Where are we?

This is a short story that happened about ten years ago, but that still makes me smile whenever I come to think about it.

About ten years ago I was on my way back home from a conference in the US and had a connecting flight at Kastrup Airport (which is one of my favorite airports) in Copenhagen (to be clear; that’s in Denmark). We had just landed and all the passengers were disembarking. Just as I had entered the airport building I heard a voice behind me; someone from the same flight was asking me something. Imagine an exaggeratedly stereotypical surfer-dude / stoner type of guy with long blond hair and clothes that would be perfect for Malibu, but definitely not for Copenhagen in November. That’s what I saw when I turned around. In a thick (again, stereotypical, thanks to Hollywood) California accent the guy asked me:

“What place is this?”

“Excuse me?” I asked baffled by the unexpected question.

“Umm… Where are we?” The surfer asked again.

“Copenhagen.” I answered.

“OK. Cool.” The guy said, pausing and looking around. “So, is that Germany?”

“No. Denmark.” I replied even more baffled.

“Cool. Thanks, bro.” The guy said and walked cheerfully away.


In the jungle

While on teacher exchange at the University of Namibia in Windhoek, Namibia, I went on a safari to Etosha, the enormous nature reserve in the north of Namibia. Before I flew to Windhoek I found a tour company online; the Wild Dog and Crazy Kudu Safaris. The company sounded like a lot of fun, so I booked a safari with them. On the day of the safari I was picked up from my hotel early in the morning with a big truck with a few rows of rather comfortable seats in the back. The walls in the back of the truck were just windows that could be pulled to the side for a better view and to stick your camera out for a better shot of whatever wildlife we might see.

The truck
After picking up a bunch of German exchange students from a hostel we took off towards Etosha. In Etosha we drove along long dirtroads to different watering holes and other spots that our skilled guides knew were frequently visited by kudus, oryxes, wildebeests, springboks, zebras, giraffes, elephants, lions and other animals freely roaming the plains of the Etosha Nature Reserve. And we did see them, all of them. We saw a group of elephants following the old matriarch, wildebeests lying in the middle of the road, and zebras with a baby zebra that the guides guessed was only a week or two old.
Baby Zebra
We saw giraffes head-butting each other (but in a photo taken at the right moment they appear to be hugging each other), a lion relaxing next to the road, and hundreds and hundreds of springboks (also the name of a delicious drink that is popular in South Africa).

Giraffes “cuddling”

On the second day, in the middle of Etosha, we had a flat tire and the closest service station was probably 500 kilometers away. The guides firmly told us to stay in the truck and to keep an eye on the tall grass all around the truck while they changed the tire. The guides were visibly nervous about the possibility that there could be a lion or a pack of them close by, using the tall grass to come close and attack. The guides changed the tire as they had been a Formula 1 crew.

FChanging a flat tire, in the middle of nowhere

In the evenings we drove into walled and fenced camping areas (locking the people inside and keeping the animals outside, vice versa from a zoo; a thought that I found quite amusing), put up our tents (well, the guides did that), prepared dinner over the campfire (again, the guides did that and it was delicious) and slept under the big sky of Namibia. On the second evening we arrived to the camping site at Fort Namutoni, a former German police post built in 1896. While the guides put up the tents and prepared for dinner, I walked to the walkway overlooking a nearby watering hole. I sat down with my camera and a beer and gazed into the diminishing daylight. It was a warm evening and the sun was quickly giving room for the moon. After a while something big moved in the distance, cautiously approaching the small pond of water. It was a rhino, the first that I’ve ever seen in the wild. The slow giant came closer to replenish his (or her?) thirst in the cool water.

A rhino at an Etosha watering hole
The excitement and awe of the people witnessing this moment could be felt in the air. After a while the rhino moved on, disappearing into the darkness. Witnessing this magnificent animal in its natural environment was truly an amazing moment. After the rhino had disappeared into the darkness I just sat still for a moment and contemplated over the beauty of nature. I felt honored to have been allowed to witness this almost magical moment, to be allowed to briefly visit the home of the rhino (and all the other magnificent animals that call Etosha their home).

