Last year, I realised one of my PhD student ambitions and was fortunately able to take part in the summer doctoral programme offered each year by the Oxford Internet Institute. I’d had my eye on the programme for a number of years – it has a great reputation, but my circumstances hadn’t been quite right in previous years (maternity leave & then catching up from maternity leave). 2016 was my last opportunity as a PhD student, and I can confirm that its fantastic reputation is well deserved. It’s a very intense fortnight, but immensely intellectually rewarding, and enormous fun too (I don’t think I laughed so hard in the whole of 2016 as I did on ‘Bill Spectre’s Oxford Ghost Tour).

The OIISDP is wonderful opportunity for anyone doing a PhD on a topic aligned with Internet Studies. As social media has permeated virtually every subject and sector to some extent, it’s quite common to be working in virtually any Department but studying a traditional topic through an Internet Research lens. I’m based in an Educational Technology department for example – which is online-focused and techie, but I don’t think anyone else attends the Association of Internet Researchers conference, for example.

Interdisciplinary research is novel and rewarding but comes with a compromised sense of identity and security of being ‘a [subject]-ist’ and in this sense the OIISDP was very reassuring as it showcased what does bind Internet Research together – in terms of topics, theories, and methods. Even the topics which seemed at first glance to be less relevant to my current work were fertile ground for developing new ideas. Although I was attending with near-final PhD draft in hand (literally – I got the first copy printed whilst I was in Oxford), I came away with several ideas for new ways of examining my data, and developing new potential projects. In addition to the student presentations, alumni, careers, and research methods sessions, the range of topics presented by OII faculty included:

  • Helen Margetts: Political turbulence: How social media shape collective action
  • Andy Przybylski: Internet Gaming Disorder: Investigating the clinical relevance of a new phenomenon using robust scientific methodology”
  • Heather Ford: How facts (in the form of Wikipedia articles and PhD theses) travel
  • Bernie Hogan: Social networks from metaphor to method to monetization
  • Luciano Floridi: The nature of power in mature Information Societies
  • Ralph Schroeder: Rethinking social theory after the Internet: Media, technology and globalization
  • Sanna Ojanperä: Big Data in development
  • Taha Yasseri: Collaborative knowledge creation and collection
  • Vicki Nash: The politics of protecting children online
  • Joss Wright: Discovering Internet filtering
  • Grant Blank: Cultural values and digital inclusion
  • Kathryn Eccles: Introduction to Digital Humanities and crowdsourcing for cultural heritage
  • Eric Meyer: Big Data knowledge machines
  • Huw Davies: “It’s the (political) economy stupid”: rethinking digital inequality

I’ve been following the work of the OII for a while so I had a good idea of what to expect in terms of content in the programme, but something which I hadn’t expected beforehand but viewed as a major benefit is the social network that OIISDP-ers become part of. I was able to have informal chats with several of the faculty members whilst I was there, and have formed firm friendships with the students in the 2016 cohort. There’s a paper on the horizon and I know that when I follow up on my new ideas in the future, I have a network of folks with a range of different specialisms who I could approach for collaborations. It’s also great to catch-up with other OIISDP alumni at conferences, and the community keeps the conversation going through its Facebook group. Hopefully I’ll be able to pop in as an alum and ‘proper academic’ to say hello to a future cohort one day 🙂

oiisdp2016jpg

Applications for the 2017 OIISDP are currently open – apply at http://sdp.oii.ox.ac.uk/apply/ – closes 20th February. Good luck!

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This is something that I find myself checking over and again, so am jotting a quick blog post for my reference and because it’s probably something that would be handy for everyone.

I’m not going to go into the pros and cons of the impact factor as a metric here – there are substantial cons, but it is something to be aware of.

It’s hard to judge too as (i) Educational Research is a field which has generally fairly low impact factors (or none at all), and (ii) it changes over time – journals sometimes seem to pick their ‘best year’ and put that on their website as their impact factor even if it is a bit out of date.

