inclusion here, has moved to the University Affairs website where it focuses more exclusively on the Canadian academic scene with posts such as this, Free journal access for postdocs in between positions  from Dec. 12, 2012.

Returning to the roundup:

John Dupuis’ Confessions of a Science Librarian whose Dec. 26, 2012 posting, Best Science (Fiction) Books 2012: io9 seems timely for anyone taking a break at this time of year and looking for some reading material.

Daniel Lemire’s blog is known simply as Daniel Lemire. He’s a computer scientist in Montréal who writes one of the more technical blogs I’ve come across and his focus seems to be databases although his Dec. 10, 2012 posting covers the topic of how to get things accomplished when you’re already busy.

Dave Ng, a professor with the Michael Smith Laboratories at the University of British Columbia, is a very active science communicator who maintain the Popperfont blog. The latest posting (Dec. 24, 2012) features Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravaganza! – Day 24.

Eric Michael Johnson continues with his The Primate Diaries blog on the Scientific American blog network. His Dec. 6, 2012 posting is a reposted article but he has kept up a regular (once per month, more or less) posting schedule,

Author’s Note: The following originally appeared at ScienceBlogs.com and was subsequently a finalist in the 3 Quarks Daily Science Prize judged by Richard Dawkins. Fairness is the basis of the social contract. As citizens we expect that when we contribute our fair share we should receive our just reward. When social benefits are handed out …

Rosie Redfield is keeping with both her blogs, RRTeaching (latest posting, Dec. 6, 2012) and RRResearch (Nov. 17, 2012).

Sci/Why is a science blog being written by Canadian children’s writers who discuss science, words, and the eternal question – why?

Mathematician Nassif Ghoussoub’s Piece of Mind blog continues to feature incisive writing about science, science funding, policy and academe.

Canadian science writer Heather Pringle continues to post on the The Last Word on Nothing, a blog shared collectively by a number of well known science writers. Her next posting is scheduled for Jan. 3, 2013, according to the notice on the blog.

A little off my usual beat but I included these last year as they do write about science albeit medical and/or health science:

Susan Baxter’s blog Curmudgeon’s Corner features her insights into various medical matters, for example there’s her Dec. 1, 2012 posting on stress, the immune system, and the French antipathy towards capitalism.

Peter Janiszewski and Travis Saunders co-own two different blogs, Obesity Panacea, which is part of the PLoS (Public Library of Science) blogs network, and Science of Blogging which features very occasional posting but it’s worth a look for nuggets like this Oct. 12, 2012 (?) posting on social media for scientists.

After posting the 2011 roundup,

I had a number of suggestions for more Canadian science blogs such as these four who are part of the Scientific American SA) blogging network (in common with Eric Michael Johnson),

Dr. Carin Bondar posts on the SA blog, PsiVid, along with Joanne Manaster. There’s more than one Canadian science blogger who co-writes a blog. This one is self-described as, A cross section of science on the cyberscreen.

Glendon Mellow, a professional science illustrator,  posts on The Flying Trilobite (his own blog) and Symbiartic: the art of science and the science of art, an SA blog he shares with Kalliopi Monoyios.

Larry Moran, a biochemist at the University of Toronto, posts on science and anything else that tickles his fancy on his Sandwalk blog.

Eva Amsen who posts on a number of blogs including the NODE; the community site for developmental biologists  (which she also manages) but the best place to find a listing of her many blogs and interests is at easternblot.net, where she includes this self-description on the About page,

Online Projects

  • Musicians and Scientists – Why are so many people involved in both music and science? I’m on a mission to find out.
  • the NodeMy day job is managing a community site for developmental biologists around the world. The site is used by equal numbers of postdocs, PhD students, and lab heads.
  • SciBarCamp/SciBarCamb – I co-instigated SciBarCamp, an unconference for scientists, in Toronto in 2008. Since then I have co-organized five similar events in three countries, and have advised others on how to run science unconferences.
  • You Learn Something New Every Day – a Tumblr site that automatically aggregates tweets with the hashtag #ylsned, and Flickr photos tagged ylsned, to collect the interesting bits of trivia that people come across on a daily basis.
  • Lab Waste – During my last months in the lab as a PhD student, I made a mini-documentary (using CC-licensed materials) about the excessive amount of disposable plastics used in research labs. It screened in 2009 in the “Quirky Shorts” program of the Imagine Science Film Festival in New York.
  • Expression Patterns – In 2007 I was invited to blog on Nature Network. The complete archives from 2007-2012 are now on this site.
  • easternblot.net – Confusingly, my other science blog was named after this entire domain. It ran from 2005 to 2010, and can be found at science.easternblot.net

I believe Amsen is Canadian and working in the UK but if anyone could confirm, I would be much relieved.

