One of my goals for this year is to have a bit of a data analysis refresher. Sometimes I wonder if I may be in a bit of a SPSS-Gephi-nVivo rut! (A useful rut, nonetheless).

My current to-do list includes general use of R and Tableau, and epistemic network analysis and structural equation modelling in particular. Although I have used it before, I’m also hoping to find some time to get properly reacquainted with the Digital Methods Initiatives’ latest tools too.

I find it always helps to have data to play with (not just artificial problem-sets type data). I’m planning to have a good look online for open datasets in Education and Educational Technology-related topics. I’m aware that openly publishing datasets is still quite niche – but there is a growing body out there.

I’ll be looking first of course at Figshare, and UK HE institutional repositories. But is there anywhere else I should be looking? Is there a particular place where US institutions post open datasets, for example? Do you know of any particular projects which have released data openly, either through platforms or just on their websites? (No need to recommend the OER Hub, they are already on my list of course 😉 ). I’d be very interested in any recommendations, and will share what I find at a later date.

Recently I looked out some of my old external hard drives. I was looking specifically for old files related to a side project from years ago which never reached fruition but I’d like to revisit (as it would be a lot easier for me to do now than it was then – anyway, more on that later!).

The files on the hard drives go way back, through the TLRP-TEL Research Programme (~2008 – 2012), right back to my first research job on the Cambridge-MIT Institute Plant Sciences Pedagogy Project (2005-2008). This was my first academic research post, just a couple of months after finishing my masters in Plant Pathology. My role in the project involved working within Plant Sciences, to conduct educational research into undergraduate teaching and learning within the department, and develop e-learning resources to support it.

As it was my first experience of educational and technology-enhanced learning research, it was accompanied by a range of vocabulary which was new to me. This must be quite a common experience for people getting started in educational and pedagogic research; Education, as a research field within the Social Sciences, shows a high level of heterogeneity in terms of researchers’ subject backgrounds (as shown in this chart – figure 4.3 from David Mills’ chapter in McAlpine & Ackerlind’s ‘Becoming an Academic’).

To help with this transition, I kept a document where I noted the words which were new and unfamiliar, as a working glossary, and I came across this when I was excavating the old hard drive. It was interesting to look back at the words which seemed unusual then but are now all so familiar. It made me wonder to what extent the glossary reflected trends in the field at the time – some of the concepts I’m sure are not as prevalent now as then – and how the glossary would look if it was being constructed today.

The list included the following (minus my slightly cringey notes 😉 ):

Action research

Activity theory



Belief (as in the work of Posner)


Bloom’s taxonomy

Boundary objects (Wenger / CoP)

Bourdieu (esp. ‘habitus’)

Brokerage (Wenger / CoP)

Case study


Communities of Practice (Wenger)

Concept map

Constructive alignment



Deep learning (converse surface learning)


Discourse analysis





Engstrom (See ‘activity theory’)







Evidence based (Evidence informed)

Focus group


Habitus (see Bourdieu)


Hierarchy of needs


Intensional networks (Nardi et al., 2000)



Maslow – Hierarchy of needs


Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP)






Polanyi (Tacit knowledge)




RLO (Reusable learning object)

Runaway object (Engstrom)




Sfard (metaphors for learning)

Social capital

Social constructivism



Surface learning (converse deep learning)

Tacit knowledge


Threshold concepts (Meyer and Land)







Of course, fourteen years later, it’s not possible for me view the field in the way that I did then. I’d be really interested to hear from others though – which were the words which stood out for you when you started out in educational research? What would be on the list now, that wasn’t then?

Over the summer, I’ve been busy working on my SRHE project (with my now nine-month-old research assistant). I presented initial results from the first part of the project, focusing on how academics’ identity and information sharing is refracted through different social networking platforms, at the Social Media & Society conference in Copenhagen in July. It was my first outing to Social Media & Society, and was a very interesting and enjoyable conference.

Since then, I’ve been working on qualitative analysis of the free-text questions from the survey, which asked academics to give examples of interactions through social media that they had experienced and perceived to be of high impact. It has taken me longer than I expected to do the coding, due to having more responses than I’d expected – very happy to have more data though and thank-you all who took part!

I’ve been using an open coding approach to characterise the different types of high-impact interactions through social media as perceived by academics, but I’d like to also be able to compare the results to more ‘institutional’ definitions of ‘impact’. I note that the UKRI website seems to distinguish broadly between two types of impact – ‘academic impact’ and ‘economic & social impact’, while the REF Impact Case Studies lists eight ‘impact types’, including ‘Political, Health, Technological, Economic, Legal, Cultural, Societal, and Environmental’. The UKRI definitions (only two categories) aren’t very specific, while the REF list sounds more like a proxy for subject area. What am I missing? Are there any other ‘official’ typologies I should be aware of? Many thanks 🙂

I’ve been updating my CV recently, as I’ll be resuming the academic job hunting soon, looking out for posts (possibly part time) starting from the Autumn onwards.

