Happy birthday Opportunity

Saturday, January 25th, 2014

NASA Opportunity rover selfie

Opportunity rover selfie. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.

Ten years ago today I wrote a short blog piece to note the landing of the NASA Opportunity rover on the surface of Mars. With the Spirit rover already on Mars I wrote “this is going to be an exciting next few weeks”. The mission was planned to last around 3 month. Well a decade later and Opportunity has outlived Spirit by around 30 months and is still working and generating useful data. During its time on Mars Opportunity has driven 39km and taken 187,000 images, including this selfie a few days ago. So sit back and watch some of the highlights of this incredible engineering and science project.

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Happy birthday Opportunity



Proliferation of researcher profiles

Saturday, January 4th, 2014

As a research active academic I publish papers and engage in other research activities that hopefully have some impact. Just what that impact is and how to measure it will be the subject of a later post – protip it’s altmetrics.

The first challenge however is to assemble a list of all my research outputs. Straightforward you say? Well perhaps, but precisely what is classed as a research output depends somewhat on the field you are in. For many of us the journal article is the most obvious output and therefore compiling a list of journal articles I’ve published has been my focus recently.

Actually I started thinking about this 6 years ago when I wrote about publicationlist.org. That was and remains a great site, simple to use and looks neat, but it requires some effort to gather together all your papers. A problem associated with this is just who am I, at least who am I in the research literature? I have appeared in print variously named as, ‘Davies D’, ‘Davies DA’, ‘Davies David’, ‘David Davies’, ‘D A Davies’, ‘D Davies’, and probably other combinations involving the different institutions I’ve worked at. They’re all me of course, but to a database they’re different people unless they can all be associated with a unique ID, the unique me.

Enter Open Researcher and Contributor ID (ORCID), Scopus Author ID, and ResearcherID, three initiatives aiming to uniquely identify each researcher from their fragmented publication profiles. Scopus Author ID and ResearcherID are backed by two of the biggest academic publishers, Elsevier and Thompson Reuters respectively, but ORCID is especially interesting as it’s an open, non-profit, and community-based effort. Thankfully all three systems talk to each other so you can link your Scopus and ResearcherID to your ORCID. And that’s what I’ve been doing over the holiday. I think I have now assembled a definitive list of my published outputs.

There are differences between the three schemes. ORCID is the simplest and just presents a list of outputs plus associated publication metadata. Useful for establishing my researcher profile on the web, but limited in functionality. ResearcherID is the most comprehensive because it uses Thompson Reuters’ Web of Knowledge and Web of Science to find not only peer reviewed journal articles but also conference proceedings, published poster abstracts and other works. Certainly more attractive for early careers researchers who have presented publishable work at conferences but have yet to build up an extensive journal profile. ResearcherID also has some high level citation metrics. Scopus however is likely to be the profile your institution is most interested in because it includes detailed citation metrics and analytics. It is also very useful for finding out who cites your work, so that you get a good idea of the active researchers in your field, as well as one measure of the impact of your work.

There are other differences that will become apparent when trying to gauge the impact of your research, especially when considering other factors such as who is talking about your work via social media. In that respect ORCID seems to be the preferred unique ID, probably because it’s an open non-profit initiative. It also plays well with the small but increasing number of altmetrics sites such as ImpactStory, but more about that if/when I write about altmetrics. But for now you might want to consider creating and maintaining all three profiles.

So anyway, if you want to check out my own research outputs then my researcher profiles are:

My ORCID
My ResearcherID
My Scopus Author ID

I’ve also just started using ImpactStory so if you want to see what impact I’m apparently having then head over to my ImpactStory profile.

But wait, that’s not all. There are some other interesting researcher profile services around. These are less about establishing a unique researcher ID, but instead are extremely useful for building a researcher profile on the web and creating a professional social network around researchers. The service that most of my colleagues seem to be taking up is ResearchGate. It’s very easy to use and looks slick. Unfortunately it doesn’t yet use any of the researcher IDs so there’s still a relatively long-winded method for finding all your papers, unless you import them as BibTex, EndNote or other equivalent format from ResearcherID for example.

