Screenshot from TAGSExplorerGiven the number researchers who ask me about access to historic Twitter data who end up disappointed to hear free access to search results are limited to the last 7 days I’m sure they will be pleased to hear about the Twitter Data Grants:

we’re introducing a pilot project we’re calling Twitter Data Grants, through which we’ll give a handful of research institutions access to our public and historical data.

This was an area I’d hoped the Library of Congress who’d have solved long ago given they were gifted the data in April 2010. Unfortunately despite the announcement in Jan 2013 that access was weeks away nothing has appeared.

It’s worth stressing that Twitter’s initial pilot will be limited to a small number of proposals, but those who do get access will have the opportunity to “collaborate with Twitter engineers and researchers”. This isn’t the first time Twitter have opened data to researchers having made data available for a Jisc funded project to analyse the London Riot and while I except Twitter end up with a handful of elite researchers/institutions hopefully the pilot will be extended.

Proposals for this pilot need to be in by 15 March. A link is included in the Introducing Twitter Data Grants page.

Alistair Brown has written an interesting post on the LSE Impact of Social Sciences blog - Proving dissemination is only one half of your impact story: Twitter provides proof of real-time engagement with the public. The post highlights the case of how a journal paper was picked up by a university media office, which ended in the author being interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. As part of this Alistair highlights that:

REF impact involves an assessment of “significance” as well as “reach,” so the mere fact that research has been disseminated to a wide audience does not constitute an impact by itself; one has also to show the effect it has on those to whom it is disseminated. For this reason, citing the fact that a researcher has appeared on a primetime radio show with several million potential listeners might be one element of an impact statement, but one needs also to evidence that the audience has actively listened to what was being put out, and that it has affected, changed or benefitted them in some way

In the age of the second screen Alistair goes on to highlight how Twitter can be used as evidence of engagement, listeners tweeting personal reflections, feedback or just disseminating the information more widely. But as Alistair points out:

When a piece of academic work receives broadcast media coverage, then, it is useful to have a strategy in place to gather emerging responses, and it is also far easier to do this as it happens rather than retrospectively.

A strategy is required because, as Alistair points, out the Twitter search is limited to the last 7 days. While there are ways to view this activity in realtime how do you capture the evidence.  Here’s my response to the problem:

Here is the spreadsheet template I mention. So have you got a strategy for recording impact evidence from Twitter?

This press release arrived landed in my inbox and looks like a good deal:

If you use software in your research and you have a good understanding of what’s happening in your field (and an idea about what will be happening soon) then the Software Sustainability Institute want to hear from you. The institute will pay researchers from any discipline up to £3000 a year to attend conferences and report on the latest developments in their field.

Interested? Visit to find out how to apply.

Closing date: 8 August 2011

The Software Sustainability Institute is funded by the research councils to help researchers use and develop software for their research. To better understand the fields that most need our help, the institute are setting up a network of Agents. Working as an Agent, you will receive travelling expenses in return for a short report about the conference you attended, the people you met and your views on the topics that look most promising in the future.

The benefits:

  • Up to £3000 a year to attend the conferences and events that you want to attend
  • Your advocacy will ensure that your field benefits from the best support for software development
  • Add world-leading researchers to your professional network
  • Free attendance at training events for new tools and technologies
  • If you develop code, improve your knowledge of effective techniques for developing sustainable software
  • A great addition to your CV

You don’t have to be a professor or a Principal Investigator. We are looking for UK-based researchers with a good knowledge of their field, who are keen to travel and to meet new people, and have experience of national and international collaborations. We are looking for applicants from all disciplines and especially from the fields that have been flagged as strategically important to UK research: the ageing population, environment and climate change, the digital economy, energy and food security.

After a three-month trial period, Agents will be recruited for an initial term of one year, which is renewable each year. We expect to recruit around ten Agents every year.

By becoming an SSI Agent, you will attend more of the conferences that you want to attend, meet influential researchers from across all disciplines and ensure that your field receives the best support for software development. If you’re interested, or you’d like to nominate someone, please visit If you would like more information, email [email protected].