When I returned to our little camp the dinner was ready and while eating we chatted and the guides answered our questions about Etosha and the animals living there. The guides told about the hyenas that frequently stole peoples’ shoes from the camping area (they knew where the holes in the fence were) and recommended that we took our shoes and boots inside the tents; otherwise they might become part of some hyena’s shoe collection. We also learned that the animal sounds we had been hearing all evening were from lions roaring close by. Perhaps those that we had seen earlier, relaxing on the plains.

A lion relaxing… before the hunt begins (yes, I know, only lionesses hunt 🙂 )
The guides then told us about an incident that had happened a few years earlier. On the very same bench (or at least close by) that I had sat and enjoyed my beer on a couple of hours earlier, a German tourist had been, just as I had, enjoying the view and perhaps his beer. After a long day of driving around in Etosha, in the cool evening air and under the big sky of Namibia he fell asleep, to a calm sleep, from which he would never wake up from again. Two security guards patrolling the camping area found him on the bench, and two lions… After telling the story the guides wished everyone a good night, took their sleeping bags and climbed on the roof of the truck to sleep, leaving us tourists to sleep on the ground in our canvas tents.


Helsinki – Hong Kong – Wuhan

When I was traveling towards Wuhan, China, to attend ISSI 2017 conference things didn’t exactly go smoothly. When I checked in on my first flight I could only get the boarding card for the first leg of my journey; from Helsinki to Hong Kong. This has happened before, so I wasn’t worried. I knew that I just had to find the transfer counter in Hong Kong to get the boarding card for my next flight to Wuhan and I had plenty of time between the flights to do that. On the about 10-hour flight to Hong Kong I relaxed, listened to a book, watched some movies, and had a nice meal and a glass or two of rather nice red wine. Overall I had a very nice flight with Finnair, the “Gateway between Europe and Asia.”

In Hong Kong I quickly found the transfer counter, however, the lady at the counter said that it was too early to check in on the flight to Wuhan (I had about three hours between the flights) and that I had to come back in one hour. Then after an hour (of dosing on the airport benches) I headed back to the transfer counter, only to learn that the flight had been cancelled because of the approaching typhoon Khanun. The lady also told me that she couldn’t book me on another flight; for that I had to go to the check in counters in the departure hall.

At Hong Kong airport
After weighing my options (and realizing that I really didn’t have any options) I went through immigration and straight to the airport information desk to ask where the China Southern counters were. From the China Southern counter I was redirected to the China Southern check-in counters. The lady at the check-in counters explained that she can’t do the rebooking and gave me a piece of paper with a printed phone number to call. I called it. Despite a huge language barrier I could understand that they couldn’t reissue a new ticket because the booking was originally made through Finnair and that Finnair has to do the rebooking. I then called Finnair’s customer service number which I found in my travel documents, but there I only got a recording saying that the service number is only available from Monday to Friday between 8 and 16 (it was Sunday). At this point I was getting a bit annoyed with the situation. I headed to the China Southern counter again. They found a different number to Finnair’s customer service; one that should be operating 24/7. I called them and to my relief someone answered (I now have that number stored in my phone). I explained the situation and they said that it is the company that has cancelled the flight that has to reissue to ticket. I called China Southern again and they said the same thing again: they can’t reissue it because the ticket was originally booked through Finnair (at this point I was getting really annoyed). I tried to explain the situation again and explained what they had said when I called Finnair, but I’m not sure how much of it got through because of a language barrier. The call wasn’t getting me anywhere so I just hung up.