A website which I have found to be handy and interesting for reference is the Scimago Journal & Country Rank site (http://www.scimagojr.com/). It seems to be more extensive for Ed Tech than Web of Science, and provides a range of metrics.

Even better, the site allows you to generate widgets which allow the latest data to be embedded into your site – which I have done below for several Ed Tech related journals, to save having to look them all up again 🙂

A note on the metrics provided in the widgets:

  • SJR: “The SJR is a size-independent prestige indicator that ranks journals by their ‘average prestige per article’. It is based on the idea that ‘all citations are not created equal’. SJR is a measure of scientific influence of journals that accounts for both the number of citations received by a journal and the importance or prestige of the journals where such citations come from It measures the scientific influence of the average article in a journal, it expresses how central to the global scientific discussion an average article of the journal is.”
  • Cites per doc: “This indicator counts the number of citations received by documents from a journal and divides them by the total number of documents published in that journal. The chart shows the evolution of the average number of times documents published in a journal in the past two, three and four years have been cited in the current year. The two years line is equivalent to journal impact factor ™ (Thomson Reuters) metric.”

In alphabetical order:


British Journal of Educational Technology (BJET):

SCImago Journal & Country Rank


Computers and Education:

SCImago Journal & Country Rank


Computers in Human Behavior:

SCImago Journal & Country Rank


Educational Technology and Society:

SCImago Journal & Country Rank


Educational Technology Research and Development:

SCImago Journal & Country Rank


IEEE Transactions on Education:

SCImago Journal & Country Rank


IEEE Transactions in Learning Technologies:

SCImago Journal & Country Rank


Interactive Learning Environments (ILE):

SCImago Journal & Country Rank


International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning:

SCImago Journal & Country Rank


International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning (IJET):

SCImago Journal & Country Rank


International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning (IRRODL):

SCImago Journal & Country Rank


Internet and Higher Education:

SCImago Journal & Country Rank


Journal of Computer Assisted Learning (JCAL):

SCImago Journal & Country Rank


Learning, Media and Technology:

SCImago Journal & Country Rank


Research in Learning Technology (formerly ALT-J):

SCImago Journal & Country Rank


Studies in Higher Education:

SCImago Journal & Country Rank


Technology, Pedagogy and Education (TPE):
SCImago Journal & Country Rank


TechTrends:

SCImago Journal & Country Rank


Edit: Another handy tool I have discovered is the Elsevier Journal Finder, at http://journalfinder.elsevier.com/. By entering a title and abstract, it will suggest suitable potential (Elsevier) journals. The output also provides a range of interesting metrics about the suggested journals, such as impact factor, and time to review.

This is not an exhaustive list and I will be adding to it – if you have any suggestions for journals to add, please leave a comment 🙂

I had been trying to think of a clever title for this post, but failed. 2016 has, to put it generously, been ‘a mixed bag’.

I won’t recap on the all too palpable sense of melancholy about the rise of the far-right and so many deaths of cultural icons. On a personal level, writing up a PhD was likely one of the biggest challenges I will face in my life, combined with my Mum suddenly leaving my Dad (they were approaching their 40th wedding anniversary). This was difficult to deal with and my response was to find refuge in my PhD and focus exclusively on getting it finished on time. It was a bleak few months earlier in the year, for a while I hardly left the house or talked to anyone much, but it worked.

I am still catching up on some of the ‘side project’ requests from last year though as everything else took a lower priority compared to finishing my PhD – apologies to anyone who is expecting something from me. I haven’t forgotten and will catch up again soon.