Someone, who according to their About page prefers to remain anonymous but lives in Victoria, BC, and posts (somewhat irregularly, the last posting is dated Nov. 10, 2012) on The Olive Ridley Crawl,

I am an environmental scientist blogging about environmental and development issues that interest me. I prefer to be anonymous(e) because I work with some of the companies I may talk about and I want to avoid conflict of interest issues at work. This gets tricky because I am at the periphery of a lot of events happening in the world of my greatest expertise, persistent organic pollutants, endocrine disrupting compounds, their effects on health and the policy fights around chemicals, their use the controversies! So, I’ve reluctantly moved away from writing about what I know most about, which means this blog suffers severely. I still soldier on, though!

I was born, and grew up in India, so I am interested in all things South Asian and tend to view most all Western government and Western institution actions through a colonialist scratched lens! I am also becoming much more active about my feminism, so who knows what that will do to this blog. I have been meaning to write a monstrous essay about women, the environment and justice, but that’s a task!

I used to live in Chapel Hill, NC with a partner of long vintage (the partnership, that is, not her!) and a crazy cat who thinks he’s a dog. We moved to Victoria, BC in 2008 and I’ve been busy learning about Canadian policy, enjoying this most beautiful town I live in.

Why Olive Ridley? Well, the Olive Ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys Olivacea) nests on the coasts of Madras, India and I got my start in the wonderful world of conservation working on the Olive Ridley with the Students’ Sea Turtle Conservation Network. So, I do have fond memories for this beautiful creature. And yes, as my dear partner reminds me, I did meet her on the beach when I was doing this work.

Agence Science-Presse (based in Québec and headed by Pascal Lapointe) features three blogs of its own:

Blogue ta science : les billets dédiés aux jeunes.

Discutez avec notre expert : avez-vous suivi notre enquête CSI ?

Autour des Blogues : les actualités de nos blogueurs et de la communauté.

There’s also a regular podcast under the Je vote pour la science banner.

genegeek appears to be Canadian (it has a domain in Canada) but the blog owner doesn’t really identify herself (there’s a photo) on the About page but no name and no biographical details. I did receive a tweet last year about genegeek from C. Anderson who I imagine is the blog owner.

There’s also the Canadian BioTechnologist2.0 blog, which is sponsored by Bio-Rad Canada and is written by an employee.

These next ones were added later in the year:

Chuck Black writes two blogs as he noted in June 2012,

I write two blogs which, while they focus more on space than science, do possess strong science components and overlap with some of the other blogs here.

They are: Commercial Space and Space Conference News.

Andy Park also came to my attention in June 2012. He writes the  It’s the Ecology, Stupid! blog.

Something About Science is a blog I featured in an Aug. 17, 2012 posting and I’m glad to see blogger, Lynn K, is still blogging.

New to the roundup in 2012:

SSChow, Sarah Chow’s blog, focuses on science events in Vancouver (Canada) and science events at the University of British Columbia and miscellaneous matters pertinent to her many science communication efforts.

The Canadian federal government seems to be trying its hand at science blogging with the Science.gc.ca Blogs (http://www.science.gc.ca/Blogs-WSE6EBB690-1_En.htm). An anemic effort given that boasts a total of six (or perhaps it’s five) posting in two or three years.

The Canadian Science Writers Association (CSWA) currently features a blog roll of its members’ blogs. This is a new initiative from the association and one I’m glad to see.  Here’s the list (from the CSWA member blog page),

Anne Steinø (Research Through the Eyes of a Biochemist)
Arielle Duhame-Ross (Salamander Hours)
Bob McDonald (I’m choking on this one since it’s a CBC [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation] blog for its Quirks and Quarks science pr0gram)
Cadell Last (The Ratchet)
Edward Willett
Elizabeth Howell (she seems to be blogging again and the easiest way for me to get to her postings was to click on the Archives link [I clicked on December 2012 to get the latest] after doing that I realized that the images on the page link to postings)
Heather Maughan
Justin Joschko
Kimberly Gerson (Endless Forms Most Beautiful)
Mark Green (a CSWA member, he was born and educated in the US where he lives and works; ordinarily I would not include him, even with his  CSWA membership status,  but he writes a monthly science column for a Cape Breton newspaper, which has made me pause)
Pamela Lincez (For the Love of Science)
Sarah Boon (Watershed Moments)
Susan Eaton (she seems to be reposting articles written [presumably by her] for the AAPG [American Association of Petroleum Geologists] Explorer and other organizations in her blog]

