New blog! Welcome!

I am not new to blogging. I have been blogging for a few years now as scicombio.blogspot.com – “Science Communication with a Biology Twist”.

That blog was going to help me in my journey to clarify what I want to do in my life (no matter how cliché that sounds). Almost three years later I find myself in a different kind of job  (and a job that I love!), with another Masters (in Public Policy this time – and do not worry this is the last one) and even in a different country (France)!

At the same time, this journey took my interests far away from those the “science communication with a biology twist” was meant to express. Now I know that science policy is my thing, rather than communication or theoretical genomics.

Thus, it is time for a change. Time to close the old blog and open this one – scipolicyEU – so that I can start posting again!

Time for a new start!

PS Of course I have copied the previous posts from the old blog here – they are not lost!

a small update – diary entry

You might have noticed I have been away for a while.

A side of me wants to say: “I wish I could tell you that I’ve been on holiday”. This side is tired.

The other side, however, wants to say: “I have been working on a Youth in Action proposal for the EU!!!”. That side is enthusiastic and full of energy.

Both sides are saying the truth. Writing a proposal from scratch by yourself is a difficult thing. Especially if you have no experience like me. I will tell you more about the event this proposal is about, if it gets accepted. I don’t want to say anything else, in case I jinx it. Now that the proposal has been submitted, I have finally started to look around me.

Homeopathy :-S

One could say that in this blog, I focus too much on UK science policy news, or generally UK science-related events, trends etc. I have to admit, I find them a tiny bit easier to understand, given that I did all my studying in the UK. But there is another reason why I focus on the UK. I am still a bit scared to look at what is happening in Greece.

Probably in 2002, as a naive 2nd year undergraduate, right in the middle of my tree-hugging phase, I looked online to find out what my government’s views were on GM. I was against GM back then, so I was happy to read that the Greek government was too. However, the reality was very different. Since the government did very little to control GM crops, there were many GM fields in Greece. If I remember correctly, they had to burn huge areas when they found out about them, in order to show they were truly against GM. I was very disappointed to say the least.

My problem with science policy issues – e.g. libel law, abortion, animal rights, MMR, homeopathy, etc – is that I have huge gaps in my knowledge, since I only recently started to be interested in them. I have no idea what are the facts, what are the arguments for and against, for many of these issues. Immersed in my world of theoretical genomics, I did not really pay attention when I was in the UK. This was a good thing in a way, because I managed to get my PhD very young, but on the other hand, I now feel completely overwhelmed. Don’t worry, you might say, there is plenty of time. You are right.

Homeopathy is one of the issues I know nothing about in terms of policy. I have met people of course that use it regularly, but i have no idea what is going on exactly with doctor certification, government expenditure, etc.

Continue reading

Science and Society: step 1 is to set the question…

Why is there reaction to science-related issues in some countries, and in others not so much?

Having lived for almost a decade in a country where there were big reactions to science issues (MMR, GM, mad cow, etc), and having moved back to a country where the reactions are not so big – one could say non-existent – it makes me wonder why is this the case?

Of course it comes down to society, but why? What I mean is, of course there are big differences between the British and Greek societies, but which of these differences cause reaction in the former and not in the latter?

This question has been brewing in my mind for quite sometime now since it is different to communicate science to a society that is against it, than to a society that simply does not care. (A related question: why it does not care?)

Continue reading

digital literates vs illiterates: are we going towards the right direction?

There is too much information out there!  Have you noticed? In a way I feel sorry for the people that are starting their lives now since the volumes of available information are increasing exponentially. I can spend my whole day following updates of the people I follow on twitter and clicking on the links they are referring to without even reading any of the links.
Is this right? Are we going towards the right direction?
Such a huge percentage of people puts information online. Useful, interesting, useless, all mixed up. If I start blaming anyone, I should start with myself: I over the last three years I have started three blogs.
There was a conference this week somewhere in the US. It was called Future of Web 2010. The papers that summarize the plenary talks of that conference are on the massive virtual pile that I will be reading in the hope that they have something to suggest about this issue.
Don’t get me wrong. I am all pro-information and pro-knowledge and pro-open access! So much that I consider this statement a bit pointless: I cannot think how could anyone not be pro-knowledge.
The reason why I ask the above question is that I have a feeling that something needs to change: this is not the way forward. Most internet users are not using it like me: for example they follow their friends, musicians and celebrities on twitter instead of people whose work they are interested in.
I am not talking about digital natives and immigrants here, because I sometimes feel like an immigrant too. Yes I am using most Web 2.0 tools, yes I am very good at finding information online – maybe too good by the looks of it – but I am not as digitally native as I thought I was. Imagine what this little girl will be like when she reaches high-school:

