23 Research Things – Thing 23, the ultimate research tool

Gosh, I finally made it!  Its been a busy week of research things, catching up on lots of missed episodes after getting ridiculously far behind, but I’m glad I made the effort to finish…and with a few hours to spare before finishing work for the year, phew!

This was a nice episode to end on, I think throughout the ‘course’ I have realised the vast job librarians cover, and its great to get an episode really highlighting that!  I feel the library (and its great staff!) are a pretty under appreciated resource, and that in lots of ways, people aren’t fully aware of the vast resource the library offers, its great to hear it being championed!

Overall the 23 research things have been great!  I’ve learnt about lots of useful and interesting tools which I had no idea about, as well as finally getting my butt into action and signing up for and using various tools which I had often thought about, but never quite got round to!  Its been a really useful experience for me, if a little overwhelming at times, with so many new things to test and try…certainly some of them have got lost in the noise, or added to the to do list to test out at a later point, generally though I feel I have massively benefited – Thanks Georgina and your team at the Betty and Gordon Moore library!!

23 Research Things – Thing 22, Tracking success

Being new to twitter, I had o idea about the analytics part, this was quite the revelation!  Its super useful as a twitter newby to be able to see easily which tweets had a lot of interaction and interest and which where less popular, I definitely plan to keep an eye on this, and hopefully use it to improve my use of twitter.  It definitely seems the old adage about tweets with images being more popular, the ones which had a lot of engagement were certainly heavily correlated with those that aren’t just plain old text!

The tweetreach thing seems pretty cool too, although sadly it seems my tweeted url are not travelling far at all 😦 I guess that’s something to aim for improvements on!

Altemetric seem slow, at least today….its a patience tester, but worth waiting for it to load! Its really interesting to see where people are reading your paper, and how its being shared etc.  Sadly, it seems my previous ambivalance to twitter means (somewhat predictably) that very little of my work ever really made it into the twitter-sphere…I guess this ‘episode’ has highlighted for me that there really is a need to push publicity of papers etc, rather than just send them for publication and then moving on!

I really think these alternative metrics are really interesting, and give a much broader picture than traditional metrics alone!  They are fairly skewed in the sense that researchers who are on twitter and pushing things will perform much better under these metrics than ‘old-fashioned’ researchers, but I think this highlights the need to move with the times and use all the available tools to push your work.  There are many flaws with some of the traditional metrics, and whilst these don’t necessarily address them directly, its great to have additional measures and methods for tracking success!


23 Research things – Thing 21, Managing citations

This was really interesting! Zotero is totally new to me, but sounds amazing!! I was watching the video thinking of a fair few people who I plan to share that little gem with!   It seems far more useful than some of the other programmes, having the built in browser function, and the built in word set up makes things so simple…I wonder if there is also a Latex plug in?  If not, there really should be!!

ORCID is one that I have heard of lots, but never really got round to setting up, having a fairly uncommon surname I never felt it really mattered, but actually given how easy it is to set up its probably well worth doing, you never know if someone new who does share your name might become a scientist too!  I knew of one case of two researchers working in very similar fields who had identical names, and it wasn’t a common surname at all.

Google scholar is again one I know of, and use in terms of searching but never for tracking..I guess I should set it up and see what happens.  With most of the things that the 23 research things have taught me I’ve realised how lazy I am, in that there are many tools that require a tiny amount of effort to set up, and yet its enough to deter me, or make me question if its worth it…. maybe a good new years resolution would be to set stuff up and try it before deciding whether or not its worth continuing to use!!


23 Research things – Thing 20, Presenting your data

In the 20’s at last…although still wondering how I’m going to get all the way to 23!

I really like the line in here about how making your data pretty is not a waste of time, I think so often it feels that way, or that somehow focusing on the aesthetics of the data is a cop out in some way.  Its good to be reminded that its not!  That actually if the data isn’t easy to digest and aesthetically pleasing then its harder to grasp and less impactful.

