Thoughts on the first meeting

It’s been nearly two weeks since I first heard about the twitter journal club concept, recently set up to discuss medical research. I thought it was something that could work for astronomy too and, when I mentioned it on twitter, it seemed that lots of people agreed. However, I still wasn’t sure whether that would translate into a good or useful discussion. Would anyone say anything? Would the 140 character limit be too short to get a point across? Would anyone even turn up?

Well, the first meeting took place last Thursday (you can catch up with the discussion here) and I think it went well. It even felt like the departmental journal clubs that I’ve been to in the past thanks to tweets like this:

Typical – like a normal journal club I’m late and have only skimmed the paper. #astrojc @chrislintott

Hi, I’m Stephen. I’m an extragalactic astronomer, speed-reading the paper 😉 #astrojc @StephenSerjeant

About 15 people actively took part, and the discussion propelled itself along admirably. One of my many worries was that it would be hard to follow if everyone tweeted at once but I found it easy to keep track. I was using TweetChat which definitely helped – it allows you to follow all tweets from one hashtag and, if you sign in, it ensures that you don’t forget to add the #astroJC tag to any of your contributions.

The lack of a specific dark matter expert was noticeable; at one point it seemed that everyone was asking questions that no-one present knew the answers to. However, by the end of the hour I felt that I understood the paper better, even if my acceptance of the result had lessened! When it comes down to it, that’s exactly what a journal club should do. If you’ve got any comments/suggestions yourself on how it went please leave them below.

Next week’s paper for discussion will be Planet Occurrence within 0.25 AU of Solar-type Stars from Kepler which was suggested by Meg Schwamb. It’s a bit of a shift from last week’s topic but I think there’s going to be lots to talk about again. Don’t forget, if you’ve got any suggestions for future papers to discuss please leave them on the Suggestions page.

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3 Responses to Thoughts on the first meeting

  1. Arie Nouwen says:

    I enjoyed the discussion. Good to have pro’s and non-pro’s having such an online tweetup, discussing a topic like the Fermi data of cosmic radiation from the core of the Milky Way. Problem with chats like this is that all tweets – questions, answers, remarks – are becoming a mess. Maybe it’s possible to have someone who’s some kind of leader of the discussion. Don’t know how to do that, but it’s just a suggestion. Hope to see you with the next discussion.

  2. Definitely I agree that the discussion needed more leading. It was a lot of fun, but it basically quickly degenerated into a set of random questions echoing around – every journal club needs people to ask questions, but it also needed someone to focus the discussion on the ones that needed answering!

  3. Arie Nouwen says:

    By the way, what do you think of this article, just arrived at the ArXiv: Fermi Space Telescope Fails to See Evidence Of Dark Matter (review: http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/arxiv/26912/?ref=rss, here is the paper: http://arxiv.org/abs/1106.3416). It’s a paper from the Fermi LAT collaboration.

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