Nautilus

Virtual networking for microbiologists

Networking is an essential part of the conference experience, but what opportunities are there for those who cannot make it to many, or even any, meetings? Can Web 2.0 applications enable scientists that do not have the time or money to attend meetings to reap the benefits of networking, and do Web 2.0 applications have a place in both our social and work lives? The June Editorial in Nature Reviews Microbiology (6, 410; 2008) takes a look at selected virtual networking resources, including wiki software such as OpenWetWare, preprint servers (for example, Nature Precedings) and scientific social networking sites (for example, Nature Network), that might be useful for microbiologists, and the editors welcome your comments here. From the editorial:

Finding the time to write and read blogs could stimulate collaborations or open up new career opportunities in science writing and education, but how many microbiologists actually write blogs? In the United Kingdom, the only microbiology academic who blogs on a regular basis is Alan Cann from the University of Leicester. His blog on new and exciting microbiology research, aptly named MicrobiologyBytes, has been particularly successful, with 300,000 page views over the past 18 months and 750 comments on 468 posts (Alan filters out all spam comments or ‘splogs’). He also blogs about science in general on Science of the Invisible, and his enthusiasm for new technologies has led him to divert his energy into a non-laboratory-based career researching the use of online resources for education. Other active microbiology ‘bloggers’ include Moeslio Schaechter, whose blog Small Things Considered is hosted by the ASM, César Sánchez, whose blog Twisted Bacteria has a particular focus on actinomycetes and Ed Rybicki, whose blog ViroBlogy concentrates on virology. Some other bloggers, including microbiologist Rosie Redfield, focus more on their own research to provide an insight into the everyday lives of research scientists.

It is now even possible to attend conferences without leaving your desk: the first ever International Online Medical Conference was held on 10–11 May. But how useful will Web 2.0 applications be in your research? We welcome your views, as comments to this post.

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    Lucy Goodchild said:

    Another microbiology blog site is http://www.micropodonline.com. It is a new venture, established in December 2007 by the Society for General Microbiology and the Society for Applied Microbiology. The blogs are about all things tiny and are made accessible to the non-microbiologist; they are our (Lucy Goodchild and Lucy Harper) personal views on topical subjects such as mandatory vaccines, science in the media and adverts that give microbes a bad name. In the monthly podcast, we interview scientists about their research.

    For a new project like this, the difficulty is building up a network of people who comment on blogs and interact with the content. To facilitate this, micropod has a Facebook group where people can chat, comment and virtually meet other listeners/readers. We have also been investigating the use of virtual worlds in which to hold meetings, and we regularly have editorial meetings ourselves in Second Life and via Skype. Every day the capabilities of Web 2.0 grow, creating new opportunities for networking without the travel costs and environmental implications. We definitely think this is the way forward!

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    Maxine said:

    Thank you for your comment, Lucy. You write: “the difficulty is building up a network of people who comment on blogs and interact with the content…”. Experimenting with Facebook seems to be a good idea that many organisations are trying. You might also consider an online presence via creating a group at Nature Network ( http://network.nature.com ), mentioned in the NRMicro editorial, which is a free social networking site specifically for scientists, and which has quite a considerable number of active users.

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