“We’re Scientists”

McDawg’s Match Report on Science Blogging 2008: London

Pleasant train journey from Glasgow (via Edinburgh) to London (Kings Cross) Friday 29th August. Met up with Dr Jennifer Rohn as roughly scheduled and then the Guardian’s, James Meikle.

Whilst Jenny and I were waiting for James at the Guardian’s reception area, who troops in? None other than Weblebrity Ben fucking Goldacre (he likes to swear you see):-

Never met Ben before although we have exchanged a few emails, the most recent, the day before (since Ben gets gazillions of emails, he didn’t immediately recall my name).

NOTE: Ben is the Keynote Speaker tomorrow.

Rough transcription, “So Ben, have you finished preparing your talk for tomorrow?” – Ben, “I haven’t thought about it yet” etc. Blimey.

A couple of drinkies and some very interesting chat in a local pub with James and Jenny but with differing schedules, James pissed off to a local Morrisons store for some grub and Jenny and I hoofed it back to where we started off from-ish.

Off to Paddington Station for me and a one hour train journey to an undisclosed (sorry) location in Taunton. Was met at the station by a friend as scheduled, couple of drinks at the local pub (such a nice quiet friendly establishment), was treated to a lovely meal back home and crashed without being too late. Who needs Hotels when you have friends/places like this.

Cue Times Like These: Acoustic This is entirely appropriate under the circumstances, plus it’s just a bloody great song.

Early start, HUGE cooked breakfast (which came in very handy) and returned to the local rail station. A points failure though on the line, all trains cancelled. Shite. Thankfully, the half dozen or so of us commuters were taxied 17 miles to a much larger station and caught an alternative connection back to Paddington.

Quick ride on the London Tubes and arrived about 30 mins. later than scheduled at the Royal Institution (RI) for the event in question. Due to the delay, I had sadly missed Ben’s keynote (apparently, he swore shed-loads but they’ll bleep ’em out from the yet to be seen video) but there was a long absorbing day still ahead.

Are there any bloggers in da house?

When I opened one of the three doors to the Faraday, and peeked inside, I truly felt like a young boy late for his school lesson.

A hundred or so. Fuck, how can I get “into class” unnoticed?

A distant memory which I actually rather enjoyed, if only for a second. I waited. Oh, there’s someone else who’s also late who’s wandered through, so I followed their slipstream unnoticed. I like to be discreet/polite anywhere where I can.

I joined the Conference at the early stages of the first panel discussion.

Now, McDawg being an active member of Nature Network etc. knew many of the attendees by name but not many by face at this juncture.

On the floor, obviously, I recognised Jenny. Oh, next to her must be Anna Kushnir.

In “the audience” who did I spot. Ah, that must be Henry Gee. Is that Bob O’Hara down there – I think so. Now that will be Cameron Neylon. Is that Jean-Claude Bradley sitting beside him? I think so. Oh, and there’s Timo Hannay down there. I think that might be Heather Etchever Now that looks like Attila Csordas. There’s Ben Goldacre again. Oh, that must be Corie Lok. etc. etc.

Tea/coffee break and my first chance to mingle. Now at this juncture (posted two days post event) I don’t intend to report much about the Conference itself in detail since many others have already done so most adequately.

Time to (literally) recharge those batteries? Well yes. Whilst I charged my vid camera overnight – I stupidly left it on play-mode so all the juice had gone. Like an Eagle, I spotted a much in demand spare plug socket and Corie confirmed it was fine to use it. Thanks Corie…

Really superb lunch I have to say c/o the Conf. organisers.

Had lunch with Henry, Bob and Viktor Poór. Since I was still stuck for accommodation (lengthy saga) that night, this came into discussion and within seconds, Mo Costandi’s accom. offer was made and accepted straight away. PHEW. That part of my brain could now relax.

After muchos chatting, munching, slurping and networking, everyone headed off for the afternoon sessions.

During the final session “embracing change: taking online science into the future”many interesting things were discussed as one might have expected. Quite unexpectedly, Peter Murray-Rust, whilst talking about blogging and patient advocacy asked me to comment and briefly divulge my background. This I did but having now listened back to the recording of that session, I fully agree with Corie who mentioned later on in the pub that as bloody usual, I spoke too fast. Anna, bless her, commented that she got the general gist though of what I said.

Time for a change of T shirt before we commenced networking post Conf. I found what I thought was a quiet spot (broom cupboard) to change but was caught in the nude with, sorry by a Nature employee. She’s since recovered.

After that, on went one of my two navy blue PLoS ONE T shirts, quick spray of body de-od, clipped the name badge on again and completed the transformation/pit-stop in under 19.56 seconds thus setting a new ‘personal best’ in the process. Nice.

Rejoined the masses and lost track of the number of people who made comments such as, “weren’t you wearing orange a few moments ago?”. “Yes, I replied, I just fancied a change”. Fair enough.

My gosh, the bar at the RI is a tad expensive 😦

Off to the King’s Head PH (public house) down the street for the evening. As was announced during the final session, Peter and I found a quiet spot to work on our Manuscript for the OA Journal: Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine PEHM for short. Great to get this back on track but this was a tad anti-social. Matters got more complicated though when Mo told me that he was going to be heading home fairly soon. WHAT?? 9.30 on a Saturday with all these fine minds around?? Surely not.

Peter let me go (thanks Peter) and continued writing until he lost power on his laptop. The only plug points available were 2-pin sockets so we couldn’t re-charge the laptop or my vid cam. I did spot a double socket just down below but after I attempted a recharge, Peter informed me that he had already tried this but the sockets, and I quote, “don’t contain any electrons”.

