Secondment Report #01 Setting the stage in Sydney


The very first secondment during our 4-year project phase turned out to be a joint visit of the University of Duisburg-Essen (as the project coordinator) and the Virtimo AG to the University of Sydney Business School.

The aim of the visit was establish a common ground about the architecture of the RISE_SMA project, including

  • Topical focus groups
  • Common research goals
  • The aggregation of practitioner insights and requirements

With two months until the Kick-Off-Meeting, where all members of the consortium would meet, we decided to have an initial workshop in the USYD Business School. Thanks to the network of Prof. Deborah Bunker, we could win the EMV (Emergency Management Victory) for our workshop. All the way from Melbourne, EMV provided us with first-hand insights about what crisis communicators need in terms of social media and future developments. We identified pain-points and opportunities we might be able to discover throughout RISE_SMA. After two days of hard work, we ended the workshop with two pre-defined focus groups:

  • Digital Volunteerism
  • Automated Communication/(Social) Bots

Apart from the workshop, our role as coordinators (Stefan, Julian) was to develop an agenda for the upcoming Kick-Off-Meeting which was set for mid-April in Duisburg, Germany. Not only the agenda was important, but also arranging visits, administration, catering, hotels, social events and more needed to be organized.

Being involved in an exchange-type project like RISE requires a certain degree of flexibility, as working remotely over a number of time-zones can be challenging. Most calls and e-mail communication were scheduled in the evening to match with the working hours in Europe. However, having this change of routines taught me (Julian) how to work efficiently regardless of the time and location.

Christoph, in the meantime used the opportunity to get to know the involved researchers at USYD. As a practitioner from Virtimo AG, his day-to-day business is already diverse – But changing perspectives and seeing new problems from a researcher’s eyes turned out to be an invaluable lesson. Contributing to society by developing value-creating solutions (products can be solutions, too) definitely enhances his company’s mission.

Stefan, who recently received a Prof. h.c. by USYD used his time in Sydney (apart from his duties as a coordinator) to catch up with professors at the Business School and to develop ideas about publications within the scope of RISE_SMA. This involved meetings with affiliated researchers (sometimes in spectacular scenery) such as Diana Fischer-Preßler from Bamberg University (middle).


The coordinator team and Virtimo experienced a very productive and beautiful couple of weeks in Sydney. We can’t wait to visit again next year for more secondments. The start of RISE_SMA could not have been better.

Stefan Stieglitz is professor and head of the research group for Professional Communication in Electronic Media / Social Media at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany. His work has been published in reputable journals such as Journal of Management Information System, Business & Information Systems Engineering, International Journal of Information Management, and MISQe. In his research he investigates Social Media Analytics in various domains such as business, politics, and crisis communication.


Christoph Fuchß is the CEO of Virtimo with specialized skills in software development and networking. For RISE_SMA, he employs his team’s technical knowledge in big data management and software development to carry out successful prototype implementation.


Julian Marx is currently a research associate at UDE and pursuing his Ph.D. with a focus on social media communication in organizational contexts. He manages RISE_SMA to ensure the smooth operation of the project.