I’m not sure I have a favourite chart/graph, which I think is perhaps a safe thing…occasionally it feels someone has chosen a totally unsuitable chart type, presumably because they  didn’t think about what best suited that particular data type, or they already had code for that type of chart and couldn’t be asked to write new stuff, or because they always use their favourite!!  Having said that, I probably suffer from feeling the bar chart is a a bit too simple and boring, and so avoid using it, when actually the humble bar chart is a very powerful tool – simple isn’t a bad thing!

I think the main thing is to make sure there’s clarity, either by ensuring axis etc are well labelled, or by explaining (in the text of a paper, or verbally as part of a presentation) what you are showing, especially where there a subtletees like having binned the data in a particular way prior to plotting or similar.

I was pretty excited to hear about the infographic tools, I really like these, and have never really considered trying to make one until now, but with easy to use tools to help its a great plan – one I will definitely try to keep in mind next year!

23 Research Things – Thing 19, text and data mining

So, thing 19, it feels like I’m, getting there!  Although, with only 2 more working days left of the year I feel I better be!!!

This was another really interesting one, certainly it feels that there is just too much information out there for us to stand a chance! And the worry is always that I’ll miss out a really important bit, after wading through so much rubbish!

It seems a real shame that there are still legal limitations, I get the need for people to be credited, and for funders to feel they get value for money etc, but surely the main overriding aim should be a focus on people easily getting the info they need, and when you’ve done some work…what use is it if its not easy for people to find out about and build upon!!

Its good to hear that there are still vast amounts of effort going into encouraging more open access, and it really does seem that things are better now than they were a few years ago, and that we are very much moving in the right direction! Lets just hope we continue to make progress on this!!


23 Research Things – Thing 18, Research Data Management

ahhh, data management.  This is something which is soooo important, and yet soooo often overlooked!  I particularly liked the line in the video about how ‘your future self will thank you’.  It’s so very true that some time spent doing things properly at the start saves incredible amounts of time in the future!  In my old job data management came up over and over, with huge amounts of code, input files, and data needing to be looked after.  Far too often though I found it was a case of future me cursing my past self!

I think the emphasis on planning and questioning data management at the beginning of a project is so key.  I would often dive headfirst into something new, and then try to bodge together something at the end, or realise half way through, put a bit of effort into data management, and then forget again until weeks later, and so things didn’t necessarily make sense, with lots of gaps, and some things well documented and well stored and others just not at all!

I think tools for data management are getting much more widely used and better, being a modeller I used a lot of  repository systems, GIT, and svn and others, these are brilliant! Certainly things my future self used to be ever so grateful for!  Although, they work much better for code than for storing output data or input files.  I think one of the key things is in documenting what you’re doing, the idea of the lab book (being a mathematician this was a new one for me when someone mentioned it years into my job!), so you know what you doing, they you were doing it, and what the results/data/inputs relate to etc.   I think when I started working with data I naively assumed that I would remember what I had done.  This almost never happened!  Instead I would end up having to do the same test multiple times, cause I knew I had done it, and for some reason dismissed it, but had no idea what that reason  was and had thrown away the data when deciding the test wasn’t helping…duh!  Or had made a plot, but couldn’t actually remember what EXP5 in the plot title referred to!  Once I realised my memory was not this amazing foolproof data management tool, I think part of me still struggled with the time spent data management planning at the early stages, when all I wanted to do was dive in and start getting results!  Over time though, I definitely came to understand the value, and the masses of time (and sanity!) saved overall!!

I would love to hear more about useful tools for data management, especially considering the varied types of data available, I imagine there’s a lot of great stuff out there!

23 Research things – Thing 17, Survey tools

This is a great find! I think one of the negatives about the university, is that if it wasn’t for 23 research things I might never have known that we have an institutional licence for qualtrics, and imagine there are lots of university members who are still unaware.  This is such a shame, its such a waste the uni licencing these things if people aren’t then aware and aren’t using them, especially when its such a great tool.

I had never heard of Qualtrics before, but from this little tester try it seems brilliant, very powerful, and possible to make really professional surveys!   I have used survey monkey a fair bit before, and it does the job, but I feel never seems very professional, and the data analysis seems soooo much better in Qualtrics!

