Farewell 2020

Social Informatcis staff and students all centre meeting December 2019

The way we were, December 2019. L to R: John Marshall, Peter Cruickshank, Lyndsey Middleton (now graduated with PhD), Katherine Stephen, Rachel Salzano, Marina Milosheva, Laura Muir (now retired), Hazel Hall, Leo Appleton (now graduated with PhD), Ella Taylor-Smith, David Haynes, David Brazier, Frances Ryan (now Research Fellow at the University of Aberdeen), Colin Smith, Wegene Demeke, and Bruce Ryan.

Just over a year ago, on 22nd December 2019, I summarised the the previous six months of activities of the members of the Centre for Social Informatics. I illustrated this account with a jolly photograph of us all bunched closely together around the table a few days earlier in room C34a of Edinburgh Napier University’s Merchiston campus.

At this point, none of us would ever have thought of putting the terms ‘social’ and ‘distancing’ into the same sentence; the letter R was only important to us as the name of a software environment for statistical computing and graphics; and we would have considered it very odd should anyone have suggested the donning of a face mask to pop into Tesco to pick up a loaf of bread. Looking at this photograph today, and rereading the text that accompanies it, generates mixed feelings of nostalgia for pre-COVID19 times with my wonderful colleagues, and regret that we have been working apart from one another for so long, with little prospect of this arrangement changing in the near future.

This time last year it was inconceivable that many of our usual work activities would either come to a complete halt (e.g. business travel – my last trip was on 19th February to the University of Glasgow to deliver a research seminar on collaboration and networking) or shift to online (e.g. meetings, supervisions, PhD examinations, interviews, preparations for REF2021). We enjoyed only a couple of months of pre-pandemic normality at the start of 2020 before we were instructed to work from home from mid-March onwards.

Peter Cruickshank and Frances Ryan (who, at the time, was still working with us) were very lucky with the timing of their workshop for the Digital identity security information practices of citizens (DISIPRAC) project on 27th February. (See the project report made available in April.) In contrast Bruce Ryan, Rachel Salzano, Katherine Stephen and I were extremely unlucky with our 19th March timing for Event 3 of the Research Impact and Value in Library and Information Science (RIVAL) project. We were obliged to cancel this event at very short notice on 13th March, eventually converting it for online delivery eight months later on 19th November 2020. Still in my office at Merchiston today are piles of printed material that we had hoped to use at RIVAL event 3. These include delegate packs, specially created posters, and a stack of yellow cards for an i-Spy game. What a waste!

For other projects that were only just underway – or about to start – when the pandemic hit, it was a case of reviewing the original plans and converting them for online delivery. So, for example, video conference interviews were conducted for the Information avoidance and diabetes project led by Gemma Webster with Bruce Ryan. (Preliminary findings are available in a poster presented in June 2020; Gemma and Bruce hope to publish a full paper on the project in 2021.) Similarly a pilot researcher mentoring scheme led by Ella Taylor-Smith was delivered online. Some of us found imaginative new ways of meeting our project aims. For example, David Brazier (project lead) and Rachel Salzano (researcher), had hoped to conduct some public engagement work on the theme of information literacy with Edinburgh city library users in workshops. Instead they refocused their practical work to make online recordings of individuals speaking about their information behaviour and use.

Later in the year, we were much better prepared to plan and execute our research taking into account the pandemic restrictions, and built this into project proposals such as our two successful bids for SFC funding. (This is also the case for two new ESRC/SDS funded PhD studentship awards that we will be advertising in the new year – David Brazier is the Director of Studies (DoS) for one, and Ella Taylor-Smith DoS for the other.)

In the past 10 months we have also become quite used to participating at online conferences. For example, we have made contributions to:

Despite all the difficulties of remote working, we have had good news to share with one another over the course of the past 10 months. These include, for example, prestigious external appointments: Rachel Salzano as a part-time researcher at the Alan Turing Institute; Peter Cruickshank to the editorial board of the eJournal of eDemocracy & Open Government (JeDEM); and Gemma Webster as a full member EPSRC Peer Review College. A couple of us were pleased to be recognised for our teaching in the ENSA award nominations (myself and Wegene Demeke). Even better better news was that David Haynes’ ISKO2020 contribution won the best paper award, and Katherine Stephen won the SDS TMT competition, with Marina Milosheva’s submission to the latter also highly commended. It would be remiss not to mention our three 2020 PhD graduates: Leo Appleton and Lyndsey in Middleton July and Iris Buunk in October. We congratulated our PhD graduates on their new jobs: Leo Appleton and Frances Ryan in March; Alicja Pawluczuk in April; and Iris Buunk in June. We waved goodbye to Laura Muir when she retired in September. A warm welcome awaited David Haynes when he joined the group in January and Debbie Meharg at the start of the autumn term, as was the case for our three new first year PhD students in October.

