Monday, December 16, 2013

QCBS Meeting 2013

For the last couple of days, a large number of ecologists and evolutionary biologists working in Quebec gathered to talk about science, conservation and policymaking. This was the annual QCBS meeting (Quebec Centre for Biodiversity Science). As usual, the meeting had lots of young scientists eager to talk about research and potential collaborations – I guess this is why the QCBS meeting always has a casual and friendly feeling. There was no rush between sessions and the program was well organized. If you missed a talk, you could always just approach the speaker during a coffee break or over a beer (and you could also follow the entire conference via Twitter). Since the meeting is fairly local – QCBS is only Quebec-wide – I was happily surprised by the diversity of topics people work on, including invasive species, community ecology, evolutionary biology, and landscape ecology.
One recurrent theme that I noticed was the promotion of open science, including both open-access tools like R and Latex as well as open-access data. Young scientists are more and more preoccupied with how science is conducted and how it is promoted to the public. QCBS is at the forefront of the movement to open up science, and this was obvious during the meeting. One of the plenaries, “The open movement in biodiversity science: tools and data sharing practices”, was given by three young researchers (Geneviève Allard, Scott Chamberlain and Timothée Poisot). The talk was focused on how data-sharing and open access tools could be used to make science more transparent. If you think about it, nobody really replicates experiments nowadays! How are we supposed to be confident in scientific findings if nobody bothers to confirm the results of past studies? When I was an undergrad, I learned that scientific advancement was achieved through replication and validation. But if nobody does those things, how do we advance today? I don’t know the answer, but perhaps open science is a good way to start, by at least allowing us to check each other’s work more informally, and allowing the public more of a view on the process . So go open!
The guest speaker: Prof. Ivette Perfecto

Scott Chamberlain talking about open science and how to go open

Our own Kiyoko Gotanda talking about how predictable is guppy evolution

One final thing that I would like to say about the QCBS meeting is that many of the students that were presenting their work were recipients of QCBS grants that helped them with travel costs and stipends. Since its establishment, QCBS has funded over 120 grad students (as well as many undergrads and postdocs) to travel to conferences and workshops. As one of those 120 recipients, I would like to say “thank you and keep the amazing work!” This support really makes a difference in a graduate student’s career.

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