‘Seafood Tango’, a cabaret act about seafood safety

Ladies and gentelmen, this year’s SETAC meeting will bring the 4th edition of their science slam session. And I wouldn’t miss it for the world!

Preparations for the video [photo©: Manuel García]

Preparations for the video [photo©: Manuel García]

SETAC Europe 27th annual meeting is taking place in Brussels next May. If you have read my blog in the last two years, you already know that my favourite session of the SETAC congress is the science slam. If you are new to my humble site, this session allows scientists to present their research in original and unexpected entertaining ways.

I’ve always been of the opinion that science slam is like sex; it’s great to watch, but it feels so much better to participate! That’s why, once more, I’m submitting a video presentation of my new show in order to be selected for this year’s session.

This cabaret-style number is a seafood take on Cell Block Tango from the musical Chicago. It was premiered at the ECsafeSEAFOOD Final Conference three weeks ago, also in Brussels. Now I’m going to share it with a bigger audience —because I didn’t learn to do my make-up for just one day, girl!

The good thing is this time I’m not singing that much. You’re welcome.

1st SETAC science slam across the pond

It’s been almost two months since my post about the science slam in SETAC Nantes (video of the whole show included—check it out!). If you got any ideas from that, you should know that it’s happening again soon in Orlando.

It has now been three years of successful science slams for SETAC Europe. In exactly three months SETAC North America is going to hold their first edition at the other side of the pond. The good news is that an extended deadline means you can apply to the session until next Friday! At first it was last Monday.

Of course, to apply you should be a researcher who’s willing to work some extra hours in August and provide a fine product before a ridiculously close deadline now. Same old, same old.

You’ll find very detailed and useful information on the official website. You can also watch this video for lighter information. Yes, it’s me… singing… I should stop doing this.

Science slam: Enjoy learning science

A year ago I introduced some of you to the science slam world through my application. It’s about time to tell you about the consequences of that.

One of the slammers in Nantes last month [frame from the video]

One of the slammers in Nantes last month [frame from the video]

In April 2015, I performed in a special session of a scientific congress. The aim of that session was to present our work in a way that it was attractive, entertaining and easy to understand. Science for the people if you like. It was also a contest. And I won it. Indeed, my Disney musical about pesticides in salmon was a great success in spite of my singing skills. I guess that my moves, the unexpected on-stage costume change and the cheeky jokes made up for that.

Since that day, strangers approach me in every congress to remind me that to them I’m a showman and all my scientific achievements will never mean a thing next to that. I must say it doesn’t bother me as long as I can make a living out of it.

The Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) seems to be trying to help with that. Last December they published an interview to me and the winner of the first edition in SETAC Globe. And they offered us to host this year’s science slam in Nantes. Needless to say, we accepted.

It is frustrating to answer ‘no’ every time someone asks if there’s a recording of my musical. But this year my co-host, Michele De Rosa, filmed the whole show, except the battery died during the last slammer’s presentation. However, they reconstructed the end with footage from Erica Brockmeier, who was making a documentary on the show. This is why now you can enjoy it yourselves. You’re welcome.

Scientific congresses are not like Eurovision

Some will say that’s good news, some will say it’s a shame and most people don’t actually care. Be it as it may, today we’re dissecting a scientific congress.

Let’s start with the basics. The main event at congresses is what you’d expect: researchers exposing their study results—giving just enough details for peer not to reproduce them. They are allowed 15-20 minutes and answer a couple of questions from the attendees at the end.

What you see is what you get [poto©: Fruitnet.com]

What you see is what you get [poto©: Fruitnet.com]

That’s 5 hours a day times several parallel sessions times 3-5 days. In the greatest congresses, there are so many sessions that some are way out of your field. Not that it matters since you’re busy with your schedule to see some specific talks. There’s also an opening speech, the closing remarks and some guest speakers now and then.

Just between us, being a scientist and a good speaker is not the default package, thus sometimes it’s hard to attend a conceptually interesting presentation. On the other hand, some questions are not as much born from curiosity as from nastiness.

Apart from lunch, there’s a coffee-break in the morning and in the afternoon. These are standing breaks in the expositors room where companies and posters are (because those who aren’t given a platform presentation have to settle for showing their results on a poster). Lunch can be in a dining room—if the venue is a hotel—or standing. Last autumn I even attended a congress where we were given free time to find our own food.

Finally, the social programme includes the reception, sightseeing tours, the gala dinner… some of them at an additional cost. In these events, the most respectable scientist goes wild until late. However, next morning at 9 p.m. they go back to proper science talks.

The parties after dinners and the international participants are the closest you get to Eurovision. Actually, the closer a congress has got to Eurovision—that I know—was something I couldn’t see. I was too busy doing it.

Pesticides in salmon – the musical

Grilled salmon [photo©: woodleywonderworks]

Grilled salmon [photo©:
woodleywonderworks]

I’ll soon write about what happens in congresses where scientists share the results of their research. Today, however, I’ll tell you what hardly ever happens.

The 25th SETAC Europe congress is held this week in Barcelona. This is going to be the second year with a science slam session. And that’s quite uncommon in congresses—sadly enough.

But what’s a ‘science slam’? It’s a sort of show, usually a contest, in which scientists tell their findings in an entertaining and intelligible way. Anything from stand-up comedy or magic to plays, dancing or singing. Bring it on. In fact, if we’re to attract interest into science, we should take our register down a level and get rid of formalities.

That’s why, and since I can’t remember the last time I organised a show, I decided to apply as a contestant. And I went wild. This year, SETAC congress delegates are going to enjoy—or not—a Disney musical about aquaculture using pesticides against parasites on salmon and they’re going to know whether it is safe or not to eat them (meaning salmon, not parasites).

This is the application video—with subtitles if you need them. Wish me luck.

European research projects one year later

At the beginning of 2014 we learned how European research projects are started. One year later, further meetings are held to assess their progress.

Whatever name it gets, a 2/3-day meeting is organized to see if the researchers have done their homework. This homework was set first in the documents of the project and then discussed at the kick-off meeting. These goals to achieve are called deliverables and each one has its own deadline.

The first item on the agenda of the meeting—after the welcome speech—is the presentation of the results that every partner got. It is to be expected that the deadlines are met; however, it’s not uncommon—nor terrible—to have a couple of deliverables running one month late for multiple reasons. When the current situation is clear, decisions are made on how to solve problems, readjust the next steps according to the results or simply to keep on with the great job.

In bigger projects, there’ll be parallel sessions for different work packages to discuss their matters or test the devices they might be developing. On a later session, the relevant conclusions will be shared with the rest of the consortium. An independent advisory board consisting of several outstanding scientists from different fields is likely to assist to this session to have their say—in a constructive way.

Again, copious coffee breaks with sandwiches and canapés will be served every two hours and the social dinner will be held at an expensive restaurant that can’t even spell the name of your project and turns your pollution detector chip into a ship detector solution—whatever, just bring on those fancy desserts.

So, when are we going to that restaurant where they invent funny names? [photo© CTBTO]

So, when are we going to that restaurant where they invent funny names? [photo© CTBTO]