When I posted this blog, embedded software automatically generated a tweet using the first hundred or so characters, added a link to this page, and publish it to our @FreeChoiceLab Twitter account. That tweet then enters numerous timelines of our fans and followers who are welcome to follow the link and read what I’ve written. If they should like what they read, they may be so inclined to share the original tweet with their fans and followers, who then have the opportunity to read, enjoy, and share the original tweet, or an officially retweeted version.

By “officially retweeted” I mean something very specific. The sharer can use the retweet function built into Twitter, causing the original tweet to appear in their timeline with “SharerName retweeted” added to the top. Alternately, the sharer may copy the tweet, paste it into new tweet under their own name, and add “RT @OriginalPoster:” to the beginning. Both of these methods attribute the original author of the tweet. To put it in academic language, the original author has been cited. However, when a person decides to share a tweet by copying the content and reposting it under their own name, with no attribution to the original author, that’s plagiarism. Or, more accurately, Twagiarism.

On the surface, it may seem that Twagiarism is kind of a non-issue. After all, Twitter is all about sharing, using the creativity-inspiring limit of 140 characters. If I tweet “I had a great week, procrastinated myself into super organization” what’s the harm if someone else who also procrastinated posts an identical tweet after reading mine? The problem is that while there is a lot of innocent, banal content shared on twitter, there is also more serious content, and it’s all considered intellectual property of the original writer. And because there’s no easy way to categorize whether something is frivolous, or perhaps the next famous quote, Twitter has a very specific policy regarding copyright infringement (fancy legalese for plagiarism). Item 9 of the Twitter terms of service states:

“Twitter respects the intellectual property rights of others and expects users of the Services to do the same.”

What this means is that whatever a person posts is the intellectual property of the one who posted it, and Twitter expects its users to respect that. Users who violate this term are subject to having the content removed, and in extreme cases Twitter reserves the right to terminate a user’s account.

In academia, use of social media is on the rise. Institutions have official twitter accounts, managed by one person or a team, and the tweets represent the interests of the institution. The same goes for groups, labs, and individuals who have professionally linked Twitter accounts. What may not be immediately recognized is that every tweet is, technically, a publication. It might not be the peer reviewed kind typically associated with academic publications, but they have the same protection, and the authors have the same rights. There’s also more at stake if a person tweeting for an institution engages in twagiarism, because what the world sees is the institution they represent engaging in unethical practices. Isolated incidents of twagiarism can often be dealt with by educating the individual or group about proper retweeting practices. Repeat offenders are when having a specific, well-planned policy comes in handy.

Oregon State University currently does not have a policy regarding plagiarism specific to social media, but they do have a policy on more traditional forms of plagiarism. Only time will tell if this is sufficient protection, or if there needs to be a specific policy. Twitter is fundamentally social, and if hashtage trends are any indication, even the smallest, seeming inconsequential thing can suddenly be a global trend. Considering that the reputation of respected institutions is impacted by acts of Twagiarism, an in house policy may be an important line of defense against public castigation.

So please, if you’re going to share the tweet for this article, retweet it using the button Twitter provides, or adding RT manually when you share it.

There is a lot asked of us as graduate students. We take classes, we read, we talk about what we read, we read some more, we work, and let’s not forget about our own personal research.  And that’s just the school side! So how does one balance all of this? As Shawn said on Monday, thinking is hard and it’s time consuming. So every once in while we need to step back and re-center ourselves in order to gain a fresh perspective.

I’m sure everyone has his or her own re-centering strategy: walking in the park, family time, watching your favorite movie, doing some yoga, baking… Personally, I craft. I’ve been sewing since I was in 3rd grade and only recently learned to knit (at the FCL retreat two years ago). There’s something to working with my hands, to reading instructions step-by-step and to knowing my end goal. The finished product is going to look like this.

There are so many ways to reflect on my crafting as a free-choice learning experience. I had interest and motivation to learn both sewing and knitting. When I’m stuck, I turn to the Internet and search for a way to solve my problem. With fellow FCL colleagues I attend a weekly knitting group that’s really nothing more than a community of practice. And, of course, there’s basic knowledge acquired over time. Will this fabric stretch when sewn? Can I knit this with that yarn?

