Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Spot On Conference - Altmetrics and other Fads (or how I learned how to stop worrying about trains and love Skype) 2014-11-19 16-47-07.png

Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to deliver a talk at the Nature Publishing hosted Spot On Conference at The Wellcome Trust in London to talk about my experience of using technologies to help academics communicate and build their scholarly profiles. I was delivering a short presentation as part of the parallel session ‘Measuring social impact - the tools available and whose responsibility is it?’.

I was looking forward to speaking as it was an opportunity to meet in person my journalist collaborator from my recent The Conversation piece on post-publication peer review, Akshat Rathi, as well as Charlie Rapple from Kudos and Jean Lui from

Sadly it was not to be, as I left my home in Chesterfield at 7.30am, little did I know that I would be back in my conservatory three and a half hours later. In the end it turns out to be a good experiment into how technology can resolve such problems as a serious signals failure at Derby Train Station. As my train was cancelled at this important network junction and with it every other train heading north and south I made the executive decision to head back home and hopefully make my allotted slot at 11am.

Firstly Twitter came to my aid as I Tweeted that I was unlikely to make it to the conference, to which I got an immediate reply from the organisers. I was able to request a direct message on Twitter from my contact at Spot On requesting their mobile number, which I got within minutes and from there I was able to put them in the picture as to my predicament. My only option was to head north-west to Matlock via a train that stopped at a multitude of small Derbyshire villages. I rang my wife asking that she would pick me up from Matlock and take me home- it all felt very Jack Bauer from the series 24 (well almost). My decision to return home was justified when I spoke later to a colleague who had pushed onto London via Euston and arrived at 12, meaning I would have missed my presentation slot. Years of train commuting has taught me when to stick or twist.

I got back for just after 11 and hooked up with Spot On via Google Hangout and was given time at the end to present. This brought about another opportunity as my slides were being delivered on Google Drive - I had long ditched Powerpoint and USBs for presentations about four years ago and it paid off. Given my talk was about technology and aiding researchers to go about their work more productively it allowed me to update the slides on the fly. That morning I had received an email from an editor of the peer-reviewed journal asking me to write a paper for a special issue based on a blog post I had written. So this was last minute proof on how the system can be flipped via the use of social technologies. It also highlighted how presentations can be amended to reflect last minute change without the good old USB stick. It reminded me also that sometimes wifi can throw in the occasional spanner to these techniques, but it should not always stop you. I remember presenting at CILIP back in 2012 using my Chromebook to present something in Google Drive when they had a powercut and the wifi went down. This could have spelt the end for my presentation, but I remembered seeing someone set up a wifi hotspot using their phone and hey presto! the show was back on the road.

So back to Spot On, another glitch appeared when I was told via Hangout Chat that the presenter’s laptop would not be able to host it on the screen, so we instantly switched to Skype. I was then able to appear on the screen and deliver my slides remotely. As for the presentation it was titled ‘Altmetrics and Other Fads -  Helping Researchers Through the Social, Technology and Innovation Maze’. Despite the rather flippant title it was not intended as such but highlights the constant change of technology and how many in academia are wary to engage with those at the cutting edge. This is understandable as technologies come and go and all too often they don’t always do what you want. The idea behind the presentation was that researchers and students need guidance in discovering, learning and using many new technologies. If teachers have a pedagogy as their reason to engage with technology, what do researchers have?
It was a shame that I was unable to attend Spot On as it looked a very engaging two day conference, you can view the Twitter feed here for more information

Here are my slides from the conference.

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