Since I’m “young” (whatever that means) I sometimes get asked to advise on how to disseminate research outputs through new-fangled doohickies like “the social media” (like writing click-baity headlines). This came up in a School Management Group meeting today, in the context of trying to increase visibility and citation rates for papers published by our faculty. It was something that I was quite interested in, so I spent about an hour doing some quick literature searches and then implementing some of what I found. Here’s the gist:Read More »
Wow, six months without a post is the longest I have neglected the blog for a while! I’ve got a couple of posts to write now that the summer is over, but I thought I would start with something that was a bit of a challenge for me over the summer. I spent a couple of weeks in Beijing in August, including five days attending the International Congress on Ecology (INTECOL). Usually, I like to try to promote the work that is going on at conferences and contribute to the general online science community by live-tweeting. The only trouble is that in China Twitter is banned… I came up with two solutions:
Solution 1: VPN
I used a virtual private network to bypass the firewall. That worked pretty well, and while VyperVPN cost about $12 for a month it gave me regular access to the web for the duration of my stay in China. Not bad value. However, part of my reason for going to China in the first place was to exchange ideas with Chinese researchers, and that’s tough if they can’t see what you are tweeting.
Solution 2: Weibo
My second solution, then, was to take to Chinese social media to try to communicate. There is a fair amount of guidance on Twitter and conferences, but I couldn’t find anything on Weibo and conferences. Also, Weibo is very much Chinese (as opposed to global) and so there wasn’t much hope of me communicating in the local language. Still, I tried my best and punted most of my first day of tweets (in English, unfortunately, and one as an experiment in Chinese via Google Translate) out through Weibo as well.
The results were not that surprising… I got a bit of interest on the Twitter feed (interestingly, many many bot accounts, which has never happened before), but very little on the Weibo feed. In fact, I got absolutely no interaction whatsoever. The Twitter feed was completely out of sync with the rest of the planet (or so it seemed), but at least a few people both saw and understood them!
So, what I learned here is that social media is tough to crack in China, even when trying to use local tools. It’s also tough to sign up for Weibo because the authentication uses Chinese mobile phone numbers… Aside from that, the hashtags are a little different (note the “#” at the beginning as well as the end of the hashtag above) and I really never got to grips with finding profiles of people who might be interested and trying to add them to “Weibos”. Has anybody else had any success? Are there academics using both Weibo and Twitter in their social media arsenal?
I went to a fascinating talk by a colleague at Leeds, Dr Mark Davis, a few weeks ago. Mark works on Alternative Finance (“altfin”), which involves a shift in economic thinking away from traditional big banks (with low interest and risky investments) towards peer-to-peer and community-based lending. You can read more about Mark’s ideas in his recent Conversation article: “How alternative finance can offer a better banking future“. Mark had a lot of fascinating insights which (to a lay person like me) resonated strongly. The notion that banks are inherently risky and create the circumstances for economic collapse, and the idea that all of our money that we give to banks ends up going far away into large, complex economic systems, rather than helping closer to home. Mark also made the point that there is a parallel between the “Big Society” notion promoted by the UK Conservative Government under David Cameron, and the Alternative Finance concept that he promotes. Under the Big Society, it is assumed that everybody has a little bit of spare time here and there and that we can volunteer that time to solve social problems. This means lower investment from the government because we are (in theory) capable of taking over from public services. Some people are skeptical… Altfin, on the other hand, takes the same approach to capital: almost everybody has a small amount of capital sitting around that is doing nothing productive, and if we pool our spare capital then we can do good things with it. This got me wondering whether the same thing was true for research…
I started Katatrepsis in 2011 and this is the 200th post! At the time of writing, the blog has been viewed 138,967 times by 85,866 different visitors (according to the WordPress stats). That might sound like a lot to some people, but others would scoff at such puny numbers. I think it probably puts me […]
Dipping in and out of the stream of tweets, there are always fascinating links to excellent resources for academics at all stages of their careers. I just spotted another, and thought it might be about time to aggregate some of these for posterity. Here’s the quick list (to which I will add if people suggest links), and details are below
- “How to find a postdoc”
- “How to get started with R”
- “How to use Github and RStudio”
- “How to use Github effectively”
- “How to respond to reviewers’ comments”
- “How to write a literature review”
- “How to help fight sexism in academia”
- “How to make your publications more accessible”
- “How to make your work reproducible”