Here’s my ResearchGate profile. Using the social networking features you can ‘follow’ me in a similar way to following people on Twitter.

If there are other research profile schemes or researcher networks that you find useful please mention them in the comments section below.

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Proliferation of researcher profiles



Where will the money for MOOCs come from?

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

The thing that caught my eye about this report in the Chronicle of Bill Gates’ keynote at the Microsoft Research Faculty Summit was:

“In the Q&A, Mr. Gates predicted that MOOCs would not be “place-based” classes but would be led by a small subset of instructors who taught to a broad audience. There’s a set of people, he said, who are really good at it and who have big budgets and great support.”

I’ve been wondering where the money will come from to create MOOCs (who hasn’t). Right now most institutions are simply absorbing the cost for their own early ventures with MOOCs because this is a game that everyone wants to get into without necessarily knowing where it will lead, or even the rules of the game. A few of the lucky ones may have external funding to create their MOOCs. However if you’re a university with any ambition for online learning, can you afford not to be dabbling with MOOCs right now? But longer term, when the initial rush to go live is over and the revenue models are known for the big players, how many can afford to remain in this space? I think Gates is probably right. MOOCs, or whatever they turn into, may remain the product of a small number of players with big budgets and great institutional support. Those of us without the cash will have to come up with different sustainable models for production and support for our online learning, or else mooch rather than MOOC.

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Where will the money for MOOCs come from?



Goodbye Google Reader hello Feedly

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

Feedly logo

Feedly logo

The retirement of Google Reader has forced me like many others to look for an alternative service to manage my RSS subscriptions. I’ve tried a number of services and apps and have decided to go with Feedly, at least for now. Feedly made the transition from Google easy because I started using it as an interface to my Google Reader account in the weeks leading up to the switch off so there was no need to export my feeds from Google. I like Feedly’s web interface, and use that the most, although I also have the iPad and iPhone apps and use those occasionally. There’s also an IFTT Feedly channel, so I might play with that too.

Some people are saying that Google dropping Reader is another small step away from the open web towards a closed walled-garden web composed of proprietary services. In terms of RSS at least, I’m not that pessimistic. For a long time RSS was my main route to getting all the news I read from multiple sources. But in recent years I’ve been getting news and updates via all kinds of other routes including Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin. I now mostly use RSS as a way of keeping up to date with various blogs. It fits with my workflow. I use Twitter to find out about updates to apps and web services that I use. I read one or two of the big news meta sites like TechCrunch and The Verge, and I subscribe to a number of Linkedin groups for professional interest. RSS has a place, and for that Feedly works well for me.

Dave Winer clearly has a view on this, as he was instrumental in most of us using RSS to read news in the first place (whether or not most people knew it). There’s much to be optimistic about for the future of RSS in Dave’s piece, even if he’s not sure himself. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

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Goodbye Google Reader hello Feedly



Bulletproof blog

Saturday, July 6th, 2013

As a result of all this unwanted excitement I’ve made a few changes. Most importantly I’ve changed my domain host. I’m now with Bluehost, one of the few hosts recommended by WordPress themselves. I couldn’t be happier. It was an easy switch and I’ve now got more control than ever before over my CPanel account. I’ve also paid for BulletProof Security Pro plugin. I can’t recommend it highly enough if you’re a serious WordPress user. I used the free version for a while and liked it. The Pro version is just terrific and for the first time I feel safe in my WordPress bed at night. The owner Ed Alexander is so helpful. Please do seriously consider this plugin if you manage your own WordPress installation.

As an extra layer of security I now also use CloudFlare. I’m completely new to the word of content delivery networks and web application firewalls. It’s early days to know whether I’m benefitting from the claimed security and performance improvements, but the basic version is free with Bluehost so I’m giving it a go.

If you have any WordPress security tips and favourite plugins please let me know in the comments.

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Bulletproof blog