Goodbye 2021, hello 2022

fireworksEdinburgh Napier University opened its doors again this morning after the Christmas break. This, however, is metaphorical reopening for me. As record numbers of Covid19 cases are reported in Scotland (and the UK as a whole), I will be continuing my research and PhD supervision activities off-campus from home.

This is not something that I would have expected a year ago. Indeed, in the blog post that I composed on 31st December 2020, I was looking forward to resuming Wednesday afternoon research group meetings with other members of the Centre for Social Informatics on campus, just as soon as we were all vaccinated. Two vaccinations and a booster later, this seems a far-off prospect. The closest we got to anything like a ‘normal’ meeting in 2021 was a hybrid research seminar with Dr Morgan Harvey of the University of Sheffield on 17th November. In contrast, all our other visitors over the course of the year, including our Visiting Professor Dr Brian Detlor, ‘came’ to us by Teams conference calls. Yet despite the lack of opportunity to gather together on a regular basis, I am proud that the members of my research group still managed to achieve much in 2021, mainly online and at a distance.

While in 2020 we were forced into making rapid adaptations to our work, in 2021 we knew to plan for the new environment. So, for example, we designed many of the activities related to our project work with online delivery in mind. These included the workshops for the Digital proxies project, Event 4 of the RIVAL project, the Navigating the hidden curriculum training programme, and a one-off training event on creating a professional web presence. Furthermore, drawing on desk research and experiences of working under pandemic restrictions (their own, that of others), two of our PhD students – Marina Milsoheva and Thoko Kachale – twice hosted a popular training session on the topic of research adaptations for the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science.

We also made several contributions to online events hosted by others over the course of the past 12 months. For example:

Dr Bruce Ryan and Rachel Salzano were very lucky to have been able to attend an in-person conference in the autumn when they travelled to Dundee for the CILIPS Autumn Gathering.

Some colleagues also disseminated their research in co-authored journal papers published in 2021:

In 2021 several colleagues were externally recognised in award nominations/awards and appointments. In terms of awards, Dr Bruce Ryan was long-listed for Scotland Library and Information Professional of the Year, Marianne Wilson was the winner of three minute thesis competition organised by Skills Development Scotland, and I came first in a CILIPS photography competition.

Amongst our external appointments Dr Peter Cruickshank served on the programme committee of the 10th International Conference on Electronic Government and the Information Systems Perspective (EGOVIS2021), and I examined a PhD thesis ‘in’ Brazil in June 2021. I have also been heavily involved in REF2021 as a member of sub-panel 34. Last month Marina Milosheva and Katherine Stephen learnt that they had been selected for mentorship schemes hosted by the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science.

A number of colleagues celebrated PhD successes in 2021. First, in the summer Dr Peter Cruickshank was awarded his PhD (and promoted to Associate Professor). Then Debbie Meharg (also promoted to Associate Professor in the summer), Pritam Chita, and Najla Almari all successfully defended their theses and will graduate in summer 2022, subject to approval of thesis corrections.

Meanwhile the three PhD students who started their first year of doctoral studies in October 2020 – Marina Milosheva, Thoko Kachale and Natalie Wangler – all successfully completed their transfer reports at the end of last academic year, and John Marshall and Marianne Wilson both graduated in December with MSc(R) degrees undertaken in the +1 year of their 1+3 ESRC/Skills Development Scotland (SDS) funded PhD programmes. We were also pleased to welcome our two ‘brand new’ ESRC/SDS PhD students Aleksander Bielinski and Maria Cecil in the first term of the current academic year, the funding for each won by Dr David Brazier and Dr Ella Taylor-Smith respectively.

Alongside our new PhD student colleagues John, Marianne, Aleksander, and Maria, we also welcomed Dr Frances Ryan (herself a 2019 PhD graduate of our group) as a new lecturer in the autumn term.

So now we are all looking forward to another fruitful year in 2022. As well as on-going project work, we are excited about the official start of Platform to platform (P2P) next month, and are hopeful that our four pending project funding bids might be successful (as might also be the case for three further bids in progress that we intend to submit in the near future). We currently have eight research outputs under consideration for publication and expect that these will all be published over the course of the next 12 months. As far as conferences are concerned, Marina Milosheva and Rachel Salzano will both be presenting at the iConference hosted online by Kyushu University, University College Dublin, and University of Texas at Austin between February 28th – March 4th 2022. Depending on the peer review outcomes of other submissions, we also hope to present our work (online or in person) at:

To find out more about all our activities in the coming months, please keep an eye on this site. Please also follow the posts on the Centre for Social Informatics research group web site that Dr Peter Cruickshank and Dr Bruce Ryan set up in April last year.

Finally, if you are interested in joining us, it is worth noting that there is still time to apply for one of the seven vacancies advertised by the School of Computing last November, the deadline for which is this Sunday 9th January. Amongst these positions is one for a Professor of Creative and Interactive Computing, who will work closely with members of the Centre for Social Informatics. The School is also currently advertising eight funded PhD studentships with a deadline of Friday 14th January. The possible topics for doctoral study include four proposed by members of the Centre for Social Informatics:

  • Human behaviours in online information sharing – Dr Frances Ryan
  • Information governance and the digital environment – Dr David Haynes
  • The impact of technology on policy issues, with a focus on gender equality and widening participation in higher education – Debbie Meharg
  • User centred approaches to autonomous online system support – Dr David Brazier

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