RiLIES2 wrap-up, resources, and future plans

The RiLIES2 project has been concerned with the production of a series of outputs to support the use and execution of research by librarians and information scientists. In the course of the 6-month project we consulted with the target community as we developed a range of artefacts in print (downloadable pdfs) and electronic (web page) formats. We have also created a number of presentations as part of this work. (Links to these resources are given at the end of this posting.)

We have already reported that decisions on the ownership and sustainability of resources, and the coordination and continuity post-project once funding ends, are key to the long-term usefulness of any outputs created. There are a number of examples of short-lived successful tools that have died due to lack of core funding, and we’d rather this not be the fate of our work.

We have also highlighted that the issues faced by the LIS practitioner-researcher community in the identification and use of resources to support their research work are not well-understood. This signals that there is a need for community consensus around the challenges to be addressed. Then those seeking to help with technical solutions related to accessing resources to support LIS researchers and researcher-practitioners will do so in full recognition of the fundamental problems that the community faces in its efforts to engage with research.

It is difficult to directly measure the impact of a project of this nature. However it is clear that the LIS Research Coalition web site can act as a useful resource for hosting materials to support LIS researchers and practitioner-researchers in the interim while a longer-term solution is established. The RiLIES2 project has also gone a long way to clarify the needs of the LIS researcher-practitioner community and the issues that need to be addressed in meeting them. A further key impact has been to stimulate discussions amongst the Library and Information Research Group (LIRG) committee members as to how they can address the needs of the broader LIRG membership. We have provided evidence of the community’s requirements, and generated ideas for future initiatives. This is timely given CILIP’s current focus on the review of its Body of Professional Knowledge and Skills (BPKS).

As our six months on RiLIES2 draws to a close we are busy working on the project report. This will be made available soon. We’re also pleased to announce that some of the work related to the RiLIES2 project will continue: our summer intern Maja Ilievska intends to keep working on her LIS Research Linking Prototype when she returns to Macedonia for the new academic year, with a view to using it as a case study in her final year project. She is currently exploring how the set-up of the ALISS system (which was introduced at the LIRG-hosted briefing session at CILIP in London on 10th July) might be adapted for the LIS research community. We hope to find a way to disseminate the outcome on Maja’s work as it progresses.

In the meantime, please take a look at the resources that we have created in the course of the RiLIES2 project:

The presentations from the briefing session can also be accessed:

There is also an evaluation of the briefing session with links to delegate reviews.

RiLIES report highlights 6: Lessons from healthcare and medical librarians

Introduction

This is the sixth and final RiLIES1 highlight posting. It is based on the findings discussed in full RiLIES1 report. Here, we look at the LIS community that the RiLIES1 project found to be the most successful in linking research and practice: healthcare and medical librarians.

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.

We highlight the research practice of healthcare/medical librarians as an example, and inspiration, to those working in other sectors.

In response to calls for library and information services to be developed on the basis of sound research evidence, the ideal is that “Research and practice, at least in theory, [should] enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship. Research should inform practice and contribute to the development of theory. Practice should benefit from research findings (particularly where those findings go towards improving the product or service provided by practitioners) and raise more questions for research” (Haddow & Klobas, 2004, pp. 29-30). This is important to both (a) current local service priorities, and (b) the future of the broader library and information services profession. Calls such as this often go unheeded – but this is not an issue that is unique to LIS: it has also been identified in other professions, such as teaching, social work, nursing, and management.

The power of context

The RiLIES1 project confirmed that community profile is a factor when it comes to how LIS research is accessed and consumed by different groups of practitioners. For example, those working in academic and healthcare/medical environments are often more aware than others of routes to access research results, and of the benefits that practitioners can gain through direct participation in research projects.

In particular, when we spoke to healthcare/medical librarians during the RiLIES1 project we learnt of their interests and strengths in evidence based practice. The influence of end-user community values is important here. Healthcare practitioners such as doctors and nurses have a need for evidence based research. They therefore value librarians who can access the research evidence for them. At the same time healthcare/medical librarians work in an environment where evidence based practice is routine.

