Jeremy and Anna are looking for someone new to host #acwri on Twitter, initially to cover Anna while she goes on maternity leave. An explanation of what #acwri is can be viewed on the PhD2Published website here but it is essentially a well-established Twitter community consisting of academics from various career stages, disciplines and countries, that discusses all things academic writing. While facilitating an ongoing conversation, Jeremy and Anna use the hashtag to host live chats on a fortnightly basis and post summaries of these chats as useful resources on PhD2Published and Jeremy’s website.
How you can benefit from involvement
Hosting #acwri is a great opportunity to develop your career, to learn about and share knowledge of academic writing and to be affiliated with pioneering academic social media projects such as PhD2Published. You will gain skills in running Twitter conversations, networking more widely with a diverse range of scholars, learning how to use social media platforms such as Storify and be given access to PhD2Published to post summaries. Anna reflects further on how involvement has benefitted her here.
What will be expected of you?
Knowing how busy academic life is, you’ll be pleased to know that hosting #acwri is not a huge time guzzler; it’s therefore great for your career and doesn’t take too much time. There are certain tasks that do need completing however. These include:
· Working with Jeremy to determine topics for the live chats, relating to academic writing. Regular monitoring of the #acwri Twitter feed is also essential to determine topics of relevance to the existing community,
· You will need to dedicate at least one hour a month to chairing a live chat (#acwri live chats run every Thursday fortnight at 8pm, UK time),
· You will write summaries of the chats using Storify and post them to PhD2Published in an appropriate time frame (training in this will be provided in advance).
Still interested? If so, please submit a 250-word summary either to firstname.lastname@example.org or SegrottJ@cardiff.ac.uk by Thursday 28th March 2013 illustrating why you think you are the best person for the role. You should reflect on why you think you are the best person to run the chats, your social media experience and how you expect involvement will benefit your career development. Jeremy and Anna will use this to choose the new host who will be expected to take on responsibilities mid-April 2013.
With several colleagues I am working on updating a systematic review of tools and interventions in primary care to reduce vascular risk factors. It's an interesting study, and it's taught me a lot about the process of actually doing a systematic review.
We've just reached the end of screening paper titles and abstracts to determine which papers should be included (and the full text reviewed), and which should be excluded, based on our inclusion criteria.
Systematic reviews are, well, systematic. That makes them hard work. They need to be well designed with clear research questions, appropriate inclusion/exclusion criteria, and a clear search strategy. Having support and input from information specialists at SURE has helped us a great deal at various points in the study, and I am lucky to be working with colleagues who know how to design an Access database and other systems we needed.
So much of the work seems to involve screening titles and abstracts, with many papers being excluded for every one paper that is included. Screening is hard work, with the need to work quickly, accurately and repetitively through hundreds - often thousands of papers.
I've only done a small portion of the screening of the papers. It was a good experience because when the medical student who has done most of the screening talks about what she's been doing, I think I now have a greater appreciation of just how much she's done, and how hard the process can be sometimes. It's difficult to achieve sometimes in busy schedules, but maybe it's good for all of us to make sure we get first hand experience of the tasks which we ask students or staff that work with us to do.
The other thing the process has really brought home to me is that there is a good way and bad way to write a paper abstract. Some that I read managed to explain complex concepts or procedures in clear and relatively accessible language. There were others where I had to do some serious detective work to understand what the study was about (though I confess this may be partly my lack of knowledge of medical terminology). There were many paper abstracts which didn't state clearly where they were conducted (we only include UK-based studies), or the study setting (we are only including studies based in primary care).which made it much harder to decide whether or not to include a paper
So next time I read a systematic review which mentions, almost in passing, how many papers were excluded from the total screened, I think I'll have a far better appreciation of just how much work lies behind .
So the waiting is over, and I've found out that my application for a travel fellowship to the United States wasn't successful. That was the bad news, and maybe a few years ago I'd have given up and seen it as the end of the process. Being rejected is hard, and it's always easy to focus on the idea that either you weren't good enough or that someone else was better than you.
What I've learnt is that rejection is part of a process, and what initially seems the end can be the beginning of the next step. Yes, the application was rejected. But as the letter from the funder said, it was an achievement to reach the shortlist. For me what made a big difference was that the letter also gave me some constructive feedback- that the application had strengths but that one aspect needed to be stronger. That feedback helped in two main ways: it enabled me to recognise the strengths as well as the weaknesses in what I'd written. And it encouraged me to learn from the experience and to think about how I might improve it next year.
Receiving criticism is rightly an important aspect of doing academic research, particularly when writing for publication or research funds. For me, the key thing is how to turn that criticism into a forward trajectory, and not to become disheartened or to dwell on the deficits. And sometimes, a few words on a rejection letter can make all the difference.
7th October was my first Twitter 'birthday'. So what have I got from my twelve months from Twitter, what have I learnt, and how could I use it better in the future? Now seemed like a good time to pen some thoughts. It's a sequel to my Three Months with Twitter post, but this time the aliteration works a little better.
Like many of the best things in life, I kind of fell into Twitter almost by accident. For me it's an information network - a way of sharing what you are doing, and tapping into all sorts of interesting currents of information, opinion, events and interesting people.
