Add your Twitter username to your conference badge

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A Twitter sticker in action
A Twitter sticker in action

I designed these Twitter stickers in July 2012 to hand out at the ESA meeting in Portland during and after the social media workshop I ran with Jacquelyn Gill. They’re getting more and more popular (as of ESA 2013, I’ve handed out nearly all of the original 300 I printed) so I thought I’d share the artwork and information on how to order them.

I used Sticker Mule to order custom 3.5″x.75″ rounded corner stickers that fit nicely below your name on your scientific conference badge (right).

ADDENDUM 2013.08.12
Feel free to re-use, modify and share the design. But please do not sell the stickers. They are for only personal and academic use.

We are the seeders of collaboration clouds

This is a ScienceOnline-inspired ditty, written with the other sciosatellite leaders and Bora, Karyn and Anton in mind:

We nudge the primordial specks of the universe,
Atoms upon atoms
Closer, closer
Till gravity seizes them, draws them into intimate quarters,
And together, they birth bright stars and galaxies.

We fine-tune the sequence of amino acids and the acidity and hyrophilicity of their environment
Till the first protein self-assembles, a thing of great beauty and complexity.

We share the code.

Open-source life evolves and grows far beyond even what we imagined,
Staring at atoms and molecules
Dreaming of great things they might do together.

We induce microbes to express a glue that binds them together,
To form hardy biofilms where they help each other thrive.

We tinker, hypothesize, develop models for conditions that cause
Different species to assemble and thrive and endure together in a
Grand ecosystem.

We are the seeders of collaboration clouds.
We are the engineers and the ecologists
Of community.

#Altecology, a call to unconference action

The rise of the unconference | Ecology is changing | What are you proposing? | How do I make my voice heard? | Get in touch

Wordle: #esa2012 wednesday
A Wordle of all the tweets to the hashtag #esa2012 on Wednesday of the 2012 ESA Annual Meeting. Word size corresponds to the frequency with which it appeared in the tweets.

Note: This post is cross-posted on Scott Chamberlain’s blog here.


The rise of the unconference

The Ecological Society of America meeting is holding its 98th annual meeting next year in Minneapolis, MN. Several thousand students and professionals in ecological science and education will gather to hear and read the latest work and ideas in ecology in the familiar poster and lecture formats that are the core of every major scientific conference. But a subset of these people will get a taste of something a little bit different: an unconference within the conference.

The most important difference between traditional science conferences and the unconference format is that it prioritizes human interaction. Often the best and most important parts of science meetings are the interactions between talks, next to posters, and at the end of the day over drinks. These connections pave the way for collaborations and friendships that nourish our professional and personal lives with shared opportunities, camaraderie and support.

In recognition of the increasing relative importance of the “meeting” part of a science meeting, the unconference format emphasizes interaction over presentation. It attempts to engage participants to the maximum extent reasonable in discussion and doing. Science Online is a good example of this unconference format, in which the session topics are typically decided on democratically by the conference attendees (partly before arrival, partly on arrival), and you vote with your feet by going to and leaving sessions as you desire.


Ecology is changing

Ecology is now adopting some of the same online and social tools that are already accelerating innovation in computing and other science disciplines. Ecologists, ecology students and educators are asking many of the same basic questions they have always asked: What should we be doing? How do we do it better and faster? Social media, open source software, open science, altmetrics, crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, data visualization, data sharing, alternative peer review, and an increasing emphasis on more and better communication and collaboration are just some of the newer tools being put forth to help address those questions in the 21st century.

Social media is rapidly becoming more common in ecologists’ toolkits to disseminate news of their new papers, communicate about research and research tools, and even filter the deluge of publications. Tools like blogs, Twitter and Facebook are filling the communication gaps between annual meetings and adding a new layer of conversation and connection to conferences and classrooms.

Social media, in turn, is connecting scientists directly to people besides their immediate colleagues who appreciate the impact of their work and want it to continue. The crowdfunding movement – exemplified by Kickstarter – has spurred similar alternative science funding projects such as SciFund. #SciFund project has shown that social media engagement increases donations to crowdfunded research (interview with Jarrett Byrnes).

In addition, we are in the era of big data, and this includes ecology. To deal with this “data deluge”, ecologists increasingly want to learn how to manage, share, retrieve, use, and visualize data. There are new tools for all of these tasks – we need to aid each other in learning them. Online and offline communities are coalescing around the development and dissemination of these tools for the benefit of ecological science, and they are meeting face-to-face at our ecological unconference.

Science in general is becoming increasingly complex and calling for larger and larger collaborations. This growth in turn is spurring a drive toward more openness and transparency within the culture of science. The more collaborative and complex scientific study becomes, the more scientists depend upon each other to do good work that we can all build upon with confidence. The often unstated assumption about ecology, and all of science, is that research findings are reproducible; but that assumption is quite shaky given the increasing number of retractions (see the Retraction Watch blog) and findings that much research is not reproducible (see media coverage here and here).

A recent initiative seeks to facilitate attempts to reproduce research: The Reproducibility Initiative. Jarrett Byrnes spoke at #ESA2012 of how transparent, online discourse enhances our ability to discuss and improve our work and the work of our peers, both before and after publication. One way we as ecologists can quickly make our research more reproducible is the way we write. By simply using tools that make reproducing what we have done easy to do, we can avoid retracted papers, failed drugs, and ruined careers.

