One final Thing…

This is the final Thing of the 23 Things course, in which we have been invited to reflect on our experiences of the programme. Looking back, one of the most useful aspects of this course was getting to know online resources that I was previously unaware of, especially some of the podcasts and free images. Moreover, having to take the time to Google myself and explore my online identity has had a huge impact, as I am now taking steps to ensure my professional profile is up to date and the best it can be.

*Research and personal websites – Things 21 and 22

Obtaining funding is a vital part of being an academic researcher. You could be the greatest mind in the world, but without the ability to successfully apply for grants, your career would be short-lived. In Thing 21 I explored a website called *Research, a platform for staying on top of which grants are available, with the added bonus of being able to set alerts for grants which might be relevant to you. Unfortunately, the university login did not work for me, however I will bear this website in mind should I wish to continue in academia after my doctorate. I was able to look at another area of the website, *Research Jobs. I found that there were not many jobs advertised so I probably wouldn’t revisit this page. All in all I did not have a good experience with *Research, however I am always happy to learn about what is available on the web.

Thing 22 was all about personal websites – the one website that all of your profiles link back to, the main place for people to find out about and contact you. I had a look at some of the options – WordPress, surrey.ac.uk, Google+, about.me and LinkedIn and considered what I would use as my own personal homepage. There are several profiles of me online currently; on the website of my previous research group, on the University of Surrey website, my sponsor company website and so on, however I think that at this stage in my career I will stick with LinkedIn. It is something that I can edit and update myself, that will survive changes in employment and a place that people already go to find me and stay in touch, provided we are not in regular contact via email. In future, if I am involved in scientific communication or research, I might consider making a website of my own, however I would stick with LinkedIn if I move into industry.

Communicating and Sharing Online – Things 18, 19 and 20

Things 18, 19 and 20 cover ways of communicating online, including webinars, Doodle, Dropbox and Google Drive. In Thing 18, we started by looking at Google+ hangouts. In the past I have checked it out, but decided not to use it as I feel that Facebook is enough social media for my needs. I’ve been communicating with industry and academia for years now, and email/webex has always sufficed so unless someone demands it of me, I don’t think I will be changing my stance on hangouts. Whilst it is well-made software with lots of useful tools, many academics (my supervisor included) still use paper and pen, and which program industry uses is generally defined by which software package the company has purchased.

Moving onto webinars, I have used these a lot throughout my EngD, for listening to lectures and presentations or participating in meetings. It is a great way to communicate, either for a meeting without the associated travel costs, or attending lectures whilst still at your desk, which saves a lot of time.

In the next Thing, we looked at Doodle. I have used this in the past to arrange supervisor meetings, however it has never been as successful as simply suggesting dates over email. This is perhaps more useful when there is a large number of people.

In the last Thing for this week, we covered Dropbox and Google Drive. Again, I’m quite familiar with both of these tools. I no longer use Dropbox, as it is blocked at my EngD sponsor company and therefore I cannot access it from my PC, however I have used it in the past for sharing lecture slides and photographs, as well as backing up my coursework. Google Drive I am a big fan of, as I have it on my phone, tablet and PC, which makes it easy for me to access certain types of document which I like to update on the go (personal finances etc.) as well as create shared documents. Within my research, however, I actually don’t use Google Drive. I regularly write very long documents, and keep a history of each draft, so the live-update style of Google Drive doesn’t suit the way that I organise my work.

Looking forward to seeing what the last three things are!

Sharing Work and Copyright – Things 14, 15, 16 and 17

Image from page 23 of "Science-gossip" (1894)

Science gossip is probably my new favourite phrase. I found this image using the commons on Flickr, which I learnt to use in Thing 6. I hope you like it.

In the last four Things, I have been looking at sharing and copyright. I know that I must keep a record of all of my work, and as much as possible I try to use my own images, for the sake of not making a mistake with copyright, however I now feel more confident in how to use someone else’s image.

I’ve also learnt about creative commons, through which you can grant open access to your work. Personally, I don’t feel that I have anything I’d like to share freely right now, but I like knowing that there is a whole online community willing to share knowledge and information. My more talented sibling, a software engineer, frequently shares new code online, which he believes is a good thing and helps us advance. It has also been great for his career, as people start to associate his name with useful and well-written pieces of code – he has been headhunted in the past by you-know-who, so there is definitely some personal gain that can be drawn from sharing your work online.

Online podcasts, videos and lectures are something that I explore regularly, covering any topic. Through 23 Things I have looked at Open Spires, and will definitely be checking out some of these podcasts in my downtime. As a viewer, I enjoy being able to learn new things without the time and financial costs of taking a course. Podcasts are so easily accessed and shared, and so frequently discussed in conversation, I hope they’re here to stay.

Sharing Research – Things 12 and 13

This week’s Things have looked at sharing research – either as videos or presentations. Thing 12 covered how to make screen capture videos, which was new to me. While I haven’t any videos I’d like to make at the moment in time, I will definitely be using this new skill in the future.

