Save yourself a bit of time in the long run with this simple regedit hack, which can be done on University computers without admin permissions being required:

Change the export resolution of images in Powerpoint

This means any diagrams, flowcharts etc you make in Powerpoint can be saved as an image at 300dpi right from the get-go, ready for upload when submitting to a journal. This stops them coming back to haunt you during the copyediting process when you have 3 different people emailing you asking for 300dpi versions of all your figures!
As I said in a previous post, I use Twitter for quite a lot for stuff. There aren't that many Twitter-savvy people here in the faculty of health and medical sciences, so I volunteered to live-tweet the Innovations in Dementia Care conference on the faculty's twitter account.

Most conferences these days come with a conference hashtag. It lets you tweet your thoughts about the conference and the content you've experienced, and you can start some interesting dialogues with other attendees. When people are sitting in a talk, they'll have ears for the speaker and their eyes checking the conference hashtag, so it's not like you're shouting into the void - people will read what you've posted, even if they're not following you, if you've used the correct hashtag and your account is public. It's also handy for finding places to eat too! Or places to avoid - I remember one conference in Florida somebody warned everyone to stay away from a particular food joint using the conference hashtag after they came down with food poisoning. Conference hashtags are useful 8D Plus tweeting stops me falling asleep in talks, haha. I've never been much of a one for dark-room lectures - once the lights go down and my brain switches into listening mode it's nighty-night for me. I blame years of being put to sleep with audiobook cassettes playing in the background, thanks, Mum XD

You can read my tweets from the Innovations in Dementia Care conference here:

I used my dSLR camera with its smartphone syncing to post high quality images of the speakers, but you can just as easily use your phone camera (although the lighting in that room was atrocious so I was quite glad of the extra capability of my dSLR). Notice I attribute the speaker and use twitter handles wherever possible. #dementiafriends is an Alzheimer's Society campaign so I made sure to mention that hashtag too. It's quite easy once you get into it, you just need to be very concise about what is being said, which means you really need to listen as well as tweet! You can tweet multiple times during a single talk but it's best to just pick out one or two points that you think would be of particular interest to your followers, as I've done, in order to still have room for the conference hashtag. It's vital that the conference hashtag is included if you want your tweet to be seen by other conference attendees.

If you'd like a bit more info about livetweeting at conferences check out this article:

Don't forget to retweet and like other people's posts when you're browsing the conference hashtag - it gets a great buzz going!
Last week, as part of the 23 things for research program, we had to search our own name. This brings up an interesting thing for discussion - I got married last year and changed my last name, but I still publish papers and carry out academic activity in my maiden name. My maiden name is very distinctive. As such it's pretty easy for me to win the Google game:

First 4 hits are my Glasgow Caledonian University profile (they really should delete that, haha), LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Scholar and, a few hits down, RG. And of course, the usual smattering of youtube videos of people playing 'So Long Marianne' (RIP Leonard :() or Marianne's theme from Sense and Sensibility. My Uni of Surrey webpage is basically non-existent because the Marketing team are migrating all the Uni webpages to Drupal and therefore my Rhythmyx profile never synced any of the content I'd typed in. It's going to be like that till well into next year, so there is no point in me relying on the Uni of Surrey webpages for people to find me. I joined Surrey using my married name, but really the only impact of that is people might not find my Surrey webpage on Google. Hardly matters if I'm keeping all my other profiles updated.

If you knew the handle I used online then you'd be able to find out a lot more about me, like all the video games I play, or my sheet music website, but that's the whole point of having these things separate. The idea that my hobbies and my real name should be separate on the internet was something I picked up at a very early age, and mostly stems from the fact that I grew up in the era of message boards/forums and IRC chatrooms. As such, my internet presence based on my real name is pretty sanitised - as it should be. Not everybody discriminates in that way, though - I mean, Mhairi Black :P I've become pretty inured against most of the rubbish posted by people on the internet - scroll on by, or block it from my feed, are my standard responses. The internet is mostly something to laugh at - if you got too involved, you'd just get burned somehow. There are far too many angry people on the internet, and life is too short to waste it reading their rubbish.

Tell you what I'm proud of though - if you google distortions amblyopia, my paper is top of the list, above Ruxandra Sireteanu :D
So, part of this 23 things for research programme is to post about social media.

Facebook became a thing just as I was starting University. At that time it was limited just to University students, you had to assign yourself to a uni on signup. Hardly surprising - Mark Zuckerberg created it in his bedroom at Harvard. Its features were extremely limited at that time. You could make text posts and friends. I think you could post photos and make events too? Anyway, that was a long time ago. It's very different now. Facebook is full of STUFF. Mostly trash. Stuff to waste your time with. I think that pretty much sums up my opinion of Facebook.

But Facebook can be trained. Judicious hiding of certain posts (Humans of Tumblr can get into the sun) has left me with a feed of mostly intelligent people (and the few school friends I would feel a bit bad about getting rid of) and pretty pictures from photography groups. Suits me! And Facebook does have its uses. But for the most part, disseminating research is not one of them. Legit, I was going to say 'Unless you're Brian Cox' and link to his Facebook page, BUT NO, he's linked Facebook to his Twitter feed and uses it to complain about politics XD I mean, damn, if Brian Cox doesn't use it for disseminating research, what hope do any of the rest of us have?

Here's why Facebook is terrible for this (and let's face it, Facebook is for personal stuff anyway, why would you want to use it for work purposes?):


Reach is Facebook's fancy term for how likely a post you make is going to pop up on other people's Facebook feeds. Let me give you an example using my own Facebook page on which I dump all my art, photography and sewing stuff (I'm a massive nerd with too many hobbies, shhhh, don't tell anyone):

That orange bar at the bottom is how many people have seen this post, i.e. reach. My page has about 150 likes, pretty small change in Facebook terms. But I shared this post on my personal Facebook feed which increased the number of people who had seen it beyond that amount. Some of the posts I make on that page have a reach of just 43. So even when someone does want to see your stuff, by liking your page, Facebook doesn't always show it to them. There's a huge number of algorithmic factors that influences this, but in general, reach on Facebook is poor, because they want you to pay £££ to increase it.

