Social Media Scientific Collaborations?

My only foray into social media during my scientific career has been limited to one platform involving the use of 140 characters at a time. I use no other social media platforms. Since I joined in 2014 I have gradually engaged to greater extent. During this time I’ve found the small snippets of information displayed before my eyes to be a highly suitable source to binge on science news. Of course this has required me to be selective about the people or groups that I follow not to be swamped by general news from the masses. To this end, my news feed features all of those things I find exciting or interesting around science, with the occasional fun thing thrown in. On a daily basis I read new findings from the fields of biochemistry, protein science and, of course, parasitology. Admittedly, I confess the majority of my feeds are related to the later topic, with my screen regularly filled with amazing images and video snippets of parasitic worms and the cool things that they do.
As I have posted new research coming out of my research group around the biochemistry and molecular biology of parasitic worms it is highly addictive to see other social media users interacting with these instant updates of research. Whether it is an update on the role of a glutathione transferase (GST) or an insight into the fatty acid binding protein family I am continually excited to both promote our research and simultaneously interact with scientists across the world. One of the best aspects of this is that the scientists are from all stages of their careers from undergraduates through to established and highly respected Profs. A second confession of this blog is that a lot of scientists I follow are established collaborators and there may be the suggestion that we are self-promoting our work to one another. This aside, it is great bringing new science to the world (or at least the 400 followers I have) and seeing the progress of others – especially satisfying interacting with undergraduates succeeding with their first protein gels or postgraduates uploading SDS-PAGE ‘Gel-fies’.
However, I had never thought of social media as a platform to establish new connections and collaborations…until today. After being delighted with image after image of wriggling Parascaris parasites (worms of horses that are approximately 15-20 cm in length) I was compelled to contact the owner of these worms…a fellow wormer based across the pond in the USA. I have a particular passion to collect some Parascaris to provide one of my PhD students some samples to extract their GSTs and compare with related worms. This fellow worm guru was one of those people you follow in case something interesting pops up on their feed…and sure enough. It did! I have since established formal communications/collaborations and will be waiting on a shipment of worms to arrive in the post. What a nice gift for my PhD student! The wonders of establishing social media collaborations…

Post by Dr. Russ Morphew

Distractions and procrastination.

Distractions and procrastination.
There are lots of things to be embraced about being a Principal Investigator in Higher Education. You are free to direct your own research, you can be creative when devising your teaching sessions, and you can indulge your curiosity and passions, for example through public-engagement or immersing oneself in the literature.
But everyone knows that there is also the less enjoyable side to academic life – marking, ticking off marking criteria, providing student feedback, filling in marks moderation forms, attending exam boards – in general, the auditing and administration of mark-awarding.
These are things that need to be done to keep the external examiners happy, but they seem to have little obvious direct impact on the education of students.
And although ‘important’, they are tedious. So tedious that many, including myself, would succumb to any temptation to procrastinate during marking season.

At the best of times I love a good dataset to pore over – they usually jump right to the top of my ‘to do’ pile. But it’s heart-breaking when they arrive during marking season, when I’m most prone to distraction and procrastination, and yet subject to tight deadlines to get the mark-awarding paperwork completed.
So why do all the best datasets arrive during that marking season?
This marking season I’ve received ten genomes of novel bacterial isolates, the results of antimicrobial activity assays for 25 novel compounds, and a large set of transcriptome analyses, all of which need urgent analysis.
It’s like being a modern Tantalus, desperate to reach up to open those spreadsheets of insight and start analysing, while the chains of administration keep you grounded with moderation forms and marksheets.
So instead, I do neither and write a blog post.

Post by Dave Whitworth