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It started when two canine scientists decide to become pen pals in an era of digital media...

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

#SPARCS2013: The Aftermath

Oh Julie!

How great was #SPARCS2013? 
SO VERY, VERY GREAT!

I love the buzz that comes from hearing presentations by experts in the various areas of canine science and what the Society for the Promotion of Applied Research in Canine Science achieved over 3 days, AND SHARED GLOBALLY FOR FREE, was just phenomenal!

I love that we hung out in little parties in our respective parts of the world - with dogs present! I spent one morning (Australia time, end of a SPARCS day) with my colleague, Kate Mornement (and her dogs, Archie and Joseph!). The other days I spent waking up early and loving hearing from the likes of Adam Miklosi, Monique Udell and Clive Wynne. It was just FABULOUS. I hope everyone who enjoyed SPARCS2013, remembers to donate and/or become a SPARCS member so that this initiative can continue in the future. 

SPARCS parties around the world!

Something that was also interesting to me, was watching the twitter-sphere light up in response to the #SPARCS2013 event hashtag. Seeing the canine science communication get further afield (through the free live streaming over the web) than it would usually in a regular scientific conference was interesting, entertaining and above all - BRILLIANT.

Monique Udell breaking down canine cognition

There was one thing I found particularly interesting, which was how exchanges of what I would call 'scientific discussion', for example, such as:
"You're wrong!"
"What's the source of that data?"
"It's OK to not have all the answers"
"We should all be careful of over-generalising our results"
"I'm not interested in repeating your experiment, because I'm not interested in testing that hypothesis"
were sometimes perceived as "silo" (divisive) attitudes, rather than people just expressing a professional difference of opinion or seeking further information. I think it's really important that when we communicate our science to a broader audience, we also take time to explain the scientific process and how scientific rigour operates as a self-correcting process, over time. Always advancing our understanding and moving towards the best grasp of concepts that we can have. This process doesn't do a disservice to "the dogs", each other, or our work. It is how we ensure we do the best by the dogs, each other, and our work. Sometimes in science, entire premises can get flipped on their heads, and initially, that can feel uncomfortable, or ridiculous, or really, very right.

We're not fighting! (Flickr:JesseGardner)

Clive Wynne acknowledged this toward the closing of his final presentation, when thanking the SPARCS2013 organisers. He said that it is good for the discipline of canine science to have a forum like SPARCS, where the experts can come and speak, listen to each other, discuss, perhaps even argue, because that process - provided we all stay open to the odd premise-flipping idea - drives our field forwards in a healthy direction for the future.


Thank you #SPARCS2013, to the conference planning team for making this available for free, the live stream tech' team for being so responsive and ensuring we were all able to experience this amazing forum, the Twitter community who participated in the online discussion and to the scientists who shared their ideas and understanding with the world. 

I am feeling that empty, slightly sad and tired feeling you get after an amazing conference. 
And I am really looking forward to #SPARCS2014!

Mia

Further reading:

Allende J.E. (2012). Rigor–The essence of scientific work., Electronic Journal of Biotechnology, 7 (1): Link

© 2013 Mia Cobb