In the first few months of this year, the spread of Covid-19 saw rapid changes to the teaching and learning environment that staff at tertiary institutes had to lead and adapt quickly to, for the welfare of students and their education. As it is still unclear when international travel might be possible again, staff will be thinking about what this means for the dissemination of their research, particularly at conferences, which are so important for networking and serendipitous encounters.
Laura Harvey, from the School of Environmental and Animal Sciences, had a poster abstract – “Do Labradors really deserve their ‘eat anything’ reputation? Assessing obesity in a variety of dog breeds” – accepted for the World Veterinary Association Congress, which was to be held in Auckland in early April. The conference was moved online, in association with The Webinar Vet, a UK-based provider of continuing professional development. Laura converted her poster to a five-slide, five-minute presentation and, she says: “It was a fairly straightforward process in terms of the actual presentation. I fielded a few questions from listeners, more than I suspect I would have received from a physical poster session at a conference, so that’s great. There were about 40 people listening in to the presentation. It’s hard to know how this would compare to how many would have read the poster at the conference, but the session was also recorded, so people can go back and listen if they want. It will be interesting to see what happens with future conferences and the online space.”
Unitec Research Associate Shannon Wallis had a paper – “Disposal or treatment: Future conservation for solid waste from the construction and demolition industry” – accepted to present at Waste Management 2020, a conference organised by the Wessex Institute, UK, and due to take place in Madrid in July. The event has now been moved online, and Shannon will present her paper as a webinar, in order to have it published in the proceedings.
For Dr Terri-Ann Berry, Director of Unitec’s Environmental Solutions Research Centre, the Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated the capability of webinars, and Zoom meetings, to share research more widely. While we have known this in theory in the past, and used these platforms to some extent, their forced rapid uptake has shown researchers their potential to increase the reach of research and collaboration. Terri-Ann had already been presenting her research in a series of webinars on environmental matters for Engineering New Zealand, to provide environmental skills and awareness to members, including students. Engineering New Zealand is now offering these webinars to the South Pacific Engineers Association. Terri-Ann also has the opportunity to share her research with a colleague, Paula Buckley, formerly of Unitec and now at the American University of Kurdistan. Terri-Ann’s research into the long-term effects of contaminants in the environment is relevant to Kurdistan, where water quality may be affected by residues from chemical warfare.
While other staff have had to embrace novel ways of presenting their research during the current period of isolation, Bobby Hung (aka Berst), Academic Leader in the School of Creative Industries, has been disseminating his research online via the Real Time Web Series on his YouTube channel since 2016. Bobby has been making a series of video documentaries about New Zealand graffiti artists and the development of street-art styles, four episodes of which were produced in partnership with Auckland Library. The series currently numbers 15 episodes, with more to come.