January 31, 2012 Leave a comment
An excellent day overallNo matter how skilled they are, there are some risks running events over which the organisers have no control. In the twelve months leading up to yesterday’s DREaM workshop at the British Library the major concern was the weather. The big question (especially in light of the past two winters) was “Would it snow?” In the event, none of the pesky white stuff fell in London on 30th January 2012. Despite this, it was still a very chilly day, with even colder weather forecast for the rest of the week. Nevertheless, the DREaM workshop cadre braved the elements, in several cases with a very early morning start, for the long journey to the south east. Once at the British Library they enjoyed a warm welcome from the DREaM project team and their fellow delegates at the third of the five DREaM events. The programme itself comprised four formal sessions led by invited speakers Professor Peter Beresford, Dr Thomas Haigh, Professor Mike Thelwall, and Professor Nick Moore. They were introduced and chaired by the DREaM project co-investigators Professor Hazel Hall and Professor Charles Oppenheim. Seven members of the DREaM workshop cadre gave Unconference half hour presentations on their research interests just before the lunch break.
A couple of short exercises were also included in the programme, and everyone made the most of the opportunities at registration and in the refreshment breaks to network with their DREaM project friends and colleagues.
Twenty-seven delegates returned completed evaluation forms at the end of the day. A review of Twitter activity around the event also gives insight into how the sessions were appreciated by both the delegates on site and those following remotely.Once again, the event was well received. The majority noted on their evaluation forms that the overall value of their participation at the event was “excellent”. Enthusiastic comments on the evaluation forms show appreciation of the quality of the presentations and variety of the programme, and its relevance to their learning and work:
- “Excellent programme and quality of speakers and participant presentations”.
- “The programme was varied and extremely interesting. I have learnt a lot. Thank you very much”.
- “Fab event – diverse and varied”
- “Thank you! Excellent day, inspiring!”
- “The programme has been extremely interesting and the introduction to methodologies will be very useful for my work”.
- “An excellent day – found the content even more helpful that the last one.”
- “Superb[…] mashup of methods which was great!”
- “I am enjoying – and learning a great deal about – the different research methods/approaches”.
Similarly on Twitter one delegate remarked that it was a “Really interesting and useful day”, and another said “Great to meet so many people. Thoroughly interesting day!”
The most popular rating for all four invited speaker sessions was “Excellent”, as it was for the unconference half hour slot.Mike Thelwall’s introduction to webometrics was rated most highly. The delegates particularly enjoyed how (in the words of one) “specific examples of [the] application of methods [were] explicitly analysed” in the presentation.
There was also appreciation for Peter Beresford’s presentation on user involvement in research, drawing on practice in a discipline other than LIS. This came through on the evaluation forms and over Twitter: one delegate tweeted that Peter’s presentation was the highlight of her day. It is interesting to note that although LIS researchers put much research effort into observing users, they are less likely to include them in identifying research priorities or research design – something which is becoming more common in other areas such as Peter’s. Had there been time the tricky question of how to access non-users of a service may have led to some further interesting discussion in Peter’s session. This is an issue that could be explored further by the DREaM online community.
Thomas Haigh’s proposal of approaching LIS research projects from a historical perspective (a tall order to cover in 45 minutes) led to some interesting delegate suggestions and comment, as well as a useful overview of the iSchool movement. The exercise that Thomas set for the group gave an opportunity for small groups to apply the concepts from his presentation to a range of research projects currently in progress. Thomas gave thoughtful feedback on the work completed later in the afternoon.
Nick Moore’s “very personal account” of his research career prompted consideration of how to carve out a successful career in research. He cleverly used stories from his own long career in research to pass on advice to the next generation. Nick’s advice on taking time to think is particularly pertinent in the context of some of the comments on the evaluation forms. These showed recognition that each DREaM project event generates lots to think about, and that the value of participation cannot always be assessed immediately after the event has ended. One delegate, for example, believed that having now attended two workshops ideas were beginning to crystalise on the kind of research with which his/her own organisation should be concerned. Another tweeted “#lis_dream3 was excellent. I’m glad I’ve got the rest of the week off: it gives me time to think about what I heard today.”
It is interesting how links can be made between the presentations at this second event and those made at the first. For example, Mike’s contribution echoed elements of Louise Cooke’s session on social network analysis, as well as that of Andy McKinlay on discourse analysis. Similarly Peter and Thomas’ presentations recalled elements of Paul Lynch’s explanation of ethnographic approaches. Ethical and legal issues, also discussed that the first workshop in Charles’ session, are applicable across all.
Evaluation of workshop administration and the venueThe workshop organisers were pleased once again that an overwhelming majority of the participants rated the workshop administration before and during the event as “excellent”. Hazel Hall, Charles Oppenheim, Stephanie Kenna, Christine Irving, Rossitza Atanassova and Kirsty Pitkin were thanked in the evaluations for being “extremely efficient and helpful”. The day itself was considered “well organised and chaired”.
