The first question you ask might be….”what is Slack?”

Launched in 2013, Slack really is the ‘new kid on the block’ in software, so expect to hear more about it. It is a cloud-based communication and collaboration tool, which allows teams to work productively, combining real-time messaging, archiving of documents and search.

Groups can communicate through channels, which are effectively ‘chat rooms’ organised by topic, which allows relevant discussion to take place. Documents and other content can easily be dragged and dropped into these channels, so sharing of information is simple.

Slack operates on a freemium model, which means it’s free as long as it’s used on a relatively small scale. For small group-based projects, it won’t cost a penny/dime/cent (choose your unit of currency).

So the second question you might ask is “why do I need to know this?”

Well, some Slack users have identified that it can have pedagogical value and improve the learning, teaching and research experience. Here’s just a few examples:

Slack goes to College: how it can improve the classroom experience

Notes on teaching with Slack

Instructors encourage Slack-ing in the classroom

So if you’re a PhD student teaching seminars and you want to try something a bit different, you might find that Slack is something you want to experiment with.

And with this growing evidence that it’s productive in the classroom, why wouldn’t it be the case for researchers? If you’re working collaboratively with other researchers – you might have used Dropbox for file sharing or Google Docs for co-creating documents. Slack integrates with these easily, and you have the added quality of quick and easy communication.

This blog shows six ways to use Slack for a research group. Piirus discuss the pros and cons of using it in a research group, whilst a recent LSE Impact Blog has a great piece on how it can connect disparate researchers on a global scale.

And you might find that your supervisor is open to the idea of using Slack to share ideas/files.

For guides on using Slack, these are available on their website. Just create a team, create an account and send invites – it’s that simple. Or join other networks out there relevant to you.


Don’t Dilly Dally, Back Up!


Swimming exams at Newcastle Ocean Baths, 11/12/1953, by Sam Hood
No known copyright restrictions

If you are investing your time on any project whether that be an article, report, video or PhD you will want to have the assurance that you can still access it tomorrow, the week after or next month. This means you need to have system in place to ensure your work is backed up. Each year we have at least one student who suddenly faces the terrifying situation of being unable to recover their work either through files being corrupted, their pc/laptop ‘dying’ or laptop being stolen or lostand while we have all the sympathy we often won’t have the solution at this stage.So what you should you do to save your work, peace of mind and sad looks?

  1. DONT just keep your work on a memory stick!
  2. Get an external hard drive
  3. Start using the back up system on your PC (Window’s Back Up system or Mac (Apple’s Time Machine
  4. Sync your hard drive with back up system
  5. Use a cloud storage back up system (there is a fee but it’s worth it if you want to ensure your work doesn’t disappear) e.g

(Dropbox while widely used isn’t enough since they provide no guarantee on recovery and in fact recommend you back up any work you upload to them)

5. Regularly test your back up systems, can you still access the work? the latest version?
6. Get working so you have something to back up

Useful links: