Reflections on the 2010 AAAS Conference

Author:  Selina Dobing
Institution:  University of Alberta
Date:  April 2010

As the winner of the 2010 JYI Research Department Award, I was given the amazing opportunity to attend the AAAS Conference in San Diego, Feb. 18-22, 2010. The theme of this year's conference was "Bridging Science and Society," a theme that goes particularly well with the interests of this journal. We too look at the question: how can we translate scientific research so that people in society can understand and use it?

The internet is increasingly used as a tool for research translation, and this was reflected in the themes of many of the presentations. One of the key issues discussed was the future direction of science journalism, with the increasing popularity of internet science news sources (our journal's News and Features Department included). Another topic of interest to readers of our journal was the potential ability of the internet to bypass the peer-review process for research publications. This was addressed in an interesting talk by Brooks Hansen, Deputy Editor of the Physical Sciences department of the journal Science, ("How to Publish in Science"). He argued that the peer-review process is essential to maintain the integrity and accountability of research, and that this process must be maintained, even if or when anything can be published online. Although online peer-review journals exist (our journal, PloS, etc.), not all online sources are as accountable as these.

As with any conference, networking was also a key part of attending this event. Several talks were dedicated to developing networking skills (a couple of which I attended), and a "speed-networking" breakfast (along the same lines as speed-dating) was held one morning. Between promoting the Journal of Young Investigators at these networking events, and at our journal's exhibitor's booth, I met some very interesting individuals and organizations, some of which will hopefully be working with us in the future.

But not all was serious. One of the more entertaining parts of the conference was hosted by the Annals of Improbable Research, best known for organizing the Ig Nobel Prize Awards. Presentations included a number of colorful speakers, such as Dr. Elena Bodnar, who proudly demonstrated how to use her invention, the convertible emergency face-mask bra. Outside of the conference center, our executive board also made several forays into the heart of the Gaslamp District of San Diego; some favorite moments included eating tacos and kebabs, and visiting the harbor side, not to mention nearly becoming lost several times (fortunately to be redirected by an iPhone).

In all, I can happily report this conference to be a success from a personal standpoint, and for the Journal of Young Investigators!