What I would suggest is that we are going towards a world where there is going to be a “digital literate elit”, i.e. people that use the internet to their advantage, i.e. to know the right things and connect to the right people – and a “digital illiterate class” which will not be able to advance itself since it uses the internet just for social reasons or entertainment. And like in all early stages of new societies (this is what I think at least, but my sociology knowledge is limited however), the latter is going to be massive and the former a tiny priviledged minority.

I would also like to mention that I am not sure that the digital illiterates have it wrong. These people are out there socialising in the digital world. After all, we are human beings: we want to entertain and amuse ourselves. But in terms of their careers and hence in terms of the position of this new society and their ability to put food on their table, they will definitely have a disadvantage. It is not about access to the information. It is about the fact that these people are not looking for it. Not because they are stupid. Just because they are human.
And with the speed that information is increasing, I cannot say that I blame them!

Overload

I am already at a stage where I feel that either this will happen:

or this:
Free Clipart.
Maybe I have reached this stage BECAUSE I am at the beginning.
I started reading an article about science communication which lead me to the effectiveness of science blogging BUT also to the importance of peer review and how this is going to evolve AND also on whether science should be blogged, tweeted etc AND to the conclusion that there are a lot of interesting blogs out there, which have a LOT of comments to go through.
And I have not even started to look at science policy!!!!!!!
But fuelled with excitement I am running too fast I think. I have to pace myself: one aspect at a time. I have created a few posts on all of these subjects which I am hoping to be able to build on over the next few months.
I know this post is a bit pointless, but since this is in a way a diary of a journey I think I will need to write diary-entry-like posts every now and then. I hope you don’t mind… 🙂

An… introduction

Greekgirlinlondon was my internet name and I would like to advise whoever starts an internet presence to be careful which username they choose. I wish someone had told me so 5 years ago when for some reason, this name – one of the least viable in the long-term – seemed to me appropriate.

Why I am saying this? Because I am having problems because of it. Even though I have and always will – fortunately or unfortunately – remain a Greek person, I do not want to blog about “girly” stuff so much any more and I am not living in London either.

Rant over, time to introduce this blog.
I spent years trying to pretend that science was something that i accidentally fell into. Something that just happened to me. That i could have been an equally mediocre banker, lawyer, painter, architect, psychologist, builder, singer, etc. At the same time I kept thinking that science is something that I am not good enough for, passionate enough for, innovative enough for, smart enough for, etc etc.
And when I say years, I mean a decade. More than one-third of my life and the WHOLE of my adult life.
So for me it took a degree, an MSc, a PhD – admittedly all of them from the top 5 universities in the whole world -, 5 scientific papers (including one in Nature) and 2 years of soul-searching absence for me to say that “My name is Greekgirlinlondon and I am a scientist”.
I do not really feel a scientist of course – you do not immediately feel something just because you said it – but I thought that if I say out loud and if I try to pretend to be one, then one day I might feel like one, and all this wasteful soul-searching will – hopefully!!! – be over.
So this blog was created by me for me to say to myself: YOU ARE A SCIENTIST: DEAL WITH IT!
And because I am one of these people who having decided to do something, they want to do it properly and methodically and keep records and make something good and new and innovative out of it, and discuss with other people about it, and learn, and grow etc, I decided to take what I am – a… scientist – and make the best I can out of it.
I do not know where this is road will lead me, but I want to share this journey with you.
I have to apologise from the beginning: this journey is not going to be tidy. When has a scientist’s log book has ever been tidy anyway? I will make a lot of mistakes, I will ask a lot of questions that – for me – will lead to dead ends (they might not lead to dead ends for you though), I will go backwards and forwards, etc etc.
My goal at the moment is to find out what is out there in the world of science outside the lab. But who knows if my goal will be the same in a year’s time? Maybe by that time I will be back in the lab. Who knows?
This is how all scientific experiments begin – you have some thoughts on what might happen, but you do not know what will.
Lets begin!