Winners of the Practitioner Researcher Excellence Award

Award winning clinical librarians
L to R: Dr Ben Goldacre (presenter of the award), Anne Webb (award winner), Dr Alison Brettle (mentor to award winners), Debra Thornton (award winner), Rosalind McNally (award winner), and David Stewart (Director of Health Libraries North West)

Working in such an environment offers a further advantage: it can give healthcare/medical librarians easier access to research funding than is the case in other sectors. A good example is the recent prize-winning work of the North West Clinical Librarian Systematic Review and Evaluation Group acknowledged at the DREaM project concluding conferenceon 9th July 2012. This was employer-funded because a direct link from effective library and information services to improvements in the delivery of health services could be seen.

Other examples of funding sources were identified at our workshop with healthcare and medical librarians in Salford in June 2011. For example:

  • Occasionally those working in healthcare and medical librarianship have access research funds that are not explicitly earmarked for librarians. Research opportunities arise, for example, when health service colleagues need LIS research expertise to strengthen their work.
  • One workshop participant explained how her authority funds Masters study. This then generates research results in dissertation format, which in turn may be presented at conferences.

Workshop participants also mentioned cost-effective ways of staff training as related to research. For example, chartership candidates and project students reverse mentor senior colleagues by passing on news of research project results and developments in good practice.

Access to research: popular sources

Across all sectors the RiLIES1 project found that LIS practitioners frequently access sources other than published LIS research in support of their work. In the context of healthcare/medical librarianship, we confirmed that subject-specific journals are used extensively. For example, the British Medical Journal contains valuable practical case studies on activities conducted by healthcare and medical professionals in the course of their work, including literature searching and critical appraisal. Such work is useful for LIS practitioners to prompt new ideas, for example in the deployment of research methods. Equally, routine work such as the provision of current awareness services for end users increases familiarity amongst healthcare/medical librarians with subject-specific publications.

Other than mailing lists, sources popular with heathcare/medical librarians include:

As with the other LIS practitioners, face-to-face communication and conference attendance is greatly valued by healthcare/medical librarians. The “serendipity of networking with old and new contacts” is particularly appreciated, and works best away from the normal work environment.

Conclusions

Healthcare and medical librarians clearly benefit from working in a professional environment in which research engagement is highly valued. For example, end user expectations of professional practice amongst colleagues aligns well with healthcare/medical librarians’ enthusiasm for evidence based library and information practice, and healthcare/medical librarians are able to identify research support from less-obvious sources.

Librarians in other sectors may draw inspiration from this. For example: academic librarians may do more to promote their research expertise amongst teaching and research staff; school librarians could investigate their eligibility for research funding directed at the teaching profession.

A further lesson from the healthcare/medical librarians encountered during RiLIES study is the value of research mentoring, as illustrated in the prize-winning work of the North West Clinical Librarian Group, supported by academic Dr Alison Brettle.

Reference

Haddow, G. (2010). Communicating research to practice: The role of professional association publicationsLibrary and Information Research, 34(108), 33-44.

The RiLIES report; read the full study

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

Research into practice: LIS research resources briefing

RiLIES briefing slideToday the RiLIES project team visited CILIP HQ In Ridgmount Street, London to give an update on the output of the two RiLIES projects. If you’d like to see the discussions at the workshop, check out the hashtag #rilies.

The half-day workshop began with a short ice-breaker exercise during which participants discussed their roles as researchers, researcher-practitioners, practitioners with interests in research, and consultants. Then Hazel Hall led the first of two formal presentations with an overview of the two RiLIES projects. She focused in particular on the findings of RiLIES1 that have direct relevance to preferences for exploiting the existing LIS research evidence base and the long-term support needs of LIS researchers, and practitioner-researchers. Peter Cruickshank’s presentation covered the new content on the LIS Research Coalition web pages that the RiLIES team has assembled to access: (a) the existing LIS research evidence base; (b) sources to support LIS professionals keen to conduct research; (c) information about people involved in LIS research (such as research centres and networks); and information about funding sources. He then discussed the possible development of a range of tools to help better navigate the fragmented nature of online information sources relevant to LIS research. He also demonstrated how the ALISS engine approach might be adopted by displaying a third set of slides. In the final session of the morning Christine Irving facilitated a short exercise during which the delegates discussed responses to Peter’s proposals.

