DREaM 5 speaker insight: Charles Oppenheim

Charles Oppenheim

Professor Charles Oppenheim

In the fifth of our DREaM Conference preview posts, Charles Oppenheim sums up the DREaM project so far from his perspective and describes the legacy he hopes the project will leave for the LIS community.
 

Professor Charles Oppenheim is a co-investigator of the DREaM project. He is also a member of the Legal Advisory Board of the European Commission, and of the Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance.
 
 
 

This is the last of the five DREaM events. How have the events gone so far?

 

I have attended three of the four previous events. Based upon my experience of those three, plus reports of the one I missed, the series has been extremely successful in bringing together a cadre of LIS researchers of varying ages, experience and backgrounds, and introducing them to novel research techniques that they may not have considered before.

 

What can delegates expect at this event: what will they recognise from previous events, what’s new?

 

This will be more of a rounding up event – it will inform delegates about the key results of the DREaM project so far, and will provide them with an exciting vision of the importance of research to LIS in influencing policy and practice. I very much hope that Ben Goldacre will provide an inspirational send off.

 

What are your hopes for the future of the UK network of LIS researchers after the DREaM project ends?

 

I hope that this is just the beginning and that, in conjunction with the Library and Information Research Group (LIRG), a new generation of enthusiastic and competent LIS researchers will emerge and be self-sustaining through what will be, in effect, a community of practice.

 
Charles Oppenheim will be chairing the afternoon sessions at the DREaM Conference at the British Library on Monday 9th July. For full details about the conference programme and to book a place, please see the conference web page.

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Re-engaging with research: some thoughts from the Library and Information Research Group

Ronan O'Beirne

Ronan O’Beirne

Ronan O’Beirne, Chair of CILIP’s Library and Information Research Group – LIRG and member of the Board of Directors of the LIS Research Coalition – has contributed a guest blog post on the research and librarianship, and the role of LIRG. If you would like to meet Ronan, he will be at the British Library on Monday 9th July to attend the DREaM conference, and to chair the LIRG AGM, which follows the formal sessions of the DREaM conference. Ronan writes:

The Library and Information Research Group – LIRG, a special interest group of CILIP – believes that research, in all its many manifestations, should be an essential dimension of librarianship.

Indeed LIRG believes that research can be an important and powerful weapon in the librarian’s arsenal and, as such, we champion the use of research across all sectors of the profession. More specifically, and through its various activities, LIRG aims to raise the profile and to influence the direction of research within the world of libraries. Founded 35 years ago in 1977, the group continues to be engaged with three main aims:

  1. promoting the dissemination of sound research methodology and results;
  2. assisting in the development of emerging researchers;
  3. enabling networking between researchers.

Of course back in 1977 there was no such thing a tweeting or blogging, but a company called Apple was incorporated in the US and – in response the Commodore PET, with 8kb of RAM – came to be the first “all-in-one” computer. From then on everything changed utterly and the terrible beauty of the Internet was born. The library profession and the substance of what the library does, or is, fundamentally changed.

A necessary question that follows this is how has research changed? Academic and scientific research can be seen, with the notion of mode 2 knowledge production, to have become more context-driven and solution-focused. Knowledge itself has become the product of research and its “transfer”, within an increasingly market-driven higher education, forms the unit of production upon which is based a new “academic capitalism”. Models such as the triple helix see government, academia and private business exploiting research. Where might LIS research fit in with models such as these?

More recently, with the abundance of networked information systems, the ability to disseminate research globally with the press of a button has challenged traditional scarcity models of publishing and given rise to new forms of scholarly communication. Certainly librarians continue to play an important part in innovations such as open access journals and institutional repositories.

Yet, while the impact of the Internet and technology on research approaches has been profound, the nature of LIS research has perhaps not kept pace. Indeed, in his keynote address at the launch of the DREaM project Blaise Cronin lamented the quality of LIS research and noted that very much of what might pass as research is not research that can be usefully applied. He uses the term “theoretical bricolage” to illustrate how the results of the many “cookie cutter” research projects fail to contribute to theory, and seem to take a piece of theory from here and from there in an almost haphazard way.

