Serious squishy cow chat


Sometimes I forget that not everyone who sees my tweets has had access to my entire back catalog of online ramblings. I did a poll a while ago and discovered that many of my Twitter followers don’t know Squishy Cow, or haven’t seen my Lego videos. Both are some of my favourite science things I’ve done online, and (not coincidentally) both contain a heavy dose of silliness.

So, even though my current pinned tweet is a link to an equally silly piece of scicomm, I shouldn’t be surprised when people who see my tweets in their timeline, don’t immediately place them in the context of “me”.

When I reacted to the Guardian piece that’s doing the rounds, I considered it a given that everyone would know that I obviously love non-serious pursuits and scicomm and I think that everyone else who loves it should also do it. It didn’t always get understood that way. People thought I was saying that scientists shouldn’t do scicomm.


2016-08-07 10.35.54Squishy Cow: “Hahahaha!”

Eva: “What?”

Squishy Cow: “Why would they think YOU of all people don’t think scientists should do comms?”

Eva: “Because they don’t know who I am. Worse, Squishy, they don’t even know YOU.”


Eva: “Your hat came free with a smoothie bottle. I never even took the label off.”

Squishy Cow: “I am offended and wish to retreat from the rest of this post.”

Eva: “Fine, I’ll continue without you.”


So, yeah, please do comms! All I’m saying is that this anonymous academic is not alone, and that there are other people like them who just want to focus on research. They should be able to do that if they want to, just like how I was able to decide not to do research anymore and instead focus only on scicomm.

It’s a pretty measured opinion, I think, and it’s very much in line with how I usually talk about science and science communication. The entire MySciCareer site is based on the philosophy that everyone is different.

I have worked with enough scientists in the past years to know that some love putting all their spare time into side projects or education and others just want to do one job and that job is research. Haven’t we all had at least one professor in undergrad who clearly didn’t want to teach but “had to”? That’s those people. They do great research – but nothing else. It’s fine. Part of science communication is to recognise that and to work with them. Show interest in their work. Think about their work. Communicate it for them where needed, but leave them work if they don’t want to get involved themselves. Don’t force them. These are never going to be the people who do cool demos at science fairs and they’re not the people who chat on Twitter.

Instead, people who do chat on Twitter are obviously biased about that article. Just because you (and I) don’t want to be… let’s just say it for what we think it is, boring, doesn’t mean that others don’t want to live a very uniform work life (or keep work and fun completely separate). No amount of #seriousacademic tweets is going to convince them otherwise. If anything, it’s alienating.

People do occasionally change their minds. I met a Cambridge professor a few years ago who was very skeptical about the idea of using blogs to talk about science. He believed that being online during work hours would distract his students from research. A few years later he now has his own blog and is active on Twitter. Nobody pressured him. He was just shown the possibilities and realized the potential on his own.

Many others don’t change their minds. Or they try Twitter because they see people use it, and then realize it’s not for them after all. If you don’t like it, don’t use it. The only important thing is to make sure people are aware of all the tools that are available to them, and that they know what their colleagues are using. Then it’s their choice to join or not.

Sure, don’t make fun of people who do want to use Twitter and other social media tools, but likewise, don’t make fun of people who DON’T.


Squishy Cow: “Are you done?”

Eva: “Yes.”

Squishy Cow: “Can you post some of my pictures on Twitter now? It would be very on brand.”

Eva: “You know what? I think I might…”

Squishier – the poll

(Read this post first)
Now with a poll that may or may not work! Vote for the new cow’s name:

What should Squishy Cow’s new friend be called?

View Results
Create a Poll

For reference, that’s Squishy on the left and the new cow on the right.


Remember Squishy Cow, she of Open Lab 2010 fame?
Squishy Cow has been slowly getting used to living in England. She has even made a new friend!
At the annual British Society for Developmental Biology meeting in April, someone was telling me about the freebies she got at the stands, concluding “….and I even got a squishy cow, but they’re hiding them behind the stand.”
What! Squishy cow! Where?!