But – some very good things happened in 2016, too. My personal highlights (in chronological order):

  • I was honoured to be invited to Sweden in May to keynote at a conference about MOOCs, organised by Anders Norberg. I gave a seminar about my PhD work at the Department of Applied Educational Science, Umeå University, and presented on ‘Learning in MOOCs and learning about MOOCs: Reflections on investigating completion rates’ at presentation at MOOC: Lokala möjligheter till globalt lärande’ at Campus Skellefteå the following day. I’ve made a transcript of my talk available online here, if you’re interested.
  • June included a trip to Swansea to see both the Super Furry Animals and Manic Street Preachers perform at the Liberty Stadium, as part of their ‘Everything Must Go’ anniversary tour. I know it’s not a work thing 🙂
  • In July I attended the Summer Doctoral Programme at the Oxford Internet Institute, and I can confirm that it does live up to its awesome reputation. I had a great time and came away with lots of inspiration for ways to build on my PhD or develop new projects, and met a wonderful network of folks. The call for applications for this year is currently open – if anyone has any questions about what it was like or anything about the experience, I’d be happy to help.
  • In October, I went to Berlin for the Association of Internet Researchers conference. It was my first trip to Germany and I quickly realised that the few German lessons I’d had at my school were useless! I very much enjoyed the conference, and exploring the city in between (with Berlin-period Bowie on my iPod of course).
  • November 4th saw my PhD viva, which I’ve blogged about already. I submitted my corrections for approval just before Christmas – finishing a PhD does take a lot longer than you think – but I am getting very close to being able to say “it’s DR Jordan actually”. 😉

At the start of 2016, I tweeted that my ambitions for the year were to finish my PhD and get a job. It’s still a case of fingers crossed for the latter – but more about that in my next blog post.

2016

In October, I travelled to Berlin for this years’ Association of Internet Researchers conference, where I presented some of the key findings from my PhD research.

It was my third time at an AoIR conference, and my attendance tracks my PhD progress quite neatly. The same month that I started my PhD, I attended the conference in Salford in October 2012; in 2014, I travelled to Daegu and took part in the doctoral colloquium (which is a part of the conference every year and I would highly recommend); and this year, I presented a full paper.

Last year, I also attended the Web Science conference, which I had been watching with interest for several years and was fortunate in 2015 to have a short paper accepted. Like AoIR, I also found the Web Science to be a very enjoyable and stimulating conference, through the mix of topics and disciplines represented. I was surprised though that there were not more overlaps in attendance between the conferences. There did seem to be a greater overlap in this years’ AoIR conference though.

Which leads me to the main point of this post: what is the difference between Internet Research and Web Science? Although I have not attended one yet, the Internet Science conference is a more recent development but appears to be in the same spirit.

I recall that when I went to the OII ‘A decade in Internet time’ anniversary event in 2011, Dame Wendy Hall described the difference between Web Science and Internet Science with the latter being focused on “what’s below HTTP” (video here, ~13.30. While Internet Research and Web Science have contrasting disciplinary roots (Computer Science/Social Sciences), both appear united in their scope – examining the interplay of technology and society online. Based on the recent conferences, I am not sure whether the distinctions are clear cut anymore, as research in both communities seems to have increasingly moved into social media. Related to thinking about this, the following papers are also of interest, from the Web Science and Internet Science perspectives:

To explore this a bit, I had a quick go at mapping the papers and authors from the 2016 conferences. Clicking on the picture below will open an interactive version of the diagram in a new tab/window:

webinternet

Below are Wordles based on the titles of papers presented at each conference:

AoIR 2016 conference paper titles

AoIR 2016 conference paper titles

Internet Science 2016 conference paper tiles

Internet Science 2016 conference paper tiles

Web Science 2016 conference paper titles

Web Science 2016 conference paper titles

Is the distinction valid anymore? Can we do more to facilitate links between the communities? Wordles are a quick-and-dirty way of exploring this, but I have also been collecting the abstracts too. Would anyone be interested in teaming up to analyse them properly and do a paper for next years AoIR conference perhaps? (paper submission deadline 1st March).

Earlier this month, I had my viva – and passed! I have some minor corrections to do, including expanding on certain points and typos, but I was very pleased with the outcome. It’s an enormous relief when you have been worrying about it on a daily basis for literally years!

