Monthly Archives: April 2017

Libraries’ role in teaching the research community – LILAC2017

Recently Claire Sewell, the OSC Research Support Skills Coordinator attended her first LILAC conference in Swansea. These are her observations from the event.

LILAC (Librarians’ Information Literacy Annual Conference) is one of the highlights of the information profession calendar which focuses on sharing knowledge and best practice in the field of information literacy. For those who don’t know information literacy is defined as:

Knowing when and why you need information, where to find it and how to evaluate, use and communicate it in an ethical manner (CILIP definition)

Showcasing OSC initiatives

Since it was my first time attending it was a privilege to be able to present three sessions on different aspects of the work done in the OSC. The first session I ran was an interactive workshop on teaching research data management using a modular approach. The advantage of this is that the team can have several modules ready to go using discipline specific examples and information, meaning that we are able to offer courses tailored to the exact needs of the audience. This works well as a teaching method and the response from our audience both in Cambridge and at LILAC was positive.

There was an equally enthusiastic response to my poster outlining the Supporting Researchers in the 21st Century programme. This open and inclusive programme aims to educate library staff in the area of scholarly communication and research support. One element of this programme was the subject of my finalLILAC contribution – a short talk on the Research Support Ambassador Programme which provides participants with a chance to develop a deeper understanding of the scholarly communication process.

As well as presenting and getting feedback on our initiatives the conference provided me with a chance to hear about best practice from a range of inspiring speakers. A few of my highlights are detailed below.

Getting the message out there -keynote highlights

Work openly, share ideas and get out of the library into the research community were the messages that came out of the three keynote talks from across the information world.

The first was delivered by Josie Fraser, a Social and Educational Technologist who has worked in a variety of sectors, who spoke on the topic of The Library is Open: Librarians and Information Professionals as Open Practitioners.  Given the aim of the OSC to promote open research and work in a transparent manner this was an inspiring message.

Josie highlighted the difference between the terms free and open, words which are often confused when it comes to educational resources.  If a resource is free it may well be available to use but this does not mean users are able to keep copies or change them, something which is fundamental for education.

Open implies that a resource is in the public domain and can be used and reused to build new knowledge. Josie finished her keynote by calling for librarians to embrace open practices with our teaching materials. Sharing our work with others helps to improve practice and saves us from reinventing the wheel. The criteria for open are: retain, reuse, revised, remix, redistribute.

In her keynote, Making an Impact Beyond the Library and Information Service, Barbara Allen talked about the importance of moving outside the library building and into the heart of the university as a way to get information literacy embedded within education rather than as an added extra. The more we think outside the library the more we can link up with other groups who operate outside the library, she argued. Don’t ask permission to join in the bigger agenda – just  join in or you might never get there.

Alan Carbery in his talk Authentic Information Literacy in an Era of Post Truth  discussed authentic assessment of information literacy. He described looking at anonymised student coursework to assess how students are applying what they have learnt through instruction. When real grades are at stake students will usually follow orders and do what is asked of them.

Students are often taught about the difference between scholarly and popular publications which ignores the fact that they can be both. Alan said we need to stop polarising opinions, including the student concept of credibility, when they are taught that some sources are good and some are bad. This concept is becoming linked to how well-known the source is – ‘if you know about it it must be good’. But this is not always the case.

Alan asked: How can we get out of the filter bubble – social media allows you to select your own news sources but what gets left out? Is there another opinion you should be exposed to? He gave the example of the US elections where polls and articles on some news feeds claimed Clinton was the frontrunner right up until the day of the election. We need to move to question-centric teaching and teach students to ask more questions of the information they receive.

Alan suggested we need to embed information literacy instruction in daily life – make it relevant for attendees. There are also lessons to be learnt here which can apply to other areas of teaching. We need to become information literacy instructors as opposed to library-centric information literacy instructors.

