I have returned back to Scotland after a week in Zadar for the Information Seeking in Context (ISIC) conference and have many things to reflect on. The trip has been planned since May when some of our research group found out that their posters, presentations and doctoral workshop applications had been accepted. Last week we made the trip to the University of Zadar where the conference was being held. It has been an intense but enjoyable week and something I was quite looking forwards to with it being my first academic conference of the PhD journey.
The conference was split into two main sections – the pre-conference doctoral workshop and the main conference itself and I have so much to reflect on from taking part in each. Some of the things need further exploration and some need a lot of thinking but I am grateful that I had the opportunity to attend the workshop and conference as it has given me much food for thought about my own PhD research.
The doctoral workshop
On the day before the main conference, my colleagues (Frances, Iris and John) and I took part in the doctoral workshop. This was an opportunity to meet other doctoral students form all around the world and share our research collectively. It was an opportunity to present our work in smaller groups, and following this presentation we received feedback on our research from fellow students and academic mentors. It was a collective process of feedback and response in helping to improve our research and I as provided invaluable feedback my two academic mentors: Professor Ivanka Stričević and Professor Ina Fourie as well as all other students present.
The workshop gave me the opportunity to also present my work in a 10 minutes. This was not pre-prepared and I was nervous, but it was good to give an overview of my research to others in the group. I was questioned on my definitions of innovation, the relevance of the research to information science and given some recommendations on the use of different topics within the PhD (focusing on information behaviour and information seeking in learning). These suggestions were great and were just what I was looking for so they will be getting followed up and incorporated into my research.
My initial concerns when attending the conference was whether my PhD research had enough information science in the topic and whether it would fit. I questioned if my research could be improved at all to make it coherent within the information science domain and these concerns were unexpectedly answered in the doctoral workshop. The feedback I received has made me think about my topic and how I can emphasise the information science in it… it is an information science PhD after-all!. However, it has also made me reflect upon the reasons for doing my research and how much I enjoy it so changes to my research should not be something I welcome with uncertainty but something I should welcome with pride. As part of the doctoral workshop I asked questions regarding my theoretical framework and the relationships with my sponsors (relationship management) and was not surprised by these answers. I had experienced my RD5 review not long ago and we addressed these questions in my meeting so I was quite reassured when the answers form my mentors were within the same lines of what had already been said.
The workshop was organised by Dr Theresa Anderson and Professor Ross Todd, both of whom have great experience of how valuable the workshops are. They encouraged us all to mingle, chat together and presented activities together to test our learnings from the day. We even had a post-doctoral workshop dinner to continue our conversations elsewhere and meet others we had not done during the day. For me, it was good to see perspectives of information science from an international view and explore research from other doctoral students at different stages of the journey.
I left the workshop with questions in my head about my theoretical framework and methods. More importantly I still had one major question which I was hoping to find grounds in the main conference…
Does my PhD really fit here in the Information Science Domain?????
From the main conference programme you can see that there were speakers from all over the world taking part in the three day event. Papers explored theories, methods and empirical research carried out in the current research context. I had gone into the main conference with specific talks highlighted that I wanted to hear, but ended up staying for the vast majority of them all. The topics were diverse and I was interested in exploring research in relation to learning in the workplace or learning in general to see the perspectives used to explore these areas. This theme appeared a lot more than I was expecting which made me feel a little at ease knowing my research was about learning itself. I was intrigued to find a theory talk that I may be able to incorporate into mine, and after discussions with the authors of the paper, I have decided this is something I must explore further in terms of how it can be incorporated into workplace learning.
I was particularly interest in this talk here as I knew it was the most relevant to my research. Within the first 10 minutes my eyes were glued to the screen as some of Dr Moring’s justification for choices were very similar to mine.
For example, I am using both information science and organisational studies literature because I feel you cannot explore learning through one single domain. I also use the Social Cognitive Theory to underpin my research but this may be incorporated with another theory as there is (yet) no single theory in any domain to explain the whole of my research. Dr Morning has similar justifications for her paper too which comforted me in knowing my decisions were justified and that someone else in the field has had similar ideas and justifications to me.
During the main conference I had three things to do: (1) a one minute madness presentation of my doctoral research (alongside all other doctoral students); (2) a one minute madness presentation of my poster, which was expected to be in more depth and; (3) my poster presentation.
As this was my first conference, not only PhD conference but international conference, I was spectacularly nervous for all of this. As I am not a fan of presenting in front of others, I needed to quickly pluck up the courage to address the whole conference for both one minute madness presentations. This fear is something just need to get over as my fears of completely messing my presentation up in front of everyone are clearly just all in my head. I must admit, I did practise the presentations beforehand knowing I often speak too fast. Whilst practising I realised I had far too many words to say in one minute so tried to cut these down considerably so I could speak slower and speak a little better with my accent. I think my poster presentation was delivered okay, and I had some interest in what I was doing. However, again my concerns were confirmed. My PhD has a certain audience and often not from the information science background so I had to explain the information science aspect of my research to those it was unclear to. Undoubtedly, this has clarified some decisions I need to make and some things I need to discuss with my supervisory team to make sure my research is relevant and fits in with all disciplines that the research crosses in its development.
I believe that the organisers of the ISIC conference did a remarkable job of selecting a perfect location for the conference. I mean, who would not want crisp blue seas and glorious sunsets as you participate in conference and after conference related activities.
On a more personal note, attending the conference gave me the opportunity to explore part of the world I had never been to before and see how other cities live. I was able to explore some of the historical aspects of Zadar like the Old Town and some of the more touristy attractions such as the fabulous Sea Organ. Overall, having time away from Edinburgh has helped me reflect on my research as a whole. I enjoy being in Edinburgh but have the opportunity to travel and meet academics form all over the world is an experience which is just priceless. Walking along the beautiful coast and having some time to think has helped me clarify
what I need to do for the next steps of my PhD and has given me a lot of food for thought. This food for thought will be relayed back to my supervisory team with the justifications of why I want to make the changes I would like to make.