Tl;dr, don't use Facebook to promote your research. It'll hardly reach anybody.

Moving right along, to Twitter. Twitter is the social media I use the most. I have a personal account, a professional account for orthoptics and for health science, and I also manage the account for the British & Irish Orthoptic Society's research group. Twitter, in my opinion, is great. The character limit cuts out so much of the rubbish. Best of all, if you don't give a damn about @EmergencyKitten or whatever else somebody is retweeting (the Twitter equivalent of Facebook sharing) on their Twitter feed, YOU CAN TURN IT OFF. You can just plain turn off individual people's retweets so they don't show up in your timeline. Bliss! Papers, blog posts, news articles, all easily embedded on Twitter with the same preview functionality as Facebook now. You can even mention (@name) coauthors if they have Twitter feeds and they'll get a notification. You can also syndicate your blog to your Twitter feed so posts are tweeted as soon as you post them.

There are lots of great accounts to follow, like the NIHR, academic health science networks, the research design service, and more. Because of the short character limit it's a great way of getting a quick digest of things from accounts you're interested in, and it's so easy for people to retweet and share your research.

The key with Twitter is learning to be concise without resorting to txt speak. You will look more eloquent using prose so stick to that as much as possible. Having the right app is important too. The official Twitter app is quite bloated with 'While you were away' and 'You might like' getting in the way of your timeline's chronological ordering and putting in stuff you haven't specifically chosen to follow. You can avoid this with third party apps such as Talon, Hootsuite, and Tweetbot if you have an iPhone. I use Talon and since switching to it after getting hacked off with the changes to the official Twitter app, I find I'm back to using Twitter how I used to.

One form of social media that I didn't see mentioned on the RDP blog was Reddit. This is a great time-waster with subreddits to suit every kind of interest, including science and technology. If you have a publication that's got a level of appeal to the general public then this isn't a bad place to drop it. Just be aware that people on Reddit vary in character from no-response upvotes to writers of 10,000 word essays on why your argument is terrible when they haven't even read it. There's an interesting blog on the topic of using Reddit to reach people with your academic work here. I confess this is not something I've done personally - Reddit, to me, is like Tumblr and Facebook, in that you can waste hours of your life on there for very little gain.

ResearchGate is another form of social media that's worth creating a profile on. It comes up on Google a lot and anything you've had deposited on Surrey Research Insight that hasn't got an embargo on it can also go on here. Most people use it to spam other people with requests for full text papers, but there are some neat little features - firstly, you can follow ongoing research projects that people have chosen to put on there (chosen being the operative word, it doesn't cover everything). Secondly, the question and answer function can be a neat way of getting responses to research design or statistics questions from other academics across the world who are looking for something to do other than respond to the latest round of acidic reviewer comments on their paper. I've read quite a few interesting statistics discussions on RG. It's definitely worth a little bit of your time - just be aware there are plenty who make a RG account and forget about it, so your messages and article requests may go unanswered. It's great for getting your research out there and onto Google, as is Google Scholar. In my opinion every new researcher should have an account on RG and Google Scholar. It's free, and aside from needing to keep it up to date every few months, it's really not a big time commitment. Google Scholar isn't social media though, I just threw that in there as a freebie.

The last thing I'm going to mention is blogging. Here I am using Dreamwidth, because I frankly just could not be bothered with Wordpress or anything else that required a modicum of effort to set up and write into. I used Livejournal all the way through my University years, and before that, OpenDiary. I know what I'm doing with these platforms. Sure, I have used Wordpress in the past, and that's a much more well-known platform, but I'm not really doing this blog for getting my research known. Honestly, I would use Twitter for that. There are so many blogs on the internet. Most of them are completely obscure. To have a blog that gets visitors, you need it to be hosted somewhere that gets visitors. There are loads of bloggers out there, although these days they're called content creators when they work for big websites like Ars Technica, Gawker and so on. To do that, you need to put a hell of a lot of time and effort into generating content to become recognised and drafted onto the staff of those meta-blogs. It's far more of a time sink than the likes of Twitter. I have friends that have attempted to develop a career in video games journalism etc, via such blogs. They haven't been successful, even after having spent a lot of time on it.

I really enjoy writing. I think that shows in this post. Twitter doesn't provide opportunities to do stuff like this. But I also have other things I ought to be doing instead of writing this. Like my grant application due in less than 3 weeks. Writing blog posts takes a long time, especially to make them right, well-referenced and readable. Sure, a blog is for opinions, but if you are using it to communicate your research, you better make sure you have your facts straight too. If I were a full-time science writer, you bet I'd be putting more effort into this. But that's not my main job. I did National Blog Posting Month many years ago and I really struggled to post every day. In the end I managed about 23 posts of the 30 days of November. Blogging is a great way to think, because in order to voice your thoughts, you need to organise them. It's something I did a lot back in the day, but now I don't feel like I have the brain-space to do so as much anymore. Doing this post has been fun but has taken me a good couple of hours, spread across commutes, to generate.

So, that's a snapshot of my thoughts and opinions of social media for disseminating research. Twitter all the way, as far as I'm concerned. I haven't mentioned Instagram, Snapchat or Tumblr, because they're not really recognised platforms for that sort of thing, but yeah, they exist, you just probably wouldn't use them for research dissemination purposes. Especially not Tumblr. God. Perish the thought XD


23 Things for Research & other musings on academia

December 2016

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