Ecologists try to control reporting of their presentations

At its annual conference last week, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) demanded that audience members not tweet about presentations unless given permission by the speaker.

The request to gain consent from speakers before tweeting about their presentations rankled many. In a blog post, Terry Wheeler, an entomologist at McGill University in Quebec, Canada, said that ESA was “taking a step backward” from its open social-media policy of past years. But Liza Lester, a communications officer at ESA, says that the society supports tweeting at conferences and did not intend to change its stance. “It was a misunderstanding,” she says.

Writing on the Lyman Entomological Museum blog, Wheeler says that the Twitter restriction caused a lot of frustration among ESA meeting attendees and long-distance observers, who wondered why there was such a lull in social-media chatter. He notes that the last-minute announcement differs from the code of conduct printed in the conference programme, which says that attendees cannot take photographs of slides or posters without permission and that they should avoid posting online “detailed information from presentations.” Those restrictions, he writes, seem reasonable. But the policy in the programme made no mention of requiring permission to live-tweet.

For members of this science organization the restrictions might rankle, but as fellow scientists they will feel some compulsion to obey. However, science conferences like this normally encourage journalists to attend, and if so, such restrictions are garbage. If I was there as a journalist, I would tweet, photograph, and post reports on my webpage to my heart’s content, ignoring these absurd and unenforceable rules.