To tweet or not to tweet?

Here at GARNet, we’re pretty big fans of social media, and Twitter in particular. You can find me, for example @GARNetweets, Charis is @weedinggems, and Ruth has the enviable Twitter handle @plantscience. We regularly post links to news, journal papers, job posts etc., tweet from conferences, and encourage live-tweeting at our own events too.

Left behind at GARNet Towers while my colleagues attended the Plant & Animal Genome conference in San Diego last week, I followed events virtually, via the Twitter hashtag #PAGXXIII – thanks to everyone who tweeted for keeping me up to speed!

Though once upon a time it would have been considered rude to sit tapping away at your phone during a plenary lecture, in today’s WiFi-enabled world, more and more people are using social media during conferences. As John Innes Centre (@JohnInnesCentre) student Amelia Frizell (@AmeliaFrizell) points out in this blog post, there are many advantages to live-tweeting: it’s a great way to make notes, stay engaged with the speaker, increase your Twitter follower numbers and network with peers.

But there’s an ongoing debate, known as “Twittergate”, about whether it’s appropriate to tweet during a conference, what should and should not be tweeted, and what, exactly, the “twetiquette” is when engaging with social media during live events.

A Twitter account I follow recently retweeted a link to quite an old blog post on The Guardian website, which reminds us that there is a certain level of responsibility involved in live-tweeting. At academic conferences in particular, there are unwritten rules that should be followed. I recommend reading the article as there are some very useful tips and things to bear in mind.

You see, although many of us are fully subscribed to the idea of Twitter as a way to quickly give and receive snippets of news and information, not everyone feels the same way. Not everyone is aware of what Twitter is, how it works, or just how public a channel it is. Many distrust it and are sceptical. Some academics, for example, are comfortable with presenting unpublished work to an audience of peers in the room, but less happy to have it instagrammed and summarised in 140 characters or less and whizzed around the Twitterverse for anyone to read.

Having been lucky enough to attend quite a few conferences last year, it was interesting to note the uptake, or not, of Twitter in different places. At UKPSF (@UKPSF) Plant Sci 2014 and ASPB’s (@ASPB) Plant Biology 2014, for example, tweeting was encouraged and I was among a handful or two of other delegates all using the official conference hashtags. At ICAR 2014 (@ICAR2014) however, Charis, Ruth and I were practically the only ones online.

At SEB (@SEBiology) 2014 in Manchester there were noticeably more ‘tweeps’ in the plant science sessions than there were in the animal or cell biology talks, while at SpotOn London (@SpotOnLondon), a science communication conference I attended at the end of 2013, there were so many people tweeting and using electronic devices that it was a scrum to find available plug sockets to recharge during the lunch break!

Like Amelia, I think – when used responsibly – Twitter is brilliant for conference and workshop communication, and as Anne Osterrieder (@anneosterrieder) and others testify, social media is a great science outreach tool, too. Like it or not, Twitter is a ‘thing’ now. And it’s not just a frivolous plaything for younger students or early career researchers, it’s a bona fide tool for communicating and sharing news and joining in online conversations.

Speakers: don’t be offended if people spend more time looking down at their iPads than up at your slides. If they’re tweeting or live-blogging about your work, they are helping you to communicate your science to far more people than just those in the room. If you’re presenting something you’d rather not have published on the internet, or don’t want your photo taken, just say so during your talk – the twitterati will respect your wishes.

Embrace Twitter. Why not set up your own Twitter account and start posting links to your papers or research websites? Follow people you’re interested in (like us?!) and retweet what they have to say. Tweet about what you get up to in your lab. Put your Twitter handle on your conference presentations so people can @mention you in their tweets, or even start your own catchy hashtag? Who knows, you could end up trending!

Funding and networking opportunities from BBSRC plant science NIBBS

Categories: funding
Comments: No Comments
Published on: December 9, 2014

Early this year, BBSRC announced 13 new Networks in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (NIBBS). Their aim is to foster collaborations between the academic research base and industry in order to drive new ideas in specific areas of focus. Four NIBBS have plant science themes:

•   A Network of Integrated Technologies: Plants to Products: http://www.nibbp2p.org/

•   High Value Chemicals from Plants Network: https://hvcfp.net/

•   Lignocellulosic Biorefinery Network (LBNet): http://lb-net.net/

•   PHYCONET: unlocking the IB potential of microalgae: http://www.phyconet.org.uk/

Each BBSRC NIBB organises free residential networking events and awards funding in the form of Business Interaction Vouchers and Proof-of-Concept funds. You need to be a member of the NIBB to access any of these resources, but they are all free to join.

