Let's Talk Research: The Stirling Way!

One of the main problems with postgraduate life is the potential for isolation. It is very easy to hole yourself up at your desk, be it at the university or at home, and get completely involved with yoour research. But how many times do you run into problems with particular areas of your research and wish there was some way of finding others who use the same systems/methods or are working in the samme field who may be able to give you a few helpful suggestions? I'm sure I'm not alone in finding myself in this situation several times over the past couple of years.

Until just over a year ago, Stirling did not even have a Graduate Research Schoolto act as a focal point for the postgraduate community. It was during my involvement in the establishment of this organisation, that I began to fully realise and appreciate the lack of any means of coommunication between researchers at Stirling and beyond. My initial frustration was with trying to communicate with other postgrads in the university to get their views on the potential establishment oof the Stirling Graduate Research School(SGRS). As I progressed with my own research, however, I began to see a further need for a means of disseminating information about my work as well as finding other people with similar interests and methods in times of desperation. I eventually hit on the idea of creating a Postgraduate Directoryon the World-Wide Web.

My involvement with the setting up of the SGRS provided the perfect opportunity for gathering information from as many people as possible. A graduate research school discussion list was set up and I maade full use of this to collect a standard set of information from postgrads throughout the university. I also backed this up with paper forms which were mailed to existing students and handed out to nnew students at their Induction Course. I decided to keep the information as simple as possible: people were only asked to provide their name, departmental address, telephone number, e-mail address, suummary of research topic, systems/methods used and academic background.

The response was encouraging and, with the help of our departmental computing adviser, I soon became familiar with the basics of HTML commands and creating web pages. The Stirling Postgraduate Directorywas born and I have administered it ever since. It took a little time to set up but once I had created my standard files, it was a very quick operation to amend or add entries to the Directory.

I have received queries from people from as far away as New Zealand and Canada, proving that it is not only used at the university level for which is was primarily created. It is a very basic set-up alllowing searches by department or surname and my ambition is to further improve the format so that searches can be done through the use of subject words, but unfortunately I am only an amateur and I havve my PhD to finish!

If anyone would like to have a scan of these web pages, they are very welcome to visit the site at: http://www.stir.ac.uk/research/pgdir/page1.htm

I am happy to answer any questions, should anyone wish to try something like this at their own institution. Similarly, I would be delighted to receive any suggestions for ways of improving this "doocument". You can contact me by e-mail at fhc1@stir.ac.uk.