Key points from other sessions

There is a CILIP course coming soon on ‘Copyright education for librarians’. This will be thinking about the needs of the audience and relate to real life situations. New professional librarians surveyed said that copyright was not covered in enough depth during their courses however many saw it as an opportunity for future professional development. The majority of UK universities have a copyright specialist of some description, but copyright is often seen as a problem to be avoided by librarians.

There is a movement in teaching to more interactive sessions rather than just talking and working on their own. Several sessions highlighted the increased pressure on and expectations of students in academia. Also highlighted were the benefits of reflective teaching practice.

There are many misconceptions about open science and open research amongst the research community. There is too much terminology and it is hard to balance the pressure to publish with the pressure to good research. Librarians have a role in helping to educate here. Many early career researchers are positive about data sharing but unsure as to how to go about it, and one possibility is making course a formal part of PhD education.

Published 27  April 2017
Written by Claire Sewell 

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Shifting sands: notes from UKSG2017 workshop on skills

Library education needs to teach skills over knowledge to remain relevant into the future, conferences are a useful place to learn about scholarly communication and libraries need to employ a wider range of staff  were some of the outcomes from two workshops held at the recent UKSG conference called “Shifting sands: Changing academic library skill sets”. The slides – which include notes from the discussions on both days – are available in Slideshare. The hashtag for the conference is #uksg17

The workshop was held twice, on Monday 10th April and on Tuesday 11th April. The audience on both days consisted of just over 50 people and were primarily library staff with a few publishers and some intermediaries. About half of the people both times had responsibility for hiring staff.

The premise of the workshop was: The nature of academic libraries is changing dramatically. What is the role of the library in a wholly open access world? And what does this mean for our staffing?

The library qualification

According to CILIP”s May 2016 document Qualified library & information professionals in Further Education – Case for Support , qualified librarians have:

  • An accredited library and information qualification
  • Chartered Membership of CILIP (MCLIP) to demonstrate ongoing engagement with the profession
  • A relevant teaching or training qualification is occasionally required
  • An IT or e-learning qualification is occasionally required.

So this then raises the question: if Scholarly Communication is becoming an increasingly important part of the work academic libraries do then what do library degrees offer in the way of training in Scholarly Communication?

A SCONUL report that came out in November 2016 – Developing the professionals of the future Views from experts in ‘library schools’ had views from seven universities offering library qualifications. Three did not mention anything related to scholarly communication (University of Ulster, University of the West of England, Robert Gordon University). Aberystwyth University and University College Dublin have new degrees in Digital Curation. Dublin Business School referred to “future library programmes” that “will incorporate modules such as the Research Librarian & the Librarian as Publisher to reflect new roles & activities in the sector”. Only City University London mentioned any scholarly communication specific topics: mentioned “research data management, repository management and digital asset management”.

While not interviewed as part of this report, it is worth noting that the library courses at Sheffield University and UCL do incorporate units relating to scholarly communication.

This paucity of inclusion of scholarly communication instruction flies in the face of a clear need. A 2012 analysis of job announcements identified ‘Scholarly communications librarians’ as a new role for health sciences. Two years later, a paper on scholarly communication coaching noted: “To successfully address the current needs of a forward-thinking faculty, the academic library needs to place scholarly communication competencies in the toolkit of every librarian who has a role interacting with subject faculty.” Five years ago, RLUK published a report Reskilling for Research which identified high skills gaps in nine key areas.

For those of you interested in this topic, the blog Changing roles and changing needs for academic librarians is a literature review of research on the issue of training for librarians.

Activity – Job analysis

The activity part of the workshop started with the room breaking into groups of four. Each group was given paper copies of a job description. The job descriptions were also available online in a GoogleDoc. The 29 job advertisements have appeared in my in-box over the past two years and were for roles based in the UK that incorporate some aspect of scholarly communication.

The participants were asked to identify from the job description the specific knowledge or systems that were being requested, the types of generic library skills the job description was asking for and the type of person they needed.

Attendees were asked to complete an online table, although post-it notes were available for those who preferred. I later transferred these responses into the document.