Barry Shell’s site (listed as a CSWA member blog) doesn’t match my admittedly foggy notion of a blog. It seems more of an all round Canadian science resource featuring profiles of Canadian scientists, a regularly updated news archive, and more. Science.ca is extraordinary and I’m thankful to have finally stumbled across it but it doesn’t feature dated posts in common with the other blogs listed here, even the most commercial ones.

Tyler Irving (I had no idea he had his own blog when I mentioned him in my Sept. 25, 2012 posting about Canadian chemists and the Canadian Chemical Institute’s publications) posts at the Scientific Canadian.

I choke again, as I do when mentioning blogs that are corporate media blogs, but in the interest of being as complete as possible Julia Belluz writes the Scien-ish blog about health for MacLean’s magazine.

Genome Alberta hosts a couple of blogs: Genomics and Livestock News & Views.

Occam’s Typewriter is an informal network of science bloggers two of whom are Canadian:

Cath Ennis (VWXYNot?) and Richard Wintle (Adventures in Wonderland). Note: The Guardian Science Blogs network seems to have some sort of relationship with Occam’s Typewriter as you will see postings from the Occam’s network featured as part of Occam’s Corner on the Guardian website.

My last blogger in this posting is James Colliander from the University of  Toronto’s Mathematics Department. He and Nassif (Piece of Mind blog mentioned previously) seem to share a similar interest in science policy and funding issues.

ETA Jan.2.13: This is a social science oriented blog maintained by a SSHRC- (Social Science and Humanities Research Council) funded network cluster called the Situating Science Cluster and the blog’s official name is: Cluster Blog. This is where you go to find out about Science and Technology Studies (STS) and History of Science Studies, etc. and events associated with those studies.

I probably should have started with this definition of a Canadian blogger, from the Wikipedia entry,

A Canadian blogger is the author of a weblog who lives in Canada, has Canadian citizenship, or writes primarily on Canadian subjects. One could also be considered a Canadian blogger if one has a significant Canadian connection, though this is debatable.

Given how lively the Canadian science blogging scene has become, I’m not sure I can continue with these roundups as they take more time each year.  At the very least, I’ll need to define the term Canadian Science blogger, in the hope of reducing the workload,  if I decide to continue after this year.

There’s a rather interesting Nov. 26, 2012 article by Stephanie Taylor for McGill Daily about the Canadian public’s science awareness and a dearth of Canadian science communication,

Much of the science media that Canadians consume and have access to is either American or British: both nations have a robust, highly visible science media sector. While most Canadians wouldn’t look primarily to American journalism for political news and analysis, science doesn’t have the same inherent national boundaries that politics does. While the laws of physics don’t change depending on which side of the Atlantic you’re on, there are scientific endeavours that are important to Canadians but have little importance to other nations. It’s unlikely that a British researcher would investigate the state of the Canadian cod fishery, or that the British press would cover it, but that research is critical to a substantial number of Canadians’ livelihoods.

On the other hand, as Canadian traditional media struggles to consistently cover science news, there’s been an explosion of scientists of all stripes doing a lot of the necessary big picture, broad context, critical analysis on the internet. The lack of space restrictions and accessibility of the internet (it’s much easier to start a blog than try to break in to traditional media) mean that two of the major barriers to complex discussion of science in the media are gone. Blogs struggle to have the same reach as newspapers and traditional media, though, and many of the most successful science blogs are under the online umbrella of mainstream outlets like Scientific American and Discover. Unfortunately and perhaps unsurprisingly, there is currently no Canadian science blog network like this. [emphasis mine]

Yes, let’s create a Canadian science blog network. I having been talking to various individuals about this over the last year (2012) and while there’s interest, someone offered to help and then changed their mind. Plus, I was hoping to persuade the the Canadian Science Writers Association to take it on but I think they were too far advanced in their planning for a member’s network to consider something more generalized (and far more expensive). So, if anyone out there has ideas about how to do this, please do comment and perhaps we can get something launched in 2013.

