Building on three years of achievement: the next stages for the LIS Research Coalition community

Dr Michael Jubb

Dr Michael Jubb

Dr Michael Jubb, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Library and Information Science Research Coalition, has contributed the last of our guest blog posts. Here he reflects on the achievements of the LIS Research Coalition over the past three years, and looks to the future. Michael writes:

This will be the penultimate blog post on the LIS Coalition site in its current form. So it’s time to celebrate the Coalition and its achievements, to thank everyone who has been involved in its work, as well as to say a little about what happens next.

The Coalition was established in 2009, as a three-year project funded by the British Library (BL), the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), and the Research Information Network (RIN). Its key aims have been to bring together information about LIS research opportunities and results; to encourage dialogue; to promote practitioner research and the translation of research outcomes into practice; and to promote the development of research capacity. None of us who were involved in setting it up could have foreseen how well the Coalition would succeed in fulfilling those objectives. It has built bridges between research and practice, especially for the academic and medical library communities, and encouraged research-led practice which both enhances the value of research and improves the efficiency and effectiveness of library services.

The DREaM project has been particularly successful in expanding the range of skills for a significant number of LIS researchers, and in developing a network of researchers who can and will work together for the future. The concluding conference for the project on 9 July 2012 was an inspiring event. Work is currently underway to seek follow-on funding for the project so that its success can be extended, particularly in the public library sector.

The two RiLIES projects have explored the extent to which LIS research projects influence library practice in the UK, and the factors that enhance or hinder such influence; and a series of good practice and support materials have been produced.

None of this could have been achieved without the support of all those who have been involved in the Coalition: the members and associates who provided the funding and active engagement and support, but also all of those who have participated and engaged with the Coalition’s work, its events, its projects and its communications. But above all, we need to give thanks to Hazel Hall, who has brought to the job of Executive Secretary all the skill, energy and verve that we could possibly have expected. How she managed to do it all in two days a week – even with some able assistance from Stephanie Kenna – is beyond comprehension. The achievements of the Coalition are largely down to her and her indefatigable efforts on its behalf.

All those achievements will have a life long after the Coalition has ceased to function in a formal sense. I am confident that the communities and relationships that have been forged will continue; and the British Library is going to help to ensure that they do. The current web site will be archived under the Library’s web harvesting programme. But the Library will also create new LIS research resource pages on the BL website, along with facilities for communication via a blog and Twitter. So now it’s up to you to make sure that what the Coalition has created continues as an active community for the future.

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.

LIS research resources briefing – workshop evaluation

Last week we blogged about the LIS research resources briefing workshop hosted by LIRG at CILIP headquarters in London on 10th July 2012. In this post we present a profile of the participants, their response to the resources that we presented at the briefing, and the main points from the discussion of future research support requirements of the LIS practitioner research community. We also provide links to a number of resources, including blogged reviews of the event.

Participants at the briefing

Participants at the briefing

There were 38 participants at the workshop. The results of our short ice-breaker exercise at the start revealed that the majority (27) classed themselves as practitioners, or as practitioners who conduct research. The other 11 participants comprised a mix of LIS researchers and consultants. There was a good balance of participants from the private, public and third sectors, with the largest number coming from higher education. However, there was no representation from the public library sector or further education. Most (26) said research is relevant or extremely relevant to their job role and 11 are already members of LIRG. Many of the participants knew one another, not least because a third of them had attended the DREaM project concluding conference the previous day.

Most at the session had learnt about it through e-mail distribution lists. This provides further illustration of the finding from both RiLIES projects that mailing lists are an important source of information for the LIS research community, especially for those based in academic institutions.

Alison Brettle contributes to the discussion

Alison Brettle contributes to the discussion

We were pleased that the evaluation forms completed by the participants showed that they found the session to be useful. The speakers were highly rated, as was the programme. In particular, the delegates appreciated the opportunity to learn more about the resources that the RiLIES project team has assembled to support LIS research. Introduced by Peter Cruickshank in his presentation Research into practice: the present situation, these include the links on the LIS Research Coalition web site to:

  1. Collections of empirical research
  2. Tools to help those who conduct their own research projects
  3. Research centres and networks of relevance to LIS research
  4. Sources of research funding

The sample leaflets that we distributed at the workshop were also well received by the participants. These are also available as PDFs for download:

As well as raising awareness amongst librarians of the evidence-base that can be used to support high quality information services delivery, along with online tools that can be used to access relevant sources of information, the session provided a forum for librarians to discuss the long-term research support needs of the library and information science research community. There were opportunities to ask questions, provide feedback and offer suggestions.

Carolynn Rankin and Miggie Pickton prepare their post-its

Carolynn Rankin and Miggie Pickton prepare their post-its

The RiLIES project team was particularly interested in delegate ideas related to the 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. This was identified as a priority in the results of the RiLIES2 poll. On the basis of work completed to date by summer intern Maja Ilievska (on an LIS Research Linking Prototype), four options were presented for discussion: (1) a community blog; (2) a wiki directory; (3) Google drive; and (4) social bookmarking (using tools such as Delicious, Diigo or even Zotero to identify and group links). A fifth option, presented by Peter Cruickshank in another set of slides proposed the implementation of a community-owned link curation engine such as ALISS. In group discussions the workshop participants identified the strengths and weaknesses of each of the five options. These were recorded on post-its and then gathered together on flip charts.

Comments on the ALISS engine

Comments on the ALISS engine

Two main themes emerged from the discussions. First, it was generally agreed that a key problem with any resource will be its ownership and sustainability. A number of suggestions were made as to which bodies should take a coordination role in the maintenance of any future service. These ranged from professional groups such as LIRG, to major bodies such as publishers and the British Library.  A related issue is the provision of resources for coordination and continuity once project funding ceases. There are a number of examples of short-lived successful tools that have died due to lack of core funding.

The second theme that emerged from discussion was 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 problems to be addressed so that those seeking to help with a technical solution do so in full recognition of the fundamental issues.

There was no evidence from the discussions of a strong preference for any of the proposed technical solutions. However, it was clear that any solution would need to address a variety of issues such as:

  • Information overload: this includes issues around quality of contributors, contributions  and findability
  • The clarity of purpose of the tool: including the extent to which the tool should hold content rather than links to existing external content
  • Risks around ownership and continuity of content if “freemium” services such as Mendelay, Zotero or Delicious are used
  • Restricted access imposed by employers, for example due to the legacy of old browsers, or blocking of sites

Several participants mentioned that the planned upgrade to CILIP’s website may provide an opportunity for a new platform to be developed.

We would like to thank everyone who came to the briefing, especially for their constructive and detailed contributions to the discussion. We are particularly pleased that some participants have blogged about the workshop:

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:

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.

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