On the basis of the discussions, the exercise output and delegate review forms, we will post a follow-up blog about the workshop. The information gathered from delegates in response to our proposals will help inform the development of our plans for the remainder of the project. In the blog post we will also provide further links. In the meantime you can view the three sets of slides from the event on SlideShare:

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

RiLIES report highlights 4: Key lessons from impactful research projects

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 fourth of the RiLIES1 highlights postings. Here we present lessons from five research projects that the LIS community identified as having a particularly strong impact on practitioners.

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 projects used as case studies for understanding how to maximise impact from the perspective of researchers were: (1) Open to all; (2) eValued; (3) Researchers’ use of academic libraries; (4) Evaluating clinical librarian services; (5) School libraries in the UKWe found that they share many characteristics.

Read more of this post

RiLIES report highlights 2: dissemination strategies for 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 second of the RiLIES1 highlights postings. Here we present dissemination strategies for impact.

The full RiLIES1 report makes four recommendations related to the dissemination strategies for impact. Here we consider these recommendations with reference to the literature reviewed for RiLIES1 and the outcomes of our empirical work.

1. Develop dissemination strategies that align with how and where practitioners access new information

We confirmed that if practitioners are involved throughout the lifespan of a research project, including helping to determine its scope and design, they are more likely to be aware of, and use, its outputs. Otherwise, face-to-face communication is the most popular way for practitioners to first hear about research that may be relevant to their practice. This is achieved both formally by attending events such as conferences, as well as through informal discussions. It will probably not come as a surprise to most to learn that practitioners have limited interest in peer-reviewed, academic papers.

2. Create and embed research outputs that support the use of research results

Our case studies demonstrated the benefits of creating usable artefacts – such as toolkits, training materials – and a sustainable community of practice (CoP) to support practitioners in the implementation of research findings. However, researchers need to be aware that it can take a lot of work to make a CoP sustainable, and such efforts need to continue beyond the funded period of the project.

3. Include teaching and community support materials in project plans

We found projects which were able to take advantage of additional funding to develop teaching and community support materials based on their project findings maintained a long-term impact.

4. Make research output accessible

Our literature review uncovered a line of argument across several publications that practitioners believe that research output is presented in a way that is difficult to understand. This is the “academic discourse” problem. Researchers should be encouraged to publish reports with clear lists of recommendations (and not “findings that speak for themselves”), in accessible language. Such reports should be written up in addition to any academic papers that researchers may choose to publish. A second issue that is well-recognised is information overload. Difficulties related to academic discourse and information overload can be addressed through the “translation” of research, i.e. making details relevant to practitioners available in sources that they use routinely, as well as relaying research findings in environments where people meet face-to-face, such as at conferences.

On a number of occasions participants consulted in the RiLIES project referred to the need for easily accessible research summaries. Many also regretted that they had only limited access to the research literature. This finding is important because research summaries are available, there are a number of open access repositories of LIS research already in existence, and anyone who is a CILIP member already also has access to a wide range of research resources (see, for example, the resources listed on the LIS Research Coalition’s Links pages). Here lies an opportunity for those with responsibility for freely available open access repositories of LIS research materials to raise awareness of their resources amongst the practitioner communities.

Coming up

Our next RiLIES1 report highlights post will consider the role of social media in enhancing the impact of research projects.

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

RiLIES project final survey now available

We have launched a short online survey as the final part of the LIS Research Coalition’s RiLIES project. Update: this survey closed on 15 July.