Mice crash ScienceOnline Vancouver’s May 2012 event at Science World

The second ScienceOnline Vancouver event (a May 15, 2012 event mentioned in my May 14, 2012 posting, which has links to speakers’ blogs and also mentions a few still upcoming science events [May 22 and May 29, 2012]) with Eric Michael Johnson and Raul Pacheco-Vega discussing how to use social media effectively went well.

I can see the organizers refined their approach and the integration of technology (livestreaming, tweeting, etc.)  with a live event was smoother than the last one plus the transition from listening to the speakers to participating in discussion was smoother too.

Both Johnson and Pacheco-Vega highlighted how their use of social media has enhanced professional and personal connections and/or opened up new opportunities. For example, Johnson was asked to do a cover story for Times Higher Education (UK publication) that started with a tweet he wrote about bonobos (a primate found in the Congo only and his field of study for one of his degrees). After years of blogging, Johnson’s efforts were recognized in other ways as well,  his blog is now part of the Scientific American blogging network. Also present at the May event, but in the audience, was another local scientist and Scientific American blogger, Dr. Carin Bondar, who too has had opportunities open up as a consequence of social media. (BTW, she’s auditioning to be a TED speaker soon. I’m not sure which of the major TEDs but she has expressed her excitement about this on Twitter (#SoVan).

Pacheco-Vega focused more heavily on Twitter, Pinterest (consolidates your various social media efforts on a ‘bulletin or pin’ board), and timely.is (a software that allows you to schedule your tweets and allows you to analyze the best timing for releasing them during the day)  and offered tips and suggestions for other tools. (He maintains two identities online, a professional one and a personal one.) He also offered some insight into the nature of the doubts many scientists have about engaging in social media. Lack of time, why bother?, how does this help me professionally?, this is going to hurt me professionally, etc.

There were fewer people (about 1/2 the number they had at the April 2012 event) resulting in a crowd of about 30. Happily they had a liquor licence this time,  so libations were available.

As for the mice (or perhaps one very active mouse excited by the liquor licence), I had several sightings. Hopefully, Science World will have addressed the problem before the next ScienceOnline Vancouver event.

It’s going to be interesting to see how this evolves. To this point, I like the direction they’re taking.

Forgotten (science) knowledge; the social media of science; and NanoSpace Invaders in the life sciences: 3 Vancouver events

Sarah Chow at her eponymous blog has listed some May 2012 science events taking place in Vancouver (Canada) in her May 1, 2012 posting. Here are a couple of excerpts,

ScienceOnlineVancouver #SoVan – 7pm

Continuing to connect the science communication community, this month’s Science Online Vancouver is all about making connections through social media.
Location: Science World
Time: 7 pm

Tuesday May 22, 2012

Cafe Scientifique – 7:30pm

Aye-matie! All you land lubbers out there don’t miss out Dr. Andrew Holding’s talk on Forgotten Knowledge: The discovery and loss of a cure for scurvy. Or you’ll be walking the plank! ARRRR!
Location: Railway Club – 579 Dunsmuir Street
Time: 7:30pmm

Tuesday May 29, 2012

Cafe Scientifique – UBC Life Sciences Institute – 6pm

Sometimes great things come in small packages. The Life Sciences Institute at UBC is presents “NanoSpace Invaders: Seeing into the Subcellular World” with Dr. Wayne Vogl and Dr. Edwin Moore, Professors in the Department of Cellular & Physiological Sciences.
Location: UBC – Life Sciences Institute
Time: 6pm to 8pm

Chow notes, as she did in her April 2012 roundup of science events in Vancouver, it’s always good to check with the organizers before going as there may have been some changes. She also invites people to send her information ([email protected]) about events she could add to her list.

I have been able to get a little more information about the events.

ScienceOnline Vancouver is holding its second event (ever) and features Eric Michael Johnson and Raul Pacheco-Vega talking about how to communicate science using social media. From ScienceOnline Vancouver’s May 15, 2012 event page,

Do you have facts that could could clear up confusion or an informed opinion to share? Do you know the question whose answer would help you and others better understand the issue? How do you contribute your knowledge and expertise to your community? Social media is supposed to make it easy but how to you pick between Facebook friends, twitter hashtags, google circles, blog posts and countless other online options?

In the 2nd ScienceOnlineVancouver event on Tuesday, May 15, [updated -- it's on the 15th, not the 17th] you’ll meet people who successfully use social media to communicate with their professional communities,  Eric Michael Johnson (@ericmjohnson, primatediaries.com) and Raul Pacheco-Vega (@raulpacheco, raulpacheco.org) They’ll describe what they do, what works (and what doesn’t.) You’ll have a chance to ask questions and share what you know, whether you’re a professional blogger or just-got-a-twitter-account-now-what-do-I-do?