It turns out that using squishy cows to market fetal bovine serum is not unique to Gibco’s “Buy Canadian FBS!” campaign, where I got Squishy a few years ago.
PAA (“The Cell Culture Company”) uses squishy cows to sell “FBS Gold. Defined Foetal Bovine Serum” (note the alternate spelling – this cow is British!)
I now have not one, but TWO squishy cows selling their babies’ blood. It’s a trend!
Any name suggestions for the new cow?

Squishy’s slow ascent to fame

“Squishy! Squishy Cow!”
“Zzzz…WHAT? What’s going on? Where’s all the furniture?”

minimal furniture, yesterday
“We’re moving… How long were you asleep?”
“I was hibernating. It’s cold outside.”

Cold outside, last week
“Look, squishy, you’re famous on the internet!”
“What’s this then?”
“Your post was runner-up for best Nature Network blog post of 2009.”

“I’m special!”
“You’re even more special, because you’re also going to be in a book .”

“Yay! I read a book once, but it wasn’t about me.”
“This one is not entirely about you either. There are 49 other blog posts in it, and none of them are about squishy cows.”
“Any other kind of cows maybe?”
“No. But there are entries about lots of other kinds of animals, and also another one about animal research, so you’ll feel right at home.”
“Good. Because I don’t really feel at home here after what you did with the place. Everything is in boxes or gone altogether…”

Yes we could!

Thanks guys!
I had enough people vote for Squishy Cow to make it to the semi-finals of the Quarks .
The other Nature Network blog that made this round is The Primate Diaries , and NN-er Christie got in twice with Observations of a Nerd . I’d like to think that it’s because we’re awesome, but in reality this was a popularity contest and a matter of who remembered to ask their readers to vote.
We’re in the judging round now, so it’s no longer a matter of who can best convince their friends to click on a voting form. Good thing too, because I don’t think I can pull this off again! I love my friends, but their online attention spans are very short. That’s not offensive – it’s kind of admirable how they manage to stay away fr— Ooooh, a shiny website!!
[Two hours of web-surfing later]
Anyway, despite my qualms about things for which you need many friends (of the web-clicking kind), and how unfair they are (the popularity contest, not the friends), I do really like the variety in the final set of semi-finalists. There are submissions from almost every field, and a couple of more general science ones. Some are very serious, some are funny. It’s too bad the list isn’t linked, because (Update – it’s linked now!) this is a cool set of posts to read, I think. The next round is announced later this week, but I’m happy just to be in that company.
Update: I didn’t make it to the finals, but Christie and Eric did! Congratulations!

Yes we can…?

What a horrible selfish thing to break a blog break for, but I wanted to let you know, (in a winking, insinuating manner) that two of my blog posts are up for voting at the 3quarksdaily science blog awards this week. There are a gazillion blog posts (give or take) but only the top 20 of the popular vote will go on to the next round.
My blog title is listed as “Nature Network” in the poll, but I’ve asked for it to be changed, so you can find my posts either under the letter N or E.
A Squishy Topic (with Squishy Cow!) and Last Saturday are the ones I submitted, because they are my favourites. I know they’re at least one other person’s favourite(s), because people-who-are-not-me have submitted both to Open Lab on other occasions, so please re-show your support!
Back to catching up with my life now. My parents are visiting next week, to watch me be spoken to in Latin while I’m wearing black robes, but after they’re gone I’ll resume the blog.

Random photos

I’m so backlogged with photos and writing and, well, everything. I recently downloaded a chunk of photos from my cell phone . Completely random photos, taken over the span of about 18 months . A shocking number of them were science-related. Are you ready for a huge random photo dump?



