Tell us a bit about yourself – where on the path are you and where are you currently headed?
I work for ‘Digital Science’, a new technology company out of Macmillan Publishers that provides state-of-the-art tools and software to enable better science. I’m the Manager of External Partnerships, a long title that involves developing and managing business leads, as well as serving as the spokesperson for the company – sometimes referred to as “evangelism” in the tech world.
I come from the open science world, most recently serving as the manager of the science division of Creative Commons (formerly known as “Science Commons”), where I also worked on making research more efficient, but through licensing hacks, policy and infrastructure. My time at Creative Commons introduced me to the socio-cultural nuances that can oftentimes be the most obstinate in the research world (and also the least talked about) – factors that are key to understanding how researchers interact with technology – or on the flip side, don’t. In my current role at Digital Science, I continue that work but instead focussing on technology solutions to help researchers and decision makers do better science and administration.
Previous lives include print journalist (funny enough as we prep for a conference with ties to science communication), First Amendment/freedom of information advocate, education technologist, and licensing (/data sharing) nerd. Each of those experiences have helped shape my current drive to change the way science (and science administration) is done.
Tell us a bit more about any interesting previous projects you’ve worked on.
At Digital Science, we have a number of external projects and partnerships going on that are particularly exciting. We’re a bit different than your usual software company in that we not only develop tools in-house, but also invest in start-ups and companies already pushing the ball forward, encouraging innovation. It allows us to serve as an incubator for businesses to help build out their tools and teams, as well as integrate with some of our existing technology in house. It allows for us to have a different level of conversation with researchers and entrepreneurs, tackle problems in a different way.
I also love connecting people, which I’m fortunate to have stitched into my day-to-day job (and even outside of Digital Science time). Along with my colleague Timo Hannay, and colleagues at Google and O’Reilly Media, we organise something called ‘Science Foo Camp’ (or ‘Sci Foo’ for short), an invitation only unconference that brings together 200-300 people each year stitched together by science. Our guestlist is diverse by design, including Nobel laureates, postdocs, industry leaders, writers and those from the media, and beyond. You can find out more about the event here.
In a similar vein but on a smaller scale, a friend and I run a monthly meetup here in London called ‘sameAs’, a pint-fueled get together that unites people from science, technology, design and beyond on a set topic each month for interesting discussion. Our hope is to bring disparate communities and individuals under one roof for regular conversation and reveal the threads that stitch them all together. We even, every once in a while, hold geek pub quizzes just for fun – including one this Friday night as a fringe event for Science Online. 😉
How “online” is your day-to-day life? Is there anything specific online that you wouldn’t like to live without e.g. favourite tools, blogs or websites?
My life has moved almost completely online – partially due to work, partially due to travel, the rest due to general interest. As for favorite tools, Flipboard has done wonders to fix the love/hate relationship I have with my RSS Reader (the “hate” portion being due to sheer content overload, not a problem with tool, per se). Other than that, the tools I rely on most heavily are the less-than-flashy ones – add-ons to my email, calendar integration, etc.
Do you write a blog yourself?
I try to, but managing various information streams, from Digital Science to sameAs to my own blog to even a food blog (which I was much better about when I was in the States for some reason) takes quite a bit of time. If someone can find me a life coach who can get me a bit more regimented about updating these streams regularly, I’d be eternally grateful. Perhaps Alice Bell or content kings Ed Yong and Bora Zivcovik can help. I think they must have a team of secret writers helping them put out such high quality content in such volumes. Yep, that must be it …
How did you get involved with Science Online London?
I attended as a participant last year, having just moved to London a few weeks prior to start at Digital Science (which was still operating in stealth mode at that time). Following the event, we had a chat with our colleagues at nature.com (Digital Science is a sister company of Nature Publishing Group) about the event, and our involvement was floated as a natural next step. The rest, as they say, is history.
What was the best bit about last year’s conference?
From someone completely outside of the policy world (but a former policy geek), Dr. Evan Harris’ keynote was absolutely fascinating. The video he showed of the Parkinson’s sufferer who was controlling his severe tremors with a brain implant was incredible. He used this example of medical technology to convince policy makers of the need for animal research. Brilliant stuff.
What are you most looking forward to about this year’s conference?
We’ve worked hard to get some new faces involved in this year’s event, and also craft the programme so as to welcome some other constituencies to the audience, introduce them to some new concepts. The event, just as science itself in the digital age, is evolving, and I hope this year’s Science Online shows that.