Ben Goldacre and the DREaM project: read all about it in CILIP Update

CILIPUpdate May 2012 cover

DREaM keynote speaker Ben Goldacre features on the cover of CILIPUpdate (photograph of Goldacre copyright Scott Hurst)

Check out the May 2012 issue of CILIP Update for news of the DREaM project and the forthcoming conference at the British Library on Monday 9th July 2012.

As well as featuring Ben Goldacre on the front cover of the magazine, there is a news item on Goldacre’s involvement in the presentation of the Library and Information Science Practitioner Researcher Excellence Award (“Ben Goldacre to present award”, p. 7).

The issue also includes a full-length feature article by Hazel Hall and Charles Oppenheim. They discuss their involvement in the DREaM project, and its efforts to mobilise the UK library and information science research community (“The possible DREaM: developing LIS research excellence”, pp. 32-33).

There are still conference places available, with travel bursaries to support the attendance of new professional, PhD student, and international delegates. To book your place please go to the DREaM conference registration page.

RiLIES2 project poll: findings

This post is an update on our progress with the RiLIES2 project. We highlight the pressing need for a centrally-funded community-maintained directory of LIS research resources, held in a known location, with (crucially) a long-term commitment to maintenance.

Knowledge is required before action. To this end we carried out a survey in April, the purpose of which was to find out which of the existing resources that support librarians and information scientists when they consume and/or conduct research are (a) well used and/or (b) respected. We also asked respondents where they would go to access advice online on how to set up a new research project of their own.

Summary of responses

We are not claiming that the survey is representative: just 87 people responded, and the majority were librarians working in academia and healthcare. However, the data can be treated as a source of new ideas for evaluation, and can be used to feed into project plans. This blog post summarises some of the more interesting findings from the survey related to practitioners’ knowledge of resources, the creation of legacy resources by the project team, and dissemination options for RiLIES2.

More information about the project will be made available between now and its conclusion at the end of July. In the meantime, please contribute your thoughts, knowledge and ideas. It’s not too late to make an impact on our results!

Practitioners’ knowledge of resources

The first main section of the poll listed 19 electronic resources. These were identified in the first RiLIES project completed last year, and through additional desk research undertaken in early 2012. We asked about respondents’ knowledge and experience of the resources listed.

As has been identified elsewhere, mailing lists (particularly operated by JISC) continue to be the main source of information for many who are interested in LIS research. In addition, several blogs and Twitter feeds were cited by poll respondents. Other popular resources included the Library and Information Research journal (LIR), the resources assembled by the Library and Information Research Group (LIRG), and the Evidence Based Library and Information Practice (EBLIP) journal. The resources developed over the course of the DREaM project also merited mention.

A common response, even from experienced researchers, shows that completing the survey was a useful exercise in itself, as illustrated in tweets such as this:

“Just completed the @LIS_RiLIES poll & learnt about new resources to support my research in the process”

We discovered that a number of resources have low visibility to the LIS community. For example, few respondents had heard of KnowledgeHub (a relatively new resource) and/or the BAILER resource links (a resource aimed at a specific sector of LIS researchers). There was an indication that other resources – though known – face a challenge in transforming a potential audience into an active user-base. This finding applies to the DREaM project resources, the Evidence Based Library and Information Practice (EBLIP) journal, and the Library and Information Research journal (LIR).

Another issue is that some of the resources identified have been found to be wanting. A large proportion of respondents reported that they had accessed particular resources, but not found them useful. This applied to two sets of resources which rely on volunteer effort for their maintenance: the web pages of the Library and Information Research Group (LIRG) and BAILER resource links. Long-term commitment to resource curation is a key issue here.

These findings illustrate how often what may understood as lack of access to resources is something different. It is a combination lack of practitioner awareness of existing resources, and a poor match of resources to user expectations, particularly in cases where the resources depend on sustained effort by volunteer committee members to keep them up to date.

Creating legacy resources

The aim of the second group of questions in our poll was to establish priorities for the RiLIES2 project’s suggested outputs. A supplementary aim was to identify any other types of material that could be considered by the project team.

Preferences for legacy resources

As the chart shows, the core proposals for output suggested by the project team generally attracted positive responses. There was little enthusiasm, however, for the production of poster material, although some comments implied that a flyer/leaflet that conveyed the same information may be useful.

Other ideas for RiLIES2 project outputs included:

  • Tip sheets and brief, practical best/good practice guidelines on a broad range of topics: we believe that this will work best so long as content is created in a form that can be kept up to date, long-term commitment by a resource “host” would be required for this.
  • Discussion space for questions and answers related to LIS research: since the LIS community routinely uses mailing-lists to ask questions about research, it would be best to use a JISC LIS-* list for this purpose (at least for the time being, until the conversation moves elsewhere) – a key question is which mailing list should be the focus, or whether a new one should be created.
  • Link lists to resources held outside the UK – obviously their relevance would need to be considered carefully.

A further point made in poll feedback was the need to maintain awareness of the distinct groups in LIS practice and the separate needs of each. For instance, library management is a very different subject area from information retrieval. Similarly, although some information sources are general, different sectors have their own requirements.