Aimed primarily at UK-based Library and Information Science (LIS) practitioners, its purpose to is check our findings to date on the relationship between the output of LIS research projects and its impact on practitioners. (If you live in another country, or are an LIS researcher or student, we would still be interested in your answers, so please feel welcome to participate too.)

You can access the survey by visiting: http://bit.ly/RiLIES2

The survey should take about 15 minutes to complete. Please submit your responses by Friday 15 July. If you can, please pass the word on to your colleagues so that they have an opportunity to make a contribution too. Many thanks!

EBLIP6 report: day 3, Thursday 30th June 2011

Our final EBLIP6 review is by Paolo Gardois, a PhD student at Sheffield University (@paologardois). Paolo reports on Thursday 30th June…

EBLIP6 tweeters and bloggers

Three of the LIS Research Coalition sponsored delegates eagerly await Thursday's keynote: Dr Katie Fraser, Katrina Dalziel & Paolo Gardois

Professor Hazel Hall opened the final day of EBLIP6 in Salford with a thought-provoking keynote speech on impact. Both patrons and managers demand services that really make a difference, and impact may take different forms: from changing users’ information behaviours to assessing academic impact through bibliometric measures, or evaluating services based on specific outcome measures, especially in the academic sector. Also, impact is very difficult to measure and evaluate. The impact of research on practice, for example, is often dependent on the cumulative and indirect effect of practitioners’ exposure to research output. Impact counts, anyway! In the current economic climate, research must demonstrate that it actually has an impact on practice, and the research–practice gap should be bridged, or at least reduced. Hazel then shared with the audience evidence emerging from the LIS Research Coalition’s RiLIES project which is due to report later this year. Several factors play a key role in increasing research uptake by practitioners: quality, scale and applicability of research itself; means of face-to-face dissemination; availability of accessible textual sources to be used as a reference in daily practice; high profile dissemination partners; and – last but not least – individuals who act as research connectors, as well as social media. Hazel finished her presentation by referring to the question “What difference does it make?” appropriately citing the Smiths, whose Salford Lads’ Club photograph is now one of the most iconic in British music history.

Later in the morning, parallel section 6 focused on a range of topics: (1) web-based services to enhance users’ experience of library services; (2) analysis of electronic resources usage by patrons as a key indicator of value generated by academic library services; (3) the development of evidence-based services in academic and health libraries, and their impact on quality improvement. As budgets shrink and patrons’ expectations rise, all three sessions offered really useful tools to improve service provision and demonstrate value for money.

The session before lunch showed an innovative and interactive format: the LIS Research Coalition organised a panel session involving LIS practitioners and journal editors.

Meet the editors

Panel members at the Meet the Editors session at EBLIP6: Professor Dick Hartley, Val Skelton, Dr Miggie Pickton, Denise Koufogiannakis, Dr Christine Urquhart

The session aimed to improve communication between the two parties and help information professionals plan the publication of their work with a better understanding of the goals and practical steps involved in editorial processes. For example, the editors advised the careful project-management of any potential publication, paying close attention to the information needs of the target journal’s audience, and not to underestimate the value of what professionals have to say to their colleagues and peers. Aiming for a high standard of work is important, but the editors encouraged members of the audience not to be obsessed with perfection: peer reviewers can help improve the quality of work submitted with their feedback. Importantly, the peer review process should be viewed as a dialogue during which both parties have a potential to learn. Also worth emphasising was the difference between research and practice-based articles: there are specific LIS journals for both categories. Even negative results, which are rarely published, are of great interest to audiences.

Poster explanation at EBLIP6

Dr Brian Detlor explains the content of his poster to Val Skelton

After a refreshing lunch and a final look at the posters (of amazing variety and really high quality), delegates were ready for the last two sessions of the conference. Parallel session 7 engaged the audience on a wide array of issues related to innovation and development of services, including the role of libraries in the management of scientific datasets, performance measurement techniques such as activities-based costing, methodological reflections on best practices and the uptake of an evidence-based approach in library services, and the available evidence base for evaluating the effectiveness of web 2.0 services. A specific session gauged the progress of evidence based practice in the health sector. Here topics included the value of services offered by NHS libraries, the efficient use of bibliographic databases and the impact of clinical librarianship on patient care and organizational objectives.

