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What Channel Are You?

Posted by Mary Canady July 9th, 2009 .
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I was talking with good friend Julie Wright of (W)right On Communications and she surprised me by telling me that she considers me the “San Diego Biotechnology Channel.” What she meant by this is that she looks to me for news and information about Biotech in the region. I was very flattered and realized that my work with the SDBN and doing things like sharing news on Twitter has been worth it. I also realized that in this world of crumbling media outlets and noisy social media, that being a ‘channel’ for others can make you very useful and advance your career.

I started realizing that I too have channels that I depend upon for timely and meaningful information. My friend Sally Church is, among other things, an oncology expert, and she is very active on Twitter. When she posts a link regarding cancer news or research there, I trust that she is passing it on because she read the content and that the information is accurate and relevant. Through Twitter and her excellent blog, she is my ‘oncology channel.’ Jack Pincus, also on Twitter, always posts useful news about biotechnology, I almost always ‘retweet’ his information–he is my ‘biotechnology news channel.’ (I’d better be careful, I’m telling you all my secrets!) William Gunn is knowledgeable in many areas, and broadcasts on several channels: science, social media, cajun food ;). Speaking of which, I would be lost without local writer and foodie Caron Golden, who is my ‘food channel,’ giving me advice on recipes and restaurants.

My point? These people are important to me in understanding the sometimes noisy world of news and information these days, and I turn to them often to help me with questions or projects related to my business. Regardless of your objectives, whether they include landing a job or being a successful entrepreneur, becoming a ‘channel’ for others can gain you more exposure, collaboration, and success.

How do you become a channel? Allow me to climb upon my soapbox for a bit. Today, the possibilities of combining your scientific (or other) expertise with social media give you many opportunities to become a channel. Your channel is simply related to your objectives and interests. Want to land a job at a green tech company? Become the green tech channel! Get a Twitter account, start a blog (or blog here), start a LinkedIn group, or begin by participating on existing blogs or groups.

You can certainly try to be a ‘channel’ without social media (and many are), but it will definitely give you a leg up and a medium for your broadcast. Even if there are already existing channels in your area, don’t beat them, join them, add your own ‘flavor,’ and make new connections. The beauty is that you’ll learn a lot about the subject in the process, and you’ll meet others in your chosen area. We also covered the similar idea of determining your ‘positioning’ in the Biotechnology Marketing 101: You First (PDF) presentation on the Comprendia website. As we also discussed in the Social Media for Scientists presentation, our advice is simple: Just Do It!

Posted by Mary Canady, Founder of Comprendia, where she broadcasts the ‘biotechnology marketing’ channel, helping small to mid-size companies become more market-driven for long term growth. Special thanks to Julie Wright for being the inspiration for this post.


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Bloggers Wanted!

Posted by Mary Canady July 7th, 2009 .
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If you attended the Social Media for Scientists Event we had in May, you know that we are aiming to get more of you involved in the SDBN. One of the ways is through inviting you to write blog posts on the SDBN site. You can blog about events you attend, news or trends (any UC postdocs want to blog about the recent unionization?), or scientific topics of interest.

What’s in it for you? You’ll get exposure for yourself and your company/institution to the San Diego Biotechnology community (including hiring managers!) and experience blogging without having to start your own blog. Just submit your ideas to and we’ll be in touch to get the content.

Be creative–look for trends, anything newsworthy that you have unique insights on, or amusing things around you. Guides that others may find useful are also good, such as a list of resources. The tone can be amusing or irreverent, but we always want to have the aim of promoting biotechnology in the region.

We’ll look forward to hearing from you!


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Friendfeed: Life Scientists’ Biggest Little Secret

Posted by Mary Canady June 29th, 2009 .
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During our May 28th Social Media for Scientists (SMS) SDBN event, William Gunn talked about friendfeed as a useful tool for discussing science and learning. We polled the attendees before the event and found that they knew almost nothing about it, and had little interest in learning about it. We set up a friendfeed room for the group and frankly have not had much adoption.

So, what’s so great about friendfeed, why do we keep talking about it? Friendfeed aggregates all of your activity on social media, so that when you post anything on twitter, your blog, Flickr, etc. (58 social media applications are available), all of your connections there see it. Now, think of this used with a scientific ‘persona,’ if you will. You can share interesting articles, blog posts, presentations–some people even post data on Flickr–with your colleagues. Every post can be commented on, leading to interesting discussions. See this example of how friendfeed was used to stimulate and manage discussions regarding the conference, and the interest was so high that posts were thought to be spam!

Friendfeed takes it one step further, allowing you to form and join groups which focus on topics (see table below). You can benefit from group members’ posts, ask questions of the group, and take part in the discussions from any post. Scientists have been using the web to interact via forums and mailing list for a long time (we even discussed friendfeed vs. these older ways of communicating there). While someone pointed out that there is ‘nothing wrong with the old forums and mailing lists’ and that ‘you can post longer items using the old methods’ I see real value in the ’2.0′ forms of communicating such as friendfeed. With these types of social media, as with media such as twitter, often people post interesting observations that lead to unexpected comments and new directions–there is a level of serendipitous discovery that occurs. Also, because the groups are full of like-minded people, there is not much noise, and even discussions that are tangential to your work can be interesting. As William Gunn pointed out in our SMS presentation, you can also search all posts and comments from your friends or groups, leading to one of the most targeted web searches available (bing, eat your heart out).

