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Biotech Journalism Panel Series Part 2: Who’s Great At Communicating San Diego Life Science?

Posted by Mary Canady April 28th, 2013 .
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Part of the motivation behind organizing our upcoming biotech journalism event is that we want to encourage more communication about the terrific life science advances in the region. In putting the panel of local science communication experts together, we realized that there are many other examples we can discuss to inspire you to promote your scientific work. As part of our #SDScicomm series, here are 7 great San Diego life science communication efforts.

First, though, let’s talk about why science communication is so important. As the online media landscape is developing, the public hears from many anti-science ‘voices’ such as sources that tell them vaccinating is a bad idea and that global warming is a hoax. We crunched the numbers from a recent Pew report (the data are on p. 11 and the analysis can be found in this Google doc) and found that there has been an 11% decrease in support for life science funding over the past 26 years. Surely the reasons for this are varied, and the Pew report also points out that the public has become more austere in other areas as well (p. 6). However, if your lab/institution/company has not yet felt the effects of shrinking government and investor support, you are definitely in the minority. Science communication is now more important than ever, especially as new sources of information are taking hold.

alternate textFigure 1. US public’s support for increasing life science funding has declined 11% since 1987. Image links to supporting data.

Great San Diego Science Communication Examples

  1. Life Technologies’ Anti-Sequestration Campaign. In an effort to stop the government’s across-the-board sequestration funding cuts, Life Technologies implemented a campaign making it easier for scientists to contact their congressional representatives. According to Robin Smith, Sr. eMarketing Manager at Life Technologies, the campaign generated at least six thousand responses in a month (12 minute mark in video). Of course we all know that the sequester happened, but that doesn’t mean the efforts didn’t raise awareness. Indeed, the conversation is very active currently (follow #sciquester on Twitter) and life scientists should be vocal to their friends and families as to the impact on their work and lives. Life Technologies took a bold step and likely used a significant budget to back this campaign, they should be applauded.
  2. San Diego Entrepreneur’s Exchange (SDEE). The SDEE is a fantastic resource for startups and small companies, with frequent events and lots of ways to get involved. I attended an event titled “Built To Last, Not For The Exit” in which three local entrepreneurs presented their inspiring stories of how to create a long-lasting life science company in San Diego. SDEE is also active in supporting funding of small companies, providing education about getting Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Grants and support of pro-SBIR legislation.
  3. Sanford-Burnham’s Beaker Blog. We had Heather Buschman, Scientific Communications Manager at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, on our panel last October to discuss blogging from an academic institution standpoint. Heather is the tour de force behind Sanford-Burnham’s Beaker blog which is an excellent example of science communication as it offers news and insights to scientists as well as to the public. Don’t take our word for it, the blog has gotten numerous awards. We wish each of our outstanding research organizations had a blog such as Beaker. It would be even better if they also provided the infrastructure for every lab to have a blog. We can dream, can’t we? We provided a list of San Diego life science institution news and resources pages on our last #SDScicomm post.
  4. SciVee. One of the founders of SciVee is UCSD’s Phil Bourne, and the vision of this project is to allow researchers to communicate their research through video presentations. SciVee provides software to facilitate creation of presentations, and each can be paired with an uploaded document. Dr. Bourne is a long-standing advocate of science communication and open access, and is the Founding Editor in Chief of PLoS Computational Biology and Associate Director of the Protein Data Bank, in addition to being UCSD’s Associate Vice Chancellor for Innovation and Industrial Alliances. We are dying to get Dr. Bourne to speak at one of our ScienceOnline San Diego events, but as you can imagine he’s very busy!
  5. Salk Mobile Science Laboratory. I heard about Salk’s Mobile Science Laboratory from a colleague and had a hard time finding it on their website, it seems like a great but perhaps not widely publicized resource. The bus visits 18 schools a year, reaching 2200 students each year for the past ten years. The lab focuses on DNA-related experiments—wouldn’t it be great to have a bus for each area of life science?
  6. San Diego Festival of Science & Engineering (SDScienceFest). The SDScienceFest has been going strong since 2009 and I volunteered for the expo this past March at Petco Park. Through 35 events, 55,000 children and adults are exposed to the great science and engineering happening in San Diego. I overheard one child saying “This was the best day ever!” upon leaving the expo and several asked us when the next event would take place. Outreach to the public is incredibly important, and I saw only a small percentage of our 400+ biotech companies participating in the event. The SDBN hopes to improve the number of biotech companies participating in future SDScienceFest events.
  7. Crowdfunding. An interesting development in research funding is the use of so-called ‘crowdfunding,’ or raising money through public requests. The most popular initiative is SciFund, and the founders aim to help scientists better communicate their research through their campaigns. A few local groups have begun to use crowdfunding, including a lab at TSRI, a local company trying to cure Malaria, and an online forum for scientists. These efforts are all in their early stages, and time will tell whether this funding model is viable. If you’d like to get started with your own crowdfunding campaign, check out this great training program from SciFund.