It’s comforting knowing what the finished craft project is going to be. There might be hurdles, but each can be resolved and the project finished. Kind of sounds like grad school…



The Visitor Center has four interns working with us in the exhibits and interpreting with the public this summer. We’ll be bringing you updates and occasional posts from them. Meet our first: Diana Roman, Westminster, MD



Diana just graduated from St. Mary’s College of Maryland on the Western Shore of the Chesapeake Bay. She earned a B.A. in Biology with an emphasis in ecology and a minor in Art History (the only person in her graduating class to earn any sort of a minor, she was told). For her degree, she took classes in limnology and the ecology of Maryland plants, studied and researched for a semester in Australia, and wrote a senior thesis in neuroscience. Diana came to OSU for the summer to try her hand at a marine education job, as she pins down what she would like to study in graduate school. “I know a lot more about what I don’t want to do at this point, than exactly what I want to do.”

After the first week, she’s surprised at how tired she is, but also at how different visitor backgrounds are. She’s encountered visitors who live on the coast who are very familiar with the tides, and people from Utah, for example, who have never encountered the types of marine creatures found in the ocean. “It makes me wonder about what kids are learning in landlocked states if they can’t apply it,” Diana says, if their ocean science is not connected to the local waterways.

This summer, she’s most looking forward to trying out a 40-hour-a-week job as well as her own project. She and two of our other interns will be investigating visitor use of the wave tanks, and she’s hoping to concentrate on the erosion/near-shore tank. She’s already noticed a difference in erosion mitigation on the West Coast vs. the Chesapeake Bay. Here, riprap, aka “dynamic revetment,” is widely used, designed to absorb wave energy better as the pieces bounce up and down with waves. On the Chesapeake Bay, however, erosion abatement is more frequently done with natural materials.

She’s already diving in to life at the Visitor Center. As the interns “opened” for the first time this morning, turning on exhibits and lights and checking that things are working, she said she already saved the shrimp tank from overflowing. She also hosted her first West-Coast estuary walk, where visitors were surprised it was her first.

Follow the blog to see how her wave tank project develops over the summer.

After weeks and months of spec’ing particular cameras, photographing the VC from all angles, and poring over software to handle our massive (for us) suite of video devices, the first cameras are being installed.


You’d think after all that scoping the installation would go quickly. It is, to a point. First we have to find ethernet cables long enough to run to all the drops we have (easier since we installed extra drops for just this purpose), then we have to make sure the ethernet ports are activated, then we have to figure out which IP address goes to which camera, and finally, we have to position the camera, probably the trickiest part.

We have a good head start from all the work McKenzie did, but Gene and I still spent a couple of hours figuring the right height, angle, and zoom so the first 10 could be permanently mounted. Near the wave tanks, too, we’ll have two cameras on poles that will be secured with straps, so they will be somewhat moveable if we cover the angles in another way. The angle, zoom, and focus will be re-done after each is mounted, of course, but a first-pass assured us we had the position right to capture the parts of the exhibit we were hoping to capture. And, of course, we’ve moved exhibits around since the last time we planned camera locations …

Behind the scenes, we have the computer system and software setup to watch what’s going on, though we still need to set up remote access to view the cameras. For now, we’re getting close to having eyes on the VC entrance and exit points, the octopus tank, the touch tanks, and the wave tanks. It’s cool to see what was only a plan actually start to be put in place, and relatively on schedule, too!

What have we done today?

– Renovated the Ocean Today kiosk and installed new drivers for the touch screen

– Installed a new TV for the wave energy video display

– Installed new solid state video players on wave energy display and hypoxia exhibit

– Drained the smaller wave tank after its prototype test

– Begun installation of research cameras (nine to start with)

– Threw a pizza party to say goodbye to Jordan and Will, who are leaving us for other pastures (if the pastures are greener, the ozone isn’t working)

– Other things I can’t keep in my head right now

Things are in motion. That’s how we like it.

Laura and Katie are getting ready to collect their dissertation data this summer. Laura will be studying volunteers at Hatfield Visitor Center to see how they interact with visitors. Katie is studying scientists and non-scientists to see how they make meaning from images like those projected on the Magic Planet.

Each has navigated the proposal process and is in the midst of the Institutional Review Board approval for their projects. In the meantime, they are piloting data to make sure what they thought in their heads works in real life; Laura’s been ensuring that the looxcie cameras that visitors will wear will not get dropped in the touch tanks or record too much video in the restroom. Katie’s been making sure her images show up correctly and that the eyetracker doesn’t burn anyone’s eyeballs.

Each of them has been interviewed about their projects. You can listen to the podcasts:



We’d love to hear your thoughts, questions, and comments here!