I use it to promote my research to people and organisation that might be interested in it (or who I'd like to be interested in it), make new connections with those organisations and people, to find out about topics that interest me, and share some of that stuff with the people that follow me. It's a great (and highly efficient) way to publicise events, new papers you've written, and point people in the direction of your website. And it's brought me some media work which has been great experience.
For me one of the most exciting ways in which I've managed to use Twitter is the academic writers support group - #Acwri which has been running since February, organised jointly with @DrATarrant and @Phd2Published. Twitter has its limitations (and a recent blog post by Daniel Spielmann looked at some that might apply to #Acwri). But #Acwri has given me the opportunity to connect with and share problems and strategies with other writers, and I'd argue that it's helped improve the quality of my writing, and my experience of writing.
I've always been a late adopter when it comes to new technology (computers, mobile phones, the Internet, learning to drive, and so on and so on), and for once it's nice to feel, if not a pioneer, then someone who has engaged with Twitter at a point when it still feels new and unfamiliar to many, and some people think a hashtag is a new kind of hash brown. Being social media savvy has become a bit of a niche for me in the DECIPHer Centre where I work, where it's nice to be asked to share the experience of using Twitter with interested colleagues.
So what have I learnt? Well, tweeting is easy, but getting Twitter wrong is also easy, and doing it right requires a bit of thought. The best piece of advice I've had (from @amcunningham) is that you need to be clear why you're tweeting. Are you mainly promoting, sharing, commenting, or curating? What President Obama had for breakfast might make illuminating reading, but do you really care what I had for mine? No, thought not. It was a bacon roll, by the way (or toast if you're reading this on Tuesday). Equally, whilst you might follow a political commentator for their views, those of us in the Twitter business as 'networkers' might easily alienate or offend, and can end up in a lot of hot water if our mis-judged take on the latest controversy gets associated with our employer. On Twitter the banal quickly vanishes, but the fascinating, insightful and controversial often goes viral with alarming speed. Sadly my tweets are not always that infectious, but here's an example of how a naughty dog went viral on YouTube.
I've tried to integrate Twitter with my work as an academic researcher, using it to share the things I really want to share, linking it into my website, and thinking about how my social media work forms part of what I'm trying to achieve in my career. Sadly, tweeting doesn't seem to get my papers written (though see comment above on #Acwri) so I try to strictly ration tweeting time, and make Twitter work for me, not the other way round. And I use 'dead time' (no not the hour after lunch) like the commute home to tweet and see what others are tweeting. For instance, this week I saw a tweet which linked to a fascinating blog piece by @anniecoops on leadership. Without Twitter I'd probably never have come across it.
Sometimes less is more, and I've come to realise that just like in the real world it can be good to wait until you have something interesting to say before you start to speak (even if my followers have to be patient). And just like the World War 2 posters which asked 'Is your journey really necessary?', maybe I apply that principle a bit more to my re-tweeting. Will my followers be interested in the tweet I'm about to RT, and if so can I include some comment that helps them decide (that was a point made by someone in a recent #Acwri chat)? And hashtags are like paper key words - best used sparingly and in ways which help other people to find out what you're saying.
Completely contradicting my comments above, I've realised the World is a big place, and it is no use expecting lots of American followers to pick up my UK tweets in the middle of the night. So if something is worth tweeting it's maybe worth tweeting once, twice, or possibly three times at different hours - if people don't see your tweet straight away the chances are it will disappear down their timeline pretty fast. Hootsuite is great for that, as it allows you to choose when your tweets are sent, and avoids sleep deprivation. Storify (another of Anne Marie Cunningham's suggestions) is also great for curating what goes on in Twitterland.
Sadly, I've done more looking back than looking forward since writing the title for this blog piece. But a year on, Twitter has become part of what I do as an academic researcher, a curious person, and a teller of appalingly bad jokes. So I think I'll stick with it and see where it takes me next.
Yesterday was a writing day. Writing a grant application that I've wanted to finish for many days, and which is important for me.
I wrote some good stuff yesterday. In fact I thought the grant application was good - I'd thought long and hard about the aims of my project and managed to distill them into the space available. I thought I'd almost finished, and that it was a good time to review the application and share it with a colleague for his advice.
But then silly me clicked 'Next', and not 'Save and Exit' and the whole day's work was lost.
So what to do? Pack up for the week and eat dougnuts? Try and rescue the application and re-write what I'd already written, or start from scratch?
This episode reinforced for me the way in which writing involves so much personal investment, and as our #Acwri Twitter chats have highlighted for me, how much writing is thinking as well as typing.
My initial reaction to losing my words was that the situation was not recoverable - I didn't think I could write something as good again, especially with my new found frustration and demoralisation. And I didn't think I could remember the exact ideas I'd lost or the exact sequence in which I'd written them, which seemed to encapsulate exactly what I wanted to say.
In the end, and like so much in academic life (peer review, conference questions, digital recorder disasters and corrupted computers) the best way forward seems to be to accept it happened and move on. No piece of work is perfect. And once you have an idea, is it not always there somewhere in your mind to be recovered, reconfigured or even improved on? You can lose words, but maybe ideas are more permanent.