I was looking electronic discussion forums for where you might find UK autism professionals or academics discussing topics of relevance. It seems the two main ones are
- Network Autism (via the National Autistic Society charity)
and particularly in Scotland
- Autism Network Scotland Virtual Networks (funded by Scottish Government, part of the National Centre for Autism Studies within the University of Strathclyde)
I’m an IT person what immediately strikes me is that both of these discussion forums are “closed” i.e. you have to go through a registration procedure even to just read the messages.
This is a personal opinion – I’m delighted to find these forums and have already found some valuable contacts and projects but wearing my “what about the punters” hat, I feel that having these closed to reading by ‘anonymous’ users is a pity. As a technical administrator of various forums on Scottish websites over the years I usually find from the usage statistics that the ratio of people who read messages on open systems (no registration for reading) to those who actually post a message is about 100 to 1 i.e. about 100 times more people will read a message than will ever contribute.
If web-based electronic research communities require registration to view they are also immediately cutting themselves off from the possibility of their topics and current research discussions ever being found by people using search engines on the web like Google. Thus the general public is effectively blocked from easily ‘stumbling’ on relevant topical material. There’s so little research on autism available to the general public, most is currently locked up in subscription-only academic journals, every scrap is valuable.
I can understand the need for some locked forums relating to specific individuals/courses/individual privacy notions but for general research and debate? I find it difficult to understand. One of the features of autism is considered to be “…impaired social interaction…”. Indeed. See irony?