ScienceOnline'09 - interview with Carlos Hotta

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.

Today, I asked Carlos Hotta from the Brontossauros em meu Jardim blog to answer a few questions.

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?

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I am the community manager of ScienceBlogs Brasil, the former blog network called Lablogatórios. Lablogatorios started about a year ago as a small project that tried to emulate ScienceBlogs in order to stimulate Science communication using blogs in Brasil. A couple of days after our launch we were contacted by our role models. Now, we are the youngest ScienceBlogs scibling, with 30 blogs.

I also write on my own blog, Brontossauros em meu Jardim (Brontossaurus in my Garden) and, in my spare time, I do some research.

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

One day I will have my own lab, where I can make people do the experiments for me while I blog and vice-versa. It would not hurt if I could keep making our blog network growing for a while.

What is your Real Life job?

My alter ego is a postdoc fellow at university of São Paulo. I am currently working on sugarcane circadian clocks and helping in the organization of the Brazilian side of the sugarcane genome sequencing project. In my previous incarnations I have done research on the association between the human circadian clock and malaria parasites and on the Arabidopsis circadian clock.

You know I am a big fan of your previous work on clocks and malaria (see references #3 and #4 in this post).

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

I like the use of blogging as a tool to bridge the gap between scientists and the general public. I am also interested in seeing how scientists will use the Web to work together.

How does (if it does) blogging figure in your work? How about social networks, e.g., Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook?

My blogging and my researching are still independent entities. However I have started a couple of scientific collaborations with people that contacted me throught the blog. My blog also helped me to be invited to talk about my work a few times. In the next couple of weeks I will talk at a conference both as a blogger and as a researcher and we might see Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde fighting to see who will prevail.

I am a heavy user of Twitter (@carloshotta), weather permitting. People can also find me at Facebook and Orkut, which is very big in Brasil.

When and how did you discover science blogs? What are some of your favourites? Have you discovered any new cool science blogs while at the Conference?

I discovered science blogs when I was told a letter my colleagues and I wrote to Nature (Dodd, A., Hotta, C. and Gardner, M. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Presumptions. Nature. Vol 437, p 318.) had a lot of resonance in the intertubes. Who would know that Harry Potter genetics could generate a lot of interest? BTW, I still think there is no magic gene in Harry Potter Universe and the magic comes from magic milk people drink when they are children.

My favorite blogger is Ed Yong who does a superb job writing about Science. I also love the way you were able to build a huge community around your blog.

Tell me more about ScienceBlogs Brazil - how it started, how it got to where it is now?

I started my blog in the end of 2007, just after I got my PhD. After a few months I started wondering whether Brazilian science blogs would ever grow to a point that would allow the formation of a site such as ScienceBlogs. This question haunted me for a while when I had an epiphany: we should make a ScienceBlogs-like site IN ORDER TO make Brazilian science blogs grow. And that´s how Atila and I started putting the network together.

Lablogatorios was launched in August 2008 with 15 blogs. It contained a great portion of the Brazilian Science blogging community (yes, we were that small). After a few days we were contacted by SEED, which gave us the opportunity to join the ScienceBlogs community. The new site, ScienceBlogs Brazil launched in March 2009. We had been growing at a very nice pace but the transition gave us a huge boost.

After a year Lablogatorios was launched I can say it was a very sucessful project. Our visits increased more than 5 times in this period (which is still small compared to world-class blogs) but the real success is in the number of science blogs written by Brazilians that were launched in this period.

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?

After the conference I wrote a piece about how the blogging community in Brazil still had a lot to grow, in terms of public and maturity, in order to become a fraction of what the blogs written in English were. I would say we are 2 to 3 years behind. Many things that were discussed at the ScienceOnline´09 are just becoming a problem now in Brazil, such as the question of anonimity/pseudonimity or the frequent clash between bloggers and journalists. Our advantage is that we can avoid a lot of pitfalls by observing the history of blogging. Things are easier when you do not have to reinvent the wheel.

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

Bora, I must thank you for all the support you always gave to our project. You are partly responsible for the wild trip we had during this first year.

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[left to right: Anton Zuiker, Carlos Hotta and myself at the ScienceOnline'09, just minutes after the announcement of ScienceBlogs Brasil]


See the 2008 interview series and 2009 series for more.

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