However, I don’t like my CV as it stands; it doesn’t seem to give a clear picture of who I am, how I got to where I am today, or how the items on it make sense together. I suspect that some readers get to the undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences, and write me off straight away when I’m applying for Education/Social Sciences positions. (I also suspect that the increasing reliance on online forms for university HR may even filter me out before a human reads it – but that’s a different post for a different time 😉 ).

So, I decided to experiment with making a timeline-based version of my CV. I’m still tweaking it, but I think it does help to show how everything fits together. I’ve not included non-peer reviewed publications, posters, or presentations (yet) as there are a lot of them – but I might add them, as they do include a wider range of activities (e.g. not just formal conferences but also some teaching). I may also add another filter for skills, as well as research methods, and collaborators.

Although some would probably say I should not foreground it, I have included my two periods of maternity leave. There weren’t obvious gaps on the timeline which would have called for an explanation around mat leave, but it felt wrong not to include them – they are a big part of who I am, and keeping going with my PhD and staying research active through them was a major challenge.

Any feedback would be welcome – what else should I add? What is, or isn’t, coming across well in this format? The timeline can be viewed by clicking on the picture below, or the following link (opens in a new tab):

Last year, I was honoured to receive one of the Society for Higher Education’s Newer Researcher Awards. With the funding from the award, I am carrying out a project this year to build upon and test a model of public-professional academic identity online which emerged from my PhD research. The main data collection phase is an online survey, to explore the types of information academics share online through different platforms, and academics’ perceptions about online audiences and high impact interactions through social media.

I had to modify the timeline of my original project plan due to maternity, but I am very excited to now be able to launch my survey! The survey takes around 15 minutes to complete and can be accessed here:

All participants who complete the survey and leave a contact email address at the end will be entered into a draw to win a £50 Amazon voucher. The survey will remain open until 14th May. Your participation would be greatly appreciated and please feel free to share the link with others too – I will be promoting the survey online over the next few weeks but any help to get as wide a reach as possible would be great. Many thanks, and looking forward to being able to share the results in due course!

Recently, I wrote a short paper about the use of cookies on UK Higher Education institutional websites. This is something which I think is interesting as it links the representation of Universities online to broader issues about data capitalism, privacy and information flows.

I used a tool called Tracker Tracker from the Digital Methods Initiative to survey cookies used by UK HEI websites, and discussed the findings in a short paper for a conference. Alas, the paper did not get accepted for the conference, but two of the three reviewers felt it was a decent short paper on a timely issue, so I have uploaded it to SSRN, abstract below and paper available here:

Degrees of Intrusion? A Survey of Cookies Used by UK Higher Education Institutional Websites and Their Implications

The use of institutional websites to represent Universities online is ubiquitous within the UK Higher Education sector. The institutional website provides a single point of entry for anyone seeking information about an institution; as a digital representation of the university, from elements of a prospectus to showcasing research outputs, its potential audience is wide ranging. However, the use of cookies potentially changes the relationship with the audience, as they allow tracking of users and targeted interactions with the institution particularly through social media platforms. While the use of such data collection and marketing is standard for commercial websites, to what extent is this appropriate and what are the implications for the Higher Education sector? This work-in-progress paper will provide an initial exploration of this question through a survey of cookies used by UK Higher Education institution websites.

For most of the year, we’ve been preparing to move house, and finally completed last week. The new house is great, but doesn’t have an existing phone line, so no proper internet access for now. This has been a bit weird for me, usually being permanently online, but it is probably just as well really, as we are expecting a baby within the next four weeks.

So I’m about to disappear from social media/work things for a few months. I’ve managed to get everything up to a point where I can leave it for now; I plan to be ‘off’ Twitter and checking emails around once a week only to respond to urgent work issues, until at least January. I am planning a pilot test run of the survey for my SRHE project in the meantime though, so I can be sure it is all ready for the main launch when I return to it properly at the beginning of March – if you would like to help out by giving it a go, let me know!

The train gets it.

Consequently, the job hunt is also on hold until the spring (this is why I stopped applying for one year posts a couple of months ago – it just wouldn’t have made any sense with the timing of baby). I’ve been on a bit of a mission to get caught up with papers from my PhD and other recent projects, which has been going well (& a couple more currently out for review, fingers crossed!), so hopefully this will give my CV a bit of a boost for the spring. And of course, if you have anything coming up next year needing a postdoc or collaborator, do bear me in mind 🙂

I realised that this week marks a year since I submitted my thesis. In some ways it feels a lot longer than that, and in others, like it was only yesterday. To the untrained eye (and my CV), it could look like I’ve not really been up to much, but actually looking back it has been non-stop work (I could *really* use a holiday!). So the idea with this post is to talk a bit about the unseen work of trying to stay in academia after a PhD.

To begin with, I started applying for academic jobs. It’s always been my goal to carry on in an academic career – this was why I returned to study for my masters and PhD. Previously, I had been working as a research assistant but knew that I needed a PhD to be able to progress further, so I gave up my post to become a student again. Over the year, I think I’ve applied for ten jobs at a range of institutions, and I’ve had one interview. I’ve found that it is pretty standard that Universities won’t give feedback to candidates who don’t get shortlisted. So it’s a bit of a catch 22, and very frustrating; it’s hard to tell if I am getting any better at applications. I’ve now stopped applying for short term (one year or less) contracts for the time being, until the Spring (but that’s a future blog post).