Very thirsty work this Manuscript writing business you know.


At closing time (~ 11pm) around a dozen of us wandered off into Soho in an attempt to find a suitable drinking hole. At £10 a head to get in anywhere though, we spent what felt like a lifetime finding “our utopia” for the night. Small, clean, ambient Moroccan restaurant was where we ended up. Well it was ambient till we turned up and loud music started blaring within a minute or so after we sat down.

It was getting late, so time to part company and head into the night. Mo, Attila and I took a cab (well, we think it was a cab) but the science related chat continued to flow.

Our cab driver asks Mo what he did. Mo’s reply of “We’re scientists” in the context of the situation and indeed the day to me was totally spot on. Now, I is no scientist, but Mo and Attila are. In a way though, I kind of felt that I had morphed into the role of scientist by now, at least for a day. Is it within the remit of a Patient Advocate/anyone to socialise with scientists in this manner? Absolutely, and the more of this, the better.


We dropped Attila off, hit Mo’s, Mo and I had a couple of cups of tea before shut-eye. Big thanks to Mo for letting me crash over. Much appreciated Mo.

As it happened, we both chose to wear our new sciblog T shirts the next day. Tube was down so took a bus to Victoria and parted company. Several hours later, I was back in Glasgow but turned a number of heads with my latest science slogan bearing garment along the way.

All in all, what a really fantastic bunch of cool, intelligent, creative and friendly people and Richard P. Grant. I was one of the lessor experienced bloggers but I came away with much to contemplate.

Sign O’ The Times.


Duncan Hull said…

Hi Graham, good to meet you (very briefly), I’m gutted I missed all the drinking, had to slink off early. See you next time. Duncan

2 September 2008 07:14

McDawg said…

Hi Duncan,

Thanks for dropping by on my blog.

Shame we never got the chance to say more than Hello to each other.


2 September 2008 08:22

Anna said…

Hi Graham,

I was so happy to meet you in person at long last! I understood you no problem 🙂 I did, in the back of my stressed out mind notice a color change in the Tshirt department. Sneaky. Odd question – was that PLoS tattoo on your arm real or fake? Not sure which would be more bad*ss, under the circumstances.

Mo is such a nice person, isn’t he? I really enjoyed chatting with him.

Hope we get the chance to catch up again soon!

2 September 2008 14:03

McDawg said…

Thanks Anna, we must meet again.

Someone understood my Scottish accent? That’s a first.

God, I really really hate tattoos with vengeance. Why was I sporting one/two?

The one(s) you saw were part of my diverse kit that I received from PLoS-NY last year.

Utterly unplanned, I pressed one on each arm during my train journey from Edinburgh. I was simply bored during the 4.5 hour journey.

Mo (as you say) is well cool and I look forward to further communications with him.

As for me smoking? Well, as I said to all, I’ve cut down big style, honestly, but thanks to you, I have little options left (than to stop completely) – or you will kill me – right?

Hope too to see each other again soon.

2 September 2008 14:36

Karen James said…

Hi Graham, this is my first visit to your blog, thanks to FriendFeed, (I’m a newbie there). Loved your play-by-play… it was like living the conf all over again (a good thing) and though I didn’t actually meet you there, it’s always nice to hear that other people were thinking the same thing I was at the same moments in the day …well, except for that thing with the broom closet.

2 September 2008 16:21

McDawg said…

@ Karen – el broom closet sketch I have you know was simply me, changing my T shirt – shocking I know. I’ll do do this in public next time !!

2 September 2008 16:40

McDawg said…

Hi Karen.

Such a shame that we didn’t get a chance to speak to one another. As with most events, too many people, not enough time.

Must drop by the Beagle Project blog more often.



3 September 2008 04:19

Abel Pharmboy said…

Thanks for the post, Steely – sorry to not be able to make it over to your side of the pond. Happy to hear that you could attend one of these blogger cons in person.

Rock on, brother!

3 September 2008 09:14

McDawg said…

Hey there AP,

Thanks for dropping by.

Was really neat to meet scibling’s Mike Dunford and Grrl Scientist.

Watching Mike live-blogging was fucking awesome.

I counted at least 8 who were tapping away. Was this a first for the Faraday? Possibly/probably.

Regardless, I’m sure Faraday would have given this an almighty thumbs up.

3 September 2008 10:21

maxine said…

Well I am glad someone said that about the RI bar. As I have not been in a bar for 17 years (thanks to my nose to the grindstone at Nature, only let out to look after children or sleep), I casually offered to buy the drinks for the 3 people next to me in the queue….two fruit juices and two (rather titchy in my view) glasses of white wine came to £17. And the barman did not hear one of the wine orders so had to be reminded. (Glad it was not £17 for two squashes and one wine).

But yes, I think it was a good conference!

3 September 2008 14:14

McDawg said…

“As I have not been in a bar for 17 years”

No comment.

3 September 2008 14:44

Viktor said…

I have ejoyed reading this post, as Karen said before: I lived the whole day again.

And so many ‘great’ pictures of me 🙂

5 September 2008 02:53

McDawg said…

Nice to meet you Viktor.

I really enjoyed writing this post so nice that others enjoy reading it =)

5 September 2008 10:23

Mo said…

Good to meet you Graham. It was a pleasure accommodating you for the night.

6 September 2008 06:54

One Response to ““We’re Scientists””

  1. “We’re Librarians” | McBlawg Says:

    […] When blogging, I tend to leave the title until last (as I did here). I chose this one as it reminded of my of the title I used before but in a different setting – “We’re Scientists” […]

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