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Two weeks ago, fresh on the heels of Midwinter, I hit the road again for yet another conference – ScienceOnline 2011. Fortunately SciO11 only had me traveling as far as the Sigma Xi headquarters in Research Triangle Park, where I spent the weekend learning about and debating the latest in the intersection of science, scholarship, blogging, openness, data, access, and a myriad of issues in between! You can see from the program page that there were a wide range of topics, and I attended sessions on everything from digital toolbox needs to open science to altmetrics to citations to blogging in the academy to ebooks in science.

This was my fourth year attending ScioO, but the first time I’ve been courageous enough to co-moderate a session. SciO follows an unconference format, and sessions are proposed and evolve on the conference wiki in the months leading up to the conference. After several well-organized but poorly attended librarian-led sessions at previous SciOs, when a group of SciO librarian veterans started brainstorming a topic for this year, we quickly concluded that we: a) needed to stay far away from the “L” word, and b) should partner with non-librarians (we’re the decided minority at SciO, not even achieving 10% representation; my first year, I think there were just 3 of us!).

So, Saturday morning, Kiyomi Deards (librarian), Steve Koch (scientist), and I led a session on “Data Discoverability: Institutional Support Strategies.” Although we initially thought that the conversation would center on how various university constituencies should collaborate to support the new NSF data management plan requirement, it steered in a broader direction, and Kiyomi and I spent some time discussing the current and possible future roles institutional repositories might play in data management support beyond NSF needs. As is wanted at SciO, the conversation took life among the participants, so being a co-moderator was not stressful. We had a full room (39 + the livestreaming video guys – so glad I didn’t know in advance we’d be livestreamed!), with tough questions and concerns being raised from all sides, and some very cool what-ifs being proposed for discovery app layers for IRs. I felt it was a very successful session, and I greatly appreciated the numerous non-librarians in the room who either defended the need for librarians to be involved in data management discussions or praised the librarians at their institutions with whom they’ve collaborated.

One interesting development this year: the sometimes heated debates about open access from previous SciOs was notably absent, with more discussion centering around the need to make data and the research process open. While I know this doesn’t mean that OA has been universally accepted by SciO attendees, it did give me hope that, at least for this group, that battle has been won – if you aren’t willing to make publications available, you likely wouldn’t be debating the merits of making the science and data *behind* them available.

All in all, the conversations, both in sessions and around Sigma Xi, were engaging and energizing; catching up with old friends and meeting new ones was fun; and SciO11 proved yet again that this is one of the best conferences I attend!