Typhoon warning at the Hong Kong airport
I called Finnair again, with the intention of asking them whether they can buy me a new ticket, any ticket, to Wuhan. I explained the situation and the guy (new guy this time) straight out said that they are lying at China Southern. He said that they (China Southern) do fully know about the standard international agreements between airlines; that it’s always the company that have cancelled a flight that is responsible for reissuing new tickets to the passengers. He wrote some comment to my booking “in the system” (I assume stating this fact) which I assume would be visible also for the China Southern staff in Hong Kong and recommended that I go to the check in counter and be a bit more “demanding”. He also said that rebookings are usually done by the airline’s staff at the airport, not by phone at some “head office”. He recommended that I ask them to call the head office if they are not willing to make a new booking at the counter. So I went to the China Southern check-in counter again. At this point I had been at the airport for probably about six hours and I was getting properly angry but I didn’t even get to show it to anyone. This time, without any problems or explanations, they immediately booked me on the flight to Wuhan the next morning (the next morning it turned out that I had even been upgraded to Economy Plus or something like that, which I appreciated). Now I had the word of the lady behind the counter that I had a new ticket booked for tomorrow morning. I was still a bit skeptical, but I decided to trust her word. I guess she saw my skepticism, as she wrote her name on a piece of paper and told me to ask for her should there be any problems the next morning.

As it now was certain that I wasn’t traveling anywhere today, I decided to hunt down my checked-in luggage, as I wanted to have that with me to the hotel, which I had not yet booked. So I went to the luggage service office or whatever it was called.

The organized office of the luggage service center at Hong Kong Airport
A helpful lady there said that it will take 2-3 hours to locate my luggage, asking whether this really was something that I wanted to do. Fine, I said. That gave me time to find a hotel for the night in Hong Kong. After trying a couple of free wifi’s at the airport (and fearing to be hacked while using them) I found one at a café that I could use to make a booking. Tired after travelling for a day decision making was admittedly a bit difficult, but I eventually booked a hotel close to the airport. After all, because of the approaching typhoon sightseeing would not be an option. Then after about 2 hours I got my luggage and headed out from the airport. Yet another half an hour standing in the taxi queue (all public transportation from the airport had been suspended due to the typhoon and people were recommended to stay indoors) I was finally on my way to the hotel, with my luggage. The hotel (Novotel Citygate Hong Kong)turned out to be quite luxurious, which was a pleasant surprise.

View from my room at the Novotel Citygate hotel in Hong Kong
A minor disappointment was that the outlet mall connected to the hotel was closed, probably due to the typhoon. So I headed back to the hotel and had dinner and a beer or two, after which I went to bed and slept like a baby.

Next morning everything went really smoothly in Hong Kong and after about 46 hours of travel I was finally about to board the plane to Wuhan. In Wuhan, I immediately got totally screwed by a taxi driver, but that’s another story.


Yet another blog…

I’ve started many blogs before and deleted equally many. None of my earlier personal blogs have survived to this day, except some course blogs that I’ve opened for a specific course and that have since then become part of the structure of the forgotten web. I have full confidence (as I’ve always had with every blog that I’ve started) that this won’t happen to this blog. This blog will be different; this blog will have a purpose. This blog has a story to tell.

As a researcher I get to travel a lot to conferences, workshops and other events. Some might say that I have to travel, but I think that traveling is one of the benefits of the job. I get to see remarkable places, taste amazing food, and meet interesting people from all over the world. Sometimes I’ve been in awkward situations on these travels, sometimes even a bit dangerous, and quite often hilarious situations. I’ve seen of the good, bad and ugly in the world. This blog is about those situations and unforgettable incidents that I’ve thought will make a great story later on and about the places, people and animals that are too beautiful and too amazing not to share.

Sossusvlei in the Namib-Naukluft National Park in Namibia
In the coming weeks and months I’ll be writing about a mugging in Beijing, the confused American that didn’t know which country he was in, and about the time I rescued a Frenchman in the Namib-Naukluft desert. I’m also going to write about the beauty of Taj Mahal, the serenity of cremations in Kathmandu, and perhaps the caipirinhas enjoyed in good company in a rooftop bar in Rio de Janeiro. Stay tuned.

