QR codes

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QR codeIn case you’ve been perplexed by those funny little squares that have been appearing all over campus, they are QR codes – short for Quick Response code. Although the look like tiny Rorschach tests, they are actually a scannable code, capable of holding any type of data. They originated in the automative industry and were used to manage inventory, but are now much more widely deployed to enable those armed with smartphones to find more information on a particular product or service by pointing them to a website.

There are more imaginative uses, too. You might have noticed an outbreak of QR codes in the Library, allowing you to quickly report rowdiness in the quiet areas. With a flick of a wrist, you can summon a Librarian to tell them to shhhhh.

If you already have a smartphone, then you’re just a few short steps away from being able to take advantage of this new technology. There are a number of free apps available. For Android, the most popular scanner is by ZXing and there’s a similar product available for the iPhone.

Sadly, as it with the case of any innovation, there are some annoying people who have devoted a lot of time to adapting QR codes for malicious use. Be careful where you point your smartphone, as some codes will direct you to dodgy sites intent on stealing your details. They are in the minority, however, and most will simply help you access information and services quickly and easily.

Should you want to generate your own QR codes, there are many website that will allow you to do this for free, including And if you want to find out more about the technology behind these strange blobs, there’s a very good article on Wikipedia (the QR code above will also take your there).

Do let us know if you come up with any imaginative uses of your own.

Raising your academic profile with LinkedIn

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Are you making the most of your LinkedIn profile? Personally, I’m uncomfortable with self-promotion, but I do engage in it. Researchers have to ‘put themselves out there’; ‘engage with the wider researcher community’ and other such clichés. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but clichés are not untrue. We know that doing these things will help us to raise our profile. Maybe not immediately, but making ourselves visible in social networking platforms, on websites, in online communities *will* have benefits that come later.

Researchers who do engage on some level with digital self-promotion tend to have wider networks than those that refrain. Your profile is available to others, often tagged with keywords, perhaps accompanied by PDFs of your conference/journal papers and slides from your presentations. People will find you! With the recent opening of Google Scholar Citations (did you see Martin Eve’s guest post on this?) you are now even more discoverable.

What about LinkedIn?

In the light of newer, shinier platforms, LinkedIn may look a little like ‘facebook for grown-ups’, which I think underestimates the reach and potential of using it. I know someone who was invited to take part in a cross-disciplinary group in the states, through making contacts and publishing her CV on LinkedIn. This was a paid job, not an internship. Recently a colleague told me that at least one large employer in the UK has stopped using application forms for recruitment – they ask only for the applicants LinkedIn profile. Scary as this may be, it’s also an opportunity in disguise. Your LinkedIn profile makes your skills and experience available to a huge number of professionals in all areas, including other academics and researchers. But it does mean to you need to keep it up-to-date, and make sure you’re making the most of it.

In this presentation, Sue Beckingham, Education Developer, takes you through why you might want to set up a LinkedIn profile, and how to manage it to make sure you’re accessing the best that LinkedIn can offer. There is a transcript available to accompany the presentation on the SlideShare website. Let us know how you get on.

Slides and audio from Hugh Kearns workshops

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Slides and audio recordings from the Hugh Kearns workshops are now available on the study direct site ‘E-learning for Researchers’. These include:

  • ‘Defeating Self Sabotage’ (19th Jan)
  • ‘Turbocharge Your Writing’ (20th Jan)
  • ‘Creating the 7 secrets of highly successful research students (for supervisors)’ (20th Jan)

All researchers should have access to this site at:>

If there are any difficulties with access please let us know.