The location for the workshop was also rated very highly with the majority of respondents rating its convenience, comfort and facilities, and the refreshments provided all as “excellent”. Specific mention was made of the “good wifi”, and that the British Library is “very handy for major rail stations”. The effort that the catering staff had taken for those with special diets was appreciated: many others were indeed envious of the big slice of gluten-free cake for one person in particular!
As has been the case at the previous two DREaM project events in October and July 2011 there was interest in the event beyond the venue itself. Remote followers of the 444 tweets assigned the workshop hashtag (#lis_dream3) sent good wishes to participants in the morning, urging them to keep the outside world updated. For example, one said “Godspeed to all the dreamers travelling to #lis_dream3 today. Hope to see lots of tweets”.
The remote followers exhibited varied levels of engagement from one who was “present” all day, asked questions of the speakers and participated in the workshop exercise, to others who dropped in on particular sessions, or appeared to simply retweet links.
Twelve remote delegates were clearly identifiable from their use of the hashtag and/or their interactions with @LIS_DREaM over the course of the day. It is not possible to give the actual figure for all who watched the proceedings remotely, but it is bound to have included more people than the twelve who actively contributed to Twitter and CoverItLive discussions.
Those for whom we do have data appeared to have benefited from participation. One tweeted “Thanks to the @LIS_DREaM team for another good workshop & for enabling me to follow online!”The Twitter back-channel during the day also provided an extra dimension to the event for those who were online. Associated discussions ranged from the serious, for example on the value of postgraduate degrees, to fun. For example, at the start of the day one delegate asked whether Hazel was about to announce that she was the next Dr Who (when, in fact, she was on the point of telling everyone that Dr Ben Goldacre will be the closing keynote speaker at the DREaM conference on July 9th), and from his train on the way home the same person suggested that there should be karaoke at the next DREaM workshop. This suggestion was prompted by a discussion of a particular delegate T shirt, one of two on the day that attracted many admiring comments. The other T shirt displays a map of Libraria.
Here we should offer thanks to our top ten tweeters on the day:@LIS_DREaM (mainly Kirsty Pitkin) 95; @LISResearch (Stephanie Kenna) 61; @walkyouhome 49; @katie_fraser 48; @joeyanne 30; @lgbtlibrarian 19 (remote delegate); @lelil 18; @MariaJGrant 17; @hazelh 16; @RossiAtanassova 13. Two of these have already written full blog reports of their experience of the workshop: Katie Fraser and Lauren Smith. These and other reviews of the event will be listed on the reviews page.
One step further to meeting the aims of the DREaM project
The primary aim of the DREaM project is noted on the main project page of the LIS Research Coalition web site as to develop a formal UK-wide network of Library and Information Science (LIS) researchers. As a set of individuals committed to LIS research, it is hoped that the delegates at the three workshops (the “cadre”) will form the backbone of a network that lasts beyond the duration of the DREaM project. To date they have come together at two one-day sessions that provide method overviews. In addition, a subset also participated at the project launch conference in July 2011, and some are expected to come to the concluding event at the British Library on 9th July 2012.Some feedback from this second workshop shows how the cadre is beginning to meet the project’s primary aim, with recognition that the workshops are not intended as “traditional” training days. Rather, they are events at which overviews are given of a range of research methods and approaches, some of which are not (yet) commonly practised by LIS researchers, with scope for those interested to follow up the advice and recommendations of the expert speakers by exploring other resources. The longer-term value of the meeting activity, however, is anticipated to emerge from the connections forged between the members of the cadre as a network. For example, one delegate wrote on his/her evaluation form that he/she now sees the future role of the DREaM network as a body of people who can define and commission research. Another noted that it was important that the network members learn more about one another, and suggested that the discussion space in the DREaM online community should be used more extensively for this purpose, with the proposal that network members should set up a journal club in this space. It is also worth mentioning here that there is clear evidence of the strengthening of ties between network members. For example, at least one network member has offered to host the visit of another to Edinburgh for the next workshop on April 25th.
Feedback for action at #lis_dream4Other delegate comments at this workshop will be acted upon in time for the next workshop in Edinburgh on 25th April. The next set of presenters will be reminded that practical examples of the application of research approaches and techniques are appreciated, especially if they can be contextualized to LIS research. Efforts will be made so that adequate time can be devoted to a workshop task that allows for meaningful discussion in groups. The venue for workshop 3 is more spacious than the British Library seminar rooms so it may be possible to arrange for some tables to be sited in the main room to make note-taking on computer and tweeting more comfortable. It will also be spring time by then, so the couple of people who mentioned that they felt rather cold yesterday will welcome the warmer weather the next time that we all meet.
The resources from the workshop will be added to this web site and the DREaM online community over the next few days. News of resource availability will be tweeted. It is hoped that this job will be complete by the middle of next week. In the meantime thanks to everyone – speakers, organisers and delegates alike – for another great day!