2021 projects, #7: books

I own a lot of books. Nowadays, I mostly buy Kindle books, since the bookshelves had to go when we got twins. I now own about 700 books on Kindle, of which 400+ are read at least once. This is the result of one single Twitter account (mostly), @SFSignal, that tweets sales of SF and other fantastic fiction, under the tag sff_eBookDeal. Some of the books go for as low as $1-$2, and that’s where the majority of my digital library comes from.

I also own a lot of actual, physical SFF books. Nearly all paperbacks. We used to have a high shelf for my books along the walls of our entry hall, but when we switched apartments a few years back, that had to go. It swallowed at least 150 books, that now lying in boxes in the cellar storage.

When we started the Matmolekyler project, we started out with buying useful books. I have a bunch of those in my bookshelves (including some I got myself, or as gifts: several books by HaroldMcGee, two priced *signed* books by Gordon Shepherd). Since then, I try to buy food-science-related books when I find them at reaonable prices. That collection is now about 50 books.

I also went through a period where I was thinking a lot about food and cooking history, so I tried to find some of the earlier real cookbooks (and school household training books) from the early 1900s. There are typically cheap and abundant at used book stores, so by now I have quite a few. Including one I got at a museum, which is a copy of a 1800s cookbook along with a companion book written by a historian). And a set of two old ~1800s household encyclopedias in a new edition from a Swedish agricultural society (I had to order them special and pick them up in person). Let’s say, another 40 or so books.

For 2021, I hope to rearrange all of our (mine, really) bookshelves so that I have more SFF books accessible (since I want to re-read them anyway). I hope to inventory and index all books, and maybe even get rid of some. I need to find some good book inventory software – I have Goodreads but haven’t really used it for sorting books yet.

2021 projects, #6: scouting & leadership

The founder of Adolf Fredrik scoutkår, Ivar Åkerfelt.

My kids wanted to join the Scouts, so we put them in the queue for our local Scoutkår, Adolf Fredriks. Kids whose parents agree to help with (co)leading get boosted higher in the queue, and I do have earlier experience, so I indicated my willingness to help. And then we waited.

Not for long, it took maybe a month or so. No regular meetings were held, but we tried to meet up on Zoom each week (and if you have ever wondered why Zoom etiquette is needed, try meeting with a group of eight-year-olds and try to get them to follow a program).

There have been no outside activities yet, but that is our likely next step, so we have gone over what outdoor equipment we have and what we need. Black Friday let us buy two good sleeping bags for a good price. The kids’ great-grandmother gave them each a good outdoor backpack. I found myself hiking boots, outdoor trousers and a decent size backpack (~50 l ) on sales. Rainjackets, -trousers and boots/waterproof shoes we already have, because of Stockholm winters. We also got two pairs of skates and helmets for the kids, because one of the possible future activities is the skating ice frozen in the nearby Vasaparken, arranged every winter season by the local authorities.

So for the next year at least, I will be the co-leader of a troop of 8-year-old scouts (who will turn 9 during the year). I have so many ideas for fun stuff to do, based on my own years in the Mjölby scoutkår at home.

2021 projects, #5: community managers & resilience

The CMX holiday letter states: “ I just reviewed the data with the research team and one thing is crystal clear: community has become an irreplaceable part of business. In a year where a lot of businesses struggled, and there were many layoffs, community teams actually grew. And companies of all sizes, in all industries, are going to be investing in community in a big way next year.”

I have a standing alert for community-related position ads on LinkedIn, and see clearly a parallell increase in community positions offered in science & academia. Where ads earlier have been implicit about the community aspects, hiding it under terms such as ‘field knowledge’, nearly everyone knows and admits to some degree that in academia, it is impossible to succeed without community support. It is built into the system that your peers will (hopefully) acknowledge you and lift your work up – this mechanism is seen in such academic pillars as peer review, recommendation letters, and hiring committees, to name some examples.

Since I did my AAAS Community Fellowship in 2017, a training program that ran twice and which has now transformed into an independent organisation called CSCCE, Center for Scientific Collaboration and Community Engagement , I have been an active member in the community that surrounds CSCCE. We have a lot of interesting activites and projects around community management – interest groups (I’m in the Open Science SIG and lurking in the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion SIG), projects (I’m in one we started in 2017, aiming to describe and pin down community manager skillsets), and Working Groups (I’m in the Community Champions WG).

The theme for the 2021 Community Manager Advancement Day, which takes place on January 25, is resilience. A very fitting theme, after this Covid year. Resilience of self, when the world stops around you; resilience of communities to chaos and changes; resilience of organizations and society – where community has a huge part.

2021 projects, #4: learn something new

I have always sought out situations where I think I could learn something interesting. 2021 will not be different. Many of the tings I have learned over the past decade are by Brownian motion and absorption – spend enough time in a community, you will pick up their interests. So I thought it would be a nice thing to learn something in a more structured fashion.

If there is one thing – something not Covid – which has popped up repeatedly in the space around me this year, it is AI and machine learning. Many papers with new neuro tools using deep learning and other ML approaches. That fantastic protein folding study. The Semantic Scholar search enginge’s new amazing TLDR:s of papers. And I attended a very interesting webinar on the possible applications of AI in music (I think it was a Stockholm AI event, but their event calendar is bugging out on me currently, so I can’t verify).

