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.

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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.

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.

RiLIES1 report highlights 1: main findings and recommendations

In a blog post 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 first of RiLIES1 highlights postings. Here we summarise the main findings of the report, and its recommendations.

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 project’s findings generated new insights related to the roles of research leadership and sponsorship, and means of involving practitioners in research projects. In particular, findings:

  • highlight a preference for face-to-face channels for the dissemination of research results that is greater than has been previously reported, and
  • reveal the role of social media in raising awareness of research for the first time in a report on this theme.

Eleven detailed project recommendations were made for strategies to ensure that:

  • LIS research undertaken has high level support;
  • the execution of LIS research involves practitioners;
  • dissemination plans for LIS research take into account practitioner preferences for consuming research output;
  • LIS research output is accessible to the target audience;
  • practitioners are given support to engage with research by their employers and professional bodies, drawing on good practice within the broad community of librarians and information scientists.

Our next RiLIES1 report highlights post will consider dissemination strategies for impact.

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

Enhancing the impact of LIS research projects: RiLIES1 report available

Between February and July last year Hazel Hall and her Edinburgh Napier University colleagues Peter Cruickshank, Ella Taylor-Smith and Jenny Gebel explored the extent to which funded librarianship research projects influence library practice in the UK. Of particular interest to the Research in Librarianship Impact Evaluation Study were the factors that increase or hinder the impact of project outcomes on practice.

We are pleased to announce that the project report Enhancing the impact of LIS research projects is now freely available to download. We will also be blogging here highlights of the RiLIES1 project findings over the coming weeks.

Thanks are due to the librarians and library and information science researchers who contributed to the study in a variety of ways: by completing the initial poll around this time last year, participating in the three focus group discussions, and responding to the final validation survey in summer 2011.

A follow-up project starts this month. For further details of RiLIES2 please see the RiLIES project web page.