Tomorrow I will fly to Frascati, where are the headquarters of INFN, the italian institute for nuclear physics. I will attend to an event there, called "Incontri di Fisica" (Physics meetings), where high-school teachers meet researchers and receive training, as well as discuss ways to improve science education and popularization in schools and outside.

I will be discussing the subject of "Science popularization with blogs" on Wednesday afternoon and then, two days later, I will be the last speaker with another short talk, where I will try to summarize some ideas on the matter. And you might help for this latter presentation.

In fact, the idea of the organizers is to have me blog about the event, and collect reactions from the blog readers. Yes, that means you.

I have no idea whether this is going to work at all, since time is short (the conference lasts three days) and I do not think I will be blogging about everything I hear, since I am interested only in part of the program. Anyway, I will try to comply.

For the moment, I would like to bounce off you, dear reader, a couple of ideas on the subject of science outreach performed with blogs. Maybe you may follow up with insightful commentary, criticism, or new ideas. Please comment on-topic in the thread.

1) The value of communicating with the general public the importance of basic research, and trying to get laymen interested in the science we do, is generally recognized. However, researchers who blog are usually frowned upon by their employers. Blogging is considered a pastime, is potentially dangerous, and is often discouraged. Should INFN, and similar funding agents in other countries, instead try to change their attitude, encouraging researchers to distribute their knowledge to the public in blogs ? Is it thinkable that one day a INFN researcher can write on his monthly time sheet "blogging" as a justification for a couple of hours of work off-site ? (You should know that INFN researchers are allowed work from home and claim the working time, if they provide a summary of what they did).

2) A topic that is dear to me is whether it is acceptable for a blogger to distribute a freshly approved public result by his or her collaboration, before the main author of the analysis has a chance to present it at a physics conference. Mind you, we are discussing about PUBLIC results here, but ones which do not make the headlines of newspapers, thus remaining unknown until presented at conferences. Am I "stealing" the spotlights if I take the result and explain it in my blog, making the world aware of it ? Is it despicable if I do that, considering that although I am a co-author (along with the 3000 colleagues of my experiment) I did not work explicitly on that topic ?

I think these two items may be enough to generate some discussion here, if you pay me the courtesy of expressing your views. Much appreciated. Thanks!

PS: if you decide to drop a line in the thread below, it would be very appreciated if you provided your full name and as much info as you want on yourself (I mean, for instance knowing if you are a scientist or a student or if you have another job would be valuable). That is because I will be using your words, and attaching a name to them makes them weigh more!