Discussion – reflections on job descriptions

The groups then were asked to reflect on their analysis and to have a short discussion together considering whether these were the kinds of skills, knowledge and people they are currently employing or working with? They were also asked to discuss the appropriate training source for certain skills and knowledge.

We then opened the floor.

The discussions around the way Scholarly Communication has developed were interesting. In several cases the library only had a copyright person by chance (someone happened to have that knowledge). In others an individual’s interest became a ‘thing’ that then needed to be recruited for because it becomes core. The impression was that it is only very recently that libraries have started seriously thinking strategically about staffing for Scholarly Communication.

There was (not surprisingly) some defensiveness about library qualifications. One person said “Library schools can’t churn people out with these skills because they are always changing”, and another noted that “Learning is episodic – one time learning won’t set you up for your career. These are jobs that don’t even exist yet. They should be teaching critical thinking”. These positions are both correct, however these are not new skills. Repositories have been around for over 12 years.

Another comment echoed this “Things are changing and developing all the time. What you learnt in year 1 of your qualification might be completely irrelevant by the time you do the job.” Courses should lay groundwork and be around flexibility and adaption as much as the knowledge.

The suggestions for new kinds of skills it would be useful for graduates to have included: working as part of a team, advocacy skills, liaison skills, communication, resilience, flexibility, critical thinking and the ability to adapt. One participant suggested it would be more useful to teach librarians customer service skills or relationship management. It was agreed that the university courses need to balance the base information with other types of skills and knowledge.

Professional development options

A component of the RLUK Strategic Priorities 2014-2017 is A Creative Community: Nurturing leadership, innovation and skills throughout our libraries’. This was intended to be implemented by working “with Information Science schools to shape both CPD and professional training for students, fitting them for the challenges presented by modern academic libraries and the changing landscape of higher education”.

However training opportunities remain scarce. In the past couple of months, very few have been advertised. A bibliometrics course in Chicago (at great expense), a digitisation course, a course on licensing, and a catch-all on open access and open science all in London were the only courses I could find at short notice.

There are some options for the keen. The ACRL Scholarly Communication Toolkit is full of good resources and FOSTER offers Key Skills for Open Science and Responsible Research and Innovation. There is even a MOOC on Scholarly Communication.

Indeed much training in the area of scholarly communication occurs at conferences such as UKSG. This is slightly problematic, because each individual’s experience of the same conference can differ widely. It is also difficult to demonstrate value. It is not usual to walk into a job interview with a list of the conferences you have attended.

There is also the problem of some employers not recognising the essential nature of attendance at conferences due to the perception they are ‘a bit of a jolly’. Anyone who has prepared a presentation, presented, live tweeted from that presentation, taken notes during other presentations, kept up a twitter feed on the conference hashtag, ensured the email inbox is not completely out of control, connected with all the colleagues you need to network with and written up blog posts about the event afterwards will tell you this is not very jolly at all.

Change librarians or change the library?

This discussion touches on questions about where librarians see themselves. There is some movement away from the ‘handmaiden’ role towards being a co-investigator. A recent informal question on a discussion list in the UK raised some commentary about what Scholarly Communication was. Half of the libraries who said they were offering services in areas such as open access were calling this ‘research support’ rather than Scholarly Communication. In some instances this was a deliberate choice because they saw Scholarly Communication as driving change and they didn’t wish to be associated with that agenda.

At the UKSG Forum last year Dr Sarah Pittaway presented “When is a librarian not a librarian?” where she argued we need to broaden our definition of ‘librarian’. Diversity is beneficial, she argued. Recently at the RLUK conference the issue of people working in libraries identifying as ‘not a librarian’ was a hot topic of conversation.

So we have a choice – we broaden the definition of library and librarian and bring in colleagues from other areas, or we adapt our existing staff (or both). And this itself is challenging. In a talk in 2015 at Cambridge, Susan Gibbons from Yale University spoke of the project she had undertaken to ensure that all staff have an outreach component of their role. She noted that for some existing staff this was not comfortable – they wanted to be curators. The feeling for these people was they ‘changed the rules on me’. She noted that “Some have come along the outreach path, others have moved somewhere else – and the university helps them with that move.”