Here’s a bit more about Eric Michael Johnson, from his Primate Diaries blog, which is part of the Scientific American Blog Network,

Eric Michael Johnson has a Master’s degree in Evolutionary Anthropology focusing on great ape behavioral ecology. He is currently a doctoral student in the history of science at University of British Columbia looking at the interplay between evolutionary biology and politics.

Here’s more about Raul Pacheco-Vega from his eponymous blog,

Raul Pacheco-Vega (BSc. Chemical Engineering, Universidad de Guanajuato; MBA/MEng. Advanced Technology Management, The University of British Columbia; PhD. Resource Management and Environmental Studies, The University of British Columbia) is a Vancouver-based researcher, educator and consultant in environmental politics and policy. He has conducted research in the field of environmental public policy and politics for over 10 years. Dr. Pacheco-Vega is also a Lecturer in the Department of Political Science at The University of British Columbia , a faculty member in the Latin American Studies Program at UBC and from January 2010 until February 2011, he was the Regional Director, Western Canada, for the Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy (CIELAP).

Pacheco-Vega also maintains a personal blog, Hummingbird604, from the About page,

In a nutshell, I blog about myself and my life in Vancouver. Hummingbird604.com is my personal online canvas, where I write about restaurants I eat at, events I attend and things that make me think (in social media, in environment, in public policy and in global politics). I was educated as an artist (I’m a former competitive dancer and theatre stage actor) and so I write about theatre, dance fine and performing arts in Vancouver and beyond. I chronicle my travels and places I’ve visited in Canada and elsewhere worldwide. While I write this blog primarily for myself, it has gained popularity in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and other areas of the world.

Café Scientifique’s Forgotten Knowledge May 22, 2012  presentation features a speaker from the UK, Dr. Andrew Holding. From the Home page on his website (I have removed links),

Welcome to the website of Andrew Holding. I am a research scientist who is currently employed by the Medical Research Council (MRC) in the Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge. My research involves the study of protein-protein binding by way of using small isotopically-labelled linker molecules. These linker molecules bind between residues that are within range of each other and then the cross-linked protein complex is digested and analysed by mass spectrometry. The interactions we investigate are important for understanding and developing new cures for a wide range of diseases including cancer.

I’ve worked on many Science outreach projects including founding and organizing Skeptics in the Pub in Cambridge, which holds monthly talks by various speakers with the aim of highlighting the application of critical thinking and scientific method. …

I have been a guest on The Naked Scientists Q&A radio show as Dr Andy, answering the public’s questions on science, and have spoken at several outreach events both around Cambridge and nationwide. I produce and host my own radio show on CamFM every Sunday that covers the science behind movies, books and TV shows with a selection of music that relates to the discussion. In addition, I have written for The Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’ section and BlueSci magazine.

In my spare time, I have written and acted in several performances put on by the Cambridge University Light Entertainment Society and Two Shades of Blue. One of the most prominent of these was “The Matrix: The Pantomime”, which was taken to the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh in 2007 and became a sell-out show. … I still continue to part in such events; for example, in 2010 I acted in the annual Christmas skit at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology and have participated in Bright Club in London and Festival of the Spoken Nerd, the latter two of which focus on the communication of science through comedy.

I am qualified first-aider at work and am a volunteer at Addenbrooke’s Hospital for one evening a week.

As a preview, I found a five-minute video version of Holding’s talk, Forgotten Knowledge (not the greatest quality) which he gave on May 3, 2012, from the Forgotten Knowledge page on Vimeo,

The third event I’ve chosen to highlight is a ‘nano’ presentation at the Life Sciences Institute (LSI) Café Scientifique titled, “NanoSpace Invaders: Seeing into the Subcellular World.” There aren’t any more details on the website than Chow was able to cull for her posting although there are some pictures on the event page.

I had a chance to chat with one of the speakers, Dr. Edwin Moore, who told me that he and Vogl are aiming to give a fairly accessible talk, in other words, you won’t need a medical degree or training in microbiology. Dr. Wayne Vogl will be  (pun alert!) focusing on modern microscopes and what they can do while Ed will be discussing cell work and microscopes.

