Reflection

The 23rd Thing in this programme is to reflect on what I have learnt and experienced over the course of the 23 Things journey. The internet is an extremely powerful tool that can be used to do a whole host of things including sharing information, developing professional links or just having fun. If used in the correct way, there is a plethora of content and websites out there that can help us create an online profile, disseminate research findings or spark international and intercontinental collaborations. There is, however, an awful lot of content out there that is not useful or necessary for professional or private life.

I think the negative sides of the internet and social media (e.g. leaking of personal information) often get the most attention and it can deter many people, such as myself, from fully accepting online tools. The 23 Things programme has certainly helped to open my eyes to the positive things that can be done with the right websites and tools on the internet. With careful and considerate use of these packages, research can be conducted faster, shared more widely and ultimately advanced at a rate that does not seem to be slowing.

As a result of the 23 Things I hope to be more open to the use of online tools to benefit my research in the future, but there is always the worry of what exactly you make public and what should be kept behind closed doors. The sharing policy of most academic institutions is likely to be much more relaxed than that of corporate businesses who are reluctant to share their intellectual property and know-how. Having said that, many companies use social media and online tools to share news updates and general research findings to advertise their expertise and appear more advanced than their competitors.

I, personally, believe that to not make use and exploit the potential use of online tools would be foolish. Placing complete faith in an online world, however, is not something I will be doing any time soon. Person-to-person interactions are an important part of relationship building both professionally and privately and online tools should be used to assist and facilitate this….not replace it.

I want to thank the RDP team at Surrey for the 23 Things programme. It has, ultimately, enlightened my view of the professional uses of the internet and social media that could pave the way for a progressive and steady uptake.

Researching jobs in research

This weeks’ tasks were looking into the ‘*Research’ page (Thing 21) and considering your own website/profile that collates your activities online (Thing 22). The overall topic of the two was to promote job searching, whether that is in academia or industry.

The *Research website looks interesting and would probably be more applicable to those interested in research posts in academia (from what I saw within the current vacancies). I was an ‘Unregistered user’ when I tried to login through Surrey’s student affiliation so I could not access the full features within the website, but I gathered the general direction and what it is there to do. It comes at an applicable time for me since I am actively looking for my next job at the moment. I have a number of ongoing considerations/offers at the moment and have been using a number of avenues to pursue possible roles after completion of my doctorate.

This brings me to the use of a main website to link online activities and act as a primary profile for public/potential employer viewing. For this I use LinkedIn. My LinkedIn account is the only ongoing profile I have online and it has been extremely useful over the recent few months of job hunting. I have tried to keep this as up-to-date as possible, but in all honesty I probably need to update this more regularly now. What I have especially found useful is the ‘Jobs’ section and more recently the launch of their dedicated ‘Jobs’ App that I installed on my phone. It does exactly what it says on the tin and you can search through a very large number of job roles. It then allows you to either apply for jobs of interest using the company website, or through your LinkedIn profile! I have done this and it has been very helpful so far in the applications I have made.

Job hunting is particularly onerous and can seem like a never ending task…at least it does for me right now! But finding the right tools to help you target the right areas does make life a little easier and I am hoping it opens up the right opportunity for me over the coming weeks and months.

Working together when not together

For this weeks task I have had a look into some of the tools we can use for online collaborations. Thing 18 looked into the use of webinars and hangouts, Thing 19 was concerned with doodle and online scheduling whilst Thing 20 introduced the use of Google drive and Dropbox for online storage and access. I confess to have heard of, and used, many of these facilities/programs throughout my studies to date and will pass comment on a couple of them in this blog post….namely, webinars and doodle polls.

I think I mentioned in a previous ‘Thing’ that I have given a webinar at my sponsor company already and have had it recorded and put online for dissemination to the public. I personally think that webinars are a great way of spreading information and allowing the distribution of information and material on a truly global scale. My webinar was given using a software program called ‘Webex’, but it looked very similar to the Adobe version that is mentioned in ‘Thing 18’. It allowed me to see people log into the event and I presented my information through a phone connection while progressing through a slide show that was displayed on the screens of every participant.