There are many resources to help you get started doing more communication and outreach such as ScienceOnline and Nature’s SpotOn science outreach initative. We will highlight the above and other local life science communication efforts at our biotech journalism event, and perhaps you know of others you’d like to share? Please leave them below, thanks!


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Biotech Journalism Panel Series Part 1: Where Do You Get Your Local Life Science News?

Posted by Mary Canady April 25th, 2013 .


In anticipation of our Biotech Journalism event Monday, we’re providing resources related to San Diego life science communication tagged here with #SDScicomm (also the hashtag for the event). Over the five years since the SDBN’s creation, we’ve seen a lot of changes such as the SDUT’s acquisition of the North County Times, the rising popularity of news organizations such as Xconomy, and more local companies starting blogs. Keeping in touch with the local life science news is important for many reasons: to learn about advances, funding, jobs, and events. We cover many sources in our news feeds, which you can subscribe to, and we’ve also created a Facebook interest group you can follow. If you have another news source, contact us and we’ll add it. Also, encourage your organization to provide more news and information online, preferably with an RSS feed, as this is how we combine them into a single source. Share news and events with your colleagues and friends too, this helps science in the region gain more visibility.

So, tell us, which of news sources do you use? Comment below!

San Diego Biotech News Sources

Institution Resource Links
Accelrys Blog URL
Allele Biotech Blog URL,RSS
Assay Depot Blog URL,
Biocom Event Calendar URL
BioSpace* News URL
Genomeweb* News URL, RSS
Illumina Blog URL,RSS
Life Technologies Blog URL, RSS
Salk Institute Event Calendar URL (mailing list)
Salk Institute News RSS
San Diego Business Journal News URL
San Diego Biotechnology Connection News URL,RSS
San Diego Union Tribune News URL,RSS
Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute Blog URL,RSS
SDBN News, Event Calendar URL,RSS (feeds)
The Scripps Research Institute News RSS
Trilink Biotechnologies Blog URL,RSS
Xconomy News URL,RSS

*Requires filtering for San Diego news.


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SDBN 2013 Poll Results: Drug Development, Translational Research, Green Tech Top Interests

Posted by Mary Canady February 7th, 2013 .
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We have the results of our 2013 poll. You can see the questions we asked here, we kept it short this year. See the results below and we will try to cover the interests and companies you are interested in!


Company of Interest # Votes
Illumina 5
Novartis 3
Genomatica 2
Intrexon 2
Life Technologies 2
Pfizer 2
Sapphire Energy 2
Sequenom 2
Synthetic Genomics 2
Verenium 2
Amgen 1
BP Biofuels 1
Cardinal Health 1
Ceres 1
Dart Neurosciences 1
Ferring 1
Halozyme 1
Johnson and Johnson 1
Roche 1
SG Biofuels 1
Takeda 1
Trius Therapeutics 1
Verdezyne 1
Vertex 1

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SDBN 2013 Poll

Posted by Mary Canady January 17th, 2013 .
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San Diego sunset 1/1/2013, image courtesy Flickr user nette1274 (click image)

2013 is here and we’d like to know how we can serve your needs this year. Please fill out this short survey and we’ll send you a 2013 MO BIO calendar (also shipping with orders from them through January). (Poll is now closed, see the results here.)


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Tips For Starting A ScienceOnline Satellite: If You Build It, Will They Come?

Posted by Mary Canady January 16th, 2013 .
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Last October the SDBN did a grand experiment and hosted a ScienceOnline satellite meeting. In the end, it was a great success, we pulled together a fantastic panel, got an attendance of 75, and had a stimulating discussion. However, to be completely honest it was a lot of work organize it and times I thought the event was going to be a flop! Here are some tips for those of you who want to start a ScienceOnline satellite, as well as how to participate in San Diego.

