Reflections

Professional Development Plans (2017-18)

I’m very fortunate to have access to professional development funds through my employer, the University of Richmond; because I support faculty in the social sciences, I can select and apply funds to opportunities that benefit both my work and my education. Already in the 2017-18 academic year, I’ve taken advantage of several digital sociology-related professional development events. Because a hands-on approach is valuable to me, I’ve also undertaken two projects to begin improving and refining my skills. Last but not least, I have planned for additional development in the spring and summer. Since I am still building foundational skills this year, much of my energy will be geared towards deepening my understanding of the research process in general.

Completed Events and Projects

Authors’ Rights: Use the Law, Share Your Scholarship, Change the World: a presentation by Brandon Butler, Direction of Information Policy at the University of Virginia Library, hosted by the University of Richmond Library. Understanding my rights, whether I formally publish in a journal, share openly with colleagues at other institutions, or none of the above, is an important part of becoming a thoughtful researcher. That stage of my career has yet to arrive, but early preparation is always good.

Open Tools, Open Practices, Open Science: the University of Richmond Library hosted a presentation by the Center for Open Science that focused on using the Open Science Framework as a platform for collaborating on and openly publishing research materials, including data. As I begin to think about research projects I will undertake — both my capstone project and smaller, more contained assignments along the way — it’s helpful to think about how I might take advantage of different workflows that make collaboration, peer review, and publication easier or better.

Open Scholarship for the Social Sciences (O3S17): Hosted by the sociology department at the University of Maryland, College Park, those presenting at O3S17 included Chris Bourg, Director of Libraries at MIT; Jeffrey Spies, Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at the Center for Open Science; and Jeremy Freese, Professor of Sociology at Stanford University and Co-Principal Investigators for the General Social Survey. This conference was a great opportunity to hear about the methods used in research across disciplines, and also to engage in conversations about the challenges and benefits created by open publishing models generally and the SocArXiv open archive specifically.

The Visible Scholar: the University of Richmond Library hosts a series where UR professors talk briefly about upcoming publications, the research that went into them, and then take questions from the audience. This semester I attended two of these presentations, the first by Julian Hayter, Assistant Professor of Leadership Studies, and the other by Jeremy LeCrone, Assistant Professor of Mathematics. The audiences for these talks are typically small, 10-15 attendees, making these relatively informal presentations good for understanding more deeply how researchers think about their work.

“Big Idea” Candidate Presentations: I have attended three of the department’s “Big Idea” candidate presentations both to help evaluate the candidates and also to acquaint myself with new and upcoming sociological research. I’ve written in my coursework this semester about some of the thoughts and questions these presentations have triggered for me, and look forward to continuing to participate as my schedule allows.

The Plain Person’s Guide to Plain Text Social Science: based on the open access textbook by Dr. Kieran Healy, recommended to the SOCYGRADS email list by Dr. Cottom, I have begun to compose all of my coursework in Markdown using a plain-text editor (Atom), making micro-commits to a git repository (GitLab) for version control, and using a document converter (Pandoc) for final formatting. I originally tried to work with Emacs as an editor, but found that too overwhelming to take on in the middle of the semester. After a few weeks of using this I have some ideas for workflow improvement between semesters, and will continue to check back in with this resource as I gain comfort with both the coursework and the tools themselves.

Upcoming / In Progress Events and Projects

AT360: as part of a recent strategic planning process, my work department set a goal to determine how academic technologies are being used across campus (regardless of whether we are providing support or not). Along with a colleague, I am in charge of performing this research; we have decided to take advantage of existing data (i.e. knowledge we already have about technology use), and will supplement that with information gathered via survey. Thusfar we have identified the variables of interest, developed appropriate categories and scales, and collected our existing data. We are beginning to develop the survey instrument now, and will collect and analyze the resulting data in the Spring semester.

Data For Black Lives: although I could not attend this conference in person, several of the talks were recorded and are available to watch online. I plan to use some of the downtime between semesters to watch all six recordings, but in particular I’m interested in the “Automating [In]justice: Policing and Sentencing in the Algorithm Age” panel.

OpenCon 2018: I will be in attendance at this conference being hosted by VCU; of the currently available sessions on the program, I plan to attend the “Improving Your Research with Preregistration” and “Open Publishing: New Models and Methods” presentations (as well as both the opening and closing keynotes). As the Lightning Talks schedule is posted I will identify additional sessions to attend.

IASSIST & Carto 2018: this conference, located at Concordia University in Montreal, is hosted by a social science research organization and a geospatial data / geographic information organization. Along with two colleagues, I have submitted a presentation proposal; if accepted we will write a paper, which will serve as the basis for a 15-minute presentation. Regardless of whether I present, I will be attending and hope to develop my geospatial analysis skills. Once the program has been released, I will identify specific sessions that are appropriate.

Summer Book Reading: during the academic year, I have little time for focused reading not specifically related to a research project or task. Instead, I will use the summer to read and make notes about a series of books related to my professional and research interests. My list currently includes the following:

  • Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness, Simone Browne
  • The New Education: How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World in Flux, Cathy Davidson
  • Radical Technologies, Adam Greenfield
  • Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest, Zeynep Tufekci
  • The Googlization of Everything (And Why We Should Worry), Siva Vaidhyanathan
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