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Gone viral: UBC scientist to lecture on social media’s impact on scientific discourse
Okanagan College Media Release

From hashtags to blogposts, social media is cracking scientific discourse wide open, and it’s about time, according to an Open Science advocate scheduled to appear in Vernon next month.

Dr. Rosie Redfield, a UBC microbiologist named by the journal Nature as one of the “10 people who mattered” in 2011, will be offering a public talk entitled #arseniclife and Open Science on Thursday, April 12 at 7:30 p.m., as part of the Science in Society Speaker Series at Okanagan College’s Vernon campus.

As her starting point, Redfield turns to the 2010 case of NASA-funded U.S. researchers who reported finding bacteria with DNA that contained arsenic in place of phosphorus.

The news prompted a media storm, including a twitter-fueled blast of scientific criticism, open blogging about ongoing research progress and problems, and public posting of a scientific manuscript before it had been peer reviewed and formally published.

“Now that we're all online, published papers are also being discussed more publicly, in blogs and other places,” explained Redfield, who will review the science behind the study and how social media is changing the way scientists communicate.

“Such discussions are extraordinarily valuable for the progress of science — they're written public evaluations, drawn from a wide range of expertise, and usually greatly enriched by comments from and links [to] other researchers.”

Redfield is a game changer in her views about public access to taxpayer-supported scientific research. She challenges the notion that this research should be only available in journals largely inaccessible to the general public and that the peer-review process should only involve a select few.

Redfield promotes Open Science by way of example, maintaining a number of blogs including, which outlines, with humour, the details of her daily research activities.

The Science in Society Speaker Series (a joint project by Okanagan Science Centre and the Okanagan College) is sponsored by the Best Western Vernon Lodge, Starbucks Coffee, Sweet Caroline’s Bakery, and the Vernon Morning Star.

Admission is $5 in advance or $7 at the door. For advanced tickets and more information, visit the Okanagan Science Centre at or call (250) 545-3644.