From a social justice perspective more qualitative research is needed, particularly in relation to the public library, and also with regard to the need for a greater emphasis on digital literacy and citizenship. Public libraries – and for that matter school libraries – so often accused of not engaging with research, may be excused because frequently “the research game” is sold to them from a singularly higher education academic viewpoint. Moreover, as the evidence-based policy-making of today’s neo-liberalism manifests itself in a managerialism intent on counting the cost of everything within the public sector generally, public librarians specifically will tell you that within local authority library departments datasets on, for example, numbers of book loans become the evidence used to justify library closures. Such an approach is a poor advertisement for the research that actually needs to be undertaken in public, school and college libraries. There has to be a hope and expectation that through a range of different research approaches we might get to a deeper, more honest understanding of our profession.

We know from the response to our regularly held events that there are many enthusiastic researchers within our ranks keen to make a positive contribution to the knowledge. If issues such as those mentioned above interest you, then take a look at the LIRG web site or dip into our open access journal Library and Information Research (LIR) to get a better insight into the work of this group. I’m sure you will be surprised.

The 2012 AGM of the The Library and Information Research Group will be held on 9th July at the British Library at the end of the DREaM conference. All-comers are welcome.

LIS Research Linking System prototype

Christine Irving introduces Maja Ilievska to afternoon tea

Maja Ilievska has just completed the second week of her summer placement working with Hazel Hall, Christine Irving and Peter Cruickshank on LIS Research Coalition projects. She says that she is enjoying the work and learning a lot. Maja is particularly looking forward to participating at the DREaM project conference, especially for the opportunity of meeting new people involved in the LIS community and sharing experiences with them. (Maja has also been getting used to our strange UK “summer” weather and taken to drinking tea!)

In the meantime Maja is working on an individual project. She is now in the position to share some information about the work that she hopes to complete. She’s written a proposal, the focus of which is how to address the question:

What would be a good system to serve as a central community-maintained access point to link to useful information about LIS practitioner research work and other “small” projects?

In the next four weeks Maja will create a prototype LIS Research Linking System. She hopes that this might be developed into a working model that will provide LIS practitioners access to the research of others that would be useful in helping them improve their practice.

Maja has identified a couple of stages for her project. The first is to research the “market” through observing activities in the JISC LIS mailing groups. The lists comprise a valuable source of information on how LIS practitioners work together to solve “small” research questions in an informal and practical way. Typically this is done by individuals: (1) posting a question to a mailing list; (2) gathering data from others who offer their opinions, expertise, and stories of their own experience of the matter in question; (3) analysing the data gathered; then (4) (sometimes, but not always) posting a summary of the findings to the list. Maja is also interested in identifying other online resources that outline smaller (and often unfunded) research projects, such as descriptions of workplace research in individuals’ blog postings, or relevant Masters dissertations that have been made available on the Web. The second stage of Maja’s project will be to choose a suitable platform that could link to these primary sources of research output. In this stage of the work special attention will be paid to existing models for the implementation of other collaborations amongst the LIS community such as the semi-annual Library day in a life and the LIS Publications wikis. A blog or other similar tool may also be a possibility.

Having done this work the next stage will be to ask people who have completed – or who are working on – LIS research projects of the nature described above to contribute to the community approach by linking their research to the new system. At the end of her placement Maja hopes that she will be able to say that she has a prototype system functioning as a community-maintained resource that could be developed further to provide a valuable tool to help LIS practitioners access research in the fields of their interest.

Maja is mindful that she only has a few weeks to work on this project (she leaves her placement on 20th July) so she may not be able to meet all her objectives. However she will try her best to contribute an insight into a possible solution to the problem that practitioners face when trying to access information about smaller and more informal LIS research output.

Maja is looking for feedback on these ideas and is open to new ideas and suggestions. If you would like to make a comment on her project please do so here. Alternatively you can contact Maja by e-mail at m.ilievska@napier.ac.uk, on Twitter at @MajaNapier, or meet her in person at the DREaM conference at the British Library in London on Monday 9th July.

DREaM 5 speaker insight: Jo Alcock

Jo Alcock

In the fourth of our DREaM Conference preview posts, Jo Alcock describes her experiences as a member of the DREaM workshop cadre and explains what she hopes to bring to the panel discussion …and so the DREaM goes on: means of sustaining the UK network of LIS researchers.
 