The British Library and Microsoft Research have worked in partnership to design and develop a ‘virtual research environment’ that will provide a single easy-to-use interface enabling research teams to work collaboratively. The Research Information Centre (RIC) Framework will provide an environment in which users can create, share, discuss, manage, find and track articles, references, bookmarks, funding proposals, presentations and all the other digital information related to their research.

Built on top of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007, the RIC extends the core MOSS functionality to meet the needs to academic researchers engaged in collaborative research projects.

To see what this looks like the video below gives an overview of the project.


The project has been released under the Microsoft Public License (except SharePoint Forums) making it freely available for institutions to use. The first release of RIC is available for download here.

imageOn Monday (16 November 2009) the Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) launched ‘Vision’, a new publication about its current and future research projects. ECA has a strong history of ground-breaking research producing work of national and international standing in ‘Art & Design’ and ‘Architecture and the Built Environment’.

With the aim of progressing lively and accessible public engagement with academic research,Vision presents ground-breaking creative thinking across a vast range of art, design, architecture and landscape architecture disciplines. It also highlights the increase in cross-disciplinary and external collaboration in projects where experts in architecture, digital design, visual communications, business, anthropology, medical and computer science work with us to develop imaginative solutions to theoretical and practical issues

On the publication of Vision, Professor Ian Howard, Principal of Edinburgh College of Art, says: ‘Public engagement with academic research is something we are committed to and passionate about. We have published Vision in the hope that future participation and collaboration in research practices can be expanded and realised as more and more people recognise the quality and diversity of our research.’

Download the PDF of Vision here

Limited hard copies of Vision are available on request for potential partners from the academic and cultural sectors. Requests to [email protected]

Click here for the full ECA press release

Open Access for UK Research As part of International Open Access Week (October 19 – 23, 2009) JISC is today launching a definitive guide to its 15 years of work in Open Access, tracking the changes in UK policy, opinions and what the future will look like.

The guide has been created to showcase the work JISC has achieved for scholarly communications in the UK and is supported by electronic resources including interviews with experts from across education and research. This suite of information is being launched to support UK researchers in opening up their work for better returns on taxpayers’ investment.

Open Access Week is being led by SPARC the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, which is an international alliance of academic and research libraries working to correct imbalances in the scholarly publishing system.

Click here for the Open Access for UK Research guide

Click here for the full JISC press release

The National Student Survey results has been published by HEFCE which has no doubt left school/department managers burning the midnight oil to see how they have faired. Feedback remains to be a talking point with only just over half of Scottish students agreeing or strongly agreeing that feedback has been prompt, detailed and helpful.

But what about the students who neither agree or disagree? If you turn the question around and ask what proportion of students disagree or strongly disagree with the level of feedback they receive then you are looking at approximately a quarter of students. Obviously this is still a substantial number and still makes feedback the worst performing area, but if you are drilling down into course level performance perhaps it is worth bearing in mind.

Table 1 below shows the results for the percentage of Scottish students who responded disagree or strongly disagree to the NSS questions.

Looking at how this analysis effects the overall satisfaction with Scottish HEIs the most notable changes are University of Stirling and Robert Gordon University who (by my calculations*) jump 2 rankings. Below (#) denotes rank.

University of St Andrews91% (1)3% (1)
University of Glasgow91% (1)5% (2)
University of Aberdeen89% (3)6% (4)
University of Stirling88% (4)5% (2)
University of Dundee88% (4)7% (5)
University of Strathclyde87% (6)7% (5)
Robert Gordon University84% (7)7% (5)
Glasgow Caledonian University84% (7)8% (8)
University of Edinburgh82% (9)9% (9)
Napier University81% (10)9% (9)
Heriot-Watt University81% (10)10% (11)
Glasgow School of Art69% (12)22% (12)

*Data provided by the NSS is susceptible to rounding errors. For example University of St. Andrews has an overall percentage agree for Q22 of 92% yet the percentage breakdown is 35% agree and 56% strongly agree, which equals 91%. To allow comparison with the percentage of disagreement, the sum of percentage of responses for agree and strongly agree have been used.

