22 September 2008

Blinded by science

Today is the first official day of our AGM and Scientific Conference, and I already find myself ducking out for a quick sanity break. This morning’s sessions were decent because they put our new research programs into context - more of an overview of goals and objectives rather then the heavy science stuff. This afternoon, however, we got into some of the meatier jargon that sails over my head no matter how hard I try to understand. Science is often a language onto itself and, unless you are a working in that particular stream or subject, it all sounds like Greek to the untrained ear. Amusingly, even researchers don’t always understand one another. That is the difficulty is communicating science; it is complex. As you can imagine, for this poli-sci and communications graduate, my job is doubally challenging. On the plus side, if I can grasp a concept or understand its significance, chances are that ther average Joe public or a politician will understand. I’m kind of like a filter for information. If I can’t understand it; if it can’t be explaining to me so that I can craft a story, then the message just doesn’t get out there. Sometimes it pays to have a “non-science” dodo like me in the mix, because (unlike many scientists) I understand how the average voter thinks, feels and perceives science. Truth be told, not many people care. My job is to make them care and believe me, there really is some valuable and cool research going on in this great nation of ours.

Science aside, I have not been able to get out and explore the town much today. I went out for a quick walk to Starbucks but the weather has turned very chilly, windy and rainy. Because the city and the whole of the province is pretty much flat, there always seems to be a hearty breeze. At any rate, I braved the elements, grabbed a latte, and managed to find a little stand selling all sorts of Saskatoon Berry products. I stocked up on some jam and herbal tea. I also bought two chocolates for my hubby, but ate them once I started falling asleep in the conference room. Oops!

I’m happy to report that I also managed to snag a lonely single ticket to the opening of Waiting for Godout at the Persephone Theatre. It’s Samuel Becket’s most famous play, so I figured I would jump at the opportunity. The benefit of going solo, is that I was able to score a really good seat in 4th row; there weren’t many seats left for couples or groups. What can I say; I guess it pays to be a loner sometimes…

Nothing else exciting to report. There are still more scientific talks this afternoon, following by another networking reception and scientific poster viewing/ presentation. These things are about as exciting as a root canal, but I do appreciate the hard work that the researchers (many of which are younger Post Docs) put into their posters. As an additional incentive for presenters our initiative hosts a “Best Poster Award” ceremony at our final Banquet (tomorrow night). AGM participants are asked to vote for their top three favourite posters and the winners are announced after dinner. Each of the three recipients receives a certificate signed by the VP, as well as some giftware. This part of the AGM is another one of my little babies because I arrange the voting, the gifts and the actual logistics of the poster submissions and setup. It may sound corny, but I think it is a fun and valuable experience for young researchers. Publishing and presenting research is a large part of the scientific community and very much key to achieving a certain degree of respect and recognition.

Must go now. I have to get to my growing list of work emails and see to a few issues before the next set of talks begin. We have some external speakers this afternoon that will be presenting on research ethics and I actually want to be there for that discussion. It’s always interesting to hear about the “hot button’ topics. As a communications practionner, it’s always good to know what kind of attitudes and perceptions are out there. If the “poop hitteth the fan,” I’m always to first to get a phone call or inquiry.

Pray for me folks. It’s only 2:40 PM Saskatoon time, and I feel ready to drop. I can only drink so much caffeine before making myself ill. I did an impressive stint at the gym this morning at 6:00 AM and felt fantastic for about an hour, but exhaustion is catching up to me now.

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