Jo Alcock is researcher at Evidence Base, Birmingham City University. She is currently working towards CILIP Chartership and is Chair of CILIP West Midlands Branch.
 
 
 

How have you been involved in the DREaM project to date?

I attended the DREaM opening conference last July and as a relatively new LIS researcher was keen to be involved in the project. I was fortunate enough to be able to be part of the ‘cadre’ of researchers and practitioners attending the series of workshops in Edinburgh and London. I’ve learnt a lot from these and am looking forward to putting some of what I’ve learnt into practice in my research. In addition I have had the opportunity to present on my research during the participant-led sections of the workshops, as can be seen in the video of the “unconference” half hour session at the October 2011 workshop. I have also formed new connections and strengthened existing connections with others interested in LIS research.

Why are you participating in the conference?

I was invited to attend the conference and participate as part of the afternoon panel session as a representative of the DREaM workshop cadre. I hope I’ll be able to contribute both my own opinions and that of my fellow cadre members regarding the future of LIS research.

The title of the afternoon panel session at the conference is “…and so the DREaM goes on: means of sustaining the UK network of LIS researchers”. Why is it important that the UK network of LIS researchers is sustained, and what do you anticipate we will be discussed in the panel session?

Many of the reasons the LIS Research Coalition was established are still true, particularly the gap between LIS researchers and LIS practitioners, and the lack of cohesion within LIS research. Though the work of the LIS Research Coalition has made great steps towards improving this, there is still work to be done. As a current researcher and previous practitioner, I’d like to think that as a profession we can continue to take forward the good work started by the LIS Research Coalition and strengthen the connections and collaboration within LIS research itself, and between research and practice. I hope the afternoon panel will be able to conclude with some actions for us all to take forward to help build and sustain a network of LIS researchers.

Jo Alcock will be participating in a panel discussion entitled: …and so the DREaM goes on: means of sustaining the UK network of LIS researchers at the DREaM Conference at the British Library on Monday 9th July. For full details about the conference programme and to book a place, please see the conference web page.

RiLIES report highlights 5: Research, CPD and the role of professional bodies

This is the fifth of the RiLIES1 highlights postings based on the full report which is freely available to download. Here, we summarise our findings when to comes to creating a receptive audience for research results.

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 weak link between LIS research and LIS practice (and, in particular, changes to practice) has previously been explained with reference to a number of factors. One explanation is that practitioners struggle with the research literature because of the way that it is presented. Another is that practitioners perhaps lack confidence in their own skills in consuming academic research output, even though they are actually well-equipped to use the research literature to help inform their work.

The RiLIES1 project confirmed previous research findings which identified how LIS sector and career stage are factors when it comes to how practitioners access research.  In particular, we found those working in academic and healthcare environments are more aware than others of:

  • the routes available for accessing research results;
  • the benefits that practitioners can gain through direct participation in research projects.

An obvious solution to improving the situation in other sectors is to offer directed training about research. The could be combined with support for practitioner-researchers from academic researchers (as, for instance, Dr Alison Brettle has recently demonstrated). Training needs to be tailored to particular communities. A model that may be useful here is that of self-efficacy, to arm practitioners with both skills and motivations. This model can also ensure that positive experiences are reinforced.

However, RiLIES1 recognised that there are wider issues to be resolved when it comes to the question of practitioner interest and involvement in research. In short, how do you motivate practitioners to engage in activities which many do not see as being obviously relevant to either their roles or their professional development?

The role of employers

“Most research on LIS matters is not difficult to locate. What’s missing is a culture of exploiting research to develop and improve services.”  Experienced consultant

Academic and healthcare librarians feel rewarded for engaging with research

“Engagement with research (participating in projects or using results) is rewarded in the formal career review process at my workplace”

The RiLIES1 project found that practitioners, particularly in the public library sector, reported that engagement with research is simply not rewarded at work (see chart, right). Research is often seen as a distraction from the day-to-day pressures of an environment beset by cost-cutting.

A possible implication of this is that practitioners who do not have time to consult research miss opportunities for significant efficiency savings or service enhancements through exploitation of research results. When this is associated with workplace blocking of important social media routes for keeping in touch with other practitioners, many feel excluded from the wider professional community.