Business Interaction Vouchers are worth up to £5000 and are intended to support research done by an academic partner for an industrial partner of the NIBB. Depending on the NIBB, there are deadlines throughout the year or applications are accepted at any time.

Proof-of-concept funds are more flexible in scope and amount awarded, but have stricter deadlines. Each NIBB is dealing with their awards differently: The HvCFP deadline is 19 January 2015; and the LB-Net has organised Challenge Workshops in 2015, which will lead to funding for multi-disciplinary teams formed at the workshops. The other networks do not currently have proof-of-concept calls open.

Mathematics in the Plant Sciences

Categories: bioinformatics, Workshops
Comments: No Comments
Published on: April 17, 2013

After the ELIXIR/GOBLET workshop before Easter, I headed to Nottingham for another workshop, this time as an onlooker. In a brilliantly eccentric set-up there were actually two parallel workshops, and the participants hopped between the two and had lunch, dinner, and tea breaks in the same rooms. The event I was officially attending was the final meeting of the ‘Systems approaches to study hormone regulated root growth’ US Partnering Award (USPA). The Sixth Mathematics in the Plant Sciences Study Group was in its final two days during the USPA workshop, and some of its attendees presented their research at the USPA meeting or sat in on a session they were particularly interested in.

The Study Groups are hackathon-style workshops at which mathematicians and computer scientists take on problems set by plant scientists. This year’s problems included analysing 300 standing-electron microscopy images of cell walls, and modelling nitrogen release from the symbiosome. As someone with a traditional science background, of course the solutions the teams came up with were a bit beyond me – which is, after all, the whole point of the Study Group. I was impressed by the solutions that had appeared after just four days of work, which ranged from programmes to quantify subtle differences in images, to a model which predicted the optimum light input for photosynthesis and explained plant acclimatisation to variable light sources.

There will be another Study Group and when it is announced, we’ll keep you informed. If you know any mathematicians or computer scientists with a liking for academic science problems and who likes hackathon events, let them know about Study Groups and encourage them to send their details to Susie Lydon, who organises the events. Similarly if your plant research has thrown up a thorny problem which needs specialist expertise, think about submitting it for the next Study Group.

Bioinformatics: Training the Trainers

Categories: bioinformatics, Workshops
Comments: No Comments
Published on: April 9, 2013

My apologies for the GARNet radio silence over the last couple of weeks – we’ve been busy helping with PlantSci 2013 preparations as well as working on our own 2013 meetings (announcement of our September workshop coming soon!), going to a few external meetings, and enjoying that arctic Easter break too.

The week before Easter I went to an ELIXIR/GOBLET Training the Trainers workshop at TGAC (The Genome Analysis Centre). If you don’t know what ELIXIR or GOBLET are … don’t worry. They’re fairly new bodies and at the moment have quite a niche target market/audience, but they will be influencing bioinformatics and computational biology use and training over the next few years.

The ELIXIR project was FP7-funded in 2007 and aims to establish a sustainable European infrastructure for biological information. The infrastructure should eventually be a place for data storage, access, and analysis – for anyone who wants to use it in one of the member countries. Sixteen countries are participating, and each has a ‘node’ responsible for a different aspect of the project. ELIXIR-UK is based at the EBI in Cambridge, and is both the co-ordinating hub of the entire project and the training node.

GOBLET is the unusually straightforward acronym for Global Organisation for Bioinformatics Learning, Education and Training. Its mission is essentially to support trainers and educators in bioinformatics and computational biology. ‘Training’ can be either a full-time job, or incorporated into another job. Their aims include establishing guidelines and standards for training, gather funding, and forming a networking and support hub where resources can be shared internationally.

(more…)

NIAB Innovation Farm GM workshop 2: Public Good Programme?

Comments: No Comments
Published on: September 25, 2012
Cows and maize, a major GM cattle feed.