Much of the ecological science community shares one or both of these goals: to do the best possible science, and to do it in a way that is most useful and accessible to colleagues and to society at large. The goal of this year’s ecological unconference is to introduce as many people as possible to resources – both tools and people – that can help all of us achieve those goals, on our own, or together.


What are you proposing?

We originally thought about a separate event from ESA itself, modeled after Science Online, incorporating a variety of topics. However, we thought testing the waters for this sort of non-traditional unconference format would be better in 2013. We are gathering ideas from the community (see “How do I make my voice heard?” below). The ideas on the wiki that get the most traction, and have 1-2 champions that are willing to see the idea through and lead the workshop at ESA will be turned in to proposals for ESA workshops. In addition, we will be submitting a proposal for an Ignite session at ESA. To summarise, we will be running:

  • A few workshops (at lunch hours, and half-day). Topics may include:
    • Data sharing
    • Data visualization
    • Data management
    • Alternatives to academia
    • Blogging
    • Social media
    • Reproducible science writing
  • One Ignite session on “Tools for better/faster science”. See more about Ignite sessions here.
  • A “tweetup” event to socialize in a more relaxed atmosphere

These will all be loosely aggregated under the #AltEcology hashtag.


How do I make my voice heard?

We have set up a wiki in which anyone can contribute. Please share your ideas and voice your support for existing ones at the wiki here. You can just throw ideas out there, or even propose new workshops and nominate people to lead them. We’re currently moving to transform existing ideas into ESA workshop and Ignite proposals to meet the November 29 deadline, but we’ll be incorporating input from the wiki right up to the meeting itself in August 2013.


Get in touch

If you have any questions/comments, let us know in the comments section below, tweet us (Sandra: @sandramchung, Scott: @recology_), or email (Sandra, Scott).

Managing social media accounts for public or private organizations. Part I: Must Know

I promised the attendees of my ESA 2012 Portland workshop that I’d address social media management on behalf of institutions/organizations. Here it is. This is version 1.0, so please comment if you have anything to add or if you think I’ve goofed!

A bit of background: I currently manage the social media accounts at NEON Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit that is overseeing the design and construction of a large, long-term ecological monitoring project. NEON Inc. is relatively new and also new to social media, so I’ve had a large role in developing the organization’s social media strategy and feeds from the ground up. I started doing social media in earnest as an intern at a large national lab, which had a well-established Facebook Page but not much in the way of a Twitter following.

Some things you must know if you are handling social media for a private or public organization:

1. Your organization’s social media policy

Find out if your institution has an existing social media or nondisclosure policy. Read it very carefully. You may need to change it. If it doesn’t exist, get started on developing one. To get started, check this database of social media policies for several examples from organizations that are similar to yours and/or have documented successful social media campaigns.

2. How to mind intellectual property, fair use law, and Creative Commons and GNU licenses

Many people think nothing of republishing a photo, video, sound file or graphic they find on the Internet without asking permission or crediting the source. Lots of individuals get away with violating copyright law everyday, but large organizations are more likely to get sued for it, particularly if they are for-profit. It is also just plain bad karma to use someone else’s work without their permission. You absolutely need to know about intellectual property and how to respect it.

Stanford University Libraries has a great site that explains copyright law both clearly and in detail, with example cases from the Internet and the music industry. At the bare minimum, please make sure you understand and remember everything in these two short sections:
Copyright Basics FAQ
Websites: Five Ways to Stay Out of Trouble

Disclaimer: I am not legally trained or an intellectual property expert. This is far from a comprehensive set of guidelines, just some starter information to make you aware of the basics of this very important issue.

I recommend that you be able to tell how a creative work is licensed, know how to hunt down originals and how to properly attribute any creative content to its original source. At minimum, state the author’s name and the source. Because we’re on the Internet, you should also link to the author’s website or web profile and to the original source where space allows.

3. Your goals

As an institutional social media manager it is extra important to establish clear goals for your organization’s social media account(s). Develop these with input from supervisors and managerial staff and make sure you all agree to them on paper. Clear goals will help you focus in curating and composing content for your feed. They will help you develop metrics to measure your progress (below). And if you later publish something that someone objects to, you can point out how it addresses the goals you all agreed upon and had engraved on the back of your iPad.

4. How you’re doing

Data are especially important if you’re trying to convince others of the value of social media outreach. Some tools and ways to track how you’re doing:

  • If you are server savvy, consider installing the open source Thinkup platform, which archives tweets and Facebook posts and visualizes basic metrics like followers, retweets, mentions, as well as tweet locations.
  • I hear Twitonomy does a lot of useful stats tracking, but I haven’t tried it yet.
  • Maintain Twitter lists of your target audience groups.
  • Use link shorteners like bit.ly that help you track clicks on your links.
  • Use Google Analytics (or Jetpack Stats if you have a WordPress blog) to sort out website hits that come from tweets.
  • Visualizations are always a hit when it’s time for a review. In addition to the visualizations automatically generated by some of the apps above, my favorite visualization tools are:

  • Tweepsmap
  • Tweetstats
  • Next, in Part II: The “I” in “we”: how to tweet as an institution.