This question is part of a wider debate, and it is clear that for these issues to be addressed there would need to be joint action by the professional bodies and employers.

The role of CILIP and CPD

Unlike the case in many other professions, there has historically been no compulsion for practitioners in library and information services to engage in continuing professional development (CPD), whether or not it includes content related to research engagement. The RiLIES1 report included in its recommendations that CILIP should require on-going CPD to encourage practitioners to engage with research. We are happy to note that there have been recent developments in this area.

The RiLIES1 report also recommended that the LIS research community should:

  • explore ways in which practitioners in sectors that are more receptive to research may share good practice with others;
  • provide training to support practitioners’ interest in research.

Our second project – RiLIES2 – can be seen a step towards meeting these needs.

Conclusion

To date the motivation for LIS practitioners to stay up to date with developments in their field has depended on individual interest rather than a requirement imposed by a professional body or employer. Taking into account that practitioners work within a time-pressured environment where research may appear to be at best a low-priority activity, motivation to follow-up training opportunities related to research engagement is likely to be low.

Any response to this is likely to require a mixture of organisational and personal approaches. For example, those running research projects have a role to play in providing accessible opportunities for face-to-face interaction at all stages in the research life cycle, for example, by creating accessible events based around the research project. Equally employing organisations should sponsor access to conferences.

This requires a joint approach where practitioners (supported by their professional bodies and employers in engagement with research) and research projects (that produce results than are seen to be relevant and useful for practitioners and the organisations that employ them) intersect. The responsibility does not lie with a single set of actors. When all the factors are in alignment, impact is maximised.

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

CILIP’s Library and Information Research Group is running a free half day event on LIS research resources at CILIP, Ridgmount Street, London on the morning of Tuesday 10th July (the day after the DREaM conference at the British Library on Monday 9th July). The findings of both RiLIES projects will be covered at this event by members of the RiLIES project team. For full details please see the programme and booking information for the Research into practice: LIS research resources briefing.

Sue Reynolds of RMIT wins DREaM conference international travel bursary

Sue Reynolds

Congratulations to Dr Sue Reynolds, winner of the DREaM conference international travel bursary.

Sue is Senior Lecturer in Information Management and Program Director in the School of Business IT and Logistics at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia.

Sue will be participating at the conference on the last day of a two week European summer tour. During this she will be pursuing activities associated with her position as a Senior Lecturer in Information Management at RMIT University.

Sue is looking forward to the DREaM conference because it will give her the opportunity to hear what is happening in LIS research in the UK. Just before her European tour she will attending a similar conference in Australia: Research Applications in Information and Library Studies 8, at the University of South Australia, Adelaide on 25th June 2012. These two research-focused events will act as bookends to other professional activities that Sue will be involved in while in Europe, all of which will inform her knowledge and understanding of the most recent research in the LIS discipline and enable her in turn to share this with students and academic peers in Australia. Attendance at both research events will provide a human link between them and extend the shared aims of each (that is, to bring together a network of researchers to foster informed and innovative research practice) beyond the borders of the UK and Australia.

Sue hopes that being part of the DREaM conference might also facilitate collaborative research activities between international researchers from the UK and Australia, and perhaps beyond.

If you would like to meet Sue at the DREaM conference, there are still places available. To book your place, please go to the DREaM conference registration page.

Updated links pages: share your expertise with the RiLIES team

We are now approaching the final phase of the RiLIES 2 project. Currently we are are preparing some legacy material that we hope the LIS community – including researchers and practitioners – will find useful. The feedback from our recent poll is helping to inform this work. 

We have now posted draft materials online and seek your feedback on the pages which list links to external resources.

Please have a look at this page and the pages that it links to. These point to resources of interest to the UK LIS research community.

Please review the five pages: are there any mistakes, and/or any additional links that we should add? We are particularly interested in finding actively maintained resources to which we can link.

Reminder: If you are interested in attending a free briefing session on the output of the RiLIES projects, please sign up for our event organised in collaboration with LIRG in London on the morning of Tuesday 10th July (the day after the DREaM conference).

Feedback and comments

Please comment directly on the pages or use this this form to give us your feedback. You can use it as many times as you want. Constructive criticism is very welcome! Many thanks