Tag Archives: Libraries

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 

Creative Commons License

Service Level Agreements for TDM

Librarians expect publishers to support our researchers’ rights to Text and Data Mining and not cut access off for a library if they see ‘suspicious’ activity before they establish whether it is legitimate or not. These were the conclusions of a group who met at a workshop to discuss provision of Text and Data Mining services in March. The final conclusions were:

Expectations libraries have of publishers over TDM

The workshop concluded with very different expectations to what was originally proposed. The messages to publishers that were agreed were:

  1. Don’t cut us off over TDM activity! Have a conversation with us first if you notice abnormal behaviour*
  2. If you do cut us off and it turns out to be legitimate then we expect compensation for the time we were cut off
  3. Mechanisms for TDM where certain behaviours are expected need to be built into separate licensing agreements for TDM

*And if you want to cut us off – please demonstrate there are all these illegal TDM activities happening in the UK

Workshop on TDM

The workshop “Developing a research library position statement on Text and Data Mining in the UK” was part of the recent RLUK2017 conference.  My colleagues, Dr Debbie Hansen from the Office of Scholarly Communication and Anna Vernon from Jisc, and I wanted to open up the discussion about Text and Data Mining (TDM) with our library community. We have made the slides available and they contain a summary of all the discussions held during the event. This short blog post is an analysis of that discussion.

We started the workshop with a quick analysis of who was in the room using a live survey tool called Mentimeter. Eleven participants came from research institutions – six large, four small and one  from an ‘other research institution’. There were two publishers, and four people who identified as ‘other’ – which were intermediaries. Of the 19 attendees, 14 worked in a library. There was only one person who said they had extensive experience in TDM, four people said they were TDM practitioners but the largest group were the 14 who classified themselves as having ‘heard of TDM but have had no practical experience’.

The workshop then covered what TDM is, what the legal situation is and what publishers are currently saying about TDM . We then opened up the discussion.

Experiences of TDM for participants

In the initial discussion about experiences of the participants, a few issues were raised if libraries were to offer TDM services. Indeed there was a question whether this should form part of library service delivery at all. The issue is partly that this is new legislation, so currently publisher and institutions are reactive, not strategic in relation to TDM. We agreed:

  • There is a need for clearer understanding of the licensing situation with information
  • We also need to create a mechanism of where to go for advice, both within the institution and the publisher
  • We need to develop procedures of what to do with requests – which is a policy issue 
  • Researcher behaviour is a factor – academics are not concerned by copyright.

Offering TDM is a change of role of the library – traditionally libraries have existed to preserve access to items. The group agreed we would like to be enabling this activity rather than saying “no you can’t”. There are library implications for offering support for TDM, not least that librarians are not always aware of TDM taking place within their institution. This makes it difficult to be the central point for the activity. In addition, TDM could threaten access through being cut off, so this is causing internal disquiet.

TDM activity underway in Europe & UK

We then presented to the workshop some of the activities in TDM that are happening internationally, such as the FutureTDM project. There was also a short run down on the new copyright exception for research organisations carrying out research in public interest being proposed to the European Commission allowing researchers to carry out TDM of copyright protected content if they have lawful access (e.g. subscription) without prior authorisation.

ContentMine is a not for profit organisation that supplies open source TDM software to access and analyse documents. They are currently partnering with Wikimedia Foundation with a grant to develop WikiFactMine which is a project aiming to make scientific data available to editors of Wikidata and Wikipedia.

The ChemDataExtractor is a tool built by the Molecular Engineering Group at the University of Cambridge. It is an open source software package that extracts chemical information from scientific documentation (e.g. text, tables). The extracted data can be used for onward analysis. There is some information in a paper  in the Journal of Chemical Information and Modelling: ChemDataExtractor: A Toolkit for Automated Extraction of Chemical Information from the Scientific Literature“.

The Manchester Institute of Biotechnology hosts the National Centre for Text Mining (NaCTeM), which works with research partners to provide text mining tools and services in the biomedical field.

