Category Archives: Communication

Why you should use Twitter during your PhD

This is a brilliant account of why we – scientists, researchers or academics – should be using social media! By @shereebekker

The Thesis Whisperer

This post is by Sheree Bekker, who is originally from South Africa and now based in Australia as an international PhD scholar at the Australian Centre for Research into Injury in Sport and its Prevention (ACRISP), Federation University Australia. Her research centres around sports safety. Follow her on twitter @shereebekker

twitter-follow-achieverTwitter, according to Wikipedia (yes – how terribly un-scientific of me), is an online social networking and micro-blogging service that enables users to send and read “tweets”, which are text messages limited to 140 characters. Twitter is vital to the success of your PhD. Yes, you heard me read me correctly, a seemingly superficial social media site is a fundamental element that will contribute to the success of your PhD – if you embrace it!

Let me tell you my story.

I was a Masters student in South Africa, where I had completed my undergraduate studies and an Honours…

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Guess Who: Women of the World Festival 2014

Today I took part in the Women of the World Festival, 2014 at Southbank in London. I was delighted to be involved in such an exciting and important event!

The theme of the day was ‘Guess Who’, where 7 professionals (2 men and 5 women) stood on stage and gave only their name. The announcer, a presenter from Cbeebies no less(!), then read out the 7 professions and a piece of information about each professional, such as favourite colour or hobby, and from this one hundred 10 year olds had to guess which person matched each profession.


The professions were; Plumber, Artist, Dancer, Scientist, Champion Athlete, Railway Engineer and Lighting Technician.

The idea of the event was to break down gender stereotypes surrounding profession and show children than men and women can do ANY job they want, hurrah! At the beginning of the day the stereotyped beliefs shone through. Both men were most likely to be voted Plumber and Athlete, because they were men. I was voted Dancer and Artist by over half of the groups, with only 10 out of 100 guessing I was a scientist.

After the children voted they then had two interactive sessions, a panel or a workshop, where professionals demonstrate their trade in a fun and engaging way.

I was asked to do a workshop. I designed an interactive experiment that the kids took part in, spelling out how science as a whole works and how psychology fits into this. As science is about asking questions and designing experiments to test them I had a bit of fun, explaining that psychology is the science of people and behaviour.

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Research question:

Will you get round an obstacle course faster, when blindfolded, if a friend or someone else is giving you instructions?


I asked the kids which group they thought would be faster and got some great responses!


H1‘Friends might try to trick you so that group will be slower’

H2 ‘You might not listen as hard to someone who’s not your friend because you don’t like them’

H3 ‘Friends are always silly so it will take longer’

H4 ‘Friends trust each other more, so that group will be quicker’.

One group had boys and girls so we also looked into gender differences

H5 Boys are lazy so girls will be quicker’.

The kids were split into ‘best friends’ and ‘classmates’ pairs and each took it in turn to guide and be guided round a basic obstacle course (made with chairs and masking tape! Very professional I know) and were timed when doing it. After they all had a turn we plotted the average times of each group on a bar chart:

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Though I’m not sure the results would stand up to peer review scrutiny, it was great to see the kids engaged and really get into trying to figure out why each group behaved differently.

The Big Reveal!

After the workshops we all gathered back on the main stage to find out which professional was which!

Dancer; Male (Lee)

Artist; Male (…)

Champion Athlete (weight lifter); Female (Monique)

Plumber; Female (Petra)

Technician; Female (Roz)

Railway Engineer; Female (Keely)

Scientist; Female (ME!)

After the Big Reveal
After the Big Reveal (Belinda Lawley)

It was great to hear some of the reasons why the children assigned professions to each person:

Lee got Athlete because he wore trainers and running shorts, I got Artist because of the headband I was wearing and Monique got Dancer because of her slender figure. We then asked them do they think they were perhaps incorrect in judging people’s jobs on what they look like or what gender they are? The kids agreed.

The first group was all girls so I really drilled home how girls can do anything they want; one girl said I’d inspired her to be a scientist ‘but not in brains, because they’re gross’. I’ll take that win! The second group said I was the most fun session they’d done, which I’m also delighted with.

This event has made me realise even more how ingrained the stereotypes are for male and female jobs; we have to work harder to put an end to these so girls can pursue any career rather than one society deems normal.

I had a great time, I’d love to do more things like this, so if anyone knows of any opportunities please put in a good word! Also, I’ve got the name of a great Plumber who won’t make sexist remarks when I ask questions about my kitchen! Double Win.

On Stage for the BIG REVEAL
On Stage for the BIG REVEAL (Belinda Lawley)

Why the stupid think they’re smart

This is a lovely explanation of what I’m studying for my PhD, except I’m looking at patients and their knowledge and awareness of illness….but its basically the same thing!

Mind Hacks

Psychologists have shown humans are poor judges of their own abilities, from sense of humour to grammar. Those worst at it are the worst judges of all.

You’re pretty smart right? Clever, and funny too. Of course you are, just like me. But wouldn’t it be terrible if we were mistaken? Psychologists have shown that we are more likely to be blind to our own failings than perhaps we realise. This could explain why some incompetent people are so annoying, and also inject a healthy dose of humility into our own sense of self-regard.