From left to right: Professor Mike Thelwall (external examiner), Dr. Helen Donelan (internal), me, Dr. Doug Clow (2nd supervisor), Professor Eileen Scanlon (chair).

From left to right: Professor Mike Thelwall (external examiner), Dr. Helen Donelan (internal), me, Dr. Doug Clow (2nd supervisor), Professor Eileen Scanlon (chair).

I had found it quite hard to get started with ‘viva prep’ – when faced with being asked about anything in or related to your thesis, I found it quite difficult to find a starting point. I began preparing properly for the viva a month before it.

I read a lot of guides online – some helpful, others not so much! – and took the advice of one to be strategic and think first about what you would consider to be the worst possible questions. Don’t do this! I thought myself into a deep dark hole in the first week. But on the plus side, at least I did have answers in mind if those questions had come up (they didn’t).

Martin organised a mock viva for me, about 2.5 weeks before the event, which I found really helpful. I was better at answering questions about specific details rather than bigger picture questions (e.g. ‘what have you done that warrants getting a PhD?’). This might have been due in part to the negative thinking in the previous week, but was very useful as it helped me get into the ‘viva mindset’ and helped me focus in terms of where I need to think about sharpening up my thoughts. After this, I mainly used my preparation time to (i) re-read my thesis several times, (ii) make ‘talking points’ for key messages from each chapter, and (iii) made sure that I had thought about what I would actually say in response to the full range of potential questions (Rebecca Ferguson’s list of 40 viva questions helped guide this).

By the start of viva week, I felt that I had prepared for most of the things that could be expected in advance, although it’s not the sort of thing that you can ever feel 100% prepared for as there is always the feeling that something totally unpredictable could happen. But, you are the expert – no-one knows your research or your thesis as well as you do. My viva was on a Friday, so in the week leading up to it, I tried to include a bit of relaxation time too and trying to stay positive as well as mainly re-reading my notes. I made a Spotify playlist of self-confidence-boosting songs and made a point of getting fresh air. I think it worked (‘Close to me’ by The Cure and the theme tune from Rocky proved most effective!).

On the day, I made a point of having a decent breakfast, because I was sure I wouldn’t want lunch. It started at 2pm and the discussion ran until 4pm – it is amazing how quickly the time goes by though. I wasn’t even aware of the time until about 3.30pm. Two things which people had told me but I didn’t really appreciate beforehand were (i) that the examiners usually do want you to pass – they’re not necessarily going to be out to trip you up!, and (ii) it is actually quite enjoyable – you really don’t get many chances to have such an in-depth discussion about your research with experts in your field. I had been worried that it would turn out to be a sort of ‘live action peer review’ – which in a sense it was, but entirely reasonable and constructive. It was quite a surreal day, the combination of worry, relief, excitement and exhaustion, but I don’t think I will ever forget it.

A couple of weeks ago, I submitted my PhD thesis. I really appreciated all of the congratulations I received on Twitter – thank-you all 🙂

'They grow up so fast!'

‘They grow up so fast!’

It has taken a couple of weeks to sink in. After handing in, many people remark “you must be so relieved!” – it was about a week later that I felt relieved. Initially, my thoughts were that it isn’t really the end, because there is still the massive issue of having a viva. We set off on a family holiday immediately after hand-in though, which was great timing and a well-earned rest for all of us.

Something which is taking a bit longer to come to terms with is the idea of not being a PhD student anymore. It is five years since I left my research assistant post and returned to full-time study for my Masters and PhD. Not having my identity tied to being a PhD student feels very odd (I am still a PhD student until I have had my viva and a finalised version of my thesis has been accepted, so there is that). I know I want to stay in academia, but as yet, I don’t have another post to go to. As a huge Bowie fan (it’s been a tough year), ‘Who can I be now?’ is often in my head.