I decided to collect some of my personal favourite blog posts on this blog and put the list in my profile, but it’s probably easier to put them all in a blog post.
So if you have already read these classics (ahem), feel feel to just skip. The list is for the sole purpose of linking from my profile as a highlights section, sorted by topic.
Blogging and social networking
Distant Friends
How to get scientists to adopt web 2.0 technologies
Love, Actually
Social Networks: What Makes Them Work?
Leaving the lab
To Science!
Last Saturday
Intro to Failure
The culture of science, science in culture
Mr. Darwin, You Make Me Blush
A Squishy Topic
I dream of Jenny
Manipulating Nature
Alice’s Adventure’s in Animal Experimentation

ScienceOnline09 – Day 1

A proper update! (As opposed to the very improper audio posted earlier…)
The weeks leading up to my trip to ScienceOnline09 were a little crazy. I just started a new job, and also just found the source(s) of a long lingering clothes moth infestation in my apartment. As a result, I had been cleaning and washing every single night and did a final load of LOTS of clothes on Thursday night, including the clothes I was bringing along on my trip. Had I lived just three blocks further to the west, this would have been a terrifying disaster , because just around the time all of my clothes were in the washer, the electricity went out in a BIG part of the city, starting mere blocks away. I found out about the blackout over Twitter , in between vacuuming and washing and packing, and could see darkness from my balcony. I didn’t look too closely, though, because it was also -30 outside (Celsius, but that’s -22 Fahrenheit, so it’s not like it sounds any warmer…)
Luckily, my electricity was on all night, which was good, as I was up all night. I finally finished cleaning at 1 AM, and four hours later found myself running on the frozen snow of the Spadina sidewalk, with my suitcase slipping-rolling over the bumpy ice behind me, to just catch the night bus. The bus takes about 40 minutes from my house to the end of the subway line, and at least 25 minutes of this we drove through complete darkness in the blackout zone.
I made my flight with time to spare, and waited in the comfortable not-cold-at-all weather of North Carolina for the shuttle bus to the Radisson. Soon I was joined at the bus stop by Miriam While we were waiting, we were painfully aware that mere miles away other science bloggers were at the Coffee Cupping session. Mmm, coffee…. But the Radisosn bus driver was awesome, and after he told us that he would take us anywhere we wanted to go, we asked him to forget about the hotel and just drive us straight to the coffee place. Priorities! Frank, the driver, did take our suitcases to the hotel, but not after I had rescued Squishy Cow from mine. Priorities! Sadly, the coffee tasting was over by the time we got there, but we did find lots of people! Priorities? No, it sucked that there was no more coffee to be had. While waiting for the shuttle bus back, I did learn something interesting: Henry used to live near where the Winnie-the-Pooh books were set, and he has gone on an Expotition to the North Pole !
Back at the hotel, there was just enough time for lunch before we left on the lab tours. I went to BRITE, where I realized that I understood absolutely everything on the tour, gathered from all three programs I’ve received graduate degrees from. Yay, over-education! I was that annoying person who asked lots of questions. Poor tour guides. Granted, one of my questions was Can my cow take a picture with your penguin? but overall I was asking Intelligent Things about replicate samples and what kind of machine they use for their high content analysis and the quality of the protein structures used as templates. Then I went home and designed my own drugs and cured cancer. No, wait, I am mistaken. Then we went to a restaurant and cured cancer. I mean: ate food. And then was the Friday Fermentable wine tasting, which I liveblogged . Here are Janet’s notes , by the way, which I mentioned in that post. See how much more organized they are?
Directly after the wine tasting was the women’s networking event where you had to socialize, but I didn’t really. Or at least not by their rules. I did enjoy the lecture that evening by Rebecca Skloot , about Henrietta Lacks. It was very meta, actually, about how she learned and wrote about Henrietta Lacks. I had never considered what HeLa’s relatives thought about her immortal cell line, but it was all very interesting. The book should be out in a year or so, and it sounds like a good read.
After that, I got a ride back to the hotel, and met up with lots of Nature Network bloggers in the bar! We probably had lots of interesting conversations, if only we could have heard each other over the sound of the ocean bloggers singing sea shanties at the next table. Later, Michael told me that he overheard the hotel barman say “Those science bloggers sure know how to drink!” at a later, quieter moment.
Day 2 and 3 to follow!