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Thoughts from the Web Science conference

At the end of June, I was fortunate to be able to attend the 2015 Web Science conference, in Oxford. This was my first Web Science conference and I was very pleased to be able to attend as I have had my eye on their conferences with interest for the past few years.

Web Science focuses upon the World Wide Web and society. It is a broad and fundamentally interdisciplinary field, bringing together perspectives from Computer Science and Social Sciences. (This description does not do justice to what an undertaking this represents - or how important it is to combine the perspectives). Reflecting my work in recent years as an educational technologist and researcher on interdisciplinary Ed Tech projects, the Web Science community is very intellectually appealling. Topics included MOOCs, social machines, robo ethics, computer game studies, and social media in a plethora of different social contexts.

With this in mind, I was excited when I submitted a short paper which was accepted as a poster presentation (the topic of my poster relates to my PhD work, and presented an analysis of questions academics pose on Academia.edu). I was also invited to take part in a workshop on Analyzing Scholarly Communication on the Web, where I presented a short discussion paper about the ResearchGate score as an academic metric. This provided me with a new perspective on my own PhD work, which I had not previously considered in terms of altmetrics. Indeed, my head was buzzing with various fresh ideas by the end of the conference.

Something which I hadn't anticipated about the conference was just how many people I 'knew' already; I've never been to another conference where I have met, for the first time in person, people who are already valued members of my Twitter network. Which makes me wonder: am I a Web Scientist? For years I have been introducing myself as a 'something' with a 'but', as I've moved from my undergraduate degree in Biology through to a learning technologist, formalising this with a masters in Educational Research, and now studying academics' social media networks. I've collected fragments of disciplines without becoming fully immersed in one. Yet I do feel quite at home in Web Science.

I don't think that the full proceedings are out yet, but they will be published in the ACM digital library; full information about the conference and programme can be found at http://www.websci15.org/ . Alas, the sessions weren't recorded. The 2016 conference will be held in Hannover, Germany.

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