I’ve always tried to make sure that my academic work wasn’t tucked away on a dusty shelf (or paywalled in an obscure academic journal, which is the equivalent in the digital age) and that has meant that my digital footprint is huge. I have accounts on ResearchGate, Twitter, Slideshare, LinkedIn, Figshare, Google Scholar, Academia.edu, Flickr, and Google+ (as well as probably a few more that I’ve forgotten!). I don’t think I have lost anything by “scattering my wild oats” across a huge swathe of the internet, because I assume that it increases visibility. Indeed I get a few views across all platforms:
- ResearchGate: 2,106 reads, 454 profile views,
- Twitter: 976 followers
- Slideshare: 2,386 views
- Figshare: 20-200 views per article, but full stats require institutional subscription
- Academia.edu: 484 views, 35 downloads
However, what I have been looking for is a service that allows me to aggregate all this content. Ideally it would have (i) a single page per publication, where I could bring together all the bits of information relating to that paper (data, preprints, press coverage, and a lay summary), and (ii) a personal profile page that brings all of those publication pages together under my profile. Well, I think I’ve found it!Read More »
My last post was about open access – making sure that your work is freely available after publication. However, I have also been experimenting with preprints – posting articles prior to publication for open peer review. PeerJ is one publishing model that has been gaining traction recently. They also offered free publication for a trial window and have a monkey as their mascot, so how could I resist? My paper, “Continental variation in wing pigmentation in Calopteryx damselflies is related to the presence of heterospecifics” is available now (with all the data used in the paper) at the PeerJ preprint site, while the manuscript is in review at the PeerJ journal. I thought it worthwhile reflecting on the experience and my growing support for this idea.Read More »
It’s a pretty exciting time to be teaching in higher education. There has been a wave of critical evaluation (mostly by the teachers themselves) which has led to a great deal of progress over the past couple of years. This has led to a recognition that lecture-based courses are not the “be all and end all” of university teaching, and that there are better ways to do things. Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs for short) are playing quite a large role in redefining how university teachers engage with their students and how we think about delivering the student experience.
The new MOOC from the University of Leeds is called “Fairness and Nature: When Worlds Collide”, and is being run by Professor Jon Lovett in the School of Geography. Jon is a charismatic and passionate guy with a wide range of experiences in the interaction between people and the nature world, and it is these themes that are explored in the course. If you want to find out more, head over to the FutureLearn site and sign up (it’s free!). Here’s a taster:
There are some key characteristics of MOOCs that make them different from conventional university courses:
- Variable length – MOOCs can be anything from 1 week to 12 weeks, with the breadth and depth of content varying accordingly.
- Entirely online – with no need to rely on built infrastructure, MOOCs can (and, indeed, do!) cater for tens of thousands of students, rather than the usual hundred or so.
- Flexible study – because of the online nature, students can participate whenever is convenient for them. Sometimes this means that students drop-off entirely (completion rates are relatively low) but that isn’t really the point of MOOCs. MOOCs are frequently designed to provide access to education for as many people as want it, and any learning is a bonus.
- Flexible structure – the online platform allows a wide variety of multimedia, interactive, connected resources to form the backbone of a course. These make for a very engaging learning experience.
All these factors combine to make a new and interested way of teaching and engaging a wider range of students, and I look forward to seeing where the MOOC movement goes.
I have been busy attending conferences recently (one of many excuses for not updating the blog) and I thought I would mention one significant difference between these conferences and those that I have attended previously. At Behaviour 2013 (Newcastle, 4-8 Aug 2013 – that’s me talking about mimicry on the right), I tried live-tweeting for the first time. Then at Intecol 2013 (London, 18-23 Aug 2013) almost all questions during the plenary talks were taken solely by Twitter. This meant that I had a lot more experience of Twitter in an academic forum that I had had before, and I found it to be an immensely positive experience! Not only did people come up and say “hi” because they recognised my name from Twitter (new networking opportunities), but I passively participated in multiple parallel sessions where usually I would only have had access to the session within which I was physically present (there were 16 parallel sessions at any one time at Intecol!).Read More »
Last week, I had an interesting conversation over coffee with some colleagues who don’t use Twitter. There were a lot of concerns over whether Twitter was useful at all, and whether it was right for them in particular. I imagine a lot of people (including scientists) are hesitant about taking the plunge and don’t have time to fiddle around trying to figure out how to use the tool. First, for those who have not come across Twitter before, there is some terminology to cover:Read More »