Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Blogging and Tweeting in Lectures

We had a long discussion about the impact of blogging and tweeting during conferences at the Biochemical Society and the society is developing a policy to say what participants will be allowed to do. There was a strong feeling from the academics present that they did not like it and found it disrespectful to the speaker.

I find when people take photos of every single slide with flash photography annoying but people certainly do it and often because they are attending a meeting in a language that is not their first language. They take the pictures so that they can try and understand the talks later. So we have to think about inclusion and participation.

The academics are also worried about intellectual property, but if you are publishing there is no patent and copyright always remains with the authors. We just have to sign away those rights to journals so why do we object to people who are attending our talks. We have to accept that they will do it and this might change the way we present our work slightly. Academics are not rewarded by money. They live off ego and kudos (see the arguments over open source software by Eric Raymond for the same view in programmers). IT IS AN OBLIGATION to make research PUBLIC. Einsten did not make a fortune out of copyrighting relativity. He became famous because of relativity. So I do not think the I.P. arguments have any sense.

What does make sense is not distracting the speaker and being careful about personal comments like ratings of talks. These can cause offence and so should be done carefully (although I did this myself at a conference). So long as you sit at the back and do not annoy too much with the sound of the keyboard I think we have to accept this is going to happen more often in the future. If the BBC uses it at the World Economic Forum at Davos then why are we being so high-minded in restricting it in scientific meetings?

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