The End

Well, after several months of blogging 23Things has finally come to an end. This was my first time blogging and I must admit I found it quite strange and different to what I am used to! Nevertheless, it has been interesting and I have learnt a few things about your professional image online.

23Things has opened my mind into the different sorts of resources that are out there that can contribute to research and to reach out and connect with other people. ResearchGate and LinkedIn are just 2 of the examples that I have grown used to over the course of this program. I now use both and they have become very helpful in their respective ways. For reading articles – and for connecting with other professionals.

Week 11

Having a professional profile is something that can be used very productively and and is a good way of showcasing who you are, and what you do. It can be used to list the research that you are currently undertaking which can be a good way to attract people to contact you and share ideas.

LinkedIn is a good platform for this as many many people are using this platform so a profile is quite likely to achieve a large number of views. It also has the added benefit of being able to follow people, share research articles, and talk to others.

Creating a profile page on the University website will help publicise the research that I am doing with the University. While I do not know whether or not I want to stay in research after my EngD, having a profile page in the University site will be helpful regardless. This mainly due to the high “footfall” on the internet compared to some other sites.

Week 10

Whatsapp is an app that I use regularly on a daily basis. However, I use it almost purely for as a social app for talking with my friends and group chats. It has only been recently that I have started to use it to help with me research; there is a prospect for a joint experiment with another EngD student and we have used whatsapp as our main communication method. This has been to set up meetings, and to discuss the things that can and can’t be done in the experiment. As we have not yet started the experiment we have yet to share any data or images through whatsapp, but that could become something that we utilise going forward.

Whatsapp is a very informal and casual method of communication, especially compared with the use of email. As a young researcher I would feel more comfortable using whatsapp with other young researchers. This is more significant where I use it a lot for personal use with my friends.

My friends and I are quite keen cyclists. We time ourselves up the “100 best hills of the UK” and record the times in an excel sheet (yup pretty sad I know…). We use google drive to share this between us so we can all update it when we cycle a new hill or set a faster time than previously; google drive enabling this to be done with ease.

As part of my research google drive can become very useful for co-working on pieces of data or reports. When it comes to writing the article for journal publishing (see previous post), this will be worked on by a few people; myself, other EngD students, and our supervisors. Google drive could provide a great platform to use for the joint sharing of writing.

I have used webinars very briefly before while on my placement year as part of my undergraduate course. I was part of an international collaboration which meant that physical joint meetings were nigh on impossible to achieve. To conduct our meetings we used Webex which among other features, provides screen sharing and phone ins via a computer, mobile, or landline.

I am based away from University for the entire duration of my EngD project, requiring travel to be made by some of the parties when meeting with supervisory team. Webinars could provide a good alternative to this, allowing for time and cost savings on the travel. As with webinars, video conferences could become useful during my research.

Crowd sourcing is not something that I can envisage becoming a part of my project. It can be useful to use for some research, mainly that which contains very large data sets and does not require significantly high levels of understanding.

Open Access and Bibliometrics

I am not published – yet. As part of the EngD course, producing a published journal article is a requirement to be awarded the doctorate. When I do produce a published research article I would ideally like it to be as open access as possible. In my opinion all published work should be open access and free for anyone to access, not doing so can hinder the spread of knowledge transfer and limit further understanding.

I have occasionally seen bibliometric scores stated online (mainly ResearchGate) for different articles, but apart from the “wow, that’s cool” reaction to some of the bigger impact articles I generally pay no attention to it. A paper might present groundbreaking work which is revolutionary but can have a very low impact score if it is a rather niche topic area. As such, I judge the significance of research based on its content rather than how many citations it has or which journal it has been published in.

With everything now online it is very easy and common to find papers without going directly through the journals sites. For the most part, I don’t even know which journal the research was published in until it comes to writing out a reference for it.

I have an idea of which part of my research that I would like to get published, if the data produced turns out to be good enough. While I would love to get published in a prestigious journal such as Nature and obtain a high impact score, this is only for bragging rights among my fellow doctorate students. Research society has caused some journals to become more desirable to be published in than others, fueled strongly by bibliometric scores. It has got so desirable to be published in such top journals that some now consider it pointless and not worth getting published in a lesser known journal.

Presenting Data

Like most people, there is nothing worse to listen to than the sound of your own voice after recording it. As such I can’t see myself recording any audio or video as part of my research. Some research projects and topics are more video/audio friendly such as those in the performing arts. Other projects, like those in the physical sciences, might not be so easily and readily turned into an audio or video. An audio accompanying a power-point presentation is something that would be extremely useful for any research topic.

My project is quite heavily computational based, so a screen capture would be a very applicable method of presenting some of my research, as my simulations are running. This is not something that I have done before and could be a good way to present my research as it is running. For this to be appealing it would first have to be made a bit more snazzy though.

Nothing beats the look of a very appealing graph, chart, or other presentation of data. I spend a fair amount of time trying to work out the best ways to present the data that I produce. This is so that not only it looks nice to look at, but also explains what the data means and represents in a sufficient way.

With a primarily computational project have become adept at using code to turn millions of data entries into different types of graphs and plots, utilizing the different functionalities of the language. This allows me to have a lot of freedom with what, and how I plot and present my data.

Tableau is a piece of software that I have some small experience with, introduced to me via a friend who works for the company that makes it. It is very good for presenting any and all types of different data in a manner of different ways. Graphs, and charts presents the data in a very nice and presentable manner that is easy to read and show the relationships that are intended to be presented.