Then the time came for the closing address by Andrew Booth, who underlined the multidimensional and complex nature of “evidence-based library and information practice”. Virtually all the vocabulary used in the label can be discussed and modified, and the EBLIP6 conference had proved a valuable forum for the concepts to be discussed. Andrew also pondered the future of EBLIP. One key development resides in focusing less on research and randomised controlled trials and more on more on what really needs to be done to improve users’ experience in a really messy world. Andrew referred to the concept of “knowledge interaction”, which accounts for the need for genuine partnership between actors. Picking up on previous speakers’ references to music (keynotes Dr Ross Todd and Professor Hazel Hall had cited Bjork and the Smiths respectively) Andrew recited his own version of the lyrics of the Go-Go’s “My lips are sealed” to close the formal programme. Then awards were conferred and votes of thanks given. Mary Dunne was judged to have presented the best poster, and Kate Davies and Zaana Howard the best paper. Finally it was “Goodbye Salford” after a very interesting and stimulating three days.

RiLIES poll – summary of initial findings

As part of the RiLIES project we have just carried out a short initial survey on how LIS professionals find out about research project findings.
LIS RiLIES logo
We hoped to identify (1) the sources that are used by librarians to generate ideas for improvements in library services delivery and (2) any named LIS research projects that have been particularly influential in inspiring changes to practice.

If you took part, we’d like to start by saying thank you!

Here we share some of the results. Please bear in mind, however, that this is a self-selected and relatively small sample so the results cannot be considered to be statistically significant. Instead, we are using the findings to help direct further activities of the project.

Overall, 200 people took the time to complete the poll. Of these 175 have over 5 years experience, 173 are UK-based, and 155 describe themselves holding front-line or managerial roles. So we are pleased to have reached our core target demographic for the poll. However, although we had very good response from academic and health librarians, as the pie chart below shows, the number of public librarians who took part was disappointing. We’re now looking at other options for reaching this important librarian population.

Some findings

Even in this age of social media and e-books, face-to-face contacts (particularly informal networking) are still the key route to learning about new research results.

Even online, ‘traditional’ JISC discussion lists are considered as most useful (even more so amongst managerial and health-sector respondents). In fact they are reported as the leading alternative to face-to-face contact. As far as social media is concerned, practitioner blogs are popular, and in contrast, there is an emphatic lack of interest in virtual reading groups on platforms such as Second Life.

Twitter divided people. A significant number of academic librarian respondents, in particular, reported use of Twitter to both find out about, and report on, research projects. As would be expected, people who use Twitter are also more enthusiastic about it as a source of information. On the other hand, a significant number said that Twitter is blocked by their workplace. This is an issue within the healthcare and government sectors in particular.

Over half the respondents have used mailing lists in their own research work. Conference papers are the most popular route for reporting findings. Academic librarians dominate the more resource-intensive areas of creating peer-reviewed conference papers and writing research project reports. Our relatively high level of activity may, however, simply demonstrate that our poll attracted a more research-active demographic.

Offline, research reports and reading of (printed) news reports in journals are reported as being most useful.

The two graphs below summarise the popularity of sources of information as reported by the academic librarians:

… and healthcare librarians:

Please bear in mind, however, that the limitations of the poll data mean that we cannot do any more than note the variation in sources of information (and this is why we felt that a graph totalling up all the responses would be inappropriate at this stage).

One of the points of this poll was to draw on librarians’ collective inspiration to identify any gaps in our questions, and we were not disappointed! In particular, responses highlighted:

  • The role of professional bodies in networking professionals together.
  • The important role played by intermediaries (such as trainers) in turning research findings into useful information: consultants, trainers, conference speakers etc. and associated artefacts such as books/monographs or training course serve as intermediaries research results to practitioners, even if they are not strictly research-intensive in their own right.
  • The importance of a small number of individuals as information sources, in particular Andrew Booth, Alison Brettle, Phil Bradley, and the LIS Research Coalition’s Hazel Hall.
  • The use of RSS feeds for following multiple sources of information.