I wonder if they’re serving food (cheese on a toothpick, a grape, and celery stick,perhaps?) and drinks (cash?). After all, it’s being held from 6 pm – 8 pm.

If none of these tickle your fancy, please do check out Sarah Chow’s posting of May 2012 science events in Vancouver.

2011 roundup and thoughts on the Canadian science blogging scene

Last year I found about a dozen of us, Canadians blogging about science, and this year (2011) I count approximately 20 of us. Sadly, one blog has disappeared; Elizabeth Howell has removed her PARS3C blog from her website. Others appear to be in pause mode, Rob Annan at the Researcher Forum: Don’t leave Canada behind (no posts since May 4, 2011), The Bubble Chamber at the University of Toronto (no posts since Aug. 12, 2011), Gregor Wolbring’s  Nano and Nano- Bio, Info, Cogno, Neuro, Synbio, Geo, Chem…  (no new posts since Oct. 2010; I’m about ready to give up on this one) and Je vote pour la science (no posts since May 2011).

I’ve been fairly catholic in my approach to including blogs on this list although I do have a preference for blogs with an individual voice that focuses primarily on science (for example, explaining the science you’re writing about rather than complaining about a professor’s marking of your science paper).

Piece of Mind is Nassif Ghoussoub’s (professor of mathematics at the University of British Columbia) blog which is largely about academe, science, and grants. Nassif does go much further afield in some of his posts, as do we all from time to time. He’s quite outspoken and always interesting.

Cool Science is John McKay’s blog which he describes this way ” This site is about raising a creative rationalist in an age of nonsense. It is about parents getting excited about science, learning and critical thinking. It is about smart parents raising smart kids who can think for themselves, make good decisions and discern the credible from the incredible. ” His posts cover a wide range of topics from the paleontology museum in Alberta to a space shuttle launch to the science of good decisions and more.

Dave Ng makes me dizzy. A professor with the Michael Smith Laboratories at the University of British Columbia, he’s a very active science communicator who has started blogging again on the Popperfont blog. This looks like a compilation of bits from Twitter, some very brief postings, and bits from other sources. I’m seeing this style of blogging more frequently these days.

The queen of Canadian science blogging, Rosie Redfield, was just acknowledged as a ‘newsmaker of the year’ by Nature magazine. The Dec. 22, 20111 Vancouver Sun article by Margaret Munro had this to say,

A critical thinker in Vancouver has been named one of the top science newsmakers of the year.

“She appeared like a shot out of the blogosphere: a wild-haired Canadian microbiologist with a propensity to say what was on her mind,” the leading research journal Nature says of Rosie Redfield, a professor at the University of B.C.

The journal editors say Redfield is one of 10 individuals who “had an impact, good or bad, on the world of science” in 2011. She was chosen for her “critical” inquiry and “remarkable experiment in open science” that challenged a now-infamous “arsenic life” study funded by NASA.

Rosie has two blogs, RRResearch and RRTeaching. She used to say she wasn’t a blogger but I rather think she’s changed her tune.

Jeff Sharom’s Science Canada blog isn’t, strictly speaking, a blog so much as it is an aggregator of Canadian science policy news and a good one at that. There are also some very useful resources on the site. (I shamelessly plundered Jeff’s list to add more blogs to this posting).

The Black Hole is owned by Beth Swan and David Kent (although they often have guest posters too). Here’s a description from the About page,

I have entered the Post Doctoral Fellow Black Hole… I’ve witnessed a lot and heard about much more and, while this is the time in academic life when you’re meant to be the busiest, I have begun this blog. Just as a black hole is difficult to define, the label Post Doc is bandied about with recklessness by university administrators, professors, and even PDFs themselves. One thing is certain though… once you get sucked in, it appears to be near impossible to get back out.

David, Beth, and their contributors offer extensive discussions about the opportunities and the failings of the post graduate science experience.

Nicole Arbour, a Science and Innovation Officer at the British High Commission Office in Ottawa, Canada, blogs regularly about Canadian science policy and more on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office blogs.

Colin Schultz, a freelance science journalist, blogs at his website CMBR. He focuses largely on climate change, environmental research, space, and science communication.

exposure/effect is a blog about toxicology, chemical exposures, health and more, which is written by a scientist who chooses to use a pseudonym, ashartus.

Mario’s Entangled Bank is written by theoretical biologist, Mario Pineda-Krch at the University of Alberta. One of Pineda-Krch’s most recent postings was about a special section of a recent Science Magazine issue on Reproducible Research.

