Sep 17
All about Tuesday - day two at the ASC

The Annual Science Conference is now in full flight. After Monday night's welcome reception, and the copious amounts of vigourous conversation, tapas and wine on offer, it seems to me a small miracle that people were able to get up and go again for another at-least-12 hours of science-based activity. It's not just re-invigorating sleep that enables this, it's a clear burning passion that people have for what they do. Everyone. There's not one person I've spoken to who doesn't seem to care deeply about their chosen career. And despite the interdisciplinary biodiversity amongst the attendants, everyone's really riding the same current.

Prescription versus flexbility

Tuesday's special plenary lecture arrived courtesy of Dr. Ana Palma from Argentina's Centro Nacional Patagónico. A virtuoso in fisheries and management expert, Dr. Palma, using a lot of graphs that (only) I didn't understand but were clearly valuable to everyone else, looked at prescriptive management versus a flexible approach. "We're shifting from one control to another, which is very unsatisfactory," she expressed. 


Dr. Ana Palma on stage ​in the Gaviota auditorium

Afterwards she gave an insight into her philosophy: 

"As a scientist I liked the applied science so I liked  work at the interface​ between science and the real impact management decisions - and fisheries clearly has that opportunity."

Stuck into science
Elsewhere, ​​there was a ​​continuation of the four theme sessions that rolled into action yesterday​​, with much more science and research being presented, questions being asked, and points debated over. One of them, ​​with the title: 'Practical advice for implementing marine policy: combining ecosystem and societal indicators in stock and ecosystem assessments​, was valuable in terms of ICES working integrating across sectors. 

But what exactly are these societal indicators? 

"Indicators of important events, issues or phenomena in society that relates to marine environment problems," explained Eva-Lotta Sundblad, co-convener of the session. "They could be nutrient flow, behaviour like how much you need to eat, how much you’re influenced by commercial things, how you make your choices. You can also have impacts as societal indicators." 

Eva and her co-chairs Gavin Fay, and David Goldsborough have a mixture of backgrounds. Eva worked in economics for companies before training as an environmental psychologist, Gavin's expertise is in quantitative fisheries science, and David's story started with environmental science in the form of soil risk assessment before he moved into the marine environment​ realm.

They each bring something different to the table, and their mixed expertise reflects the drive by ICES to have people working across different fields - all of them in one way of another connected to the marine environment.

Elsewhere, theme session O​ proved a good example of why open discussion and debate time is built into the timetable at the end of each theme session:


Whilst biofouling - the gradual detrimental accumulation of microorganisms, plants, animals, and algae on wetted surfaces such as ship hulls. - was under the spotlight in session I


Then there was the strategically-crucial-for-ICES theme session F on Arctic biodiversity and how it would be affected by climate change amongst other things. One thing that stood out to me during this talk - at least from a non-science point of view - was the notion of the word consequences. In terms of the presentations here​ it simply and neutrally refers to results and effects that will be dealt with or not by the ecosystems and the organisms which are part of them. Not so when you consider how the public read the word consequences when science is reported on in the media. Here, consequences is a loaded word, it has much more of a negative slant. 

Impact factor

​Back out in Palexco's main foyer at the display stand for ICES Journal of Marine Science​​, ​Ian Sherman,​ publisher at Oxford University Press, which looks after the journal, explained to me the logic behind the publication's impact factor or 2.525.

The journal is a keynote ICES publication and has a heritage in printing articles, opinion essays, and commentary that goes towards our understanding of the marine world.

The maths goes as follows:

​​"During the calendar year 2013, the number of citations of ICES papers published in 2011 plus those in 2012 divided by the total number of articles published in that two year window – to give you the year. Basically, an average number of citations per article in that two year –time frame. Two and a half citations per paper, but it’s complex and hard to get your head round!"

"It raises another issue though – is this really an effective way of communicating science? When you’ve put all that love and work put in – and is only being used in a citation way by 2.5 people. It’s thought provoking."


High impact: pride of place at the ICES Journal of Marine Science stand

Old heads and young shoulders

​One interesting addition to the conference this year was the running of a 'career chat', where younger scientists turned up for a lunchtime session  to engage with high level scientists and managers. 

"The informal setting meant that whether participants arrived with direct questions in mind or showed up a little lost, joining conversations was easy," said ICES publications and communications assistant and brains behind the event Celine Byrne.


Enthusiastic young scientists mingle with Editor-in-Chief of ICES Journal of Marine Science Howard Browman​ (right on sofa). "There were some great questions from those taking part," said Browman afterwards.

As Sarah Simons from Germany discovered, it was also the perfect setting setting for early career scientists to meet with their peers, and discover that everyone faces similar challenges. "It was really great to have a place to talk with other early career scientists and find out what their plans are."

Luis Valdes, Head of IOC-UNESCO remarked that "ICES should repeat this every year." Ixai Calva Bordo agreed, "ICES should keep doing this. Approaching these senior scientists would normally would be a little intimidating but the informal setting really worked."

​Keeping people postered

As well as the raft of oral science taking place in the various theme sessions, there is also a world of it being presented in the form of various posters being displayed around the building's ground floor throughout the conference. Attendees can browse and read at any time, but Tuesday evening's official poster session meant the authors had to be on hand by their respective visual works to explain to the masses of interested passers-by.

Some, as pointed out in contrasting photos by the ASC Twitterati, served as effective communication tools to varying degrees.


Poles apart? Two very different takes on how science should be presented.

There were many scientifically curious and also visually striking posters on show. Watch and listen three of them being summarized by their respective presenters below (three speakers play consequetively after each other):



Word of the day? Quite possibly. ​Coined in the 1980s and most definitely not a reference to a musical genre, the term was an unlikely star in a day that saw feminism enter the science debate. A merger of 'technoscience' (technological and social context of science) and 'feminism', the word expresses ​​the involvement of the female of the species in the fields. 

It started when scientist Dorothy Dankell pitched a question to Dr. Ana Palma after her morning talk (see earlier) on the involvement of female scientists around the table, claiming she was "entering dangerous waters". The word then made a couple of appearance on Twitter and numerous in other conversations.

Keep your eyes peeled on this blog for more from Dorothy on the subject later.


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