Compass rose

Science Policy and Blogging: Mixing it up at CSPC 2015

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Lisa Willemse, Science Borealis Board Member

“Oh, the East is East and the West is West and never the twain shall meet.”

Though this line from Rudyard Kipling’s 1889 Ballad of East and West is often used to describe differences, the poem – a commentary on race and colonialism – is actually much more positive, closing with these lines:

But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth

You might wonder what this has to do with blogging, and science policy blogging in particular. Bloggers and policymakers might be seen as the “East” and “West” in today’s world, but they’re not as far apart as one might think.

compass rose

The main compass rose of the Cantino planisphere, 1502 (public domain).

Blogging first emerged as a way for technology geeks to share information online, but it was through political discussions – mostly in the United States in the early- to mid-2000s – that blogging really got its legs. The topics and range of opinions presented were unconstrained, broad ranging,and often contentious. Through those lively discussions a number of thought leaders emerged.

And where politics and policy conversations go, science is never far behind. Indeed, those early blog debates often demanded scientific evidence, so it wasn’t long before blogs with a more direct focus on science appeared. Today, science blogging provides a forum to expand scientific discussions to include broader, non-expert audiences.

“Policy development in the context of science in Canada is only possible if the science is accessible. Scientists have a responsibility to disseminate their work to a broad audience, in language that can be understood by the public, journalists, politicians, and those involved with policy development. Science blogging provides a perfect platform for dissemination and is an easy, effective, and valuable way to take the results of research beyond paywalls and ivory towers.” — Chris Buddle, Associate Professor and Associate Dean in the Department of Natural Resource Sciences at McGill University

Going back to Kipling, we believe that the surest way to bring East and West together is through common ground, common understanding, and common language.

So Science Borealis is taking that approach in our panel session entitled: “Science Blogging: The Next Generation” at the Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC) on November 27. This session brings together bloggers, policy advisors, and scientists to discuss the role of blogging in science and science policy in Canada today.

Forgiving the Trekkie reference, our title reflects the two main goals of the session (full description of the session, along with bios of the presenters is available on the CSPC website):

New and Diverse Voices

We’re excited by the strong backgrounds of our panelists and the wide-ranging views they’ll bring to the discussion. As championed by the CSPC organizers, we’ve engaged young and emerging talent from the science and policy world.

Two of our panelists, Amelia Buchanan and Sabrina Doyle, represent the new generation of bloggers. They sit alongside veteran policy advisor Paul Dufour; academic researcher and blogger Chris Buddle; science blogger/communicator Lisa Willemse; and session moderator, science editor, and writer Brian Owens.

Engage and Create

Just like those early policy bloggers, we’re going to push some boundaries. Our main goal will be to engage and create! We envision this session as an active workshop, not merely a “sit-and-listen” panel. Our panelists will give an overview of blogging, provide their insights on best practices, and introduce a science policy topic of current interest.

The discussion that follows – in which audience members will participate – will be aimed at creating a blog post to be posted within a few days of the conference. We believe a document created in this collaborative and creative way can have a serious impact, and potential for substantial reach, given diverse inputs from and sharing by the collective audience.

We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at CSPC 2015. If you plan to attend the conference, don’t hesitate to let Science Borealis or any of the panelists know you’ll be there. We’d love to connect! You can reach us via Twitter, email, or comment below.

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