For responses to last week’s news story about the GM maize feeding trial that appeared to cause tumours in rats, GARNet suggests: New Scientist,  the Science Media Centre, UKPSF, or for a rather more biting commentary, Forbes.

As discussed in the previous post, GM plant products are commonly used worldwide for food and for animal feedstock. But strict European regulations mean growing a GM crop and bringing its product to market is very difficult in Europe. Any progress toward GM products on the European market, especially under a public good programme, is dependent on a relaxation of EU regulations for GM. The consensus view from the NIAB Innovation farm workshop GM: Is it time for a public good programme? was that if GM was treated as another breeding method, and GM crops were subject to the same regulations as conventionally bred plant varieties, industry would be far more likely to invest in GMOs.

Anti-GM feeling in the general public has reduced recently, but governments still implement anti-GM legislation. This in itself makes a government-supported public good programme unlikely in a European country. A public good programme would also have to overcome several technical and legal barriers. A framework would be needed to allow open access to technology and outputs, therefore a unique intellectual property arrangement would have to be implemented. A wide stakeholder steering group, independent of any one institution, to deal with these and other issues would be essential. Several people wondered what exactly a public good programme would look like – there is a successful public GMO programme in China, but it depends almost entirely on government funding and a similar financial commitment from the UK government is unlikely, at least in the near future. (more…)

NIAB Innovation Farm GM workshop 1: Background to GM discussions

Comments: 1 Comment
Published on: September 18, 2012


On 12th September, I attended a workshop at NIAB Innovation Farm entitled ‘GM – Is it time for a public good programme?’ There were some very good points made throughout the day, and instead of a chronological account of the presentations, two blog posts on the workshop will outline the main themes that came out of the discussions. The programme is on the Innovation Farm website.

The CEO and Director of NIAB TAG, Tina Barsby, kicked off proceedings by outlining the definition of public good: a ‘good’ that is non-excludable and non-rivalrous, and therefore not produced primarily for profit. Making it clear that the workshop was to be very much focussed on the UK and Europe, Barsby argued that as a market for GM products has failed to materialise, it is time for a non-profit, public good programme, perhaps supported by the government. However throughout the day, it became clear that a commercial market for GM cannot yet be written off.

Barsby went on to describe why GM technology in agriculture is necessary. Farmers battling  crop diseases and world leaders trying to ensure a reliable food supply both have the same problem – crop productivity is too low for the demands placed upon it. GM is one of the solutions to this problem, and while in Europe transgenic crops are not farmed, genetic modification is universally used in conventional breeding; from mutagenesis to marker assisted selection. Genetic engineering has the potential to make crops resistant to disease, contain increased nutrition, and withstand extreme weather conditions. (more…)

Coming up soon

Categories: resource, UKPSF, Workshops
Comments: No Comments
Published on: August 27, 2012

These are just a few of the events listed on the UKPSF Events Calender

Register now for the GARNet New Technologies to Advance Plant Research workshop: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/lifesci/news/newtech

Warwick Crop Centre are holding an Open Afternoon on 19th September. Visitors will be able to view the facilities, including field and glasshouse trials, and learn about the research and training opportunities.

Also on 19th September, EBI are holding a training course for PhD students and post-docs to train them to use the new PhytoPath resource.

The BBSRC funded Wheat Improvement Strategic Programme are running a course on wheat genetics at the John Innes Centre on 19-22 November 2012. There are only 10 places available but it will be a good introduction to cereals research and crop breeding for undergraduates, postgraduates or junior breeders. Apply here until 1 October.

There will be an international meeting on Imaging in Cell Biology in Windsor Great Park on 14-17 October. There are free places for graduate students and post-docs.

The International Symposium on Plant Photobiology will be held in Edinburgh in June 2013. To mark the launch of the event, a special launch price is available until 2 September – book early to get the good rate!

And something else…

Help GARNet assess the use of new Arabidopsis lines by doing a very short survey on MAGIC lines.

New open access resource for plant pest and disease management, detailed on PlantSci.

PLoS ONE have put together an impressive collection of all their synthetic biology papers.

page 1 of 1

Follow Me
TwitterRSS
GARNetweets
February 2017
M T W T F S S
« Jan    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728  

Welcome , today is Thursday, February 23, 2017