I was fortunate to be able to attend Science Online last week, an in real life conference that brings together a community of people interested in science communication on the world wide web to talk and learn and stay up late and drink way too much coffee. I wanted to write a post conference post (PCP), and I’ve read a lot of other great PCPs (which inspire me to think about even more things that I missed at the actual conference, when my brain was at capacity) but I’m still not sure what I want to write about.
Basically, I met a lot of awesome people and listened to them talk about a lot of really cool stuff. I discovered a bunch of great new blogs, and now I need to overhaul my blogroll. I picked up some science books that I’m really excited to be reading and a some germs that have caused a persistant sore throat that wasn’t just from too much chatting.
Like last year, there was lots of great advice on writing and communicating science with tools that go beyond writing, podcasts and interactive maps, comics and videos. There were important conversations about outreach, diversity, and education. There were tricks of the trade on social media from the women behind @MarsCuriousity and storytelling from one of my idols, David Quammen. There was great food. Altogether very inspiring. But for me, this year I ended up taking a more personal perspective on the experience.
One of the common questions at ScienceOnline is “so what do you do?” because it often yields fascinating answers- what we do, somewhere in this big messy intersection of science and communication, is something we are all passionate about, that’s why we were there! So it’s a good question. But I struggled with it a bit. Right now, I’m an investigative reporter with a mostly environmental beat, I’m a graduate student in journalism, I’m trying to get my freelancing legs. But, in May, I graduate, my one year investigative internship wraps up, and I’m still not sure what’s next. So I spent a lot of the conference considering that question.
I started to reinvent myself two years ago, leaving work I was good at to try something new — science journalism. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been exciting. Now, with graduation looming, I’m trying to find the right next step. ScienceOnline gave me a place to think about a lot of options, to meet with a lot of models for how to build a career out of passions for writing and science. I learned a lot about how to think about freelancing as a business. Apparently, it involves a lot of spreadsheets and lists, which is lucky for me, because I love both of those things. I got a lot of career advice, from lovely people who took time to talk with me about my goals. I talked with others in my cohort of relatively new science journalists about how we can support each other as we move forward with our careers. For me, these conversations, directly applicable to the big decisions I feel looming above me, were the best part of my time in Raleigh. Well, that, and the fried catfish for breakfast at Big Ed’s.
So thanks to everyone I talked with about the writing life and everyone else I talked to about anything- it was all good. And thanks to everyone who came and I unfortunately didn’t have a chance to talk with yet. And thanks to everyone who worked hard to make the conference happen. You all left me with a lot to think about, ideas that will stick with me a lot longer than this sore throat hopefully will.