After a few months, I stopped focusing on job applications as it was not proving good for morale and job applications had been taking priority over other things (as they have deadlines), which meant I had not made as much progress as I’d hoped on writing up papers from my PhD. So I switched focus early in 2017; I’ve continued to apply for jobs but less frequently, and instead had a bit of a writing blitz, which was much more satisfying (I do really enjoy academic writing). And it is paying off; since then, I’ve had two journal articles published, I’m working on minor revisions for two more, and have two further papers out for review. I’ve also been able to do some of the side project ideas that I’d put to one side in order to get my PhD finished on time, and have got a few collaborative papers developing out of those for further down the line (thank-you, all 🙂 ).

I’ve also been applying for more grants this year, which has also been enjoyable. Unlike job applications, I do feel like I’m learning from the process and might be getting better at it; it’s also been helpful to get feedback from unsuccessful applications. I think that proposal number 8 is about to be submitted. The grants I’ve applied for have ranged from £1,500 to £250K. Some have been as an independent researcher, but it’s more common to have to go through a host institution. Two of them I wrote but did not get submitted; one decided I was ineligible to apply without an academic job already, and the other I didn’t get a host institution in time (it would have only been 50% full economic costing, so was quite an ask). Two have been unsuccessful so far, but I was absolutely thrilled when I got the SRHE Newer Researchers award! I’m waiting to hear about the remaining three (it might be a while).

Who can I be now?

Who can I be now?

So it has been quite a busy 12 months. It has been quite hard to keep going with the job applications, and I had thought I would have a job by now, but striking a balance between job applications and doing the things which I enjoy (and are still academic work – writing papers, grants, doing small projects – you have got to love what you do, otherwise I would have stopped long ago!) has been an important part of keeping up momentum. I think that making use of the time to catch up with papers is particularly valuable as each one will bolster my CV a bit more. I’ve had a couple of short freelance research contracts in the last couple of months, and I am going to be hosted by IET as a visiting fellow for the next 12 months to carry out my SRHE project. So the plan for now is to keep going 🙂


A few months ago, I started a side project doing a bit of work on the REF Impact Case Studies database. Impact Case Studies were introduced for the first time in the 2014 REF. One of the things which I have been thinking about as a result of this is a question of whether there are any gender differences in submissions of impact case studies compared to submission of academic publications in the REF.

My thinking on this was prompted by some of the sessions I went to at last years’ Association of Internet Researchers, and whether (as is seen in other contexts, e.g. Pruchniewska & Duffy) use of social media (which is often linked to gaining academic ‘impact’) is perceived to be ‘female’ work.

But, before starting to explore gender differences in the Impact Case Studies, there’s a bigger question of gender differences in REF submissions overall, as a baseline for comparison. This information can be found in a 2015 report by HEFCE into “the impact of disability, age, sex, ethnicity, nationality and early career researcher status on the selection of staff for inclusion in the REF 2014”. Although I had found it because I was looking for figures by gender for the REF submissions overall (which comprised 16,660 female academics, and 35,525 male academics), it also contains some fascinating statistics about the rate of inclusion in the REF – i.e. out of the total number of eligible staff, how many were actually selected to be included in REF submissions.While around two thirds of eligible male staff were included, only around half of eligible female staff were. This chart begs for some further research and understanding:

But how do the REF Impact Case Studies compare to the REF overall? Note that the Case Studies include both individual academics and projects or teams, so not all of the submissions could be categorised by gender. As a quick and admittedly imperfect way of assessing this, I ran searches for the phrases “her research” and “his research”:

The ratio of female to male academics is fairly consistent across both the case studies and REF in general. Social media was part of my thinking when I started this; how often are the most highly mentioned social media platforms found along with the phrases “her research” or “his research”?

Again, the differences between each gender aren’t dramatic, but may be indicative of different ways in which social media is used for impact. For example, in the other work which I’ve been doing, YouTube is often cited as a way of broadcasting other traditional media (e.g. TV programmes, invited lectures) to a greater extent than being academic-led, community-focused initiatives. There are also some disciplinary differences which may be playing a role. More to follow on that in a future post!

This month I started on the second half of my work with the OER Hub. Building on discussions between Martin Weller, Viv Rolfe and Irwin DeVries, I have been working on developing a timeline of key papers in the history of Open Education. I’m also working through the papers, to tag them with keywords and draw out broader themes (I’m about halfway through this so far, and am sure that my thinking will shift a bit before it is ‘finished’). A draft version can be found online here:

Although it is very much work-in-progress, I wanted to share it and to ask for any feedback or thoughts, particularly in relation to:

  • Suggestions for other really key, seminal works in the history of Open Education that I am currently missing
  • Suggestions for any additional keywords, topics or themes to draw out of the papers

Comments welcome – thanks! 🙂