What to do when heading into the eye of the storm?

                Originally posted on December 11, 2011 by Graham Steel


(This is an archived copy via WayBackMachine of a post from the no longer functioning Science3.0 website. I’ve done my best in terms of url’s etc.)

Found this post a few weeks ago and then discovered the fact that I have an unused WordPress  blog for general rambling. Nice.

These days, I travel from Glasgow to London several times a year now. For a variety of reasons, I prefer to travel by train (Virgin Express only takes around 4 hours 15 mins).

I book in advance, choose a table seat with a power socket for my mobile devices, sit back and surf the web/read a book, iPod Nano for music etc. etc.

By default, I tend not to spark up a conversation with the person(s) opposite simply for “idle chitter chatter”.  However, should they decide to start a conversation,  I’ll happily contribute to it (if it is of interest, or I’ll switch off).

Last week, I was sitting outside Euston Station awaiting my train back home after spending two days in London for the Open Research Reports SWAT4LS Hackathon. In light of the fact that Peter Murray-Rust (see last link) has already written a fairly comprehensive write up of the event, I don’t intend to add to that.

The BibSoup cluster (anticlockwise) : XX, Naomi Lillie, Tania Gray, Mark McGillivray, Jenny Molloy, Gilles Frydman, Graham Steel

I found out via Twitter (and by phoning a friend who was stranded in Motherwell and had just seen a bus stop shelter flying by) that there were severe weather conditions in Scotland and that train speed restrictions had been enforced across large parts of Scotland to 50 mph. Our train did leave on time, but we were informed that the service would be subject to delay after Preston.

Like all passengers on board, myself and the two other in our (seat) cluster of four were aware of the impending delayed journey. Of the three of us, one was the most up to speed on things for two reasons. I was the only one connected to the web and secondly, I had been following #hurricanebawbag on Twitter. Not only was this very informative, it was equally amusing. According to this page on Wikipedia, the storm was officially named Cyclone Friedhelm.

++ADDENDUM++ That hashtag apparently was trending globally around the time.

I soon became an Oracle of Information in this regard which my fellow passengers found most useful. The polite elderly lady sitting beside me was only travelling to the Lake District, so her interest in the storm was only passive. The young woman sitting opposite like myself was travelling to Glasgow so the two of us chatted together a bit more.

Whilst I didn’t catch her name (let’s call her Lucy), the free flowing conversation between Lucy and I was rather engaging and lasted throughout the duration all the way into Glasgow. Lucy was a 23 year old woman from England who was a 1st year undergrad at Glasgow University studying Humanities/Social Science.  She had been to London to stay with family, and when she asked me why I had been in London, I said for a Hackathon. She gasped “what like computer hacking?”. I explained when most people hear the work hacking, they think of “the dark side” i.e. Computer Hacking as opposed to Hacker (programmer subculture).

I explained in a bit of detail what the 30 or so of us had been doing at the Hackathon and she seemed fairly interested.

She recommended two websites for me to check out, PowerBase and her favourite Journal, Antipode. I had a quick look at the latter on the train. The first thing I wanted to know was whether or not the Journal was Open Access. Lucy said “What is Open Access?”.  I then gave a mini “lecture” about STM publishing. As she’s part of an Institution, she takes it for granted that she has access to the Literature and uses her brother’s library card to do the same when she is in London.  A quick navigation of Antipode confirmed that it is published by Wiley, is Toll Access and the subscription prices are on this page.

Since I was wearing my PLoS Hoodie, I gave her a whirlwind overview of PLoS and their mission.

Lucy asked “Is Open Access material peer-reviewed?”.  I said that this was a common question and “yes it is peer-reviewed”.

As I tweeted later when home:- “Had a fab convo today with a student from Glasgow Uni. who hadn’t heard of #OA but supports it 100% – She got an unused cool #PLoS tshirt”. !

During the conversation, the name George Monbiot came up. Lucy is a fan of his. I advised that I had recently done a podcast at The Guardian and that we discussed Monbiot during that.


At that time, I was looking at new tweets and right on cue was this one from Alok Jha.

“Results of publicly funded research will be open access – science minister”. LINK

David Willetts, the science minister, said the government wants to move to open access while protecting peer review. Photograph: Anna Gordon/Guardian

“The government has signalled a revolution in scientific publishing by throwing its weight behind the idea that all publicly funded scientific research must be published in open-access journals“.

MAJOR piece of news and perfect timing for the conversation.


Later on, out of interest, I asked Lucy if people of her generation bought CD’s. “Never” she replied. “Why download stuff from i-Tunes when you can get it for free via The Pirate Bay and other sites like that”. A bit of an eye opener for me. Cue a previous post from my old blog “There’s Evian, then there’s tap water”.

By this point, the elderly lady had vacated the train, so we were able to have a slightly more liberating conversation.

Some of the #hurricanebawbag tweets were fucking hilarious and not repeatable when the polite elderly lady was present. It was also becoming clear that the storm had largely now passed, yet despite this, the train was travelling at 50mph as opposed to the normal 125mph. We were delayed overall by 1 hour 45 minutes. #ARSE

Lucy has only tweeted a couple of times, doesn’t find it useful. I explained that I use Twitter all the time and how for example the use of hashtags works and how very useful this is when following particular events/conference’s etc.

Some of the #hurricanebawbag Tweets were (as it later transpired) clearly exaggerated such as “River Clyde has burst it’s banks in the centre of Glasgow”.  When I relayed some of the tweets to another passenger, he said something along the lines of “Twitter? you can’t trust anything on that”.  I do beg to differ.

Another question I thought would be interesting to ask Lucy was if her generation use email much these days. For her, other than booking a flight and formal things like that she said “No, never”. Facebook and the like are the default method of communication.

We got to Glasgow and off we went to brave the conditions of a very battered City. A lengthier than expected journey made interesting with the Web at hand…..

And thanks to Peter Murray-Rust, this little fellow returned home with me (badges were added when I got home).

McDawg 3.0

                                                             Posted in geek, open access, Research, technology                                         |                                                 Leave a comment

One Response to “What to do when heading into the eye of the storm?”

  1. He’s Not A Scientist? – Get Him Out of Here | McBlawg Says:

    […] As I reside in Glasgow, traveling through to Edinburgh was a breeze.  Getting to Sheffield was OK, traveled either by car or by train. With regards to London, back then, I would normally fly down as opposed to train these days. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: