The King’s Collaborator Locator (KoLo) – Summer Roundup

Written by Dr K. Faith Lawrence, Departments of Digital Humanities & Liberal Arts, Dr Arna van Engelen, Department of Biomedical Engineering & Dr Alan Brailsford, Department of Pharmacy and Forensic Science

The KoLo project envisioned the creation of a lightweight site which King’s staff could use to find others with similar research or professional interests, supporting knowledge exchange and collaboration. This was an ambitious aim, especially given the commercial development costs of these types of applications.

For all of us involved in this project it has been a learning experience, one that we have relished and which is not over yet. When we submitted our application after the first Research Staff event, we were just three people from three different departments who had just happened to be in the same event session and had ended up gathered around the same post-it note. While all of us had experience working collaboratively on projects, none of us had experience leading a project of this type. We learned to things very quickly – you need to be inventive (and lucky) with the budgeting and your timetable will get thrown off by events that you can’t control.

We were able to put in a successful bid because of the support that we received from outside our immediate team: the King’s Digital Lab, who we planned to work with on the hosting and backend development, were interested enough in our project that they were willing to put some of their own resources into the development, covering the difference between their normal quote and the amount that we had available, and the Department of Digital Humanities and the Faculty of Arts and Humanities who both offered funding for the project, which allowed us to lower the amount that we were applying for from the King’s Community Fund.

One of the principles of the Community Fund was that you needed to minimise the effect on your normal daily work. The King’s Digital Lab was able to take on the back-end development and hosting but we couldn’t afford for them to also take on the front-end development. This meant trying to work out ways to get more people involved without increasing our budget. Our answer came in the form of some really great student interns, to whom we are very grateful for all their hard work: MA students from the Department of Digital Humanities: Silvia Corbara, who lead on front-end design and workflow, Meizhi Wei and Jiachen Cui, who were involved with design and headed the front-end development, and our KURF research Fellow Phillip Sakellarios, a BA Geography student, who is working on HTML development and data analytics.

Where are we now? We have the basic data model and webpage designs that we will use for the prototype, we received our ethics approval (Ref: LRS-16/17-4992) which means that we can use real data, we have a back-end system based on the datamodel waiting for the front-end to be ready, we ran a small workshop for our developers going over how to use JavaScript so they create the connection between the front and back ends and we have started creating the pages based on the designs. We have also had expressions of interest from our project from people across the university who have expressed interest in the project, some of whom have been collecting data with similar idea in mind.

The project, or at least this stage, will be over soon and, for some of us in the project team, the end of our time at King’s as well. We hope, before we go, to leave the seed to something bigger which will be of use to research staff, academics, professional services staff and all the people at the university who might find something great when chance meetings happen to throw them together around a (digital) post-it.

 

The Power of Online Social Networks

Written by Dr Amy Birch

You’re working late again on a project that seems to be throwing up more questions than answers. Your colleagues in your department, faculty, or university do not have the expertise you need to solve one of the more pressing problems. You’re sure that someone in your field surely must have come across the same problem – but how do find out who they are?

Academia has become a truly global enterprise, with expertise and specialist knowledge coming from across the planet. In fact, as universities have become larger and larger, it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep up to date with the whereabouts of colleagues in your field, even within the same city.

It is no surprise therefore, that academic social networking sites have exploded. Academia.edu and ResearchGate boast over 36 and 11 million users, respectively. These numbers pale in comparison to Facebook’s 1.79 billion and Twitter’s 313 million active users, but are pretty impressive when you take into account that only researchers can join. ResearchGate has been described as a “mashup of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn”; you can follow subject areas or other users, join specialists groups, publish your peer-reviewed papers, write short reviews on others’ papers, and, perhaps the most widely utilised tool, pose research questions for other users to help you find the answer. Ijad Madisch, one of the founders of ResearchGate, argues that this tool has enabled hundreds, if not thousands, of active collaborations leading to published research in peer-reviewed journals.

Additionally, both Academia.edu (which is more specifically a site to share papers and review research) and ResearchGate provide tools to measure your own impact, via scores which calculate the number of followers you have and downloads of your papers, and both websites do very well in Google search results which means that people searching for a particular paper on your area of expertise are more likely to find your paper if it has been uploaded into your profile.