The British Library had a call for applications for a PhD student placement to undertake thesis text mining on 150,000 theses held in EThOS to extract new metadata such as names of supervisors.  Applications closed 20 February 2017, but according to an EThOS newsletter from March,  they had received no applications for the placement. The suggestion is that “perhaps that few students have content mining skills sufficiently well developed to undertake such a challenging placement”.

The problem with supporting TDM in libraries

We proposed to the workshop group that libraries are worried about getting cut off from their subscription by publishers due to large downloads of papers through TDM activity. This is because publishers’ systems are pre-programmed to react to suspicious activity. If TDM invokes automated investigation, then this may cause an access block.

However universities need to maintain support mechanism to ensure continuity of access. For this to occur we require workflows for swift resolution, fast communication and a team of communicators. This also requires education of researchers of potential issues.

We asked the group to discuss this issue – noting reasons why their organisation is not actively supporting TDM and if they are the main challenges they face.

Discussion about supporting TDM in libraries

The reasons put forward for not supporting TDM included practical issues such as the challenges of handling physical media and the risk of lockout.

The point was made that there was a lack of demand for the service. This is possibly because the researchers are not coming to the Library for help. There may be a lack of awareness in the IT areas that the Library can help and they may not even pass on the queries.  This points to the need for internal discussion with institutions.

It was noted that there was an assumption in the discussion that the Library is at the centre of this type of activity, however and we are not joined up as organisations. The question is who is responsible for this activity? There is often no institutional view on TDM because the issues are not raised at academic level. Policy is required.

Even if researchers do come to the library, there are questions about how we can provide a service. Initially we would be responding to individual queries, but how do we scale it up?

The challenges raised included the need for libraries to ensure everyone understands the needs at the the content owner level. The library, as the coordinator of this work would need to ensure the TDM is not for commercial use, and need to ensure people know their responsibilities. This means the library is potentially being intrusive on the researcher process.

Service Level Agreement proposal

The proposal we put forward to the group was that we draft a statement for a Service Level Agreement for publishers to assure us that if the library is cut off, but the activity is legal, we will be reinstated within and agreed period of time. We asked the group to discuss the issues if we were to do this.

Expectation of publishers

The discussion has raised several issues libraries had experienced with publishers over TDM. One participants said the contract with a particular publisher to allow their researchers to do TDM took two years to finalise.

There was a recognition that for genuine TDM to be identified might require some sort of registry of TDM activity which might not be an administrative task all libraries want to take on. The alternative suggestion was a third party IP registry, which could avoid some of the manual work. Given that LOCKSS crawls publisher software without getting trapped, this could work in the same way with a bank of IP addresses that is secured for this purpose.

Some solutions that publishers could help with include publishers delivering material in different ways – not on a hard drive. The suggestion was that this could be part of a platform and the material was produced in a format that allowed TDM (at no extra cost).

Expectation of libraries

There was some distaste amongst the group for libraries to take on the responsibility for maintaining  a TDM activity register. However libraries could create a safe space for TDM like virtual private networks.

Licenses are the responsibility of libraries, so we are involved whether we wish to be or not. Large scale computational reading is completely different from current library provision. There are concerns that licensing via the library could be unsuitable for some institutions. This raises issues of delivery and legal responsibilities. One solution for TDM could be to record IP address ranges in licence agreements. We need to consider:

  • How do we manage the licenses we are currently signed up to?
  • How do we manage licensing into the future so we separate different uses? Should we have a separate TDM ‘bolt on’ agreement.

The Service Level Agreement (SLA) solution

The group noted that, particularly given the amount publisher licenses cost libraries, being cut off for a week or two weeks with no redress is unusual at best in a commercial environment. At minimum publishers should contact the library to give the library a grace period to investigate rather than being cut off automatically.

The basis for the conversation over the SLA includes the fact that the law is on the subscriber’s side if everyone is doing it legally. It would help to have an understanding of the extent of infringing activity going on with University networks (considering that people can ‘mask’ themselves). This would be useful for thinking of thresholds.

Next steps

We need to open up the conversation to a wider group of librarians. We are hoping that we might be able to work with RLUK and funding councils to come to an agreed set of requirements that we can have endorsed by the community and which we can then take to to publishers.

