On 19th October I will be assisting with the amplification of the JISC Future of Research conference in London. The event aims to examine “the strategic role technologies can play in helping institutions overcome the challenges in supporting the research lifecycle today”, focussing on the key themes of institutional reputation; efficiency and effectiveness; and collaboration in a competitive environment. These issues are expected to be of interest to a wide range of researchers across different disciplines, so the conference is being amplified in order to actively involve as many of those voices as possible in the discussions and to draw on the a greater variety of experiences and perspectives.
In many ways, the amplification of this conference offers a practical demonstration of a number of the digital tools available both to researchers and those looking to support them within their institutions. The offering includes the use of collaboration tools such as Skype to conduct podcast interviews with pro vice chancellors both pre- and post-event, and the use of Twitter as a platform for discussion and building connections within research communities. There will also be a range of resources made available under creative commons licences, at a time when the debate over ‘ownership’ verses openness is becoming increasingly important for researchers sharing their research in the digital sphere.
We have also needed to consider some of the same efficiency and effectiveness issues which may cause concerns for researchers looking to amplify their research practices as a means of building reputation and working collaboratively. Whilst the solutions may vary within a conference context compared to a research context, the overarching issues remain relevant to both situations:
A conference is obviously a much more intense situation, but within a research context there are also logistical issues and technical skills required to make effective use of the digital tools available. The amplification of this conference will involve a team of people including bloggers, camera operators and micro-blogging support. However, there are editorial controls in place and automatic connections between the different platforms to reduce the need for multiple posting. Researchers will need to consider how to incorporate these digital tools into their workflows effectively if they are to have value.
We have needed to look for efficient ways of curating the more social, conversational online resources so that they remain useful and accessible. We will be using a mixture of automatic tools and human editorial judgements to highlight useful content from discussions on the event hash tag, and using Twapperkeeper to archive the whole discussion.
For openness to be an effective way of encouraging collaboration and shared learning, the resources have to be accessible. For the conference, this means that the live streaming from this event will feature a BSL signer and resources will be made accessible to those with visual restrictions. The remote audience will also be supported so that they have equal opportunities to ask questions either via Twitter or via email. The post-event conference materials will feature a range of outputs – including text, video and audio so that there is something for everyone. Links to all of the resources will be collected on the conference site post-event so that they are easily locatable.
What I have found most interesting (so far!) is JISC’s approach to reviewing the experience for the remote audience. They are currently collecting feedback from their remote audience in advance of the conference to gauge expectations and the compare these to the results of more detailed interviews with remote participants after the event. If you are planning to follow the event online, you are invited to take the very short pre-event survey, at the end of which you will be asked to volunteer for a follow up interview.
This has to be the most formally structured approach to collecting evidence from a remote audience that I have come across. At previous events I have been involved in collecting feedback via tweets and comments within the active online discussions, and directing people to online feedback forms post event. However, comparing formally collected survey data about expectations, using these to inform the design of the event for your remote audience and then comparing with responses post-event may be a better model to aspire towards. It does pre-suppose that sufficient numbers of people have already decided to attend the event online, whilst disregarding those who discover the event during the course of the proceeding. That said, I look forward to seeing the outcomes of both the pre- and post-event feedback with interest.
This event will be considering the high level issues, but the amplification will be demonstrating some of the practical applications for technology as an aide to communicating and conducting research.
The conference will be live streamed at the event amplification page whilst I will be providing a live commentary via Twitter using the @JISCEvents account and facilitating questions from the remote audience.
To participate in the discussion, use the event hash tag #jiscres10