Thursday, April 03, 2008

I'm back

Olly Bongo's from the Society for General Microbiology Spring Conference, which was held at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre*, after some train madness. (It turns out that to get from Edinburgh to the East Midlands I had to travel on the West Coast Mainline, and my colleague who was trying to get to Manchester had to travel on the East Coast Mainline. Who knew? Could their geographical knowledge have anything to do with the train I was on being half an hour late?)

Overall, I enjoyed the meeting, but not without some discomfort. The membership of SGM is heavily focussed on laboratory research, although the executive is now more advanced with regard to matters such as education, public policy and the public understanding of science - forward-looking enough to have sponsored my work in education over an extended period of time. There are some exciting developments in the use of social media being planned, but since these are under embargo at present, you'll have to wait a while before you read about them here.

The conversation I had with several SGM members went along the lines of:
What do you work on?

I'm interested in education research.

Yes, but what do you work on?
Another memorable exchange was about the possibility of publishing online posters presented at the meeting:
I'm not prepared to jeopardize a future paper in Nature by publishing what I put on my posters.

So what do you think of the Research Council's requirement to to publish in open access journals?

It's more important for my student's careers to publish in Nature.

So what do you do about the open access requirement?

I just ignore it.
I'm happy to relate this conversation here in the knowledge that the person concerned will never read it, because I didn't publish it in Nature. Some way still to go on the education front in SGM then...


*Update: When I got back to Leicester, the following email was waiting for me:
Subject: Looking for some feedback
Dr Cann,
I saw your twitter regarding wifi access at EICC pop up on my bloglines feed and I was wondering if you minded me asking a few quick questions?
I am responsible for delivering IT services at EICC and this includes building wide wireless access. I find balancing the requirement to provide a high quality, high speed service to many hundreds of users at one time with the cost of providing that service a tricky one so was interested to see that the cost we charge here was too high for you.
I have used the services on National Express and have often found that now they are free more people are using them and so the connection is often very slow to the point that I would have preferred to pay for a faster service.
Would your expectation be that a building such as the EICC should have a free service and if so would you have been satisfied if a slightly restricted bandwidth and service (web and email only) was free and a faster, unrestricted service was charged for?
Any comments you might have would be a great help in improving services in the future and I hope you do not mind me contacting you about this subject.
Richard Lloyd
Technical Production - ICT
To which I have replied:
Dear Richard,
It speaks highly of customer service at the EICC that you picked up on my comments on Twitter and contacted me so quickly, which I appreciate. I found the National Express East Coast mainline wifi service to be variable in speed, presumably depending on the speed, direction and location of the train and on how many passengers are using it at one time. I'm frankly staggered that it's possible at all to provide a "free" wifi service (my return ticket cost over a hundred quid, much more expensive that flying, but a lot greener) on a moving train.
I can't comment on the quality of the EICC wifi service since I didn't avail myself of it. The reason for this is that the delegates at this conference already paid a three-figure registration fee. Normally, another ten quid a day for wifi might be acceptable if it were not for the fact that by walking literally ten yards across the road to Olly Bongo's sandwich shop I could get "free" wifi for the price of a cup of coffee, or by walking a couple of hundred yards up to the Black Bull in the Grassmarket, where the wifi costs £2.50 a pint but comes with free beer.
You may not be aware of the fact that at academic conferences it is normally the case that wifi is provided "free" with your three-figure registration fee. I'm aware that SGM, not being a very technologically-advanced organization, did not negotiate this service with you when the EICC meeting was arranged, but with the number of small businesses providing a "free" wifi service within yards of the EICC, 10 quid a day feels like you are gouging your customers, so I'll vote with my feet.
I'd be happy for you to pass my comments on the the EICC management to improve the service at your otherwise excellent facility.

1 comment:

  1. I was at EICC (1st time) myself last September.

    *One* perspective during my three days there was not about internet access since I don't currently own a wi-fi device, but rather, something else.

    I did do my bit though to educate the delegates present about Open Access/Self Archiving and whilst the uptake was mixed, I am highly confident that I got many seeds firmly planted in the right places.

    Seeds wont grow on their own though....

    Since the subject matter of the Conference is irrelevant to the grander scheme of things, I re-edited the blog post in question about a week after my initial posting.


    For some reason, my two url's in my last comment went badly wrong, so I'll leave 'em out this time round.