What entices me is the amazing creativity I see in many approaches – there are obviously a wide range of AI applications that I had not been able to imagine.

So I have signed up for two courses, one translated into Swedish – mostly to pick up the Swedish terms if they even exist yet, also because the translation is fantastic – and one in English from Coursera.

My 2020 project was to learn Python. Since I effectively started it in September, I haven’t come that far yet (I am at the NumPy stage), so this will be a continuing project in 2021. Also, I was gifted my friend Benjamin Auffart’s new book on ML in Python, the Artificial Intelligence in Python Cookbook, so I have resources to make this another branch of the AI learning project.

2021 projects, #3: test-knit a cardigan

Test knit with straight 6.5 mm bamboo needles

I have knit a ton of things over the last 15 or so years, but I have never tested someone else’s pattern, yet benefited from others testing patterns I then bought and used. This is sort of the knitting world’s equivalent to peer review – you invest your input in the system and it pays back to you (eventyally and indirectly).

I decided to start off easy, so when my friend Helena (who designs and knits awesome and pretty complex sweaters and hats) sent out a call for testers of a new cardigan, the Gunhild cardigan, I hopped on. In thick, wooly Alafoss Lopi – a much quicker knit than what she usually designs, and much esier as a starting point.

The test knit came out beutifully – exactly the right number of rows and stiches measured over 10 x 10 cm (the standard way; each pattern has/should have this info). But it required cable needles, and despite more than a decade of hoarding needles, I didn’t have enough of that kind in that precise size.

Ordering stuff online just before Christmas is no fun, but I found a new-to-me Swedish company that had the right needles and order the most expedited freight option. Then an excruciating week of waiting, before they finally arrived late last night. Which puts this project sqarely into 2021!

2021 projects, #2: Veganuary

There is an international movement, started in the UK and calling themselves Veganuary, who aim to inspire people to go vegan for a month, on a try. Internationally, it is big, with more than a million people in total signed up since 2014. In Sweden, it is probably still more of a fringe movement – but still involving tens of thousands of people – supported by Djurens Rätt.

I have signed up for the international version. I already have a general ongoing ‘project’ to eat more vegetables, both in larger amounts and more varieties, so this should fit right in. I am mostly doing this for climate reasons, so expensive imported-by-flight ingredients are out.

I’ll be doing this in conjunction with needing to cook for and feed two kids, aged 8, omnivores. Wish me luck.

How do I become a “community-whatsit”?

This post was written when I was in the then AAAS CEFP training program, now CSCCE. It first appeared on the CSCCE blog on August 3, 2017. I am grateful to Lou Woodley (CSCCE) for edits and comments. The post was written in relation to my role as Community Engagement Officer at INCF (International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility).

“Don’t worry about understanding everything at once, NOBODY has the right background for this” said my MSc thesis supervisor, a dozen or so years ago. Then, the advice applied to mathematical modeling of the biochemical networks involved in learning and memory, an area that came with heaps of dense academic papers peppered with acronyms and incomprehensibly condensed descriptions of experimental protocols. Now, that advice applies equally well to community management, an area of expertise I did not even know existed in science until a few years ago.

With the ongoing funding crunch and uncertain academic job market, interest seems to be growing in alternative careers. As a person who went from a regular PhD to an atypical job at a science non-profit, I’m increasingly often asked for career advice that boils down to ‘What should I do to get to where you are now?’.

Recently I participated as mentor in a career workshop for postdocs and other students, and I was getting the same type of questions. Since I had no idea one could become a community manager, I ended up in my position mostly by a series of chance choices and events. But there are some things I am in retrospect glad I happened to do or learn, because they turned out to be very useful.

Should I get a PhD?

It depends. My PhD has been immensely useful, since I am still in a related community. If your intended community does research, or is close to science in some other way, having similar experience will help you understand them better, and will make it easier to talk their language. Joining a field shows you how it is to come into a community as a new member, and is a useful experience to have later when you are helping others become part of the community you manage.

Learning confidence in dealing with hard, perhaps unsolvable problems — like your own research project — is the very definition of a useful transferable skill. With that said, a PhD is also several years of niche work that will be hard to bear if you don’t love it (at least part of the time). And there is an inordinate amount of time spent formatting reference lists.

Should I learn something else?

Besides the content of your PhD? Definitely. I began my random walk towards community management with communication, and that is probably a good starting point if you have a background in research. If you are coming directly from academia, chances are you’ve become an expert at communicating clearly with your scholarly peers but are getting increasingly blank stares from anyone else. Or you might be a communication genius, but unless you have some way to prove that, many people will assume the incomprehensible scholar stereotype applies to you, too.

Science just published a great article on whether you should add another degree after your PhD and as they say, adding verified experience can help. But it doesn’t have to be formal courses. Writing a blog or running a podcast/YouTube channel/improv theater troupe will not only give you experience in communicating with a varied range of audiences. It will also serve as a handy track record of communicative ability. A general familiarity with social media will also be useful; if you are not working with it yourself, you will likely collaborate with those who do. And any task involved in generating or framing content — such as editing, layout, print, photography, user experience design and website management — is a valuable potential community manager skill.