Different sources of Information

Wikipedia isn’t always the most reliable and factual of places to gather information from. However I find that it is one of the best places to start when exploring a new topic, or aspect of your research. On embarking on a new topic or research I will always do a Wiki search. It can provide a very nice overview of what you are researching and provide links or ideas to other Wikipedia pages that hadn’t originally been thought of.

While some pages can have limited to no information and some can be edited by people attempting to be funny and silly, many pages do give appropriate insight into the material. Because of this, Wikipedia has obtained its untrustworthy reputation. Researchers using Wikipedia should be aware of this, and use it to help understand the overview of the research and to identify points of interest.

Many editors of Wikipedia articles include references in their writing. By finding the references, which are often research papers and articles, more reliable information can be read. Wikipedia should never be directly referenced and the information should be crosschecked with more trustworthy sources, such as the ones referenced by the editors.

Image sharing of research can be a great tool if utilized correctly. Colourful, weird, or aesthetically pleasing images of research can entice and draw in others to find out where it came from and learn about the research story out there. Some research can’t generate captivating images such as these and image sharing won’t be of much benefit for these researchers.

Presentations are things that I frequently come across while searching google on topics of my research. Most often they are either slides from lectures or from a conference presentation. As they don’t come with accompanying talker sometimes they can lack in information and can be difficult to fully understand the material being presented.

Referencing resources

When it comes to writing reports, papers, and thesis’s a key component is of course referencing. Without referencing you could make up pretty much anything you want and while that my be fun it won’t get you any kudos – or degree/doctorate.

For my Masters thesis I used a Linux referencing software called BibTeX. In BibTeX it is set up so that you input all the information about the article you want to reference into the fields. Often I also added notes so I knew which article it is. I was writing my thesis in LaTeX (I abandoned MS Word many years ago), and with just one click of a button BibTeX and LaTeX talked to each other and creating a bibliography in the style that I so wished.

BiBTeX: A referencing software for LaTeX

However, you do have to manually fill out every field and it doesn’t easily link to the thing that is being referenced. This is something that many do do, like Mendeley, Zotoro, and Colwiz. As an EngD student I spend nearly all of my time on placement with a company. This means that I am on the corporate network which has many benefits (I’m told – I haven’t found any myself yet). This does mean though, is that I don’t have the freedom to download or install these pieces of software to use, and in the case of Colwiz it is outright blocked.

For now, I will continue with using BibTeX for my referencing and storage of articles.

Research Networking

In this new age of publicly sharing everything on the internet, most research papers are locked behind a large paywall. One of the biggest perks of studying at a University is that most of these paywalls can be “broken” through with a simple login. However even with this it is still not possible to access every paper you want to read. Typically the ones that excite you the most are the ones that are inaccessible unless you pay a ¬£50 “donation”.

ResearchGate does not have this paywall and allows researchers and academics to freely post and and share any papers that they have written. One of the things that I did in the early stages of my EngD project was to set up an account, and fill it out with my research area and University. I did refrain from adding a picture though.

Through ResearchGate I am now following several different researchers that are conducting research into areas and topics that are very similar to my project. This allows me to quickly and visibly see when they publish and upload new papers which is a bonus when conducting your own research.

The problem with this is getting “tunnel vision” with the same researchers that I have become familiar with. By this I essentially mean that it can become very easy to forget that there are others out there doing research that can be very relevant to my work. By forgetting this and only becoming focused on certain work significant important scientific gains and findings could quite easily get missed!

Facebook is not an environment that was designed for the use of sharing research, posting papers and professional collaboration. Every aspect of Facebook was, and is, designed for personal social networking. Saying this however, there are some pages and groups that are used in a more professional manner, but these are mainly used for advertising or discussions for events.

My online “Brand”

Unless overnight I became a rugby player, singer, or a poet then it is safe to say that I am not easy to find online with a simple Google search. I guess that is one of the perks of having not only a common first name, but also a common last name – “Tom Marshall”.

In fact, in all the different name, university, and course iterations of Googling my name I only found myself once, “Tom Marshall University of Surrey Engineer”. Even then, the only thing to come up was a barren ResearchGate profile – barren due to the lack of papers I have published.

It probably doesn’t help that the only social media I use is Facebook (of which there are many with my name), and an unused skeleton of a LinkedIn account. While one bonus of not being able to be found online is that I can upload as many embarrassing videos and pictures of myself as I want…. It does mean that my professional presence is also non-existent.

In a world where things are becoming more and more online it may be a good idea for to establish some sort of online presence… and preferably a good one. This will allow me to share my research, talk about others research, and may even increase my employability in the future. I think I will start by digging out the details to that LinkedIn account and setting it up properly, and there can be no harm in giving a twitter look at… right?

Thing 1 :The Beginning of the Journey

Thanks for joining me! I am a first year EngD research engineer student at the University of Surrey. This is the first of 23 posts that will become part of the “23 Things for Research” programme that is run by the Research and Development Programme.

Like most other people in their early 20’s social media is something that I use on a daily basis. However, my use of it is relatively minimal compared to others, with Facebook being the only platform that I utilise. I have so far avoided the draw of all of those other platforms: Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, the list goes on…

My professional use of social media culminated in that one time that I made an account with LinkedIn, just to find myself not setting it up or logging into it again. Safe to say that my professional  presence on social media has so far been non-existent.

With the “23 Things for Research” course I hope to gain experience in sharing knowledge and connecting with people in a professional, rather than personal, manner. I also hope it will allow me to share my fascinating (to me at least) research through blogging, something that is new to me and could continue after the end of the programme. Who knows…