Thanks for making me aware of this!

23 Research Things – Thing 16, Crowdsourcing and citizen science

This is a very out of the box idea for me (I guess I’m a fairly old fashioned, traditionalist in lots of ways!!), but a real eye opener into alternative, non-traditionalist options!  These days it sometimes feels that research councils have in-vogue pet interests, and that if you don’t happen to work on the flavour of the month themes, then there’s limited hope.  And so the idea of alternative funding is a great one.  There is a niggling concern that over time things like this could be used as an excuse to further cut research council funding…but I don’t think that that’s a reason not to explore it though, just one to watch the pesky government accountants on!!

I like the idea of pushing things out the public in terms of encouraging them to fund, and to join in with the actual work, its surely public engagement at its best!  I certainly think its something we sciency types should be more aware of, and make better use of (or perhaps everyone else is and its just old fashioned people like me looking at this in amazement!!).  There is the obvious issues that some (a lot?) of science is so niche and specific that to the general public it comes across as boring and not particularly useful, and so attracting funding or manpower is more tricky than the research than can be tagged as cancer curing, or space exploring, or ‘exciting’ things!  luckily for me though, the work I am connected with is pretty applied, and ‘real world’, and so far easier to engage people with!

I think finding a project where we can get some ‘citizen science’ stuff up and running is going to be on my mind a fair bit over the next few months, it would certainly tick some engagement criteria boxes, and seems pretty exciting!!

23 Research Things – thing 15, Collaboration tools

Having done a fair bit of international collaboration none of this ‘things’ tools were surprises to me, although despite having heard of evernote loads (and occasionally sent links to documents on it), I’ve never actually used it (other than reading the linked documents…and perhaps foolishly then responding back by email!!).  Following this I might give it a go.  Certainly cloud based note storage is massively useful, particularly now I work on both a desktop and a portable device, and so find ‘the cloud’ super useful for notes and documents!  The additional features of evernote, it being more than just a place for jotting down text, seem v useful, and the ability to have all this in one place, rather than using various different programmes is areal plus, I should definitely give it a try.

Doodle poll is a highly used tool in my life!  Especially now as a coordinator, its brilliant, makes life sooooo much easier!  I cannot fathom people who still send these emails with mutliple time options to a whole bunch of people, it just seems it would take them ages to collate results as well as the faff for everyone else!  Doodle is most definitely the answer!

Google docs is another one I use a ton!  In fact, when my partner (now husband) and I were wedding plan whilst living 250 miles apart we conducted the vast majority of wedding planning through google…almost every element of the day has some google doc or another associated with it!!  Its great for throwing around ideas between two people, with them each updating, adding or deleting and commenting.  I haven’t ever used it for more than two people, but imagine it works just as well.  The comment and notes facilities in particular are really useful!

I was pleased to see that skype and google hangouts were also mentioned…its sometimes easy to forget the benefit of actually having a real life conversation, and work just turns into endless emails…making the effort to actually speak to people every now and then is really worth it!! Alongside Skype and google hangouts, in my old job, we used a tool call Webex, which was videoconferencing with easy ‘share-screen’ facilities, which was super useful, but comes at a price, I’d be keen to know if there are any free tools which do similar, sharing work, as well as being able to see each other makes things much simpler!


23 Research things – thing 14, images

Wow, this was such a useful and interesting ‘episode’!!

As admitted to in my last blogpost, I am awful at just copying images from random google searches, or other webpages.  Usually not the best quality, and never having checked permission.  Naughty naughty!

I was amazed that google has the option to limit image searches depending on licencing (but then at the same time, had that “well, yeah, I guess of course they have, they’re google and they know what the people want” realisation!), this is incredibly useful, and makes me feel even more bad for never having investigated this earlier and found out how brilliantly easy it is to not be an internet thief!!

I used the google search to find the image below (my past love, the ocean!!) which is CCO, the grail of my new found internet honesty!

I am so grateful for this lesson, it is super enlightening and useful!  I will definitely be sharing it with others!!