A couple notes from the first day of Science Online 2012 (#scio12 on Twitter):
A session on Open Data raised a point about crowd-sourcing of data sets: So far the crowd has been awfully small. How can it made bigger? Case in point: ChemSpider, the Royal Chemical Society’s free online database, contains 26 million chemical structures. Its 400-plus data sources include only 132 individuals, and exceedingly few of those individuals contributed as many as 10. Technology isn’t the problem, with sites like ChemSpider and the new FigShare site. It’s a social issue — sharing isn’t an especially strong value among researchers. And it’s a what’s-in-it-for-me issue, as long as the use of open data sets doesn’t result in citations (or anything else of value) for the contributors of the data.
The session on why scientists hate and fear the media drew a large and highly engaged group of scientists and reporters. The reporters wanted the scientists to know that some reporters do read a study before writing about it, although clearly not all do. Scientists wanted reporters to know that for the most part, they face a bigger potential downside than upside in speaking to the media (especially university researchers who have yet to gain tenure). There was a consensus that consistent contact and developing relationships can lead to better results for both groups. The session ended with two requests: The reporters urged scientists not reward bad reporting by continuing to work with bad reporters, and the scientists asked reporters to be judicious in selecting their subjects and not reward bad science.
Most interesting science of the day: political neuroscience (link corrected). Try researching or writing about that one without upsetting a lot of people.