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.

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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:

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.

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

New summer intern joins the team: meet Maja Ilievska

Maja Ilievska has joined Hazel Hall’s team at Edinburgh Napier University to work on LIS Research Coalition projects DREaM and RiLIES. In particular she will be helping on final preparations for the DREaM conference. She will also work with the team to identify possible ways for the LIS research community to continue to support research in the domain beyond the formal end of the LIS Research Coalition projects. You will be hearing more from her soon. Meanwhile, we hand over to Maja to introduce herself:

“Hello. I am starting my internship in the Centre for Social Informatics at Edinburgh Napier University, so this seems a good time to introduce myself. I applied for the position of an intern through the IAESTE internship programme and I am now working with Professor Hazel Hall on her LIS research projects.

Maja Ilievska

“I am a student at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Information Technologies at Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje, Macedonia. Currently I am in the last year of my undergraduate studies and recently I have been working on a project about social network analysis, online communities and spreading the information within them as part of a course in Intelligent Information Systems. I hope that I will be able to use this to help LIS practitioners reach the information they require.

“I am looking forward to my involvement in the DREaM and RiLIES, projects and meeting all the people working on these projects.

“I am also looking forward to amazing weekends organized by IAESTE Scotland along with the rest of the interns because it is great opportunity to meet new people from different parts of the world and learn about Scotland’s history and culture. As I will be in the UK this summer I really hope to catch a glimpse of the Olympics or Wimbledon.”

Maja has set up a new Twitter account @MajaNapier, which she will use while she is on placement over the summer.

RiLIES2 project poll: findings

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

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

Summary of responses

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

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

Practitioners’ knowledge of resources

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creating legacy resources

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

Preferences for legacy resources

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

Other ideas for RiLIES2 project outputs included:

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

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

Dissemination options

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

What is to be done?

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

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

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

Acknowledgements

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