Disclaimer: This blog will be updated very irregularly. Views and opinions expressed in this blog are my own, as are all the photos published here, unless otherwise stated.



Social media is increasingly used in higher education settings by researchers, students and institutions. Whether it is researchers conversing with other researchers, or universities seeking to communicate to a wider audience, social media platforms serve as a tools for users to communicate and increase visibility. Scholarly communication in social media and investigations about social media metrics is of increasing interest for scientometric researchers, and to the emergence of altmetrics. Less understood is the role of organizational characteristics in garnering social media visibility, through for instance liking and following mechanisms. In this study we aim to contribute to the understanding of the effect of specific social media use by investigating higher education institutions’ presence on Twitter. We investigate the possible connections between followers on Twitter and the use of Twitter and the organizational characteristics of the HEIs. We find that HEIs’ social media visibility on Twitter are only partly explained by social media use and that organizational characteristics also play a role in garnering these followers. Although, there is an advantage in garnering followers for those first adopters of Twitter. These findings emphasize the importance of considering a range of factors to understand impact online for organizations and HEIs in particular.


Birkholz, J., Seeber, M., & Holmberg, K. (2015). Drivers of higher education institutions’ visibility: a study of UK HEIs social media use vs. organizational characteristics. In Salah, A.A., Tonta, Y., Salah, A.A.A., Sugimoto, C., & Al, U. Proceedings of the 15th International Society of Scientometrics and Informetrics Conference, Istanbul, Turkey.



We present a study about gender differences in the climate change communication on Twitter and in the use of affordances on Twitter. Our dataset consists of about 250,000 tweets and retweets for which the authors’ gender was identified. While content of tweets and hashtags used were analyzed for common topics and specific contexts, the usernames that were proportionately more frequently mentioned by either male or female tweeters were coded 1) according to the usernames’ stance in the climate change debate into convinced (that climate change is caused by humans), sceptics, neutrals and unclear groups, and 2) according to the type or role of the user account (e.g. campaign, organization, private person).

The results indicate that overall male and female tweeters use very similar language in their tweets, but clear differences were observed in the use of hashtags and usernames, with female tweeters mentioning significantly more campaigns and organizations with a convinced attitude towards anthropogenic impact on climate change, while male tweeters mention significantly more private persons and usernames with a sceptical stance. The differences were even greater when retweets and duplicate tweets by the same author were removed from the data, indicating how retweeting can significantly influence the results. On a theoretical level our results increase our understanding for how women and men view and engage with climate change. This has practical implications for organizations interested in developing communication strategies for reaching and engaging female and male audiences on Twitter. While female tweeters can be targeted via local campaigns and news media, male tweeters seem to follow more political and scientific information.

To appear in Internet Research



Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to analyze the tweeting behavior of 37 astrophysicists on Twitter and compares their tweeting behavior with their publication behavior and citation impact to show whether they tweet research-related topics or not.
Design/methodology/approach – Astrophysicists on Twitter are selected to compare their tweets with their publications from Web of Science. Different user groups are identified based on tweeting and publication frequency.
Findings – A moderate negative correlation (?=-0.339) is found between the number of publications and tweets per day, while retweet and citation rates do not correlate. The similarity between tweets and abstracts is very low (cos=0.081). User groups show different tweeting behavior such as retweeting and including hashtags, usernames and URLs.
Research limitations/implications – The study is limited in terms of the small set of astrophysicists. Results are not necessarily representative of the entire astrophysicist community on Twitter and they most certainly do not apply to scientists in general. Future research should apply the methods to a larger set of researchers and other scientific disciplines.
Practical implications – To a certain extent, this study helps to understand how researchers use Twitter. The results hint at the fact that impact on Twitter can neither be equated with nor replace traditional research impact metrics. However, tweets and other so-called altmetrics might be able to reflect other impact of scientists such as public outreach and science communication.
Originality/value – To the best of the knowledge, this is the first in-depth study comparing researchers’ tweeting activity and behavior with scientific publication output in terms of quantity, content and impact.