I am excited though to be able to have more time to do the things that have all fallen by the wayside in the final slog to get my thesis finished. Over the last few months, it has been the exclusive focus of my work time (and every waking moment!), so it is really nice to be able to work on other things again. I have neglected my blog too, but posts will follow soon about my recent travels to the Networked Learning Conference, Umea and Skelleftea in Sweden, and the Oxford Internet Institute summer doctoral programme.

So it’s the end, but only sort of. Will have to wait and see what happens next, but in the meantime I have plenty of non-thesis work to be getting on with!

As a bit of a side project, I’ve been exploring the academic genealogy of IET (the Institute of Educational Technology, at the Open University). It began last year as an online CALRG activity, where current staff and PhD students submitted information about who their PhD supervisors are, and who they have supervised themselves at the doctoral level. I couldn’t resist translating the information into a social network, which I’ve updated recently to the best of my knowledge; I’ve added as many alumni as I could find, by reading the acknowledgements of archived theses. I’m hoping to present a poster illustrating the network of connections at this years’ CALRG conference in June. [Update: the poster for CALRG can be found here].

What is academic genealogy?

Academic genealogy is a way of exploring academic mentorship relationships, in a similar way to constructing a family tree. In academic genealogy, the relationships of ‘PhD student’ and ‘supervisor’ are analogous to ‘child’ and ‘parent’ when mapping a family tree.

It has received renewed interest in recent years with the development of online platforms, established with the aim of crowdsourcing information, to enable trees to be constructed dynamically at a large scale (without the need to trawl these for data). Examples include The Academic Family Tree (which has expanded from the originally Neuroscience-focused Neurotree, described in this paper in PLoS ONE), and PhD Tree, although neither are comprehensive yet.

Why try to map the academic genealogy of IET?

Initially, the data was collected in order to try to capture a sense of how knowledge has been building together in IET. The Computers and Learning Research Group (CALRG) is one of the oldest research groups in the field of Technology-Enhanced Learning (TEL) (this year will be the groups 37th annual conference), and over this period of time, it has helped foster many of the leaders in the field. Mapping the PhD student-supervisor connections is an interesting way of illustrating this.

Once the connections have been mapped more thoroughly (the current data covers the form submissions from last year, and any further information I could find from the department website, and theses deposited in ORO), other potential ways in which the network could be useful might include:

The family tree

I collated the information from the CALRG online form and website into a spreadsheet, which simply consisted of two columns; the first being the names of supervisors, and the second having their corresponding PhD students. This format allowed me to be able to import the data into Gephi, and visualise it as a social network. Note that I’ve used a network representation rather than a traditional family tree format, as PhD student often have more than two supervisors, and there is a lot more variation in the combinations of supervisors.

The network as it currently stands is shown below (very much a very-in-progress!). Click on the image to enlarge and zoom in:

FigureForPoster

 

Get involved!

There are a couple of ways that you can help to develop this work-in-progress further in time for the CALRG conference:

  • If you are an IET PhD student or supervisor (past or present), I would like to add you to the network. An interactive version of the network can be found here: http://www.katyjordan.com/genealogy/, and you can use the search box to locate yourself, if you’re already in the network (the interactive version doesn’t have arrows, but by searching it will filter to you and your connections, which will then be listed in a panel to the right of the screen, or you can hover over nodes to see their names). If you are there but any of the information is inaccurate (e.g. changes to supervisory team or preferred name), please let me know.
  • At the moment, I’ve opted for only a very simple layout (I’ve scale the node size according to the number of connections they have, but that’s all). I will work on customising the layout to be hopefully both more attractive and more informative for the poster. I’m thinking about colour-coding people according to position – e.g. current PhD student, current IET staff, alumni, other OU staff, or other universities, for example – but I’d love to hear your thoughts on how to best lay the network out and what information to represent.

Please feel free to post a comment on this page 🙂 Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and thanks for your contributions!