October 20, 2008

Workshop: Web 2.0 for Scientists

This is a kind of follow up to a couple of posts from last year about the Cool Tools for Scholars workshop I did for my librarian colleagues here at York.

Since that workshop was relatively well received, I'm reprising it this year in two parts for the larger science faculty and grad student community: one part being Web 2.0 for Scientists and the second, Cool Tools for Scholars. I'm hosting the presentation notes on my IL blog here. My intention is to see what the audience of a particular session wants to cover and go from there, roughly dividing the two sessions by stages in the research process. As you can see from the notes, there's a lot of things to talk about!

I'm hoping that hosting fairly bare-bones presentation notes on the blog will make the sessions more flexible and interactive as well as making the notes easier to find and share with a broader audience. I'm also hoping that they would be reusable by others doing similar presentation.

So, my request for the librarians and scientists out there: What do you think? Are there things that aren't there that should be? Would you organize the sessions differently? The descriptive text for the individual tools will continue to evolve, but what would you do differently there as well?

And for the scientists (ie. faculty, researchers, grad students, post docs, etc.), what could I do marketing-wise to get you interested in actually coming to the library so such a session?

(That last bit reminds me of a short I had with conversation with Timo Hannay at the Science in the 21st Century conference: as a librarian I'm definitely interested in helping them get uptake for tools like Connotea but I'm not sure, short of wandering around departments waving my arms yelling "Connotea!" how to get the time and attention of the scientists to show them the tools. He agreed that it's a problem.)


Christina said...

Come in to the library? How quaint! Why not take this on the road and do a presentation at a college/dept meeting -- get invited by the organizer... or set up in a hall projecting on the wall... Of course, when I run down the hall yelling, it's not Connotea, but some of our research databases and services we offer :)

David Crotty said...

As a scientist (well, a former scientist, but this is what I hear from my authors), what is necessary is an explanation of tools that serve a truly useful purpose, that are great improvements over what one is currently using, and that aren't massive time and effort sinks.

So far, the majority of Web 2.0 ventures for scientists fail to meet these criteria. Connotea is a good example--full text search in a program like Papers ( http://mekentosj.com/papers/ ) is vastly superior to organizing and finding material using tags, as Connotea does. If you've got thousands of references, then setting up Connotea will take weeks of dedicated work. On top of that, there aren't really enough people using it to make the discovery features all that useful (and a common complaint is having too much to read, very few are asking for more literature to follow). Writing a blog is a lot of work. Following the blogs of others takes up lots of time. Effort and time are precious commodities.

So the question you should be answering is what tools can save me time and effort, rather than what extra work do you want me to do. Really useful tools like GoPubMed (http://www.gopubmed.org ) should be highlighted, rather than weak efforts to become "Myspace for scientists". I've written/spoken about such things here:

John Dupuis said...

Hi Christina,

It would be great for us to be able to reach out more in faculty spaces but there are a couple of York-specific issues that make it hard. First of all, the academic buildings for the most part don't have computer labs or social spaces of any description that we could use. We actually have the other problem -- they want to use our instruction lab as a classroom space for thier classes.

The other issue stems from York being a commuter school. It can be pretty hard to find people on campus.

This is the first year we're trying this whole series of workshops, basically stemming from grad student surveys asking for more workshops. I didn't organize the series and believe me, there are a lot of things we're (re-)learning.

As for departmental meetings, well, I get 15 minutes a year.

John Dupuis said...


Thanks for your input, I really appreciate what you say.

I guess it's not extra work *I* want you to do, but rather letting you know about things that you may find useful or interesting. I guess part of it is to craft our message more carefully so that I don't seem like it's something I think you have to do.

There is a certain percentage of faculty that do blog, or that don't blog now but would find it useful and appropriate for them. That's who I want to reach.

Same with wikis or Nature Network or Connotea or any of those tools. They make sense for some people and don't make sense for others; I want to try and reach the former.

And yes, I definitely will concentrate on time-saving aspects of some of the tools.