ScienceOnline'09: Interview with Sol Lederman

The series of interviews with some of the participants of the 2008 Science Blogging Conference was quite popular, so I decided to do the same thing again this year, posting interviews with some of the people who attended ScienceOnline'09 back in January.

We kick off the series with the interview with Sol Lederman who gave a demo session: US Dept of Energy Office of Scientific and Technical Information.

Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Who are you? What is your (scientific) background?


I'm not a scientist and I don't play one on TV either. I'm a techie. My education is in Mathematics and Sociology. I've worn many hats in the computer industry throughout the years - programmer, tech support person, writer, trainer, and consultant are some of the roles I've had.

What do you want to do/be when (and if ever) you grow up?

I like to communicate about computers. I especially like the potential of Web 2.0. Lately I've been getting into building apps with Drupal, including layout and php code. So, maybe I'll evolve into a social application builder or into a writer or consultant about these things. Or maybe I'll do something completely different. Basically, I'm happy doing what I'm doing now and I'm in no hurry to grow up and be something else/different/more.

What is your Real Life job?

I wear a couple of hats: blogger and consultant. I do a variety of things for the US Department of Energy Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI). I blog for OSTI, I explore ways of getting OSTI resources more visibility, and I do some consulting and programming for them. I also blog about federated search for the Federated Search Blog, a blog sponsored by Deep Web Technologies. Federated search is the technology that aggregates scholarly information from the "Deep Web"; that's the part of the Web that Google can't crawl. OSTI has a number of federated search applications whose search is powered by Deep Web Technologies. My relationship with OSTI started with supporting some of their apps while I was working full time for Deep Web and has morphed into a consulting relationship with both parties.

What aspect of science communication, and in particular the use of the Web in science, interests you the most?

I'm very interested in how Web 2.0 technologies can bring scientists together. I'm a member of a Web 2.0 Innovation Team led by OSTI technologist Mike Jennings. I can't speak in any detail about what we're doing but we're looking at ways of extending the scope of OSTI's reach into the world of Web 2.0.

Some of your readers might not be aware that OSTI's precursor was founded to manage information pursuant to the Manhattan Project. OSTI's mission is "to advance science and sustain technological creativity by making R&D findings available and useful to Department of Energy (DOE) researchers and the public." So, OSTI is all about science communication and OSTI has a strong Web presence through applications like and

How does (if it does) blogging figure in your job? Do you have a blog and if so, will you tell us about it, your experience in science blogging? How about social networks, e.g., Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook?

Blogging is a moderate part of my work for OSTI. It's a much larger role at Deep Web. In a year and a half I built the Federated Search Blog from zero readers to over 800. I'm quite proud of that and I believe the blog has been a good marketing piece for Deep Web. Not related to any paid work, I write a Math blog, Mostly I challenge people with Math problems and give prizes.

Is there anything that happened at this Conference - a session, something someone said or did or wrote - that will change the way you think about science communication, or something that you will take with you to your job, blog-reading and blog-writing?

I always get good ideas about how OSTI can further its outreach at conferences. That's why I attend. I vividly remember a long conversation with Wired blogger Aaron Rowe. He instilled the importance of using multiple Web 2.0 channels to reach the public. YouTube is just one example of how OSTI is taking that insight to heart.

It was so nice to meet you and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.

Thank you.


See the 2008 interview series and 2009 series for more.


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