Blogging the BIO Convention

Hello everybody. This morning I caught a red eye flight to Atlanta, Georgia. Although this trip has been almost three months in the making, I’ve been so busy getting ready that I have not had the time to give everyone the heads-up with a blog post. (Busy making time in my research, that is. Packing took one evening.) Today through Friday, I will be at the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s 2009 International Convention, representing Biofortified and blogging about it. Let me give you a few more details.
A few months ago, the Council for Biotechnology Information contacted me and invited me to be their guest blogger for the convention. They created a news blog to report on the agriculture-related talks and panels, and offered to cover my expenses to help them report on the conference. I’ve never been to the BIO conventions, which host presentations on more than just ag biotech issues. It would also give me the chance to promote the blog, get exposed to the biotech zeitgeist, and meet some interesting people.
It will also allow people who might not otherwise know much about what goes on at these conventions to learn all about it. That means you!
The CBI, however is an industry-funded nonprofit, and although they do not engage in any political lobbying, accepting their offer does present a potential conflict of interest. Would people still see me as an independent academic? Would I get dragged into some dirty politics as a consequence of going to the convention? Would this influence my opinion of genetic engineering subtly without my realizing it? After some consideration and talking to my adviser, former professors, (and family!) which you can read about on my personal blog, I decided to accept the CBI’s offer.
Here’s the summary. Although the CBI is covering my travel, hotel expenses, and some food, I am not getting paid to go to the convention or to write about it. I will be reporting on a whole host of talks on the CBI’s agbiotech@bio news blog, as their guest blogger. In these articles I will just be reporting the facts – I’ll save my opinion for my own blogs. Full disclosure, of course, is part of our agreement (my terms) – so I will put a note at the bottom of each post so that readers can take what I say about salt-tolerant crops with, well, a grain of salt!
Check out the CBI blog for the news, I will try to keep up with comments during the convention, and summarize and highlight a few things over here on Biofortified. I’ll also be doing some video interviews with panelists and anyone else I can grab. The CBI is letting me borrow a cute little Vado HD camera to do this. Frank N. Foode™ will also be there, I’ll see if I can catch him in one of the VIP areas. As media, I should have access.
I am thankful that the CBI has given me this opportunity to go to the BIO Convention, something which few second-year grad students are able to do. I am excited to attend the interesting talks and panel discussions, especially one on Thursday entitled “Environment, Economy and Society: Plant Biotechnology’s Role in Advancing Sustainable Development.” I am committed to letting the facts and my values be my guides through the science and implications of biotechnology, as always, and I believe that my readers will be able to see this for themselves in what I write.