SciFoo Day 2 – Morning

Here is the continuing Saga of SciFoo Camp. It is here that the author describes a portion of Day 2 – specifically the morning through lunch.

I got up pretty early and headed down to the lobby in the hopes of getting a bus over to Google and getting the good Google food and coffee. But alas the bus was a little behind schedule and so I was forced to hang out with other campers in the lobby area. Eventually a bus came and we went back to Googleplex. We had a lazy breakfast and I got to talk to many interesting folks.

Session 1.

  • For the first session, the choices were:
  • The Next Big Programming Language /Josh Block & Bob Lee/ Open Science 2.0 /BoraZivkovic/ Digital Data Libraries /Mike Halle/ Citizen Science – Where Next? /John Durant/

  • Future of Healthcare /Richard Satava/

    Visual Garage – We’ll Fix Your Graphs and Visuals /Felice Frankel/ Quantum Computing – What, Why, How /Frank Wilczek/ Synthesizing Life /Steve Benner/
  • Well, actually, I could not chose as I told Bora I would help with his session on Open Science. This one turned into a passionate conversation about many topics relating to Open Science. There was also quite a collection of people there including young and old. Much of the initial discussion was around the problems and difficulties in doing Open Science (see here and here and here for more detail on this and the session overall – in particular the young scientists, who I felt did not get enough time to talk in this session, had many concerns). I felt Pam Silver expressed the most important and interesting concern which was that she said that students in the Systems Biology program at Harvard seemed most dismayed by the slow pace of publishing). Some other comments by the village elders that were present (e.g., Eric Lander and Carl Djerassi) were not overly encouraging in terms of how people get jobs in the field (I am not sure Eric understood what the young scientist’s concerns were completely and I think he may have made them feel worse about things when he was trying to make them feel better).
  • I think I sent the session down the wrong path at the way beginning by talking about the need to identify roadblocks to Open Science and to figure out ways to circumvent them. This is a true need but it made the beginning of the session seem more about problems than visions for the ideal future, which is what most people seemed to have expected.
  • But then Paul Ginsparg and Dave Carlson got us back to talking about the good, positive things about Open Science. Most importantly for me, we got a brief look at Jean Claude Bradley’s Open Notebook system which I would like to use in my lab.

Session 2

  • Here the choices were:
  • Efficient Inverse Control: Through the Users Not the Resources /Wefi Vardi aka Neuman/ Clinical Problems in Neuroscience / Towards Practical Cognitive Augmentation /Vaughn Bell/ / Towards Practical Cognitive Augmentataion /Ed Boyden/ How to Build Intelligent Machines /Jeff Hawkins/ Why aren’t there more Scientists on the Covers of Magazines /Jackie Floyd/ Future of Human Space Flight and Ocean Exploration /D Mindell/ Science and Art /Brian Derbey/
  • 3D Video Applications: How to Publish Science in Video /Steve Silverman/ The Nature of Time and Mathematics /Jaren Lanier & Neal Stephenson & Lee Smolin/ Alternate terms of Science Education Future History of Biology /Rob Carlson/ Human Cell and Regeneration Map or is it worth building a cellular resolution database for the whole human body? / Ahila Attila Csordas /
  • I was completely torn here and even ended up being late because I was staring at the bulletin board trying to decide. Finally I went to “the future of human space and ocean exploration” since I thought this was going to be split into space for the first half hour and ocean for the second. Instead they talked about space the whole time I was there and the ocean exploration representative did not get too many words in. But the space discussion was actually really interesting with Pete Worden, the head of the NASA Ames Research Center there discussing future space flights and many other space afficionados present. I thought the most insightful and interesting comments in the session came when everyone was talking about how to better publicize space travel such that it got better attention. And then Larry Page from Google said, basically, that this was simply “marketing” and that the key was to do really cool things in space and not worry about the marketing. This also relates to the safety culture of NASA and other space travel agencies – many of us pointed out that 1000s of people die every day from various causes and that if space travel cannot take risks and accept that some people will die, we have no hope of doing anything interesting in space (e.g., Page pointed out that more people probably dies in the making and moving of the space shuttle than have died in the accidents).

Session 3. Here the choices were:

  • 3D Printing / Robot Printing / Food Printing / Printer Printing /Lipson, Olliver, Bonabeau/ Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Teach Evolution /Eugeinee Scott/ Sequencing the Genome: Implications, Ethics, Goals /Linda Avery, Steve Benner/ Are Patents Preventing Innovation? /S Patton/ Tricoder is Finally Here Ethical Implications of the Information Society /Luciano Floridi/
  • Reversible Computation and Its Connections to Quantum Interpretations /Gary Flake/ Mapping Science and Other Big Networks /Carl Bergstrom/ A Magician Looks at the Irrational and Pseudo-Science /James Randi/ Listening to the World: Voices from the Blue Deep /Chris Clark/ dISSEMINATION AND aCCESS TO dISCOVERY – cOMMUNICATION OF sCIENCE /gABE lYON/
  • And though I promised myself I would go to things I knew nothing about, I simply had to go to this one by Eugenia Scott on evolution education.
  • Here I found the discussion quite varied and interesting. Some people suggested that evolutionary biologists should be careful about what they say because intelligent design supporters might use it for their own good. Henry Gee and I were adamant that one should not temper ones science for such fears.
  • Other interesting things in the session: Dwayne Spradlin did a good job of making everybody justify assumptions that they made about people and Sarah Keller pointed out that it would be useful to have evolution education in chemistry classes
  • Then it was time for a Googlicious lunch (OK – it was not as good as I had expected but it was better than any other conference food I have had). Paul Ginsparg and I went through the line together and decided to sit outside the tent. Good choice as inside the tent was absurdly loud. Really good talking to Ginsparg for a while about PLoS and Open Access. He is one of those people who, when you find out he won a Macarthur “genious” award you are like “well, duh – how could he not win one?”
  • After we sat down Larry Page and Lucy Southworth sat down as did some others who I have already spaced out on. The best part of the conversation at lunch was Larry Page giving Ginsparg grief about some technical annoyances Google found in their early days with the Arxiv preprint archive. Apparently, Google had to shut down some connections/services to Arxiv for a while and this was the first conversation about it.
  • Also interesting was briefly hearing about Lucy’s work at Stanford on mouse aging and changes in gene expression. This was particularly interesting to me since I hope to study how microbial populations inside animals change with aging. I unfortunately did not get enough time to interrogate her about her project – the perils of having too many interesting things going on.

Well, I will have to post more later on the rest of Day 2.

Author: Jonathan Eisen

I am an evolutionary biologist and a Professor at U. C. Davis. (see my lab site here). My research focuses on the origin of novelty (how new processes and functions originate). To study this I focus on sequencing and analyzing genomes of organisms, especially microbes and using phylogenomic analysis

8 thoughts on “SciFoo Day 2 – Morning”

  1. There are a lot of “scifoo” articles among my regular reads at the moment, and I’m finding that I have to space them out over the day — lest I begin to HATE YOU ALL!!!But seriously, it does me real good to read about the Open Science discussions. Sometimes I wonder, am I a crank — are the naysayers right, is Open Science a pipedream at best? But then you or Jean-Claude or PMR or someone posts something encouraging, and I feel like the effort is worth it.


  2. Well, I think the point of many of the blogs is to incite others to hate us … with all the name dropping and cool stuff we saw. As for Open Science, I can see why you would worry about being a crank and I have wondered that for myself sometimes. But in the end, it is so clearly obvious that Open Science is BETTER for the world and for the practitioners that we must push for it. I will write more about this but one of the most encouraging things at the meeting was how this publishing entity you may have heard of called “Nature” has clearly decided that Web 2.0 and Openness is the way to go and they are moving lots of things in that direction. Sometimes I want to rant about how Nature is not yet fully Open but they are pushing harder and faster than so many other places that I am pleased. It is only the old crusty dorks that are really resisting and they will be left behind in the dust.


  3. It could have been so interesting and mind-blowing!Just a little correction: in Session 2, Ahila Csordas is Attila Csordas.I know how hard it is to remember Hungarian names. 🙂


  4. There is (yet) no science oriented online tool for lab-management and open lab-book science. One possible way to start would be to get labs to use online lab management tools with the ability to have lab notebooks (private/public). For PIs I guess it would be useful to be able to access online the groups lab books and check resource usage, etc. This would at least get people to use web lab-books and eventually it might become common practice to make them public. Why would someone make this tool ? Like Google does with search etc, capturing resource usage and individual research would be the best way to know what science protocols and advertisement to put in front of you.


  5. <>Just a little correction: in Session 2, Ahila Csordas is Attila Csordas.I know how hard it is to remember Hungarian names. 🙂<>But one should be easy —Attila the Hun………garian 😉


  6. <>I simply had to go to this one by Eugenia Scott on evolution education.Here I found the discussion quite varied and interesting. Some people suggested that evolutionary biologists should be careful about what they say because intelligent design supporters might use it for their own good. Henry Gee and I were adamant that one should not temper ones science for such fears<>What sorts of things were argued as being possibly dangerous (in the sense of being used by the ID brigade)? Was it just the typical “avoid mentioning to your students that you’re a Democrat or an atheist if you are either of those things” or was it about actual scientific issues, and if so, which?


  7. Well, there was a broad discussion of what was potentially dangerous. I gave the example of the term “anti_Darwinian” that all the lateral transfer people use. And I also gave the example of a debate among some of the HGT folks about whether they should temper what they say in public. And I think PZ Myers and Eugenia Scott had some other example of how words get twisted and how it is not a bad idea to be careful about what you say. But Henry Gee and I stood kind of firm on the other side … I personally think the ID supporters will use any material to their advantage so why worry about them?


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