Boundary Vision is written by Marie-Claire Shanahan, a professor of science education at the University of Alberta. She not only writes a science blog, she also researches the language and the social spaces of science blogs.

Eric Michael Johnson writes The Primate Diaries blog which is now part of the Scientific American blog network. With a master’s degree in evolutionary anthropology, Johnson examines the interplay between evolutionary biology and politics both on his blog and as part of his PhD work (he’s a student at the University of British Columbia).

The Atoms and Numbers blog is written by Marc Leger. From the About Marc page,

I am a scientist who has always been curious and fascinated by how our universe works.  I love discovering the mysteries and surprises of our World.  I want to share this passion with others, and make science accessible to anyone willing to open their minds.

Many people have appreciated my ability to explain complex scientific ideas in simple terms, and this is one motivation behind my website, Atoms and Numbers.  I taught chemistry in universities for several years, and I participated in the Scientists in the Schools program as a graduate student at Dalhousie University, presenting chemistry magic shows to children and teenagers from kindergarten to grade 12.  I’ve also given presentations on chemistry and forensics to high school students.  I’m even acknowledged in a cookbook for providing a few morsels of information about food chemistry.

Massimo Boninsegni writes about science-related topics (some are about the academic side of science; some physics; some personal items) on his Exponential Book blog.

The Last Word on Nothing is a group blog that features Heather Pringle, a well-known Canadian science writer, on some posts. Pringle’s latest posting is, Absinthe and the Corpse Reviver, all about a legendary cure for hangovers. While this isn’t strictly speaking a Canadian science blog, there is a Canadian science blogger in the group and the topics are quite engaging.

Daniel Lemire’s blog is known simply as Daniel Lemire. He’s a computer scientist in Montréal who writes one of the more technical blogs I’ve come across and his focus seems to be databases. He does cover other topics too, notably in this post titled, Where do debt, credit and currencies come from?

Confessions of a Science Librarian by John Dupuis (head of the Steacie Science & Engineering Library at York University) is a blog I missed mentioning last year and I’m very glad I remembered it this year. As you might expect from a librarian, the last few postings have consisted of lists of the best science books of 2011.

Sci/Why is a science blog being written by Canadian children’s writers who discuss science, words, and the eternal question – why?

I have mixed feelings about including this blog, the Dark Matter science blog by Tom Spears, as it is a ‘newspaper blog’ from the Ottawa Citizen.

Similarly, the MaRS blog is a corporate initiative from the Toronto area science and technology business incubator, MaRS Discovery District.

The last three blogs I’m mentioning are from medical and health science writers.

Susan Baxter’s blog Curmudgeon’s Corner features her insights into various medical matters, for example there’s her Dec. 5, 2011 posting on mammograms, along with her opinions on spandex, travel, and politics.

Peter Janiszewski and Travis Saunders co-own two different blogs, Obesity Panacea, which is part of the PLoS (Public Library of Science) blogs network, and Science of Blogging (nothing posted since July 2011 but it’s well worth a look).

I don’t have anything particularly profound to say about the state of Canadian science blogging this year. It does look to be getting more populous online and I hope that trend continues. I do have a wish for the New Year; I think it should be easier to find Canadian science blogs and would like  to see some sort of network or aggregated list.

The Naked Truth on Friday, May 13, 2011

I’m looking forward to being on the Canadian science blogging panel that’s taking place at the Northern Voice Conference, May 13 – 14, 2011 at the University of British Columbia’s Life Sciences Centre. The presentation panel I’m on is slated for Friday, May 13, 2011, from 1:45 pm to 2:30 pm and it’s called: The Naked Truth: Canadian Science Blogging Scene.

The other panelists include:

Beth Snow of The Black Hole. In one of her most recent postings, she tackles a topic most of us don’t think about when we’re talking about careers in science, Academic Couples. Excerpted from the post,

I can think of a few people right now who are in some stage of dealing with this issue [both partners are academics]. In addition to the friend I mentioned above, I know a dual-academic couple who both work at the same university, I know a couple where both partners are former-academics (they did their PhDs at the UBC, found their first postdocs together in another city, came back to UBC for second postdocs each and then both left academics for non-academic jobs) and I know a couple where the academic partner is seriously considering leaving academics because of a variety of reasons, with family being one of the big ones.