I think I managed a peak of approximately 25 participants for the webinar, which is probably not reaching the full potential of the webinar service and I even had a few questions that were sent in during the presentation. It was, however, attended by people from various locations around the country who would not otherwise have been able to attend the talk. This may have even reached international audiences if advertised globally and gives a perspective of the potential audience you could capture with such an event. The ability to present to people whilst they sit at home or at work, without the need to travel, is most likely a key reason we have seen such an increase in the use of these new online dissemination methods.

Sometimes, however, people do still need to meet in person despite the digital revolution and the fact that you can build a virtual/online presence for everything else! So how can all this new fancy software cater for that? Well doodle poll is a fantastically simple and efficient way of organising meetings for people with very busy schedules and over a broad set of dates and times. You can simply create a list of dates and options to tick and then send out these options to your required participants. This then, essentially, runs as a voting system and you can easily collate the days that are best to hold a meeting.

Alternatively, this could be used to conduct polls on all sorts of things concerning research, or possibly to organise a webinar on a particular day or time that will reach maximum audience size. These quick, easy and free to use services are growing in number, which is only good news for us users as the competition drives easier interfaces and more powerful products that we can use to facilitate our online collaboration.

Knowledge caring when knowledge sharing

Things 14, 15, 16 and 17 have covered a number of separate topics under the overall umbrella of knowledge sharing and how this can be done to maximum effect. Methods of tracking data, citations, views and how many times things have been shared are growing rapidly and it would quickly become an impossible task to keep tabs on all of this manually.

One of the things that particularly stood out to me was the Altmetric bookmark/app/widget (whatever those more up-to-date with online phrasings will call it). When added to your ‘favourites’ bar you can simply find a research article and hit the ‘Altmetric it’ button on the browser and voila! Instant stats about where and when it has been shared across the internet and social media platforms.

I was quite impressed by the ease and speed of this little app, but in all honesty I do not think I will be using it particularly often in my day-to-day research. It would probably be more useful if I was researching something more likely to be mentioned and shared by the public (such as a biological break through or things of interest to the general population).

Something else I looked into in a bit more detail this week was the Creative Commons copyrighting and permissions information that can be attached to online posts and media. I have now added a Creative Commons copyright statement/logo to this blog outlining the permissions of my posts (this can be found in the additional information menu that pops up when clicking the three bars in a box at the top right of this blog page – next to the title). This is a very quick and easy way of ensuring a copyright statement is available for a web page and also a good way of showing people that the contents can be shared (with any relevant caveats, e.g. no editing of the content or using for commercial purposes).

Overall, the ‘things’ this week have been quite eye opening in the fact that so much can be shared (professionally) to help research flourish and knowledge progress. This is backed up by a whole new discipline in the field of tracking the dissemination of shared content and, finally, the methods that can be used to ensure it is shared or duplicated in the correct ways. This last point is especially important. As we grow in our ability to share ideas, findings or original work, we need to ensure it is done in an ethical way that appropriately recognises the right people. We need to remember to take care when we knowledge share.

Knowledge sharing

(Image taken from https://www.flickr.com/photos/erozkosz/6003136440, according to copyright permissions).

Creating and sharing online media

You will have read in my previous post that I am a huge advocate of online presentations and using the power of the internet to share knowledge and ideas. As part of Things 12 and 13 I have been asked to explore the process of creating and sharing a video, podcast, screencast etc. online. There are a number of different tools available and the Prezi presentations caught my eye to provide a new and fresh alternative to the commonly used Powerpoint slides.

We are not required to create and share something for this Thing, but I have had a bit of experience with this that I can comment on. I have delivered a live webinar over the internet as part of work activities at my sponsor company. The webinar included various people that could see the slides as I flicked through them whilst presenting the information verbally to them. The broadcast was also recorded and uploaded onto the company Youtube site for dissemination to wider audiences.

