Sunday, June 14, 2009

Workshops at InSITE 2009

The InSITE 2009 conference started off on Friday with some workshops (the day before the official opening of the conference).

Tim Ellis and Bill Hafner gave a talk on “Security and the Professor”. They looked at security issues for the professor in the modern age. Only some years ago, most professors would only use the PC at work, thereby leaving all security concerns to the institution. Nowadays, however, work is brought to the home PC, to a laptop or mobile device using wireless networks and to internet cafes everywhere. That makes a whole range of new security problems which we should be aware of, particularly if we are working on confidential information, such as student grades. Ellis and Hafner analyzed the security risks from three perspectives: the environment, the network and the computer. It was an interesting reminder, although personally I tend not to work on confidential materials, luckily.

William H. “Bill” Burkett talked about “Academic Uses of Second Life and other emerging/converging technologies in your classroom”, with rather more weight on the “other” part. Personally, I’m not too convinced about the use of Second Life – it needs to be used quite a lot to be worth the fuss of making all students install the program (on every computer they use) and to register and then design their avatar. However, he also gave the link to a blog with some links to interesting resources.

Then there was a workshop presenting the Informing Science Institute’s journals and books. There are no less than eight different journals connected to the institute, which all publish all articles online free of charge (as well as on paper for a fee). Moreover, the institute publishes books that are also available online (but also on paper). I do like this policy a lot, as it means that the ideas will be more easily available to others.

Thereafter, there was a panel on the topic “What is Informing Science?” One major difference of opinion in the panel was whether it would be better to stick to the original idea of Eli Cohen, which pointed out three main components: a client, a delivery system and an informing environment. Actually, Eli Cohen himself disagreed with this, thinking that the field had evolved so that we could no longer simply stick to the original, founding ideas. Obviously, for a newcomer like me, it is far too early to have opinions on this.

Finally, Linda Knight and Terry Steinbach held a very useful workshop titled “Creating Research Manuscripts for Publication”. Including editor and reviewer experience, they gave helpful advice on how to work on a research article. For instance, they had a checklist of ten points – if you follow these, you will be sure to get your paper published. They also showed an interesting diagram of an article, showing which links should be there. For instance, obviously any problem you mention in the introduction should be revisited in the end. While much of what they said sound like common sense, it is still easy to miss one or more of them when you are busily writing an article. So I think it will be nice to look back to this workshop in future.

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