I am currently in the third year of my PhD research into how people with an interest in science use interactive online social media. In particular I am interested in notions of what it means to be 'scientific' or a 'science person', and how these are spread by discussions within online media. I argue these questions are of interest to Public Engagement with Science scholarship. My project is supervised by Karen Bultitude and Simon Lock, and is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
- What I Am Doing
This is a very brief summary of my research methods - for full copies of my literature review and methods documents, please go here.
There are two main data-collection methods to this project. In the first part, I collect data from a selection of case-study websites to see how these sites are used on a normal day-to-day basis. In the second part, I ask some users about their experiences of the sites to better understand what goes on ‘behind the screens’.
I will be focussing on a small number of case-study sites - full list will be confirmed and posted here soon. I will collect sample conversations from these sites in order to see what people are saying about science on these sites, and also (publically available) data about who is involved in these conversations. For the data-collection I am developing web-scraping software using Python - if you would like to see a copy of my code, please feel free to contact me.
Any data I collect will be anonymised before being reproduced anywhere, and will not include enough information to personally identify anyone. Nevertheless, if you use one of these sites and would like to be exempt from my data-collection, please feel free to contact me on email@example.com. For more details, please check the 'Get Involved' section below.
If you use one of the case-study sites and would be interested in being interviewed about your experiences with science, I’d love to hear from you. I can interview in any format – we can have an email conversation, or speak on the telephone or Skype, or meet face-to-face if travel arrangements permit.
The interviews are ‘semi-structured’, which means I’ve got a few standard questions I’d like to ask but mostly they’ll be guided by whatever we end up talking about.
There are a couple of things you need to know prior to interview, so please check the 'Get Involved' section below.
- Be Involved
This section contains important information about how I am using and protecting participants' data - for more details on how I am collecting this data from case-study websites and interviews, please see the above 'What I Am Doing' section. Please note that in order to interview you I will need to ensure you have read and understood all the below. If you have any questions, or would prefer these details in a different format, please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
In order to preserve the privacy and anonymity of research participants, I shall be carrying out the following default processes to all data collected. No-one except me will see the data prior to these processes.
- I shall be anonymising all data by changing all names, including usernames, of all participants (including interviewees).
- Though I may report information such as the gender, age, profession, or institution of a user, this will be made too vague to locate specific individuals (e.g. ‘age mid-20s’, or ‘from a university in California’).
- To avoid participants being identified using internet search tools, quotations from publically available sources will not be connected to any personal information acquired through interviews.
- All data will be stored on an encrypted and password-protected physical hard drive, and not through any networked cloud storage.
- When interviews are conducted through electronic means (emails, Facebook messaging, etc.), the thread will be deleted at the close of the research. At your request, emails/messages can be deleted earlier and only retained as an offline copy at any point during the course of the interview.
- I will never ask you to disclose any personally sensitive information – such as information which could be used to establish your physical location or state of health – during interviews, and if you willingly disclose such information during interviews I will not use it without your recorded permission.
Only after the above processes have been carried out:
- The anonymised data will be used to produce a PhD dissertation and in academic and public outlets (e.g. journal articles, summaries for websites, conference presentations, etc.).
- Following the rules of the Economic and Social Research Council all the anonymised data will be stored with the UK Data Service.
PLEASE NOTE THAT at any point during research you can request to opt out of the research, and/or request specific details not to be retained or reported. The last date for such withdrawals or modifications will be 31/7/2016.
Equally, if you would like to modify any of the above processes (for example, if you would like your real name to be reported), please request.
- Academic Background
Prior to UCL I studied undergraduate Natural Sciences (Physics and History & Philosophy of Science) and a Masters in History and Sociology of Science at the University of Cambridge. My studies generally focussed on history of science popularisers, and my final dissertation discussed the role of personal mythologies in the work of Richard Feynman and Carl Sagan. I am currently writing up this research into two papers for publication, if you would like draft copies contact me. Other research interests include the sociology of scientific knowledge, the history of modern physics, expertise, and science in/as performance.
- Engagement and Media
I write facetiously about science studies and current affairs in my blog SidewaysLookAtScience, and occasionally on the LSE Impact of Social Sciences and Guardian Political Science blogs. I have also performed multiple times with academic stand-up comedy groups ScienceShowoff and The Bright Club, including at the Royal Society 2013 Summer Science Exhibition and compering for the BSHS 2015 Postgraduate Conference. In the past I have appeared on the BBC1 debate programme The Big Questions discussing the subject of 'should we have more faith in science', been interviewed on science communication for the Speaking of Science website and the Science of Fiction podcast, volunteered with the social media and podcasting team at the Cambridge Science Festival, and worked with the Triple Helix Society as events co-director Cambridge branch and helped set up the UCL branch. Pipelines projects include an audio dramatisation of Bruno Latour's Aramis and two one-act social-historical physical theatre pieces on the thinking of Albert Einstein and Erwin Schrodinger.
- Publications and Presentations
- Science Enthusiasts: Offline Identities and Online Knowledge (4s/ESOCITE Annual Meeting, Buenos Aires, August 2014)
- Life Cycle of a Star: Carl Sagan and the Circulation of Reputation [under review]
- It's All Geek To Me: Meanings of Science in Engagement Online (FSU Visit, UCL, July 2014)
- Big Data and Education: What's the Big Idea? (Conference Report, UCL Big Data Institute, May 2014)
- The Multiple Scales of Undirected Engagement (DPhil Research Day, University of Sussex, May 2014)
- Online Science Enthusiasts: Knowledge, Identity, and the Mass Media (Digital Sociology ECR/PhD Workshop, Goldsmiths College, February 2014)
- Lurking Nine to Five: 'Non-Participants' in Online Science Communication (Silences of Science Network 'Silences in the History and Communication of Science' conference, Imperial College London, December 2013)
- Optimal Screen Resolution: The Internet and Interdisciplinary ‘Scaling’ (British Sociological Association ‘Working together? STS, collaboration and (multi)disciplinarity’ conference, University of Sheffield, December 2013)
- Life Cycle of a Star: Media Myths of Feynman and Sagan (Rediscovering the History of Biography, Science Museum, July 2013; BSHS Postgraduate Conference, January 2014)
- PGTA 'Scientific Communication' (MAPS2001) January-March 2015
- PGTA 'Investigating Science and Society' (HSCP1007) September-December 2014
- PGTA 'History of Twentieth Century Science' (HSPC1011) September-December 2013
- PGTA 'Science Communication' (MAPS2001) September-December 2013
- ‘Seeing Scientifically’ Masterclass for UCL Widening Participation, to 16-18yr olds, July 2014. Slides available at http://sidewayslookatscience.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/seeing-scientifically-masterclass-slides/.
- Student Representative for the UCL ESRC Doctoral Training Centre. Administrator for the joint London DTCs' Twitter account @LondonESRCDTC and blog.
- Organiser for Science and Society (SASsy) Reading Group
- Invited reviewer for Public Understanding of Science