Dissemination options

The final group of questions in the poll asked for feedback on means of publicising the RiLIES2 project’s work. Perhaps predictably – given that the majority of respondents were from the academic sector – conventional routes were the most popular. Thus a project report and associated academic papers must remain core to the project’s output. Preference was frequently expressed for papers to be published in open access journals. This may partly reflect a finding from RiLIES1 that many LIS practitioners are not aware that CILIP membership gives access to many journal titles free of charge.

What is to be done?

This survey has generally supported the assumptions that drove us to conduct this follow-up project to RiLIES1. With evidence of a low level of awareness of existing resources that support LIS research, we now intend to focus our efforts in two directions. First, we need to raise awareness of under-used extant materials. Second, we need to set in motion a strategy to address the issue of long-term commitment to resource curation. The Internet is already littered with abandoned or poorly-maintained directories and out-of-date resources. In the current environment the only realistic approach is to coordinate a community response to enhancing existing provision. This requires tools that permit a joint approach to the curation and sharing of resources.

A centrally-funded community-maintained directory of resources in a known location with (crucially) a long-term commitment to maintenance would be the most useful outcome of this project.

(The heading from this last main section of our post comes from a question «Что делать?» Lenin asked this before arguing for the need for a dedicated vanguard to spread his message of revolution. We feel that this same question may also be relevant in our search for improved research-practice linkages. It also ties up nicely with the notion of the DREaM workshop cadre developed in our sister project to RiLIES.)

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank individual practitioners for publicising and taking part in the poll. We are also grateful to Information Today Europe for helping to publicise our study.

RiLIES report highlights 3: the deployment of social media for research impact

In a blog post that we published on February 2 2012 we announced that the full report of the Research in Librarianship Impact Evaluation Study (RiLIES1) was available to download, and that we would be blogging highlights of the report over the coming weeks. This is the third of the RiLIES1 highlights postings. Here we present our findings on the role of social media in enhancing the impact of research projects in practice.

The broad aim of our first RiLIES project was to investigate the extent to which funded research projects in the domain of library and information science (LIS) influence practice in the UK. It focused particularly on identifying factors that increase or hinder the impact of research findings on those who deliver library and information services.

The literature reviewed for the RiLIES1 project had surprisingly little to say about social media. For example, an apparently comprehensive list of possible communication channels drawn up by Haddow and Klobas in 2004 lacked any reference to social media, even though familiar services such as blogs, RSS, and some social networking services (for example, LinkedIn) were already established at the time that this work was published.

In contrast, our own empirical study acknowledges that researchers have many options for engaging practitioners in research projects from the outset, and these can be supported by social media. One of the main purposes of adopting social media during a research project is to promote a collaborative approach to research. Practitioners who are invited to learn about projects as they unfold feel engaged with the process. In addition frustrations related to the timeliness of the “traditional” publication of research results may be addressed. When practitioners are aware of project progress, for example through reading project blog posts, they have quick access to interim results, and may therefore be encouraged to consider these in their practice immediately.

A second main finding of our work was that work-place blocking of important social media routes to research output (such as Twitter) is a significant issue for many practitioners. Such institutional practice limits the extent to which practitioners are able to keep in touch with professional peers, and leads to a feeling of exclusion from the wider community.

These two main findings suggest that (1) the deployment of social media to support dissemination strategies needs to be built into the planning stages of research projects, and (2) a significant change in practice is required in many workplaces so that staff are actually permitted access to important social media services (such as Twitter) when at work. With reference to (2) researchers need to ensure that they use multiple routes to reach practitioners so that those whose access to particular services is limited do not miss out on important project news. Given the paucity of discussion of social media’s role in the dissemination of LIS research, we also suggest that this theme merits further exploration as a research topic in its own right.

Our next RiLIES1 report highlights post will review key lessons from “impactful” research projects.

To read further details of the study please see the full RiLIES1 report, freely available to download.

Reference

Haddow, G., & Klobas, J. E. (2004). Communication of research to practice in library and information science: Closing the gap. Library & Information Science Research, 26(1), 29-43.

Re-invigorating LIS research – again?

Biddy Fisher

Biddy Fisher

Biddy Fisher OBE, Past President of CILIP, former Chair of CILIP’s Library and Information Research Group – and one of the movers and shakers behind the establishment of the LIS Research Coalition – has contributed a guest blog post on the sustainability of the Coalition’s efforts to involve LIS practitioners in research. Biddy writes:

When recently reading a thought-piece written in 2010 by Michael Stead (now Chair of the Public Libraries Group of CILIP) I was struck by two things. One was Michael’s implicit recognition of the phenomena that research is seemingly only associated with those in universities or with those who study in such institutions. The second was his ‘epiphanic’ (sic) moment about the value of research to our practice.

Michael is typical of the ‘next generation’ of professionals. Naïvely I would have hoped in 2010 (and now in 2012) that the recognition of the value of research in practice would be a given: that the legacy of the British Library Research and Development Department, which had so influenced my generation, had been carried forward by the intervening decades of practitioner-researchers, and was still providing the foundations of knowledge and experience that combine to develop services, as well as the enthusiasm, of later cohorts of new professionals.