  1. Think outside the (micro)blog. I follow the ScienceOnline community through Twitter and assumed that a local satellite would need to start with scientists who were already using the application. I tried mapping Twitterers in the area and got dismal results, but I did connect with Justin Kiggins aka @neuromusic and he’s an important part of ScienceOnline San Diego (#ScioSD) now. Justin also commented that “San Diego scientists tend to do science online, but they don’t necessarily talk about it online.” Justin told us about several initiatives he knew about in the area: the Neuroscience Information Network/Neurolex, the Whole Brain Catalog, WholeSlide, Figure Zero, and Neurolinx. We were lucky to get Stephen Larson from OpenWorm on our panel at the October event. I started thinking about local resources I had used as a researcher such as the Protein Kinase Resource and the associated San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC). Of course, we contacted Phil Bourne of SDSC, the RCSB/Protein Data Bank, and SciVee as well and hope he can participate in future meetings. Someone else reminded me about Andrew Su and his work with BioGPS and GeneWiki. In addition, during a trip to TSRI I was reminded that Art Olson has been a pioneer in science communication for many years through his lab’s visualizations and models. So, in preparing for the event, I sent many personal invitations, made phone calls, etc. I even put up fliers and was reprimanded by a security guard at one local institution! In summary, cast a wide net for your first event, and leverage existing groups and institutions.
  2. Consider your region’s ‘flavor’ and needs. I realized some differences between San Diego and the existing ScienceOnline community. The east coast, where the ScienceOnline conversations are centered, is home to more science journalists and bloggers due to the influence of the media hub of New York City, and Washington DC brings more government interests (e.g., NASA) and an emphasis on education. These elements are less pronounced in San Diego, where startups, funding, and intellectual property are very important. This is not to say that we don’t hope to grow in areas such as education, we have had a few people step forward with interest in this and other areas. Personally, I think there isn’t enough media attention to San Diego biotech locally, and that this could be tied to funding issues (something we’d like to address in ’13). We hope to continually gauge interest in different topics, and understand we may need to tread some new ground. We were very happy to have the support of Kevin Lustig and Assay Depot at our event, and they are involved in a ‘DIY Bio’ lab is set to launch in Carlsbad soon.
  3. Consider your audience VERY carefully. For the SDBN events, we charge a fee to cover dinner and space rental, and choose to hold more regular events with this model rather than waiting until we can guarantee sponsorship and a reduced rate. It works well for us, but we found that…how should I say it…the #ScioSD audience was less prone to pay for an event. In addition, Heather Buschman, another important part of the #ScioSD team from the Sanford Burnham Medical Research Institute (SBMRI), indicated she thought our venue in Sorrento Valley, while very convenient for biotech, was too far away from the academic center, which is closer to La Jolla. While we had a great turnout in October, let me tell you that it was a lot of hard work, and likely would have been easier if we’d served our audience better. The next event, a watch party for the ScienceOnline conference in North Carolina, has a lower registration fee and and will be held at SBMRI. (Thanks to Heather for securing the venue and to Gareth Morgan and the TSRI Society of Fellows for sponsoring).
  4. Lean on the masters. As I mentioned in an earlier post, serendipity played a role and ScienceOnline Director Karyn Traphagen was able to fly out and be a panelist at our event last October. She told us all about the resources available to ScienceOnline satellites and has helped us greatly to get going. Learn more on their website.
  5. Let go. Once we cast a ‘wide net’ to announce our first #ScioSD event, we found many people who are enthusiastic and willing to run with the organizational tasks. This is how a ScienceOnline satellite should function, in my opinion–no one person or organization taking on the full load. I’m “happy” to say I’ll be participating only tangentially in the watch party, in that I’ll be following their Tweets while I’m at the conference in North Carolina and perhaps relaying questions from them during sessions. I have met SO MANY incredible people in the process–if you want to meet scientific thought leaders, this is the place!
  6. Create resources to help. Because the San Diego science community is not currently engaged on Twitter, where do we go from here? We’ve created a few resources:
    1. Twitter list of San Diego scientists, managed by @ScioSD, also follow #ScioSD on Twitter for updates.
    2. Facebook San Diego Biotech interest group and ScioSD Facebook Page<
    3. ScioSD Google Community (and the organizers are using a Google Group, contact SDBN if you’d like to be included).
    4. San Diego Science Blogs RSS Feed (contact SDBN to be added)
    5. LinkedIn Group
    6. (Website coming soon!)

If you’re in San Diego, how do you participate? The next upcoming events are an informal gathering at Rock Bottom in La Jolla Thursday January 24th at 6 p.m. (follow @ScioSD) and the ScienceOnline Watch Party February 2nd. What is a watch party, you ask? Each session at a ScienceOnline conference is a flurry of activity, from the events going on in the room, to online discussions which start and multiply. At the watch party, you’ll watch three live sessions in which you’ll be able to participate in the online discussions, as well as talking about the session to local participants. Two prerecorded sessions will also be watched, and you’ll get to vote on these. Perhaps most importantly, you’ll meet locals who are interested in ScienceOnline and you’ll also help us to form the local chapter. Here’s the registration page, hope to “see” you there!

Special thanks also to Jill Roughan, Sandeep Pingle, and Leah Cannon, and Ramy Aziz, all part of the growing #ScioSD Team!