Table 1: Unofficial National Unsatisfied Student Survey (UNUSS)
Provisional sector results for Full-time students - Scotland Registered HEI (% of students who disagree/strongly disagree) extracted from HEFCE NSS 2009 Data

The teaching on my course
1 - Staff are good at explaining things.44
2 - Staff have made the subject interesting.66
3 - Staff are enthusiastic about what they are teaching.44
4 - The course is intellectually stimulating.55
Assessment and feedback
5 - The criteria used in marking have been clear in advance.1715
6 - Assessment arrangements and marking have been fair.1110
7 - Feedback on my work has been prompt.2827
8 - I have received detailed comments on my work.2927
9 - Feedback on my work has helped me clarify things I did not understand.2725
Academic support
10 - I have received sufficient advice and support with my studies.1211
11 - I have been able to contact staff when I needed to.67
12 - Good advice was available when I needed to make study choices.1312
Organisation and management
13 - The timetable works efficiently as far as my activities are concerned.1011
14 - Any changes in the course or teaching have been communicated effectively.1215
15 - The course is well organised and is running smoothly.1113
Learning resources
16 - The library resources and services are good enough for my needs.1211
17 - I have been able to access general IT resources when I needed to.66
18 - I have been able to access specialised equipment, facilities or room when I needed to.66
Personal development
19 - The course has helped me present myself with confidence.76
20 - My communication skills have improved.54
21 - As a result of the course, I feel confident in tackling unfamiliar problems.55
Overall satisfaction
22 - Overall, I am satisfied with the quality of the course.77

1 Comment

Recently I’ve been rediscovering twitter, this was largely instigated by the discovery of a nice little application which allows me to monitor tweets from the comfort of my desktop. The application in question is called Twirl. I had previously tried another desktop client called TweetDeck but didn’t find it particularly intuitive and felt it took over my entire desktop. One of the reasons I lost touch with twitter was I didn’t have a mechanism for alerting me to new tweets. Twirl not only allows me to review my twitter feed but also pops up notifications of new messages in the corner of my screen allowing me to keep a passing eye on what is going on in the ‘twittersphere’. 

The value of twitter is still a hot debate. Moving away from a pure educational use, which I covered in Twitter in higher education, I’ve been recently interested in its use as a marketing tool. This was started after I found Heather Mansfield’s ‘10 Twitter Tips for Higher Education’ on University Business (a site for those interested in higher education management). These tips are for institutions interested in marketing themselves via twitter.

Before designing your institutional twitter campaign there are a couple of demographics you should be aware of. Firstly, How Many People Actually Use Twitter? The answer, approximately 6 million registered users (compared to Facebook’s 200 million). Also the demographic for a twitter user, as highlighted in a recent Pogue’s Post is “older, better educated and higher-earning. About 80 percent … are over 25, and two-thirds of us have college degrees”.

Secondly, who knows about twitter? According to a recent LinkedIn Research Network/Harris Poll over two-thirds (69%) of consumers say they “say they do not know enough about Twitter to have an opinion about it”.

So with such a tight demographic is a institutional twitter presence worthwhile? I think so but I would want to be clever about it. To add to Heather Mansfield’s tips I would add something on integration.

There are a number of ways that you can intelligently integrate twitter into your existing marketing campaigns. At RSC Scotland North & East (@rsc_ne_scotland) we use twitterfeed,which is a free service that automatically turns RSS feeds into tweets. This service has some very useful features allowing to control what is tweeted. For example you can prefix/suffix rss feeds before they are tweeted making it easier for people to scan/search. We use this on rsc_ne_scotland to separate news and events. We also use a keyword filter to be more selective in what we tweet.

I would also look at how twitter can be integrated into other ‘status updating’ services. For example Facebook uses ‘the wall’ to allow users to essentially tweet what they are doing. If your institution already has a Facebook presence I would want to sync my Facebook and Twitter updates. As it happen this is very easy to do because twitter have developed the Twitter on Facebook application.

If your institutions social network presence extends beyond twitter and Facebook you might want to look at This service is allows you to post updates to over 40 social networking sites from one site.

