#INT13: a little bit more on communication and Twitter and ecology science

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EcoPosters at Intecol: Louise, Kristina, Sara and Tabi (from L to R). Image courtesy of Tabitha Ewing.

If you have been following us for a while (or at least through last week), you will know that four EcoPosters (Louise, Sara, Tabi and I) went to INTECOL 2013 conference in London. It was five very intensive days filled with tens of short talks on all the different research done in all the areas of ecology, plenary lectures by ecology superstars (Dave Tilman!!!), inspiring workshops, tea & coffee breaks, poster sessions, naps in the hallways, and lots and lots of tweeting for me.

The first one:

The science part on one hand was a bit discouraging, because I felt that there was so much that I don’t understand even after four years of extensive ecology studies. Granted, it’s just undergrad, so I probably am not expected to know everything. But I caught myself several times wondering if anyone else in the audience feels the same. Presentations were of course directed towards ecologists, however, many concentrate on a very narrow field of research, and thus I think it would have been nice if some of the presentations were more relatable and simpler. I already talked about ability to communicate science in our previous post, so will leave it here.

On the other hand, ecological science – OMG! So much is going on, it’s crazy! From INTECOL website: “INTECOL features forty three world class symposia, thirty one interactive workshops, fifty six oral sessions and eleven plenary speakers, as well as dedicated poster sessions.” There was so much different science presented from all over the world by all these various kinds of people and it was overwhelming but in a very good way. In five days there was only one moment were I thought ‘why is this science?’ Everything else, no matter how small it was, how obscure the organism or the system seemed, I could and did appreciate the work that’s being done. Not necessarily finding it very interesting, but definitely be fascinated that people are asking such varied questions and finding or trying to find answers to them. It was our first conference ever, so getting to see all this array of work at once was very very impressive.

As I’m taking a year off from studying and trying to figure out where I would like to go next, INTECOL was definitely a great opportunity to immerse myself in research and “shop around”. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a big revelation about my exact future as the week progressed. However, revelation that I still very much want to be in this area, in this community, I think, is just as major. Everything else will fall into places eventually.

As I mentioned before, communication definitely stood out as one of the major non-science themes. Communicating science to public, to policy makers, to other scientists – all were covered. Open access journals, Twitter, blogs, traditional mass media is out there waiting to be tapped, and by ignoring it scientists are just shooting themselves in the foot. World is running forward, and ecology especially has to keep up with it. I wouldn’t go as far as call those against Twitter ‘Luddites’, but use of Twitter without a doubt was a great success at INTECOL and not embracing it seems rather silly. Chris Hassall in his blog post said this on one of Twitter’s benefits: “In particular, the use of Twitter for questions in plenaries was an EXCELLENT idea, keeping questions brief and focused, while removing concerns over anxiety about publicly getting up to the microphone.” Read his whole post, there are other very interesting points and stats on the topic.

I was live-tweeting throughout the whole conference for our @ecopostblog account: at times it was really hard (fussy WiFi and lazy smartphone didn’t help) and I didn’t tweet every single talk I went to because not all of them were ‘tweetable’ or I just couldn’t concentrate on two tasks – listening and typing tweets that make sense – at once. Despite this, the experience was fantastic! I just wish we had met more of the tweeps live, but the online interactions were so fun and every single notification would make me very excited. Probably a bit too much, just ask my EcoPost colleagues! Some tweeters are now working hard to make sense of INTECOL Twitter data, but so far I know that EcoPost sent about 320 tweets (including retweets) and we got over 65 new followers. The number I actually talked to at INTECOL was nowhere near this! These followers and others who favorited or retweeted our tweets found what we posted interesting and interacted with it. And these are not just some random people, but all real life ecologists! Networking? I think so!

This was mentioned in the Q&A after Monday’s workshop on increasing the impact of your publication. Unfortunately, I don’t remember which one of the three speakers said that. Nonetheless, the important thing is that Twitter has its benefits and it is not just a fad or some distraction. In no way I feel that I got somehow less out of the conference because I didn’t just simply sat at the talks but also shared them with the world, while also “sitting in” other sessions vicariously.

Apparently, EcoPost also was among top 10 tweeters, which is surreal, especially given that this summer I have been following several conferences via Twitter and was amazed with the amount and quality of the content coming out of them. While I planned to live-tweet INTECOL, I never thought that we will also be in that company. Our audience has grown immensely and now includes many relevant and very interesting people. I am sure that we will be able to interact with them very productively and maybe even acquire some future collaborators.  

Other top tweeps are listed below. Give a follow to these great science communicators if you can.

We will post more specifically on the ecology discussed at the conference in the coming weeks, but these are my still fresh overall experiences. British Ecological Society and INTECOL did a great job organising the conference and I am so glad I got to be a part of it. And visiting London for the first time as a conference goer rather than just another tourist was also a surprisingly great experience. I still feel sleep deprived but it all was so worth it in the end.

For more check out wordpress tags INTECOL and INT13, and look through some recent INNGE ecobloggers posts!

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2 responses to “#INT13: a little bit more on communication and Twitter and ecology science

  1. Pingback: Trends in ecological research from the 2013 INTECOL Conference | rickylawton·

  2. Pingback: A view from INTECOL and beyond. | EcoBlogging·

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