Getting Your Voice Heard. Our Challenge to You!

Written by Dr Kathy Barrett, University Lead for Research Staff Development 

Is there anyone out there who does not want to be heard?  As an academic finding a way to engage others with your work is vital.  When we sit in a research seminar listening to an eloquent and illuminating speaker we typically enjoy the experience so much more than we do with those who haven’t quite mastered the art.  When we read a beautifully crafted description of research, be it a paper, monograph or book, we derive almost as much pleasure from the writing as we do from the content.  My experience of such papers, and yes, even as a scientist I have read some like this, is that I have instantly wanted to meet the author. How many of us wish that we could be that speaker or writer!

The Research Staff Event 2017 is all about finding the secret to effective communication, with fellow academics about your research, with others within the university setting about how we work together and with the wider world about the work we do and the benefits of that work to society.  There will be workshops at the event addressing a wide variety of areas and modes of communication.  There will be something to suit all, and also to explore new methods that could be your key to unlocking the door to more effective communication and new audiences.

To add an extra challenge and enhance your opportunity to put your learning into practice we are including a competition for the best communication produced on the day.  The challenge is to produce an example of communication that gets the message across succinctly and effectively.  In the afternoon workshops we invite you to work towards producing this example.  It could be a series of tweets, a blog, a film, a written text, a busk, a public address, a film or anything else that can be submitted and viewed in two minutes or less.

The criteria for judging your competition entries are that your communication piece be engaging, informative and compulsive.  Judging will happen at the event by our panel of experts and prizes awarded to the winning team.  After the event we will upload all competition entries onto the event website so you can all view them.  We may even run a people’s choice version!

Workshop places are limited.  To ensure that you are able to submit an entry in your preferred medium, register for the Research Staff Event and your choice of workshop now!  Deadline for registration is 10am on Wednesday 23rd August.

After the event we will be offering up to £2,000 through our King’s Community Fund for projects aimed at getting your voice as research staff heard within King’s.  This could be, for example but not limited to, research into how we communicate, events or policy making.  More information about the fund and a workshop on internal communication that will be held before the application deadline will be posted after the Research Staff Event on our website and in our newsletter.

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.