The pace of research often strikes me as wonky. This, I suppose, is true of a lot of fields: some days, you make a lot of progress, and some days very little. A series of very small steps eventually (you hope) lead to a conclusion worthy of sharing with your peers and advancing the field. That means a lot of days of working in the trees without being able to see the forest.
Conferences, with their presentation application deadlines, have a funny way of driving research. I applied for the International Conference on Science Communication back in March and outlined all this data I figured I’d have for my thesis by the time the conference rolls around in the first week of September. Amazingly, I’m on track to have a fairly good amount of data, despite delays due to subject recruitment and IRB approval that I’ve talked about before.
However, now I have another twist in the process. Usually, one can work on the conference presentation almost up until the very moment of the presentation, especially if you get to host the presentation slides on your own laptop. This conference, though, requires me to have my final presentation almost 7 weeks before the actual presentation date. I can only assume this is because the conference, to be held in Nancy, France, is going to be held concurrently in both French and English, and thus, the organizers need this time to be able to translate my slides into French (of which I speak not a word).
In any case, this throws a major wrench into my planned schedule! I am doing fine with the pace, and have about half of my needed faculty interviews arranged (with 25% actually completed!). This deadline this week throws me into a strange dilemma of how to present something interesting, especially the visual data from eyetracking experiments, without actually being able to show them at the conference, as far as I can tell. I figure I will have some results from my actual subjects by the time of the conference, but I don’t know which subjects I will want to choose for that part until all of the interviews have been completed. So my solution will be to run a couple of pilot subjects on just the eyetracking part, without the interview. I’ve recruited one of the folks that works closely with us to be more of an “expert” user, and a member of the science and math teacher licensure master’s program to serve as a “novice.” I’m really excited by what the interviews have revealed so far and am hopeful that the eyetracking pilots will go as well. Crossing my fingers that this will be interesting to the conference attendees, too, with whatever verbal updates I can provide to accompany my slides in September.