Thing 13 covered alternatives to PowerPoint, in particular Prezi. I had heard of Prezi before this week, however in my experience, unless you are presenting from your own laptop in a familiar environment, it is best to keep things simple – I tend to stay away from videos and animations as they seem to fail so often. Additional features aside, I have learnt from colleagues’ experience that using Prezi relies on your host’s preparedness for the program. At larger conferences, I have always had to upload my PowerPoint file in advance, and so this system would not be compatible with Prezi. All in all, I will be steering clear.

Week 6 blog post – Things 9, 10 and 11

In the last few things, I have looked at online resources such as Wikipedia, podcasts and referencing tools. I was familiar with most of these things, however I had never used slideshare before, which was covered in Thing 10. Slideshare is a platform for users to upload or search for all sorts of presentations. I had a go at searching for key words within my research topic and was pleased to find many useful results. I will definitely be going back for a second look to see what more I can find, either to learn new things or to gain inspiration for future presentations.

Networking Tools – Things 7 and 8

In Thing 7, we were asked to look at LinkedIn. I opened my first LinkedIn account years ago, when I spent one day working as a professional stalker – sussing out the key players of a particular industry. My profile received a few years of neglect after that, but as increasing numbers of people started to connect with me, I filled it in, although it is still quite basic as I have yet to look for a job in earnest (hello, academia!). I am now at a point where I am reaching the end of my EngD, and as my network grows I am receiving increasing foot-traffic on my profile, so a major overhaul is definitely on the cards. As for my use of the site, I have found it quite useful to be involved in some of the groups, particularly discussion groups surrounding my area of work. I think that if I wanted to get noticed, this could be a novel way.

Thing 8 introduced academia.edu and ResearchGate. Whilst they both seem like useful tools, I wonder if having so many types of professional online profile is a good thing?

Week 4 – blogging time again

I am now on Thing 5 and Thing 6 of the 23 things course. In Thing 5, the first task was to Google myself. Initially, I’ll have to admit that I skipped this step. Who hasn’t already Googled themselves? I know what comes up when you type in my name – a link to my facebook and MySpace pages and multiple links relating to a biochemist living in the USA who shares my name. In the interests of following the course thoroughly, however, I decided at the last minute before moving on that I’d have a quick look, and I was quite surprised by what I found. The first page of Google, when you type in my name, links you to my LinkedIn, profiles on the websites of the company I work for now, research groups I’ve been in previously and my profile on the University of Surrey page. It is all me and it is all academic. This really got me thinking about how I come across online, perhaps it’s time, as I reach the end of my EngD, to make sure all of my online profiles are up to scratch?

In Thing 6, I explored which images are available online and was surprised by some of the great functions of Flickr. A lot of my creative friends use Flickr, Tumblr and Instagram, but I had never considered any of these as a potential source of images for my work, or a way to share images as a visual form of scientific communication. This could be a great way to engage new audiences in science that I hadn’t previously considered.

In addition to exploring images, I looked a Twitter, and sent my first Tweet. I had a look around at some of the recommended hashtags and found one that shocked me – a PhD student had tweeted that he was feeling stuck and depressed. Within moments a whole community had replied with messages of support, helping him to feel less isolated in what can be a very lonely pursuit.

Through these exercises, I have been able to see new uses for social media platforms that I had always ignored and passed off as shallow or narcissistic, but I can definitely see myself getting more involved as the 23 Things course goes on.

Climb a mountain, tell no-one

I can’t remember where this quote originated, but it’s one I think of often. Could you climb a mountain, and tell no-one of your achievement? If not, then have you really done it for yourself, or simply to impress others?

As with many people participating in 23 Things, I’ve grown up with social media – from running home to jump on MSN Messenger (and subsequently being told to get off the internet because somebody needed the phone), through MySpace and the beginnings of Facebook to now, a world of limitless opportunity for sharing and updating, with everything open to comment. My main use of social media has always been to stay in touch with friends, share photos and make plans. Where phone numbers and addresses can be lost, changed, or need to be written down, social media presents a much better alternative. This is why I will never be one of those people that outright reject Facebook, Twitter and the like. Going back to my opening statement, however, I do object to the ever increasing trend of doing things just for the sake of being able to share them, of spending so much time taking photos that you are not living in the moment.

I now find myself taking part in the 23 Things programme, a course run by the University of Surrey as part of the requirements for my doctorate. Through participating, I am hoping to explore blogging as a new form of social media to me, where the focus is on learning to use social media to help with my work in science and engineering. I think that blogs are great for many reasons; however within the realm of science, they can also be a hindrance. There is a lot of pseudo-science bandied around that I personally feel is damaging to society and people’s health. I am very passionate about science communication as I think it is important for the general public to be able to understand the information that they are being given, to learn to think like a scientist and make decisions that are not based on biased news articles or hear ‘say, so that when you read a headline such as “keeping one eye closed causes cancer” you can ask questions like “How was this study performed? How many participants were there?”  And how do I feel about blogging in terms of my own research? I’m not entirely sure anyone outside of the aerospace industry will get that excited about optimising cure measurement in polymer matrix composites – I think I’ll save that for conferences.