The overall experience was a bit different to what I am used to in terms of giving presentations because you cannot see your audience to engage and see how they are responding to your talk. Publishing the talk on the internet, however, gives people the opportunity to see my research and gain an initial understanding of the topic and my results without having to delve into papers, which can sometimes be difficult to access. I have also found that people are more willing to listen to a presentation than read through a paper. The presentation, as I mentioned in my previous blog post, gives a summary of information that is delivered to the listener – this is a lot easier to digest than having to pick out the finer details within a paper. In the first instance I believe that an online presentation is a very attractive communication method that can be followed up by a more substantial article, paper or report for more information if required.

Online presentations and reference management

For this blog post I will touch on a couple of areas from the Thing 9, 10 and 11 group we have been set. The first topic I want to discuss is the use of online presentations to disseminate research to broader audiences; for the second topic I will discuss the use of reference management systems.

Throughout my university years I have watched a number of online presentations ranging from webinars to 3 minute thesis competitions. The most interesting and addictive presentations for me, however, have been TED talks. Since discovering them a few years back I have loved dipping into them when I have a spare 5, 10, 15 minutes. I even have the app on my phone that allows you to set a topic or time period and it will create a small compilation for you to sit-back, put your feet up, and just listen to the enthusiasm and wealth of information that pours effortlessly from the speakers.

As a dissemination method I think online presentations are brilliant. A presentation is a powerful medium where distilled, and specific, information is both summarised using information on slides and through an energetic verbal description. The ability to capture this and allow people to watch them from desks, homes and libraries across the world is an enormous advantage to the sharing of knowledge and ideas.

The second topic I want to touch on briefly is the use of reference management tools. There are a whole host of packages that can be used (including RefWorks and Endnote, to name a couple), but having experienced the pains of changing referencing methods for particular publications, reports or dissertations I now use my own version. I suppose it works in a similar method to the packages mentioned in Thing 11, but I have a bit more control over it.

I created an excel spreadsheet at a very early stage of my research project to keep track of the papers I read and the useful snippets of information within them. I created columns for my own key words, interesting quotes and a number of other bits of useful information including all the referencing information. I then have formula columns that combine the required information into the referencing style I require for my bibliography. I accept that the final parts of the process (ordering the references and picking out the ones used in each document) can be time consuming, but the spreadsheet contains links to the pdfs and I carry this on a memory stick that gives me constant access to all the papers I have read throughout my studies. This probably sounds similar to what the pre-made packages offer, but I started my method after becoming frustrated with not being able to change tiny details within my automatic bibliographies and I have never looked back.

Online, offline and out-of-line.

My previous posts suggest that I am a very anti-social media/online presence type of person – this was not my intention. I do not think all social media/online presences are bad, but I do think that some people abuse the freedom they have online and do not think they are accountable for what they say or do online. If used in the right way, online presences can be extremely powerful.

I have worked through Things 6, 7 and 8 just now and none of them were particularly new to me. They involved looking at various online image websites/apps and the use of LinkedIn and ResearchGate (both of which I already have profiles on). I completely agree with the 23 Things overview information about online images and that they can really help with disseminating research and capturing the imagination of people in a very relatable and instant way. Unfortunately, since my research is based at a sponsor company, I cannot freely disseminate images from my research without prior copyright consent from the company. This places a lengthy time hindrance on setting up and using an online image sharing website.

In terms of professional profiles on LinkedIn and ResearceGate, these are online presences of which I have already created and experienced the benefits. My LinkedIn profile has given me a huge amount of exposure and has actually helped me to keep up-to-date contact with people I have met at various events. This has become a huge asset to exploit at this point in my doctorate where I have started contacting some of these people regarding careers after my EngD.

ResearchGate is also a very valuable online system that has allowed me to access a multitude of research papers and contact the researchers themselves, which I would not have been able to do otherwise unless I spent numerous hours tracing where they are currently working or residing.

To come back to my original point within this blog post – I think online and offline presences have very important roles to play in the professional arena. It can be easy to talk about the bad sides of anything in the world, but I want to put it here that I am not completely against online presences (if used in the right way). Despite this, I do not think I am being out-of-line by having my concerns about its use and the possible consequences of becoming complacent with its power.