Today I attended a Research Forum: Working across disciplines and across countries (Research Focus Area) RFA run by the Securing food, water and the environment RFA (Research Focus Area). RFAs were implemented at La Trobe more than a year ago and are still a work in progress. The concept of the RFAs being to draw together cross discipline and research innovation, specialization and collaboration. I went along in my role as Faculty Librarian of Science Technology and Engineering to network and liaise with the participants, and mostly to listen to the research being undertaken. Although much spoken about was over my head, and aspects of environmental research I had little idea about, a common theme regarding collaboration kept coming back to the network via the people we know. This I could relate to.
Some examples spoken about included knowing a friend of a friend in another faculty, department or institution. Because of a chance meeting at a seminar, a forum, or a workshop an aspect of research or collaboration was achieved. Because of a known expert within a particular area that networked them to meet up with someone else which led to a collaboration. It was these kinds of recurring themes that were stated from the presenters. Few of these people have a social media knowledge or networks. There seemed to be a recurring lack of knowledge of the additional services or knowledge of the networks available to them by the various areas within the University or even from the life experience of the people in the room. Relying mostly on their known tried and true previous experiences and pathways of getting things done and having a faith in known experiences and people, but giving homage to new experiences and some experiences and collaboration outside of their known disciplines and stating that as being a good thing.
I reflected on how much richer my life and my professional network is through my PLN, my twitter connections, and my ability to be a connecter in my liaison role. On arrival at the forum I talked and then sat with an academic I’ve had dealings with over the years on teaching and research matters, as well as knowing he is a bike commuter and we have bikes as a common connection. Our conversation led to the common theme at the moment of job uncertainty and university restructure. An RFA director I met recently at a meeting happened to be in a Twitter training session I led a few weeks ago, and our connections led to an after forum conversation about the University repository and linking of academics research to potential online listing and linking to full text articles. And an academic I have had email connection with over the years, at this forum led to the first time we have met face to face, and again a conversation about restructure and being in the library a similar boat to the faculty.
Life is good as a connector.