I’m spending part of today doing a little background preparation for a fascinating event that I’m attending this coming weekend. I have been lucky enough to be invited to the first Science Foo Camp, “a free, invitation-only gathering produced by Nature and O’Reilly Media, and hosted by Google at the Googleplex in Mountain View, CA”.
I’m pretty excited about attending, and am looking forward to meeting many talented new people from disciplines with which I do not usually strongly interact, since the formal goal of this rather unusual meeting was spelled out in the invitation as
The aim is to encourage cross-fertilization of ideas–and to have fun. We believe that a host of interesting problems straddle the intersections between scientific disciplines, and between science and computing. Science Foo presents a unique opportunity to explore topics that cross these divides: what can biology learn from physics (and vice versa), how are experimental and information technologies transforming the scientific process, how should scientific information be communicated in the age of the web, and how should science engage with society at large?
When I participate in a meeting in my field, I pretty much know what to expect, what the structure will be, how I’ll navigate the meeting, and what is expected of me. In this case, I have a broad sketch of what will go on, a list of participants, and access to some wiki pages through which to communicate some preliminary ideas and bios with them. Indeed, as Timo Hannay of Nature put it when he kicked off blogging about the event over at Nascent,
In true Foo Camp style, there’s no agenda yet, but by the end of Friday evening, shortly after our kick-off dinner, there will be. And then two remarkable days will follow.
So this free-form nature is precisely what the organizers intend, and should make for a dynamic meeting, albeit one which tests my natural tendency to want to know what’s going on at all times.
I’ll certainly blog more about the meeting when it’s over, and hopefully even while I’m there. However, what I can say (for example, about the remarkable invitee list) will be limited by the Chatham House Rule, under which the entire meeting is being conducted:
When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.
Nevertheless, I hope to be able to provide some idea of what goes on, and of the general atmosphere at this unique gathering.