The end of all Things

This post is meant as a summary of my experience with the ’23 things’ program.  I outlined my overall impression of the course in my last post, so here were my thoughts.  I think these were more representative than anything I might write now, since I was fresh off looking at Linkdin then and was amazed I hadn’t sooner.

“On an entirely not-sycophantic note; this has been a phenomenal resource, full of solutions to problems I have had in the past – like if I had thought of using a screencast to get technical insight into a piece of software years ago, rather than spending ages muddling through it.  It also has solutions to problems I have not really had yet, like Storify.  It has also finally got me to sort out researchgate and linkdin, which both should help me as I enter the jobs market.”

Since writing these words I have been on the glamorous side of materials science – scratching very fine notches into very small matchstick beams.  Over and Over and Over again.  Also writing thesis, about which I am… mildly concerned.  But I did use doodle to schedule a meeting, and will be presenting to an audience at the end of next week.  So communication is happening.  I am not talking to myself all the time, just most of it.

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The end of all Things

It isn’t begging if you are an academic

So this weeks ‘things’ are all about ways to, ultimately, get professional advancement, either by getting noticed, or by getting cash.

*Research I have talked about previously – I genuinely think anyone in any STEM work environment stands to gain from this.  That gets you money – if people will give it to you.  To do that, they need to notice you.  I have previously talked about linkdin.  For now I am going to make this my personal website.  Though I will publicize the hell out of my published data on researchgate and link this to linkdin.  I am slowly growing my presence on each, trying desperately to get as much done in each instalment as I can, before my horror of self aggrandising gets in the way.

One final thing, as anyone reading these ‘Thing’ tagged entries in my blog will have noted, these deal with assignments set on the 23 Things course.  On an entirely not-sycophantic note; this has been a phenomenal resource, full of solutions to problems I have had in the past – like if I had thought of using a screencast to get technical insight into a piece of software years ago, rather than spending ages muddling through it.  It also has solutions to problems I have not really had yet, like Storify.  It has also finally got me to sort out researchgate and linkdin, which both should help me as I enter the jobs market.

It isn’t begging if you are an academic

Thing 20 – or ‘thank god there is a way not to have to drive all that way for 1 meeting’

Meetings – as a research engineer, scheduling meetings with people up and down the country is part of the game.  A part I do not get a kick out of, but a part I have learned.  Doodle is my friend, since it is impartial, democratic and quick.  Straightforward and powerful, it does exactly what it sets out to do.  Calendar integration is great too.  Oddly, I find it most helpful to link my doodle account for professional purposes to my personal calendar, since it is more likely that I will have something personal I have forgotten about than something professional.

On the subject of sharing, I spend a lot of time sending files back and forward to various supervisors.  Dropbox is a good way to avoid this, though there are security considerations.  I use dropbox for filesharing personally.  I like email attachments as a means of sharing files because it draws people’s attention to the file in question – if you are reading the email you ARE looking at the file I want you to see.

Having ranted above about meetings, I have still yet to make effective use of a hangout or webinar for professional issues.  One slightly left of field version I wouldn’t mind trying:I can see there might be mileage in having a practical hangout, by means of a go-pro or similar.  You could look at whatever machine you were working on, and get advice or information on a conference call from a manufacturer?  Maybe not.  Maybe I can have learning sent directly to my brain, and fingers?  That would probably be easier.  But equally you could probably replace me with a chimp at that point….

Thing 20 – or ‘thank god there is a way not to have to drive all that way for 1 meeting’

Thing 17 – my selfishness with regards to data

The first thing that leapt out at me in this weeks things was the SRI.  This is a tool to help Surrey students share their published work in an open way.  I am a passionate believer in this, I have long felt that for the stranglehold the price of journal subscription places on learning, the journals do not add nearly enough value to research, so open access publishing, even if it comes with a hefty fee, is all good for me.  I have used this for my first submitted article

“Use of interfacial area to alter densification and microstructure in SiC-B4C composites”

and will use it for all future material.  For which, of course I will monitor the amount of traffic, probably using scopus.