Is it less stressful?

This question tends to come from people having done at least one post-doc and looking with bleak disillusionment at a future that seems to mostly consist of writing rejected grant applications. The answer is: Nope. At best it is differently stressful. Instead of organizing your life around one big risky project with a well-thought-out plan, you’ll be juggling an untidy heap of lesser but more severely conflicting projects — the inaugural CEFP fellows motto of “We multi-task while multi-tasking” is only partly a joke — and will most likely see your plans evaporate into thin air on a weekly basis. And instead of not knowing what you are doing after your three years of funding run out, you’ll be subject to the vagaries of yearly or even quarterly budgets.

But I can’t find a job like that out there.

To which I say: Grow your job into the role you want! A lot of jobs border on potential community management roles. Mine was a traditional one-way communications job at the start. I did not plan to spend the rest of my life writing newsletters and layouting print materials, and I also felt that we as an organization could probably serve our community better if we were a bit more communicative.

So I asked my boss to let me start a few social media efforts in our organization’s name, beginning with Twitter. I went to conferences and talked, talked, talked to everyone who was introduced to me as a community member, trying to find out what they wanted and needed. I got involved with a few community initiatives, some that worked and some that didn’t, and spent hours trying to pinpoint what made some take off while the others simply puttered along. I organized boring workshops and interesting workshops, and tried to do the latter more and more often. Gradually, I began thinking more like a community manager, and less like a regular communications person.

All the major deciding points in putting me where I am today looked like random events at the time. There happened to be funding for a PhD position. On a whim, I started a blog. I was lucky to find a job where I could stretch my old role into a new one. Ask most other community managers, and I suspect they will look back at an equally random career trajectory.

So don’t worry. Nobody has the right background for this at the start 🙂

You can learn more about scientific community manager roles (including Malin’s!) in the CSCCE Meet a Scientific Community Manager series. Find all of the CEFP Fellows’ posts here.

This post was originally posted on the CSCCE blog on August 3, 2017.

Why social media research should not be done by the non-social-media-literate

Jag är förkyld och orkar inte blogga på riktigt, men jag blir fortfarande arg när någon forskningskommunicerar dåligt på internet. Ni får den engelska varianten för jag orkar inte heller översätta.

This was, as many of my blog posts, triggered by someone being wrong or misleading on the internet. The worst cases often come from newsreleases, this one too.

I’ll just leave you to quickly skim this little gem https://neurosciencenews-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/neurosciencenews.com/depression-social-media-17324/amp/

TLDR: Social media linked to depression
(note the sneaky weasel word ’linked’ in the title, it does NOT mean ’causes’)

Sigh. ”It used to be a hen-and egg situation, but now we clearly see increased social media use linked with depression”. NOPE. This is clearly STILL a hen-and-egg situation. Despite the claims in this newsrelease it is still not proved by this study that social media results in depression.

For instance, in the long lead-up to my depression, I buried myself increasingly in my phone as a defence, because I was too cognitively depleted to engage with my family, and social media (and mobile games) was easier than real interaction. I think that is a pretty common reaction in stressed and tired people in general, I’ve seen it a lot in new parents. And stress and tireness are commonly a risk factor and possible trigger for depression.

My take-home from this is rather: be wary of changed social media usage patterns in people, it indicates that they don’t feel well and may get worse.

And being condescendent and/or aggressive about someone’s social media use, which is the most common approaches I have seen the social media antagonist crowd take – and won’t THIS news release trigger them into a frenzy – will not help things, rather the opposite.

And even more annoying, becasue the whole research field of ”let’s prove with SCIENCE that internet/social media/’screen time’ is BAD’ (I refuse to dignify that marsh with an academic name) does this. Let us stop with the cliche-based guessing hypothesising from non-social media literate people, that is just bad science!

Social media doesn’t make people feel bad because they follow a lot of unreachable, superficial narcissist accounts – because that is not what people in general DO on social media. A few masochists might, but in general people follow other people they like and know, or want to be updated on, or individuals or groups that have the same hobbies as them. Yarn social media, for instance, has lots of nice people and content on each platform I use or follow. Instagram #knitting is my favourite cheer-up-channel.

Andra länkar / other links

Min doktorsavhandling går att ladda ner från DIVA (länk)
Min licavhandling går också att ladda ner från DIVA (länk)

Jag gick ett träningsprogram (Fellow’s Program) via AAAS under 2017, för att utvecklas som community manager. Programmet har nu omformat sig till en fristående organisation, CSCCE (Center for Scientific Collaboration and Community Engagement) och man kan fortfarande bli en fellow. Och här är mina fellow members!

My PhD thesis can be downloaded from the DIVA portal (link)
My licentiate thesis can also be downloaded from the DIVA portal (link)

I was accepted to a training program for scientific community managers (Fellow’s Program) via AAAS in 2017, to develop further as community manager. The program is now reformed as CSCCE (Center for Scientific Collaboration and Community Engagement) and you can still become a fellow. And these are my fellow members!