Next steps…

The results will contribute to the broad project aim of exploring the extent to which funded librarianship research projects influence library practice.

We have been able to identify some projects which we could potentially use in the case study phase of our work. Also, the results give a direction to potential focus group questions, and who we should involve in our future data collection exercises. For instance, the low number of public librarian contributions at this stage mean that we will have to find other ways to identify their needs and activities.

Finally – 64 people have said they would take part in future research – thank you! We may be in touch later on.

Hazel Hall and Peter Cruickshank

Six months into the implementation and priorities for future work

Six months have passed since work began in earnest on the implementation of the plans of the LIS Research Coalition. In this time we’ve made progress in meeting the goals related to establishing a structure to facilitate a co-ordinated and strategic approach to LIS research across the UK. For example, the Coalition web site grows steadily as a source of information about LIS research. Equally the Twitter account, @LISResearch, provides regular news feeds on research projects from proposal to publication of results, as well as research opportunities ranging from advertised PhD places to vacancies on high level research-related bodies and committees.

The Coalition has also taken the opportunity to present to external audiences. This has been achieved both at a general
level – as at Online 2009, and in the Coalition response to the consultation on the Research Excellence Framework (REF) – and with reference to concerns of particular user groups, such as the “student experience” focus of the autumn 2009 SCONUL conference. Further conference and meeting contributions are planned for a variety of audiences. We are also looking forward to the LIS Research Coalition’s own conference on Monday 28th June 2010 at the British Library Conference Centre in London. Events – both Coalition and externally organised – are noted on the Coalition web site Events page. We’ve also been busy engaging with the media, attracting coverage of our activities in both the LIS and general press (for example, we’ve had two mentions in Times Higher Education to date). Details of such publishing activity are given on the Media coverage page. It is hoped that these efforts will succeed in the goal of pushing LIS research further up the agenda of the UK LIS community, particularly amongst practitioner colleagues. Longer term it is anticipated that they might result in an improvement in the volume and quality of practitioner research, and the translation of this future research output into practice. Ultimately the research completed should also inform the development of future UK LIS research strategy.

One of the Coalition’s goals is to address current gaps in LIS research activity in the UK. The need to develop a strong evidence base that can be used to demonstrate the value and impact of library and information services has been identified as a priority area. We intend to put resources into addressing this ahead all of other possible research themes. This is on the basis that without easy access to an evidence base that can be used to assess and publicise impact and value, library and information services are rendered vulnerable to cost-cutting exercises. Funders will protect units where contributions to organisational objectives and the bottom line are more clearly artciulated, not least as demonstration of accountability for their own decisions. A second priority is to consider how to provide research methods training opportunities, primarily for the (potentially enlarged) practitioner researcher audience. Currently work is on-going on a funding bid for the provision of a series of events focused on research methods. A further possibile initiative is to run smaller-scale one-off sessions on specific themes of interest to those starting to engage in research activities.

In forthcoming meetings of the Board of Directors of the LIS Research Coalition we will be discussing how we can build on
our initial work to progress it further: there is clearly much more that could be done! The focus of these discussions will be how to ensure that we channel the resources available to the Coalition into activities that deliver real value to the LIS research community in the UK. There will be opportunities for greater participation in the debate on the direction of the Coalition at the LIS Research Coalition conference at the British Library Conference Centre on June 28th 2010. In the meantime members of the UK LIS research community – from established researchers to aspiring new professionals – are invited to respond to the proposals made in this blog posting. Of particular interest would be suggestions on how the work of the Coalition could be developed to meet the needs of practitioner researchers. Responses can be made by leaving comments below, or by e-mailing Hazel Hall directly at hazel.hall@lisresearch.org.