Eric Michael Johnson of The Primate Diaries in Exile recently blogged this intriguing piece, The Allure of Gay Cavemen, which was cross posted on the Wired magazine website,

In 1993 the reputable German weekly Der Spiegel reported a rumor that Otzi, the 5,300-year-old frozen mummy discovered in the Otztal Alps two years earlier, contained evidence of the world’s earliest known homosexual act. “In Otzi’s Hintern,” wrote the editors, referring to the Iceman’s hinterland, “Spermien gefunden worden.” (If you require a translation, chances are you didn’t want to know anyway.) The rumor quickly spread on computer bulletin boards as the recently unveiled World Wide Web inaugurated a new age in the free flow of misinformation. The origin of the rumor, as Cecil Adams discovered, turns out to have been an April Fool’s prank published in the Austrian gay magazine Lambda Nachrichten. The joke about our ancient uncle being penetrated deep in the Alps was then picked up by other periodicals, but with a straight face.

Twenty years later it appears that little has changed.

Rosie Redfileld of RRResearch talks about mutant cells amongst other things in My experiments: might I have a plan?

Classes have been over for a month and I have yet to do an experiment! For shame. But after going over everyone else’s projects I think I have a clear idea of what I should be doing.

1. Measure starvation-induced competence for each of the competence-gene knockouts: This will be replicating measurements done by an undergraduate over the past 6 months. I’ll just do each strain once, provided my results agree with hers. I’ll also freeze some of the competent cells.

2. Assay phage recombination in the competent and non-competent mutant cells: Old experiments using temperature-sensitive mutants of the H. influenzae temperate phage HP1 showed that recombination between the ts loci is more frequent in competent cells and completely dependent on the host RecA pathway (undetectable in a rec1 mutant). Phage recombination is much more efficient in competent cells than in log-phase cells; this is true both when competence is induced by starvation of wildtype cells (in MIV medium) and when it is induced by the presence of the sxy1 hypercompetence mutation (in rich medium).

The panel moderator, Lisa Johnson is a CBC journalist specializing in science and environment stories. She also has her own blog where her Oct. 14, 2009 posting, Squid surveillance, in several ways proves sadly timeless,

I find squid pretty inherently interesting. They’re believed to be smart, and I’d call them beautiful, but they’re also so alien to our terrestrial, vertebrate selves.

Even more interesting, or perhaps alarming, is what’s happening with the Humboldt squid in B.C. waters.

First, why are they here? They’re native to northern Mexico, but in the past ten years have spread northward, first to California, and now all the way to southeast Alaska. That is a big change in such a short time.

Secondly, they’re washing up dead on beaches in large numbers.

Then, there’s me. Maryse de la Giroday, FrogHeart. If you keep scrolling down this page, you’ll probably find something of interest.

We will all be there on Friday and we look forward to discussing science and science blogging in Canada. See ya there.

FrogHeart on science blogging panel at Northern Voice 2011 Conference

Friday, May 13, 2011 is the date for what I believe is a first anywhere: a panel about Canadian science blogging. It’s going to be held at the 2011 Northern Voice Personal Blogging and Social Media Conference (May 13 – 14, 2011) at the University of British Columbia’s Life Sciences Centre.

FrogHeart (aka Maryse de la Giroday) will be on the panel titled: The Naked Truth: Canadian Science Blogging Scene. My fellow panelists will be:

Rosie Redfield of RRResearch and author of the post that raised a storm of interest in the science blogosphere by bringing into question some research published by NASA (US National Aeronautics and Space Administration) scientists in Science magazine;

Beth Snow of The Black Hole (co-written with David Kent) where she writes about what happens after you get your graduate science degree and other issues of interest to science trainees; and

Eric Michael Johnson, The Primate Diaries in Exile, who writes about evolutionary biology and its relationship to politics;

and moi.

Our moderator is Lisa Johnson, a CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Coroporation) reporter who specializes in science and environmental issues.

Here’s the description for the session:

Bloggers are changing what was the tightly controlled world of science communications — dominated by peer-reviewed journals and mainstream media — into a two-way street.

Join four popular science bloggers to hear how social media lets them tell their stories without compromise. The panelists will tell you about political science and apes during the 2011 federal Canadian election; about what you do after you get your graduate science degrees and start developing your post-school career; about running a science lab and writing one of the most incendiary science blog posts of 2010; about the very well kept secret that is the Canadian nanotechnology community. We anticipate a lively (rowdy) interactive session with lots of questions from the audience to the panel and from the panel to the audience.

The panel will be on from 1:45 pm to 2:30 pm.