Published 30 March 2017
Written by Dr Danny Kingsley
Creative Commons License

Where did they come from? Educational background of people in scholarly communication

Scholarly communication roles are becoming more commonplace in academic libraries around the world but who is actually filling these roles? The Office of Scholarly Communication in Cambridge recently conducted a survey to find out a bit more about who makes up the scholarly communication workforce and this blog post is the first in a series sharing the results.

The survey was advertised in October 2016 via several mailing lists targeting an audience of library staff who worked in scholarly communication. For the purposes of the survey we defined this as:

The process by which academics, scholars and researchers share and publish their research findings with the wider academic community and beyond. This includes, but is not limited to, areas such as open access and open data, copyright, institutional repositories and research data management.

In total 540 people responded to the calls for participation with 519 going on to complete the survey, indicating that the topic had relevance for many in the sector.

Working patterns

Results show that 65% of current roles in scholarly communication have been established in respondent’s organisations for less than five years with fewer than 15% having been established for more than ten years. Given that scholarly communication is still growing as a discipline this is perhaps not a surprising result.

It should also be noted that the survey makes no distinction between those who are working in a dedicated scholarly communication role and those who may have had additional responsibilities added to a pre-existing position. These roles tend to sit within larger organisations which employ over 200 people although whether the organisation was defined as the library or wider institution was open to interpretation by respondents.

Responses showed an even spread of experience in the library and information science (LIS) sector with 22% having less than five years’ experience and 27% having more than twenty.  Since completing their education just over half of respondents have remained within LIS but given the current fluctuations in the job market it is not surprising to learn that just under half of people have worked outside the sector within the same period.

Respondents were also asked to list the ways in which they actively contributed to the scholarly publication process. The majority (72%) did so by authoring scholarly works or contributing to the peer review process (44%). Although not specified as a category a number of respondents highlighted their work in publishing material, indicating a change in the scholarly process rather than a continuation to the status quo.

LIS qualifications

Most of those (71%) who responded to the survey either have or are currently working towards a postgraduate qualification in LIS, an anticipated result given the target population of the survey. The length of time respondents had held their qualification was evenly spread in line with the amount of time spent working in the sector with 48% having achieved their qualification less than ten years ago whilst 49% having held their qualification for over a decade. Just over half of this group felt that their LIS qualification did not equip them with knowledge of the scholarly communication process (56%).

Around a fifth of respondents (21%) hold a library and information science qualification at a level other than postgraduate, with the majority of being at bachelor level. Of these there was a fairly even divide between those who have held this qualification for five to ten years (31%) and those who qualified more than twenty years ago (28%). Only 17% of this group felt that their studies equipped them with appropriate knowledge of scholarly communication.

Qualifications outside LIS

A small number of respondents do not hold qualifications in LIS but hold or are working towards postgraduate qualifications in other subjects. Most of this group hold/are working on a PhD (69%) in a range of subjects from anatomy to mechanical engineering.

This group overwhelmingly felt that what they learnt during their studies had practical applications in their work in scholarly communication (74%). This was a larger percentage than those who had studied LIS at either undergraduate or postgraduate level. These results echo experiences at Cambridge where a large proportion of the team is made up of people from a variety of academic backgrounds. In many ways this has proven to be an asset as they have direct experience of the issues faced by current researchers and are able to offer insight into how best to meet their needs.

So what does this tell us?

The scholarly communication workforce is expanding as academic libraries respond to the changing environment and shift their focus to research support. Many of these roles have been created in the past five years in particular within larger organisations better positioned to devote resources to increasing their scholarly communication presence.

Although results from this survey indicate that the majority of staff come from a library background a diverse range of levels and subjects are represented. As noted above this can provide unique insights into researcher needs but it also raises the question of what trained library professionals can bring to this area. Given that the majority of those educated in LIS felt that their qualification did not adequately equip them for their role this is a potentially worrying trend which needs to be explored further.

We will be continuing to analyse the results of the survey over the next few months to address both this and other questions. Hopefully this will provide insight into where scholarly communications librarians are now and what they can do to ensure success into the future.

Published 9 March 2017
Written by Claire Sewell
Creative Commons License