We have also been actively publishing our work this year. The outputs listed below draw on the expertise of the group members in their social informatics research. (Names in bold indicate current members of the Centre for Social Informatics; in green are the names of former members.)

So, in spite of everything, we actually achieved quite a lot in 2020. We have plenty of other work underway that should deliver in 2021 (e.g. grant proposals pending, papers under review). Here’s hoping that later in the year (once vaccinated) we’ll be able to share our good news for 2021 on campus in person (rather than on Teams, as is the current practice for our weekly Wednesday afternoon research group meetings).

Information Research December 2020 issue available with six contributions from the Centre for Social Informatics

Information Research logoThe December 2020 issue of Information Research is now available. Alongside the ‘regular’ papers and book reviews, this issue incorporates all the papers and posters from the Information Seeking in Context (ISIC) conference hosted online by the Department of Information Science, University of Pretoria, South Africa in September. Continue reading

iConference acceptances for Marina Milosheva and Rachel Salzano #iConf2021

Last week two of our Centre for Social Informatics PhD students learnt that they will be contributing to iConference 2021. Continue reading

Research group highlights of 2020, and hopes for 2021

This time last year on 18th December 2019, following our usual tradition, the Centre for Social Informatics staff and students marked the end of the year with an ‘All centre’ celebration of their achievements of the previous six months. This kind of get-together is completely impossible under the current pandemic restrictions. So, instead of the usual hilarity in room C34a of Napier’s Merchiston campus, during which I use my enormous egg timer to time five minute updates from everyone around the table over the course of two hours (glass of wine in hand), yesterday afternoon we gathered online for just 30 minutes of social fun. Continue reading

The Data Foundry at the National Library of Scotland: a presentation by Dr Sarah Ames

Data Foundry National Library of Scotland Last Wednesday on 9th December the Digital Scholarship Librarian at National Library of ScotlandDr Sarah Ames – was a visiting speaker at the weekly (online) gathering of staff and PhD students of the Centre for Social Informatics. On this occasion we were also joined by some of our other colleagues from the wider School of Computing at Edinburgh Napier University. Continue reading

Two new papers by Dr David Haynes

ISKO 2020 conference proceedings coverCongratulations to my Centre for Social Informatics colleague Dr David Haynes: last week two of David‘s recent papers were published.

The first is the award-winning ISKO paperUnderstanding personal online risk to individuals via ontology development’, which I wrote about on 14th July 2020. The final version is now available from the publisher in the proceedings of the Sixteenth international 2020 ISKO conference entitled ‘Knowledge organization at the Interface. Continue reading

Congratulations to Marina Milosheva: awarded a distinction for her MSc(R)

Marina Milosheva

Marina Milosheva

Many congratulations to Centre for Social Informatics PhD student Marina Milosheva. Marina has achieved a distinction in the Masters degree that she undertook in 2019/20 in first year of her four year 1+3 doctoral programme.

Marina is the fourth of our six Skills Development Scotland (SDS)/ESRC funded PhD students, and the second to be awarded the MSc by Research (MScR) in Science and Technology Studies from the University of Edinburgh. This Masters year is offered to all students who win an Edinburgh Napier SDS/ESRC doctoral studentship to study with us for a PhD at Napier, but who do not already hold a Masters degree that incorporates 60 credits of research methods training. Continue reading

RIVAL network event 3: preview

RIVAL logoAfter two postponements and a decision to move to virtual delivery, we (myself, Dr Bruce Ryan and our Edinburgh Napier PhD student helpers Rachel Salzano and Katherine Stephen) will (finally) be hosting the third RIVAL network event next week on Thursday 19th November 2020. Continue reading

Newly published: version 11.2 of the Centre for Social Informatics flyer (autumn 2020)

Centre for Social Informatics bannerThe Centre for Social Informatics flyer (version 11.2) has just been updated for the new academic year. Follow the link to read about the work of our group, including details of research expertise, funders, recent PhD completions, and recent publications. The flyer includes profiles of the group’s academic and research staff: Continue reading

Congratulations Dr Iris Buunk!

Congratulations to our Centre for Social Informatics colleague Dr Iris Buunk on the award of her PhD yesterday. Normally we would have celebrated with Iris at the Edinburgh Napier University graduation ceremony at the Usher Hall. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, we had to find an alternative way to mark Iris’s achievement: a jolly drinks party on Zoom. Continue reading