Saturday, February 16, 2013

internal review

The whole department has been very quiet during the last few weeks, not because nobody is there but because everybody is in grant-writing-mode. People work crazy hours trying to find the best words and the best flow which will intrigue the reviewers and the panel. A lot of the applications will be sole author ones by nature and even from the others I don't expect too many in-house collaborations. For some reason people around here are too busy to collaborate with the guy next door - or they are too cautious. It's always a bit difficult to figure out who is currently working on which topic and who owns which equipment not to speak of where it is hidden. 
During the last few years our department hasn't been overly successful with grant applications and so we of course want to improve our statistics. But how? By writing more grants? Not a good choice, everybody is stressed out with the writing amount they already have. So it must be writing-better-grants, be more convincing, more intriguing. To achieve that it seems useful if other people read your stuff and critique it before it's sent to the reviewers - esp. if these peoples names are not on the grant application but they have a certain clue about your field. We already have a faculty wide internal panel who comments on grant proposal and additionally to that we now have a department wide internal panel as well. The panel consists of a bunch of people who are not too caught up in the writing process and who together cover the research subjects of our department. Sounds like a great idea but in reality it didn't work out at all. Nobody of the whole department sent in their drafts for internal review, not on the deadline and not even thereafter. If this is because people just take the final submission deadline seriously and just don't have a draft yet or if they don't want to disclose their projects to somebody internal? Maybe this concept will need a few years to get established - I hope it will, because it can be a great source of feedback and maybe it even establishes something like "internal collaborations" - sounds freaky, but it might work!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

CiteULike vs. Mendeley I

In the context of my last post I decided to start a small test series to determine if "social bookmarking" is a helpful tool for my research. I signed up for both CiteULike and Mendeley and checked out some of the features. Here is my first impression:

CiteULike is a completely web-based system. One just has to create a user account and can start. The user interface looks very plain and it takes a bit to realize how you can actually "do stuff". The main thing I did was to import my publication library into the system. In my case that's a .bib file and the system pointed out some errors in a few entries, which I had to remove first. But then it worked beautifully. There are a lot of options that can be ticked and un-ticked when importing data and of course I ended up with uploading a lot of my random tags and notes (a lot of them I haven't even put in on purpose but they are just automatically generated stuff when I downloaded the citations). After putting my library online I tried to find if any of my peers uses the same system and search through the groups that have already been installed by other users. This was somehow disappointing as even the very broadest key word describing my field just resulted in one group used by one other user. My research field seems to be highly underrepresented in CiteULike which defeats a bit the purpose of using it for publication sharing and networking.

Mendeley consists of two components. A web based one similar to CiteULike and a desktop version, which is more like a common reference manager but synchronizes with the user profile. The user interface of the web based part is much nicer and makes the impression that there are a lot of options to "do stuff". It took me quite a while to figure out how to upload my whole library at once, as I could only find options for uploading single articles. I had to install the desktop component to be able to upload all my references in one go but the synchronization with the web profile was not a problem. Until a few weeks ago Mendeley offered a synchronization option with CiteULike but unfortunately this does not exist anymore. Searching through the research topic resulted in quite a few groups related to my research field, even sub-topics were already covered and I found a lot of publications read by others which are already in my library. But I haven't found yet any people I know.

So, from a first impression I'd say 0:1 for Mendeley - but I'll keep exploring during the next few weeks, so it's not decided yet.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

social media

"Put your research out there" and "Set up a professional online presence" - I hear these sentences more and more often. A colleague asked his students to search for information about me on the web and it seems they could not find much, that I am not present as a researcher in the big universe of the web. Even though I spend a lot of my time online - but de facto more as a private person and not as a researcher. Actually, this blog is the closest to my research as it gets when flipping through the stuff that I actively put out there.
The university tries to encourage us to set up and maintain some kind of research online presence and they praise all the advantages that come with the usage of research blogs, twitter, Youtube, social bookmarking, writing collaboration tools,... . I'm more wondering if anyone in my field uses social media to push their research. The only thing I know of are people recording their lectures and posting them on YouTube. And I understand the advantage of using Googledocs or something similar to speed up the progress of international publication writing processes. But this is still communication within a framework of people whom you trust and you can choose who participates in the discussion and who gets to know your thoughts.
This would be so different if I'd twitter my current research progress: anybody could follow my tweets about my current experiments but is anybody actually interested in how my samples are behaving today? Same with research blogs: it would be very difficult to figure out what can be disclosed before it's officially published, because I wouldn't know who reads my posts. The many-to-many approach seems weird to me when it's already so difficult to get people from you own institute together to talk about their stuff because they are so cautious about what to disclose (and of course they are all totally busy).
Can anybody suggest blogs or twitterers who put current research progress and thoughts about it online? I'd really like to see how this is done properly.
And are there any thoughts about social bookmarking/bibliography systems like CiteULike or Delicious? Is it worth to get into that?
And does the recent Twitter hacking attack influence your opinion about the professional usage of social media?