In 1999, Justin Kruger and David Dunning, from Cornell University, New York, tested whether people who lack the skills or abilities for something are also more likely to lack awareness of their lack of ability. At the start of their research paper they cite a Pittsburgh bank robber called McArthur Wheeler as an example, who was…

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Ada Lovelace Day 2013 – Wikipedia Editathon

It’s Ada Lovelace Day! A day where we celebrate and promote women in science who are inspirational and fantastic role models. I was invited to attend an event on Friday 8th October sponsored jointly by the Royal Society, Medical Research Council and Wikipedia, where 15 women I’m scientific careers came together and added or edited Wikipedia entries about inspirational women in STEM careers. There was even a Wikipedia cake

I decided to go to the Edit-athon for a number of reasons. The first was intrigue; I have heard about Ada Lovelace events but never had the opportunity to take part in one. The second was experience; I have always been interested in technology and rely on Wikipedia for brief overviews of many topics and people, so this seemed like a great opportunity to give something back and learn about creating pages and editing Wikipedia. The third reason was for women in STEM, and unfortunately there is still a gender bias in the sciences, especially at more senior levels. Over the last few years I have become more active in this area to try and promote the idea of girls and young women taking STEM subjects where I can. The Wikipedia edit-athon was the perfect opportunity to acknowledge women who have already been very successful in their STEM career and promote them as current role models, something that is currently very rare in the STEM community. The event also allowed information about these inspirational and hugely successful women to be more widely accessed.
I had a fantastic time, learning to edit was a really great experience and I felt I had done something good and useful with my time. The evening event was very inspirational, with a speech from Uta Frith being the highlight. It was great to see so many women, and men, brought together to work towards a better representation of women of STEM in the public eye.

Myself and the other PhD student who came with me have now decided to set up monthly Wikipedia events where we encourage women at our place of work to add more pages and bring more women in STEM into the forefront of science.

I’m now off to Radio 4 Woman’s hour to talk about my day! <Listen here!>
So, Happy Ada Lovelace Day! Have a great one.

‘Street’ science communication?

I just discovered ‘‘, which can translate all your text into gangsta’ speak.

I wonder if my research would be more widely received and deemed more accessible by submitting a more ‘street’ version of the text? Possibly a new method of science communication?

My abstract goes from formal science speak to:

Metacognizzle ” tha mobilitizzle ta be thinkin bout thankin ” be a cold-ass lil central aspect of human consciousness. But fuck dat shiznit yo, tha word on tha street is dat tha link between clinical insight (patients’ understandin of they menstrual illness) n’ metacognizzle is unclear.

Cognitizzle insight (CI) be a freshly smoked up concept from clinical insight research (Beck, 2004), which focuses on tha cognitizzle processes involved up in thankin bout oneself. Well shiiiit, it can be split tha fuck into two concepts; self-reflection (SR; mobilitizzle ta reflect on whether thoughts n’ beliefs bout ourselves is erect, or could be chizzled by one of mah thugs’s opinion) n’ self-certainty (SC; degree of overconfidence our crazy asses have up in our interpretationz of experiences).

CI may also be measured up in healthy adults.Here we examine tha relationshizzle between CI (as measured on tha Beck Cognitizzle Insight Scale; BCIS) n’ metacognizzle (usin tha task designed by Flemin et al, 2010) up in 30 healthy adults (mean age 40.5 years). We estimated metacognitizzle mobilitizzle rockin tha meta-d’ measure pimped by Maniscalco n’ Lau (2012), which controls fo’ response bias n’ type 1 sensitivitizzle (task performance).

In a multiple regression analysis our phat asses demonstrated a thugged-out dope relationshizzle between SC n’ metacognitizzle mobilitizzle up in healthy participants (p=.012). Further analysis indicated a gender*SC interaction (p=.005), driven by stronger association between SC n’ metacognizzle up in thug compared ta biatch participants, n’ you can put dat on yo’ toast. There was no dope associations between SR n’ metacognition. I aint talkin’ bout chicken n’ gravy biatch. Together our thangs up in dis biatch indicate dat CI n’ metacognizzle is inter-related constructs yo, but dat dis link is mediated by tha self-certainty component of insight.


More knitting and neuroscience

By day I’m a neuroscientist, but night (and lunch breaks) I am an avid knitter.

I was inspired to start knitting when I went to the British Neuroscience Association’s Festival of Neuroscience at the Barbican and helped out at the ‘Knit a Neuron’ project. The concept was simple; engage kids with neuroscience by helping them knit neurons and chat about neuroscience whilst they do it. Its therefore no surprise that I love any other link between my two big interests, but I think this one takes the cake.

In short, these brilliant scientists take EEG recordings from individuals’ brains whilst they listen to music which induces various mood states. With these readings they create a single pattern of EEG activation and turn this into a knitting pattern to make….a scarf!

I know what’s at the top of my Christmas list this year!

Read the full account here