While these two sites currently have the most active users, there are a number of other websites that are increasing in popularity. These include Zotero and Mendeley, which both started as bibliographic software but also boast online forums and private messaging tools, and LinkedIn, now as equally associated with blogging and online groups/forums as its more traditional job seeking/posting service.

At this point I’m hoping that I haven’t lost you in a blind panic about all the new sites you need to be using and, crucially, keeping up-to-date. Certainly, there has been an explosion in online tools to support professional networking in the ever-increasingly ‘connected’ world. However, it is important to make sure that the sites you are using are appropriate for your needs. This is where some research of your own is needed – find the websites that have the highest proportion of people that you want to network with, who are interested in the same subject areas as you, and who will be interested in your expertise. For example, LinkedIn is really great if you are looking for a move beyond academia as you can connect with people who may be in a profession you are aspiring to; however, posting your most recent academic paper on LinkedIn will not have the same impact as posting it on Academia.edu. This may even be a smaller, more subject-specific social networking site. When I was postdoc, “Alzforum” was the place to go for the most recent news about trials, published papers, jobs, and discussions in my own field of neurodegenerative diseases.

Finally, if you really want to make an impact – it’s not enough to be on the sites, not even enough to keep your profile updated. As with networking in real-life, you have to SAY SOMETHING. Make a comment on a paper you found interesting or start a conversation with a colleague you’ve always admired but never felt confident enough to approach at conferences. Start making connections, and you’ll soon have a rich, varied, and talented online network of peers.

Research Staff Community Highlights: Inaugural Research Staff Event Final Plenary

Written by Nudrat Siddiqui 

Didn’t get a chance to attend the Inaugural Research Staff Event last month? Read on for a round-up of the concluding plenary. Research Staff collaborated in interdisciplinary workshop groups to devise ideas to tackle local and global challenges with a £2K budget. The groups reconvened in the final plenary to present their solutions and go head to head for fantastic prizes…

The Presentations

Each group was allocated 3 minutes to present their proposed solutions – a time limit we meticulously tracked with a live timer!

Creating a World-Leading Research Environment

The ‘Researcher’ app, if created, would connect you with colleagues who have the expertise you’re seeking in project partners. You would search for potential ‘matches’  using filters, and swipe left or right depending on whether or not you like what you see. While it would initially be for King’s staff, it would be expanded nationally and internationally.

Diversity & Inclusion

The key for this group is to better understand and raise awareness for aggression and micro-aggression in the workplace. The group proposed the £2K should be provided to the Diversity & Inclusion team, with the aim of spurring on college-wide training on aggression.

Global Health & Wellbeing

We’ve all heard the age old saying that children are the future. This was the motto for this group who proposed an educational film should be broadcast to children worldwide. It will be a community implemented initiative and designed by an inter-disciplinary team drawing upon students from various facets, from medicine to film studies. It will dispel myths such as being fat is healthy and promote best practice in health and wellbeing.

Informed Urbanisation

This group focused on illuminating the invisible aspects of London by profiling the night workers who make London’s streets and structures function by day. The project will track their journeys from their homes to their workplaces and their movement across the city. It will shed light on their work through films and by introducing meeting points enabling day and night workers to meet.

Social & Distributive Justice

Education influences many of our values and behaviours. This group proposed a mandatory course aimed at ensuring children are better socially, economically, and emotionally equipped.  It would be designed in collaboration with children and cover topics from financial information to emotional well-being. As technology changes rapidly over time, the course will also change accordingly.

And the Winner Was…

The plenary audience voted for their favourite workshop solution. While all the ideas proposed were innovative, there could only be one winner… And the winning group was Creating a World-Leading Research Environment, who happily accepted their prizes of chocolate filled Centre for Research Staff Development (CRSD) mugs from the President and Principal, Prof Ed Byrne.

2K Funding up for Grabs

The CRSD invites proposals to address any of the workshop topics by applying for the £2K King’s Community Fund by 28th November 2016. If you didn’t attend a workshop, you must apply with a colleague who did attend. So convert your great ideas into reality! Learn more here.KC-CRSD Event October 2016