One thing that I find incredibly interesting is that these groups can also become commentaries on larger issues. See the References Wanted group below–it is a repository for articles that scientists cannot access freely, and thus a commentary on the need for more open access science, paradigms that journals such as PLoS subscribe to. In addition, you’ll find that the scientists on friendfeed are keen to learn about new tools–see the Evernote Addicts group, a group dedicated to software for aggregating information that scientists (and others) find very useful. As with other types of social media, it is not clear what the lifetime of friendfeed’s relevancy will be, but you can be sure that the people here will be ahead of the curve in knowing what the ‘next big thing’ for scientists will be, even if it means moving away from friendfeed or being a ‘force’ to help change it.

As with other social media, the best way to learn is to try it yourself. I suggest signing up and subscribing to the groups below, getting email updates for convenience at first. We realize that some of you are still hesitant to join, and that’s OK. It turns out that Facebook and friendfeed have a lot of similarities, as a fan page can be set up for a group of people, and items can be posted on and discussed among members. We set up a SDBN fan page for this purpose, become a fan and start posting and interacting! We hope that it will give you a ‘taste’ of ‘serendipitous scientific social media’ and that you’ll be inspired to participate in tools such as friendfeed. We’ll also continue to help you learn more about the tools for science in social media through blog posts and events. As we mentioned at the SMS event, participating in social media gives you a way to get a ‘leg up’ from your colleagues in real time, and we think that once you start experiencing it, you’ll be as hooked as we are!

P.S. On friendfeed there is even a discussion on this post!

Friendfeed Groups for Life Scientists: Some Examples

Group Members Description
The Life Scientists 949 A room for all the life science types on FriendFeed (and everyone we’ve co-opted). Topics tend to focus on bioinformatics and computational biology, but discussion from any area in biological sciences is welcome.
Science Online 333 A room dedicated to online scientific communication. Previously: Science Blogging 2008.


51 Biology

Science News

197 News and discussion about interesting topics from the world of science.
References Wanted 93 This is a room to document the harm caused by closed/toll-access publication by collecting hard data to answer the frequent anti-OA attack "everyone has all the access they need already". Post here citations to journal articles you’d like to read/need for your work, but can’t get without paying a fee.
ScienceOnline 135 ScienceOnline09 – formerly known as Science Blogging Conference – will meet again in NC in January. 200+ people (and many more virtually) will discuss how the Web changes the way science is communicated, published, taught and done.
Evernote Addicts 1,193 For anyone who uses and loves Evernote. Discuss how you use it, what you’d like to see it do, and generally how it’s made your life better and more organized.
San Diego Biotechnology Network 18 Biotechnology professionals living/working in the greater San Diego area.

Don’t see a group that interests you? Search the friendfeed groups for your research area or anything you’re interested in, or start your own!

Posted by Mary Canady of Comprendia, which helps life scientists and the industry improve communication through social media and marketing strategies. Special thanks to Sally Church of Icarus Consultants & PharmaStrategyBlog for helping with the list of groups, and to the friendfeed life scientists group, who let this ‘marketer in scientist clothing’ participate in the group. Also thanks to William Gunn, for help and convincing me to persist with friendfeed even though I didn’t ‘get it’ at first.


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Social Media for Scientists Poll Results

Posted by Mary Canady June 28th, 2009 .
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Here are the results of the poll we took of attendees before the May 28th Social Media for Scientists SDBN Event. The presentation should be self-explanatory, contact us if you have any questions!


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Scientists: Is Modesty the Best Policy?

Posted by Mary Canady June 23rd, 2009 .

I recently looked over a company presentation for a friend and noticed something that I see a lot from scientists: she was being too modest in stating her reputation and abilities. When I pointed it out, it seemed as though I was suggesting that she should brag, a fate worse than death it appeared. Now, we all knew the jerk in grad school who acted like s/he can and did do everything, winning the favor of the advisor and not giving credit to others in the lab. I am not suggesting that scientists should overstate their abilities, but rather, be more confident and clearly communicate their skills and how they can benefit others.

I see this change in attitude being beneficial at many levels. On a personal level, scientists should think about what they’re good at early and often, and how to communicate it (also, if distinguishing talents don’t emerge, that needs to be worked on as well!). This is good for a scientist in developing his or her scientific progress as well as landing a job that fits well and positions them for maximum growth. See Comprendia’s Biotechnology Marketing 101: You First presentation for more hints on finding and communicating your ‘value proposition.’

Additionally, I see biotechnology as a whole benefiting from more confident, self-realized scientists. If companies find it easy to identify qualified candidates, either because they clearly post their abilities on LinkedIn or give great interviews, they save time and end up with employees who are a great fit and can communicate well. I also see scientists at companies being too modest at all levels, it doesn’t always ‘go away’ when a scientist leaves academia or reaches upper management. See Comprendia’s Biotechnology Marketing 101: Your Company for more details on clearly defining and communicating the value proposition of your company. Your business, science, and employees will all benefit when it is clear what your company excels at.

Who benefits when scientists are too modest? I can’t think of anyone. As long as you give credit where credit is due, and help others, you should realize that knowing and communicating your talents is the best way to advance the field. If you’re worried that you’re exaggerating, by all means ask for advice from some colleagues. Any fears about appearing too arrogant will likely be allayed by people who know you or your company, and they may even tell you that you’re still understating your abilities!

I sometimes feel as though I’m on the ‘other side’ of science since I concentrate on marketing, but I think I’ve got a good perspective on the importance of communication for success in biotechnology and life sciences. Success by any one of us means more success for all of us. Remember that many younger scientists are benefiting and learning from your science and your achievements–why understate them? As life scientists, we don’t have a Hippocratic Oath regarding our responsibilities to society, but maybe we should. Feel free to leave your ideas for one below!