I am also now more comfortable with how I can use other peoples images and not be stealing and have an ORCID ID set up to help credit my own work.  The pots of funding available in ORCID research* are a bit of a rabbit warren but I at least know to look!  This may be valuable in ANY work environment in an era of collaborative working and multiple funding sources.

A good few things all told!

Thing 17 – my selfishness with regards to data

‘Sharing is caring’

One of the problems I encounter when it comes to information sharing is commercial sensitivity – I work in an industrial environment.  They are always looking for good press but do not want the minutiae of their experimental work getting out and I am far better at these than promotions.  This limits the utility of a lot of sharing tools for the present, though I can foresee a few times when some of them will come in handy.  For example, screencasts and vlogs I have no current need for.  However, a screencast would be the ideal way to share some of my difficulties with certain analysis programs remotely with experts and I now feel I could do this.

When I present, I am most comfortable talking, so I try to keep text content on my slides minimal – I sometimes think I’d be happy with slides and a projector.  I have looked at Prezi – I have never seen a tool which comes this close to the power of a true mind map.  I will be making use of it in the future for anything involving a multi angled strategy plan.

‘Sharing is caring’

Online information, which is not a bone dry journal.

Mostly when I do research on theinternet, I am pouring over scopus, google scholar and the rest.  Everything I come up with is highly specialised and about as dry as an AA meeting in the sahara.  But there are a couple of things I do look at which are much more engaging:

Wikipedia is, in my view, a very valuable tool for research.  It is not an end in itself but an invaluable springboard.  Reading an article can help you to identify buzzwords, key texts to look at and other sources of information (such as online material property databases).  The only danger is a game I play with myself where I try to get onto lighter or more esoteric pages in a wikiwalk.

Coursera is something I have come to on my own.  A big hole in my scientific understanding has always been computer programming.  I have learned just enough html to understand formatting and syntax, and just enough FEM to understand what people are talking about.  But I do not currently program in any language well enough to produce code which allows for creative analysis of data.  I am adept at producing analysis routines in some image analysis software, but here the toolbox of commands is clearly and simply laid out.  So I have been learning python, which I understand is a good introductory language, simple to learn but powerful.  My progress has been slow due to time constraints, but meaningful.

One thing I would still like to find is a ‘this week in science we found cool’ podcast.  A good one I have checked out a few entries of is http://www.materialstoday.com/podcasts/ – with entries like ‘making sense of 3D printing’ catching my imagination.

Online information, which is not a bone dry journal.

The lighter side of social media, harnessed to give lift.

I think for me Facebook will always be a strictly personal thing, never professional.  It is a useful tool, fun, a great way to bring people together.  But it is where I go when I am not in work mode, so that is the way it will stay for now.  The nearest I would ever come is exchange of research ideas with someone who is already a friend, rather than a colleague.  Twitter, I am less fussed about personally.  But I still find it fundamentally limited for idea exchange.  Where I think I can get the most out of twitter is as a reminder service for things which are happening – it was very useful when I was at ICACC to keep track of events going on I wanted to participate in.

Image sharing, I am also sceptical of.  A lot of my work has been commercially focused – sharing images is not something I can do on a whim, because the more interesting an image is, the less likely it is that it is totally academic in interest.  This is a pity, since pictures can be eye grabbing in a way otherwise seemingly near-identical social media profiles are not.

The thing that most interested me in the ‘things’ this blog post covers are storify and the like.  In the future, I may be organising events which are about communication, sales or awareness.  The facilities offered by these sites could be a massive aid as a promotional tool for events of this type.  The format seems to give a nice degree of balance between images and context, presenting a cohesive, engaging whole.  It is in my bookmarks and toolbox for the future.

The lighter side of social media, harnessed to give lift.