Training existing staff in the area of Scholarly Communication is not just going to be culturally difficult. It is nigh on impossible in the absence of training opportunities. At Cambridge we have employed a staff member whose sole job is to address the knowledge and skills gap with our library community through the Supporting Researchers in the 21st Century and Research Support Ambassadors programmes.

Discussion: Challenges for the future

The participants were then asked to break into their groups again and discuss what the implications of the situation were for hiring processes, current staff and their own practice.

In the discussion that ensued (full notes from which have been incorporated into the slides) several issues and suggestions arose:

In terms of the recruitment process, a suggestion was that we should be looking at job descriptions and regularly review them to ensure they stay up to date – to give the opportunity to adapt and change. We also need to be placing our advertisements in different outlets to the ones that are traditionally used by libraries.

There needs to be a relaxation on the need for a library qualification, particularly for people who have years of experience in a related field. It is unlikely someone like that would spend five years getting a new qualification. One person noted they were going to do a course last year, but CILIP said that it was an academic qualification not a professional qualification, so they abandoned it. One person observed that “CILIP is the elephant in the room here”. Another noted that it is possible with CILIP to be an associate or chartered with a significant portfolio.

There was the observation that the requirement for library qualification is moving from ‘essential’ to ‘desirable’ in job advertisements, and some are just asking for experience. One participant said that increasingly library qualifications are less relevant.

The question about learning on the job came up several times. This was widely seen as being the best way, however it causes huge operational issues because of the sunk cost of the staff doing the training. It also implies that everyone is coming in at entry level. One person said they recruit “and there is not a lot of staff out there – it is a significant lack of knowledge. They have to go on a steep learning curve.” One solution for this was a person who hired three part time people to give jobs for year to develop the skills sets.

There was some concern during one of the discussion that the term ‘legacy’ staff had a connotation. In some cases their situation was not of their making. “If there are no opportunities internally then it is limited. Staff can be retrained. Make the best of who you have got”, was the argument. However another person noted that they had had to change job descriptions to get to a point that we can get the kind of person we want through recruitment.

One participant noted that the discussion was very familiar because they had been an e-resources librarian, which was a massive transition. They didn’t feel qualified, got more training from the job and from a graduate traineeship. Their concern was that we were losing the battle again in scholarly communications and library skills have not caught up again. Another observation was that library schools have narrow attitudes and it is difficult to teach skills in curiosity. This is an argument against a formal route. They also suffer from a conflict of interest because of the need to ensure a number of students – there are economic considerations.

Take home messages

It has taken me some time to get to the point of ‘going public’ on this issue. Anecdotally I have heard time and time again the dissatisfaction of librarians with their library degree. But the plural of anecdote is not data.

In an attempt to gather some evidence about where people working in scholarly communication have come from, the Office of Scholarly Communication sent out a survey in September 2016. The hypothesis was: there is a systematic lack of education on scholarly communication issues available to those entering the library profession. This is creating a time bomb skills gap in the academic library profession and unless action is taken we may well end up with a workforce not suited to work in the 21st century research library.

We received over 500 responses to the survey and we are in the process of employing a researcher to analyse findings, but initial findings show that many people working in scholarly communication come from outside the library sector.

Bringing this discussion to UKSG has been very instructive. It is still anecdotal but there are significant numbers of people who feel angry about the time and expense they have had to invest in what has been a ‘useless’ degree.

But the conversation has begun and there is the intention for several bodies in the higher education area to work together to find a solution to this looming skills gap.

Published 12 April 2017
Written by Dr Danny Kingsley 

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How to get the most out of modern peer-review

On 30th March the Office of Scholarly Communication hosted an event How to get the most out of modern peer-review, bringing together researchers, publishers and library staff to discuss how peer review is changing. Dr Laurent Gatto was both a presenter and a participant, and with permission we have re-posted his blog about the event here.