Stefanie Haustein, Timothy D. Bowman, Kim Holmberg, Isabella Peters, Vincent Larivière, (2014) “Astrophysicists on Twitter: An in-depth analysis of tweeting and scientific publication behavior”, Aslib Journal of Information Management, Vol. 66 Iss: 3, pp.279 – 296

Publisher version



Introduction. This study describes the intellectual landscape of iSchools and examines how the various iSchools map on to these research areas.
Method. The primary focus of the data collection process was on faculty members’ current research interests as described by the individuals themselves. A co-word analysis of all iSchool faculty members’ research interests was used as a research method. The relations between the current research profiles of the iSchools were compared by calculating the cosine similarity between co-word profiles and visualized in network graphs.
Results. The results show that the iSchools still contain many dominant themes from library and information science, but have an expanded conceptual landscape with the introduction of new iSchools. The methods used for data collection guaranteed the most current data available (in contrast to using publications) and the methods used for analyses gave multiple perspectives to the research landscape of the iSchools.
Conclusions. The results of the present study showed how the current research landscape of the iSchools and the shared research interests were built by many topics that still reflect dominant information science topics (e.g., bibliometrics, information retrieval, and information seeking behaviour), but that there are also growing areas that reflect the iSchools’ interdisciplinary composition, thus answering the research questions.


Holmberg, K., Tsou, A. & Sugimoto, C.R. (2013). The conceptual landscape of iSchools: Examining current research interests of faculty members.Information Research, vol. 18, no. 3.

Available at



In September 2013 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its Working Group 1 report, the first comprehensive assessment of physical climate science in six years, constituting a critical event in the societal debate about climate change. This paper analyses the nature of this debate in one public forum: Twitter. Using statistical methods, tweets were analyzed to discover the hashtags used when people tweeted about the IPCC report, and how Twitter users formed communities around their conversational connections. In short, the paper presents the topics and tweeters at this particular moment in the climate debate.
The most used hashtags related to themes of science, geographical location and social issues connected to climate change. Particularly noteworthy were tweets connected to Australian politics, US politics, geoengineering and fracking. Three communities of Twitter users were identified. Researcher coding of Twitter users showed how these varied according to geographical location and whether users were supportive, unsupportive or neutral in their tweets about the IPCC. Overall, users were most likely to converse with users holding similar views. However, qualitative analysis suggested the emergence of a community of Twitter users, predominantly based in the UK, where greater interaction between contrasting views took place. This analysis also illustrated the presence of a campaign by the non-governmental organization Avaaz, aimed at increasing media coverage of the IPCC report.


Pearce, W., Holmberg, K., Hellsten, I. & Nerlich, B. (2014). Climate change on Twitter: topics, communities and conversations about the 2013 IPCC report. PLoS ONE, vol. 9, no. 4: e94785. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0094785.

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This paper investigates disciplinary differences in how researchers use the microblogging site Twitter. Tweets from selected researchers in ten disciplines (astrophysics, biochemistry, digital humanities, economics, history of science, cheminformatics, cognitive science, drug discovery, social network analysis, and sociology) were collected and analyzed both statistically and qualitatively. The researchers tended to share more links and retweet more than the average Twitter users in earlier research and there were clear disciplinary differences in how they used Twitter. Biochemists retweeted substantially more than researchers in the other disciplines. Researchers in digital humanities and cognitive science used Twitter more for conversations, while researchers in economics shared the most links. Finally, whilst researchers in biochemistry, astrophysics, cheminformatics and digital humanities seemed to use Twitter for scholarly communication, scientific use of Twitter in economics, sociology and history of science appeared to be marginal.


Holmberg, K. & Thelwall, M. (in press). Disciplinary differences in Twitter scholarly communicationScientometrics. DOI 10.1007/s11192-014-1229-3.

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