I acknowledge that the academic sector continues to make headway, assisted by the vast research output of JISC and the use of comprehensive statistical data sets from SCONUL, as well as the highly sophisticated network opportunities that are still being enjoyed in that sector.

However, it seems that practice-based research is hard to incorporate other than in academic and health/medical libraries. There is a parallel in the way information literacy is also associated primarily with educational organisations. Research, investigation and information literacy are natural activities in educational environments. However, for a profession that undertakes investigations on behalf of others without a blink it is surprising that there is not a much stronger incentive to ‘do’ and publish across all LIS sectors.

There have been many attempts to make research much more part of our practice. Over the last three years, the Library and Information Science Research Coalition has provided a unique role in bringing together information, people, ideas and innovation, and has contributed enormously to making the profession more research-conscious.

There is still a way to go in ensuring that the work is carried on. As with so many things, it is finance-dependent. It also requires a will to ensure the Coalition’s work develops within the profession. I have witnessed real excitement and passion at the events organised by the Coalition, and in particular the Developing Research Excellence and Methods (DREaM) project workshops. CILIP’s Library and Information Group (LIRG) has similar experiences, and research projects discussed at the Welsh Libraries conference show that the audience is enthusiastic. However, somehow it seems too difficult to transfer the commitment of individuals through to employers and corporate LIS bodies. It is a real conundrum for those with the long view, the vision, and the understanding of the need for an evidence base to back up the work of LIS practitioners.

Like many other delegates, Michael Stead did more than just enjoy the 2010 LIS Research Coalition conference. He determined to become a practitioner-researcher, to keep skills relevant, and to use his experience to inform his practice. He has been a strong advocate of the involvement of public librarians in undertaking, reading and using research in their work. His contribution to the DREaM project testifies to Michael’s on-going determination to be involved and to involve others in such activities (editor’s note – see, for example, his contribution to the Unconference Half Hour at the first DREaM workshop in October 2011). We should follow Michael’s lead – as individuals, as employers, as managers, as thinkers and doers – and recognise that we all have responsibilities to research in LIS, and to the Coalition. There is one more challenge: to get far more authors listed on the LIS Research Coalition’s publications web page.

Some of the issues that Biddy raises above will form part of the discussion at next DREaM event: the conference at the British Library on 9th July. Expert speakers and panelists participating include Jo Alcock, Dr Carla Basili, Dr Louise Cooke, Professor Hazel Hall, Annie Mauger, Professor Charles Oppenheim and Professor Carol Tenopir. Best-selling author, broadcaster, medical doctor and academic Dr Ben Goldacre will deliver the closing keynote paper, as well as make the presentation to the winner of the Library and Information Science Practitioner Researcher Excellence Award. Throughout the day there will be time for networking, and an opportunity for delegates to contribute to a one minute madness session just before lunch. The conference fee is just £95 (inclusive, including all refreshments) and a number of travel bursaries are available. To book your place, please go to the DREaM conference registration page.

DREaM event 4 materials now online

Thanks largely (again) to the efforts of our event amplifier Kirsty Pitkin, and the hard work of our workshop 3 reviewers, we’re pleased to announce that all the resources from last week’s DREaM project workshop held at the Craighouse campus of Edinburgh Napier University are now available online.

From here you can link through to each of the session presentations:

DREaM workshop screen

The third DREaM workshop was held at Edinburgh Napier University’s Craighouse campus.

We have also uploaded the video of delegate presentations in the unconference half hour. This includes contributions from:

  • Aislinn Conway
  • Anthony McKeown
  • Alison Brettle
  • Ella Taylor-Smith
  • Rossitza Atanassova
  • Allan Parsons

The workshop 3 reviews page provides links to delegate reviews of the event. Listed with these are Hazel Hall’s analysis of the workshop 3 evaluation forms. The CoverItLive archive of the event also gives a good flavour of the online conversations related to the event, as do our event amplifier Kirsty Pitkin’s photographs taken on the day.

If you would like to set up or join an online discussion based around any of the issues covered in this workshop, please feel free to do so with other DREaM network members in the DREaM online community. DREaM online community membership is open to anyone with an interest in library and information science research: you do not have to have attended a DREaM project event to join.

The next DREaM event is the conference at the British Library on 9th July. Expert speakers and panelists at the event include Jo Alcock, Dr Carla Basili, Dr Louise Cooke, Professor Hazel Hall, Annie Mauger, Professor Charles Oppenheim and Professor Carol Tenopir. Best-selling author, broadcaster, medical doctor and academic Dr Ben Goldacre will deliver the closing keynote paper, as well as make the presentation to the winner of the Library and Information Science Practitioner Researcher Excellence Award. Throughout the day there will be time for networking, and an opportunity for delegates to contribute to a one minute madness session just before lunch. The conference fee is just £95 (inclusive, including all refreshments) and a number of travel bursaries are available. To book your place, please go to the DREaM conference registration page.