Publisher presentations

There were presentations from eLife (Dr Wei Mun Chan) and F1000Research (Dr Sabina Alam, @Sab_Ra) in the Innovations in peer-review session. PeerJ was mentioned several times, for publishing their peer reviews, for example.

I general, I think the presenters did a good job in demonstrating modern peer review on how it can benefit authors and research in general: eLife with its consultative peer review, where editors and reviewers discuss their views and opinions before a decision is made, and F1000Research with their open post-publication peer review system. My personal experience with PeerJ (as a reviewer) and F1000Research (as a reviewer and author) have been excellent. All these journals are great venues for a modern open scholar.

Dr Jen Wright (@JennWrights) from Cambridge University Press presented a nice and detailed overview of how peer review works. I was well structured, following a FAQ model. She also very entertainingly illustrated her talk with references to PHDcomis, Lego Grad Student and Shit Academics Say.

.@JennWrights uses @legogradstudent to illustrate her peer review faq at  (View image in Twitter).

Open peer review

The highlight of the day was Corina’s (@LoganCorina) brilliant Open peer review – what is it and what does it achieve? talk. She made a strong point in favour of open peer review and reviewing ethics. Read her lab code of conduct about reviewing ethics, as well as publishing ethics, her commitment to conducting rigorous science, lab interpersonal interactions.

I was nice to hear how her efforts in ethical publishing and reviewing proved to have been very positive for her academic career, which contrasts to the fear that some early career researcher sometimes express that practising open science and ethical publishing could hinder their careers.

The role of peer-reviewers in promoting open science

I was also very happy to have the opportunity to give a talk about the role of peer review in promoting open science. My slides are available here. I plan to write it up and expand on it in a blog post.

In brief, my main message was that, it we want to promote rigorous science, we have an obligation to make sure that the data, software and methods are adequately shared and described, and that it was not too difficult or time consuming to check this as a peer reviewer.

Currently, as far as data is concerned, my ideal review system would be a 2-stage process, where

  1. Submit your data and meta-data to a repository, where it get’s checked (by specialists, data scientists, data curators) for quality, annotation, meta-data.
  2. Submit your research with a link to the peer reviewed data.

My talk earned me a lot of feed back and encouragements, both off and online.

View image on Twitter

The effect on my twitter activity today – the 12 – 2pm bar is 1689 impressions 🙂 (View image on Twitter)

Publons

I had heard about Publons before, but never took the time to learn more about it. Tom Culley made a great job at presenting it as a means to Getting formal recognition for your peer review work. I will definitely give it a go in the near future.

Show me the data

I went to Dr Varsha Khodiyar’s (@varsha_khodiyar) workshop Show me the data : tips and tricks with peer-reviewing research data. Varsha is the data curation editor at Scientific Data. I am not necessarily a big fan of data journals (see here for some background), but it is clear that she is doing great work making sure that the data that she checks and curated (in addition to the peer review) is available under an open license and of good quality.

When it comes to data/software submissions, I believe that often, many shortcomings are more a result of lack of adequate skills or experience in the process of good practice in sharing and documenting, rather that poor quality of the output. The review process should ideally serve as a way to support and education researchers, and the Bioconductor and rOpenSci projects are great examples of how the package review process is a way to genuinely help the authors to improve on their output, rather than a binary accept/reject outcome.

A closed 2-stage peer review, like is typically in place in journals is a horrible system for than. An open review, with more interactions between reviewers and authors would be a more efficient approach.

More about the event

To hear more about the event, have a look at the #oscpeereview hashtag on twitter. The event was live streamed and will be made available on YouTube in the coming day – I will add a link later.

All in all, I think it was a great event. Kudos to the Office of Scholarly Communication for their efforts and continuous dedication. As emphasised by many participants, events like this constitute a unique and important channel highlighting important innovations in digital and open science that are redesigning scholarship. They are also a unique venue where open researcher can express and discuss challenges and opportunities with the wider academic community.

Published 4 April 2017
Written by Dr Laurent Gatto
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