Experimental Biology: Where Science Happens
In a textbook or dictionary, science is generally described as being about experiments and observations. But scientists know better than that. They know that science is just as much about sharing data, comparing data, having arguments about data, coming up with theories, and shooting theories down. It’s there that the road to scientific consensus lies and that holds true, especially, in nutrition science. No, scientific consensus in nutrition does not happen with the rising popularity of any diet book. No, consensus does not depend on how much media attention one study garners versus that of another or how cleverly written the headlines and stories have been.
Regardless of whatever the content is of current bestsellers on Amazon, or whether The New York Times reports on it or not, or whether or not a study appears in Nature, the fact is that scientific consensus is reached only after scientists reach agreement on any topic. This is why it’s not an exaggeration to say that some of the most meaningful (and interesting) moments that lead to the advancement of scientific consensus in nutrition science — and other sciences — really takes place at one meeting annually.
This year, that meeting happens on April 26-30 in San Diego, California. Experimental Biology is a gathering of more than 14,000 scientists and exhibitors from six different sponsoring scientific societies and multiple guest societies. If you can’t be there, you can still follow every bit of the excitement on Twitter using the hashtag #XBio. It’s where science happens.
One of the sponsoring societies is The American Society for Nutrition (ASN), of which I belong to, and it’s my privilege to once again cover their conference as an “official blogger” for a third year in a row. You can check this blog regularly for updates or follow my twitter feed @daviddespain. From past years, I know the one thing I can promise is a deluge of scientific developments along with lively discussion. The full program is found at the ASN website (PDF here). Below is a sample of some of the sessions I’m interested in attending, covering, or watching for coverage about:
- The Global Nutrition Transition: Interaction of Nutrition and Physical Activity – A great lineup of speakers (sponsored sattelite program) (Fri, April 25; 1-5pm PT)
- Sugars and Health Controversies – Mae Chung, Roger Clemens, and John Sievenpiper presenting (this is sure to be interesting; see my past EB #sugarshowdown coverage) (sponsored satellite program) (Sat, April 26; 6:30 am PT)
- Energy and Macronutrient Metabolism Research Interest Section Hot Topics Seminar – abstract competition (Sat, April 26; 5:30 pm PT)
- Aging and Nutrition Across the Lifespan minisymposia – Chaired by Christine Tangney (Sun, April 27; 8:00 am PT)
- Nutrition Competencies in Health Professionals’ Education and Training symposium – Chaired by Penny Kris-Etherton and Ed Saltzman (Sun, April 27; 3:00 pm PT)
- Neurocognition: The Food-Brain Connection – Chaired by Michael Kelly and Naiman Kahn (Mon, April 28; 8am-12:30pm PT)
- Unscientific Beliefs about Nutrition symposium – Chaired by David Allison (Sun, April 27; 3:00 pm PT)
- ICAN International Forum (South America) (Mon, April 28; 3:30 pm PT)
- Kellogg lecture – Advancing Knowledge in Global Maternal and Child Nutrition: The Value of Collaboration; given by Linda Adair (Mon, April 28; 6:45 pm PT)
- Beyond Blood Pressure: New Paradigms in Sodium Intake and Health Outcomes – Chaired by Janet King and Kristen Reimers (Tues, April 29; 8-10am)
- Historical Impact of Nutritional Epidemiology symposium (Tues, April 29; 10:30 am PT)
- Atwater lecture – Topic: Energetics and Obesity. Lecture given by David Allison (Tues, April 29; 1:45 pm PT)
- Human Diet, Nutrient Utilization and Microbiota Interface Across the Life Course symposium (Tues, April 29; 3:00 pm PT)
- 2nd Global Summit of the Health Effects of Yogurt – a fantastic lineup of speakers (see my coverage of the first summit from last year) (sponsored satellite program) (Wed, April 30; 8am-12pm PT)
- Sustainable Diets for Healthy People, Healthy Planet symposium (Wed, April 29; 10:30 PT)
That’s a lot to cover and there’s still plenty more. But this time I’m also glad to report that I’ll have help in blogging the ASN conference.
- Nutrition science doctoral student Colby Vorland is a long-time Twitter friend (@nutsci) and has a brilliant blog at www.nutsci.org.
- Judging by the program this year, it’s going to be a challenge to make it to so many interesting sessions. Good thing we’ll be joined by a runner on the official blogging team this year in the form of UC Davis doctoral student Debbie Fetter (@DebFets).
- There will also be two official video bloggers this year including Barbara Lyle, Ph.D. (@BJoLyle), and Emily Tomayko, Ph.D., RD (@EmilyTomayko).
- Also worthy of mention is ASN member Michael McBurney, Ph.D., (@MIMcBurney) who covers nutrition science for the DSM blog.
You can most easily read our updates by regularly checking the ASN blog and by following the @nutritionorg Twitter feed. For a fantastic ASN preview, see this post by Meghan Johnson, MPH (@m_elisabeth_j), which offers a “taste” of what’s to come from what are sure to be some of the other most anticipated sessions at the meeting.
Other Meeting Bloggers
With six participating scientific societies represented at XBio, there will be no shortage of topics to cover from the conference. They include the American Physiological Society (APS), American Association of Anatomists (AAA), American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET), and American Society for Investigative Pathology (ASIP). Fortunately, some of these societies will also have members blogging and tweeting out highlights from the meetings to share and I’ve compiled a list of them here:
- APS/ASPET member Pascale Lane @PHLane and blog
- ASBMB member Biochem Belle @biochembelle and blog
- ASBMB member Paula Rincon @rincon_mp writing for The Substrate
- ASIP member Bryan Wilson @SciReflector and blog
- ASPET member Katie @katiesci and blog
- ASPET member DrugMonkey @drugmonkeyblog and blog
- APS member Dr. Isis @drisis and blog
- If you’re a blogger attending #XBio and wish to be added to this list, feel free to message me on Twitter or comment on this post.
Want a reminder of all that happened last year? Check out my #EB2013 roundup.