List of HEIs in Scotland N&E I’m following:

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Yesterday (Tue. 2nd Dec '08) saw the publication of the JISC sponsored Guardian Supplement - Digital Student highlighting the experiences and expectations of students in and entering higher education. This particular area has received a lot of recent interest with a number of projects funded by the JISC Learner experiences of e-learning: phase 2, and the Denham reports on Teaching and the student experience and World leader in e-learning.

In particular I'm looking forward to the final report of The Committee of Inquiry into the Changing Learner Experience. This committee, chaired by Professor Sir David Melville CBE, aims to bring 'focus and coherence' to this area, pulling together research to inform policy and strategy for national agencies, universities and colleges. Their remit is to "consider the impact of the newest technologies such as social networking and mobile devices on the behaviour and attitudes of students coming up to and just entered higher education and the issues this poses for universities and colleges".

I was a little disappointed so see that the Committee have decided to only focus on Web 2.0 technologies (mobile appears to have been dropped according to the Committee's emerging findings), particularly as the inquiry state they are "looking to draw the big picture and to interpret it clearly and concisely".  Even when just considering the impact of ICT I would argue there is a whole raft of other influencing factors which effect the learner experience such as the provision/ownership of hardware, or the effectiveness of existing systems (i.e. student email, Virtual Learning Environments, network access). You could also argue that while the majority of students use Web 2.0 in their social life, it is still only a minority who experience this technology as part of formal structured learning. My concern being that emphasis is being placed on a particular technology and not the learning experience as a whole.

While I wrestle with my thoughts on this one some of you might like to read a report commissioned by the Committee on the "Review of current and developing international practice in the use of social networking (Web 2.0) in higher education" (Warning: 141 pages). The Committee also highlight the following relevant activities:

The Mini-Geek in Me…
The Mini-Geek in Me…
Originally uploaded by David M*

Last month I commented on the growth in the Mobile Internet. More evidence of this was revealed on Monday (24th Nov '08) when Neilson Online published the first results from Mobile Media View (full press release available here). They are reporting a 25% growth in the use of mobile Internet from 5.8 to 7.3 million users. More shocking is the fact that this surge in uptake occurred in one quarter (Q2 to Q3 2008). It is probably not surprising that just over 50% of mobile Internet users are aged 15-34.

So what is this mobile generation surfing for? Kent Ferguson, Nielsen Senior Analyst comments that:

It’s interesting to see that BBC Weather, Sky Sports and Gmail are amongst the few sites that have a greater reach on the mobile Internet than the PC-based Internet. This highlights the advantage of mobile when it comes to immediacy; people often need fast, instant access to weather or sports news and mobile can obviously satisfy this, wherever they are.

For me 'immediacy' will continue to grow increasingly important for 21st century learners. A common system found in probably all institutions is a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). VLEs are incredibly cumbersome and largely unusable on a mobile device, an issue which developers like Blackboard seem to continue to ignore. In particular Blackboard cannot be used on the very popular mobile web browsers Opera Mini and Opera Mobile because of the reliance on cookies.

Open source solutions provide a glimmer of hope because they can be customised and styled for mobile browsing. This is not to say there isn't issues, for example,  Moodle will only work with Opera Mini if the installation has cookieless sessions enabled.

There have been some projects which specifically address a mobile VLE. Notably the Mobile Moodle (MOMO) project have gone beyond tweaking style sheets and looked at the fundamental features of a mobile VLE. In particular they have been looking at new scenarios which allow online and offline interaction with Moodle. They have achieved this by developing a small JAVA based application which is run on a students mobile phone. Using this students can login to the institution's Moodle site download mobile elements, which can include quizzes, use these offline, then resynchronising with the central site.

While I see projects like MOMO as a positive development, at the back of my mind I have the nagging question is the growth in mobile Internet another nail in the institutional VLE. When I look at projects like OU's SocialLearn (a previous post on SocialLearn is here), you can see the disaggregation of a central system into the integration of a personal system. The fact that many of the existing web applications being used by students in their social life are already optimised for mobile usage can only strengthen this argument.