Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Science "reporting" at its fastest

I interrupt regular personal blog posting to give way to some insights from the Global Rice Science Partnership Asia review. Let's shift towards more scientific stuff, sort of...


It all began with an email from the Govinda Rizal, the current president of the Association of Fellows, Scholars, Trainees, and Residents in the International Rice Research Institute (AFSTRI), sent an email about a search for volunteers who would like to use their social media capacities to blog about the talks at the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP) Asia Review. I've been writing about scientific meetings that I go to, so I thought, why not? I'd be attending the GRiSP sessions anyway. Surely, this endeavor would keep me awake in the sessions. Plus, I find blogging about things a good way to gauge if I had understood what had been discussed. After all, Albert Einstein did say:
"If you can't explain it to a six-year old, you don't understand it yourself."
Thus, I signed up.

This is the first time that I participated in live-reporting at a scientific conference/meeting via Twitter. I learned soon enough that it wasn't as easy as professional journalists make it seem to be! Quick thinking, sharp listening skills, and fast typing hands (on a computer keyboard or on a mobile phone) are all required to be able to get what the speakers say into the web in (almost) real time.

Here's the challenging part: the topics being discussed were not exactly easily understandable (for me) because these aren't my fields of study. There were topics that were Greek to me (like eddy covariance), that made me dizzy with all the complex equations (there's this slide where the only equation I recognized was the ideal gas law!), and that had acronyms that conjured images of onomatopeias and wizardry (like SNPs and MAGIC).

But that's not all. After getting an idea of what a speaker was talking about, it's time to simplify that even further for a non-technical audience (like Albert Einstein's six-year old) AND write it on Twitter in 140 characters or less. Sounds tough? Did I mention that it's supposed to be done in real time? Like in less than two minutes?

I was live-tweeting (via the web) during the presentations of the people
involved in GRiSP Theme 5: Targeting and Policy.

Don't get me wrong. This has been one of the most enjoyable mental exercises I've been in. I don't think that my brain has ever been gripped by GRiSP as it had in this year's review sessions. For instance, I wasn't particularly keen on attending entire technical sessions on soil science and on genetics last year but I sat through some of them this year. And I learned a lot of things just because I was there, I listened, I digested information, then I tweeted. 

I think I'd do this live-tweeting gig more often! :)