Guidance on Publishing Research Results Online

Nowadays there is an additional problem for the researcher – how to publish their results. The traditional format of publishing research to many outsiders seems to be the 200 page long PDF,  they are often huge mountains of text with conclusions buried within sandwiched between appendices and references.  It is of course difficult to present often complexed research and findings in an easy to digest format without losing much of  the substance that supports the conclusions.

Many of course include diagrams and graphics as part of their reports in an attempt to make the information more accessible to those without specialised knowledge or qualifications in that specific area.  After all it is the interests of all researchers to make their conclusions and work available to as many people as possible.

One of the biggest difficulties is that the skills needed to produce such format is often not available especially on smaller, tightly funded research projects.   Can you expect a Physics researcher or medical student to be a master in graphic design or computer animation, it’s certainly a bonus to a project but overall unlikely.

Fortunately now there are many tools online which can be used to present information more accessibly than traditional formats.  One of those products is Content Samurai which is video making software entirely stored online in the cloud.  It’s fairly simple to use and can be used to create slideshow type videos which can be used to summarise or conclude research projects, here’s a quick demonstration of it in use.

There are limitations of course to using software like this to create presentations. The format is deliberately kept simple in order to reduce the knowledge needed to use the application. You cannot for instance produce advanced editing techniques or special effects beyond those hard coded into the application. However it should be noted that using existing content you can produce a professional presentation in video format within a few minutes. The video produced is perfectly suitable for direct upload to video sites like YouTube and even grabbing a blog post like this – How to Watch the BBC iPlayer in Germany and turning it quickly into a video presentation which is the perfect place to distribute to a wider audience.

Of course this format is never going to be suitable for publishing the bulk of research findings, the format is simply not able to deliver large amounts of scientific data for example. However for summaries and conclusions it offers people without video creation skills the perfect solution. It’s obviously worth investigating the variety of online slideshow makers which are available, as some are more complex and powerful than others. It’s likely you can find something that can be used by most researchers.

Losing our Privacy Online

Many of us seem to accept that we will lose a certain amount of privacy the more our lives become centred around the digital world. After all when we post up details of where we are, what we are doing to hundreds or even thousands of people on social networking sites then it’s obvious privacy is not at the top of our concerns. However I suspect many have not even began to think of some of the wider issues involved and specifically whom we are allowing to see our details.

There are dangers involved and some more obvious than others. Many teenagers for example, have literally thousands of ‘friends’ in sites like Facebook – it’s almost like a popularity contest. A contest I might add am unlikely to win with my rather sad 67 friends listed currently. But imagine the teenager who announces to the masses that they are off on holiday for three weeks with their parents to their 2100 ‘friends’, what a great way for burglars to target properties, car thieves to steal cars or even identity thieves target individuals or their premises some might even use a fast UK VPN to avoid getting caught online.

Handy social apps which announce your location and status to everyone – sounds great, but do you really want thousands of virtual stalkers? Do you want your pictures and images distributed far and wide throughout the digital world. Because that is what happens, photos online can end up anywhere and not just with your few select friends.

The major issue with our browsing is that it is fundamentally built on something pretty much insecure – HTTP. The protocol that we mainly use to browse and surf the internet works great but has no security at all (HTTPS has some but very little). Everything is sent and distributed in clear text – all our posts, web browsing, downloads, messages included. This you can at least do something about by using software like this – demonstrated here.

But even that won’t help you when you’re using the web sites themselves and the internal security. Everything you are and do online has value and such it is valuable information to everyone from companies to governments. There is a reason that Facebook for example record every keystroke you make on their site, including stuff you decide to delete/don’t post – it’s because it’s useful to advertisers.

We feel that we’re in control of our identity when we browse the web but it’s simply not true. For example your IP address is used for a whole host of decisions about your browsing – what you see and how. Take the BBC site for example you are checked as soon as you log on to that site, if you’re ip address is not British then you won’t be able to use the amazing BBC Iplayer application. Well at least unless you do something like this Video – Watch BBC Iplayer from France.

The reality is that by default we have very little control of our personal information, although we can improve that situation. Be careful about what you post and where, check out VPNs and security software that encrypt your connection and make sure your security settings are controlled on any social web sites you use.

Taking a Step Back from the Digital Life

There’s barely a day goes by when someone famous, somewhere does something they regret online.  It’s hardly surprising really when people set them selves up to receive thousands of Tweets from fans or just as likely haters.

I support a very small, rather unsuccessful professional football team yet even here I have seen the effects of Twitter rage.  A player after a particularly bad performance and seen conversing on Twitter is very likely to receive some unwelcome comments.  Some ignore these and just carry on, but some characters engage in exchanging insults which rarely looks professional and is more likely to supply any media reporter with a selection of quotes to start a story with.  Even at this low level, a professional footballer can have several thousand people following their every word/tweet which is fine if someone is filtering and managing what you say, not so good if you respond after a hard day with a beer in your hand!

Would Cary Have Had a Twitter Account?

Many people in the public eye are sensibly backing away from social networks simply because the risk of bad publicity is starting to outweigh the good stuff.  They are starting to realize about the huge amount of digital data that is being created online about everyone of us – every comment, every status update and every Tweet is creating an extensive digital profile for each one of us.

The dangers are many and perhaps the advantages certainly professionally are not really worth it.  For instance, comments you make now could be viewed in 5 or ten years time, opinions and statements that were perhaps off the cuff might appear in that job interview that means so much to you.

It doesn’t take much imagination to visualise a situation where having drunken pictures or comments floating around the internet might not be  the best long term career move.  Apparently senior executives are also deciding to back off from social media too, many are just switching off their digital profile – the concept is being dubbed ‘the digital detox’.  Others are doing so simply because it can take up so much of your life, the time consumed in interacting in these sites can be considerable and all encompassing.

We’re seeing more and more people using security programs to cut down on their digital profile and what’s logged about them.  I know people who use proxies to relay their connections when they connect to specific sites, if you login through a program with then that’s where many websites will decide where you’re from.

Whatever the best solution for you, keeping aware is essential – good advice is to step back and think before you post anything online.  Ask yourself if you’d be happy about anyone seeing it now, and in ten years time as that might just happen.

More information here about accessing the BBC in Ireland for those doucmentaries – http://bbciplayerabroad.co.uk/does-bbc-iplayer-work-in-ireland/