Tag Archives: scholarly communication

Summer camp – the scholarly communication way

Growing up, a diet of B-grade movies gave the impression of American summer camps as places where teenagers undertake a series of slapstick events in the wilderness. That may indeed be the case sometimes, but at the University of California San Diego campus recently, a group of decidedly older people bunked in together for a completely different type of summer camp.

The inaugural FORCE11 Scholarly Communications Institute (FSCI) was held in the first week of August, bringing together librarians, researchers and administrators from around the world. The event was planned as a week long intensive summer school on improving research communication. The activities were spread all over the campus, although not, unfortunately in the mother of all spaceships for a library.

The event hashtag was #FSCI and the specific hashtag for the course, “Building an Open and Information Rich Institution”  I ran with Sarah Shreeves from University of Miami was #FSCIAM3. This blog is a brief run down of what we covered in the course.

Our course

We had a wonderful group of people, primarily from the library sector, and from around the world (although many were working in American universities).

From the delivery perspective this was an intense experience requiring 14 hours of delivery plus the documentation and follow up each day. It was further complicated by the fact that Sarah and I met for first time in person half an hour before delivery on the Monday.

Working within open and F.A.I.R principles, we have made all of our resources and information available and links to all the Google documents are included in this blog post.The shared Google Drive has links to everything. These presentations will be uploaded to the FSCI Zenodo site when it is available. In addition the group created a Zotero page which collects together relevant links and resources as they arose in discussion.

Monday – Problem definition

Using an established process the group worked together to define the problems we were looking to address in scholarly communication:

  • OA takes time and money – and the tools are annoying.
  • We need to reduce complexity – make it easy administratively
  • It is important to recognise difference – one size does not fit all, there are cultural and country norms in publishing and prestige
  • Motivation – what are the incentives? How can we demonstrate benefit?
  • There is a need for advocacy and training of various stakeholders including within library
  • We can demonstrate the repository as a free way of publishing with impact tracking – for both the author and the institution.
  • Whose responsibility is this?

The slides from the first day (including the workings of the group) are available.

Tuesday – Stakeholder mapping

On the second day we discussed the different stakeholders in institutions and external to institutions in this space. Each table created a pile of post it notes which were then classified on a large grid on the wall against ‘interest’ versus ‘influence’. We then discussed which stakeholders we needed to work with, and whether it is possible to move the stakeholder from one of the quadrants into another. We also discussed the value in using some stakeholders to reach others.

A second exercise we ran was ‘responding to objections’ – where we gave the group a few minutes to create objections that different stakeholders may have to aspects of scholarly communication. These were then randomised and the group had only a couple of minutes to develop an ‘elevator pitch’ to respond to that objection. The slides from day 2 incorporate the comments, objections and counter arguments.

 

Wednesday – Communication

We started the day with a ‘gathering evidence’ exercise that consisted of a series of questions that were allocated to each table to discuss with a view to the kind of information held in an institution that might be helpful to answer it. Examples of the type of questions we asked the group to consider are: How do we better understand and communicate with the range of disciplines on campus? (with a goal of creating advocacy materials that support the range of disciplinary needs of the institution) or Who is doing collaborative research with others on campus and with others outside of the university? Is there interdisciplinary research? (with a goal of creating a map of collaborations on campus).

We moved to an exercise to demonstrate the need for clear communication. People worked in pairs and had a pile of building bricks which they were asked to build a shape from. They then had five minutes to describe their shape. After this the instructions were swapped and the opposite pair tried to reproduce the shape from the instructions.The results were surprising – with fewer than 50% of shapes reproduced. However, looking at some of the instructions, things became clearer. Note the description ‘cute kitty’ in these instructions.

 

The final session on day three was a risk assessment exercise where we put up the proposal ‘that we will make all digitised older theses open access without obtaining permission from the authors’. The tables were asked to come up with potential risks that could arise from this proposal, and then asked to map these onto a grid that considered the likelihood and severity of each risk.

Then the group discussed what could be done to mitigate the risks they identified, and then determine if the risk could then be moved within the grid. Again, all discussions are captured in the slides.

Thursday – Governance

On the Thursday we considered matters of governance. Dominic Tate from Edinburgh talked the group through the management structure at his institution, and how they have managed to create a strong decision making governance.

Using a system of mapping organisational structure to the decision structure, the group identified a goal they would like to achieve at their workplace and then to consider the aspects that are Strategic, Tactical and Operational. They then identified the person/people/group that will need to agree at each of these stages to achieve the end goal,and whether this was something that could be managed within the immediate organisation or does it involve the wider institution. We also discussed whether policies would need to be changed or created, and the level of consultation needed. The slides describe the process.

At the end of this day we broke into two groups for an unconference. One group discussed the UK Scholarly Communication Licence, the other continued on the governance discussion by identifying stakeholders and working out how to approach them.

Friday – The future

On the last day we discussed the best way to share stories with the relevant stakeholders – what is the best way to present the information? How do you get it to the person?

We then looked to the future, first by considering big disruptor technologies on the last 20 years. We asked people to share their work experiences before these technologies existed, to give us an idea of how much things will potentially change into the future with the next big disruptors. We then asked individuals to identify future issues that they will need to address at their institution, which they then sorted at the table level before we did a group consolidation to identify what the issues will be.

Each group chose one of these issues/futures, and in a mini overview of the work we had done throughout the week, they undertook a stakeholder assessment – who would they have to engage to make this happen? They also identified the governance structures in place, and the type of information they would want in place to make decisions about moving in this area. Sone of the discussions are captured in the slides.

Assessment of the course

When developing the course we articulated what we hoped the participants would get out of the week. These included the ability to:

  • Think strategically and comprehensively about openness and their institution
  • Articulate the ‘why’ of openness for a variety of stakeholders within an institution
  • Articulate how information related to research and outputs flows through an institution and understand challenges to this flow of information
  • Understand the practicalities of delivering open access to research outputs and research data management within an institution
  • Consider the technology, expertise, and resources required to support open research

So how did we do? Well according to the feedback at the beginning and end of the week we certainly hit all the targets the participants identified.

The responses at the beginning of the week were:

  

And the feedback at the end of the week was:

           

Interestingly, the Governance session was the least popular session we ran, but it rated extremely highly in the areas the participants self identified as learning about.

 

Several people went out of their way to tell Sarah and I that ‘this was the best training/workshop I have ever done’ which is very high praise.

On the Friday afternoon all of the participants for FSCI got back together to provide feedback about what happened in their courses. These ranged from an explanation of what people did, to participants describing what they knew, to poems. There was no expressionist dance unfortunately (perhaps next year). Sarah and I chose to describe our week in pictures.

Wrap of the week

While it was slightly disorienting spending a week in student accommodation, overall this was a valuable and rewarding experience – if extremely intense. Our group of just over 120 people was only one of several ‘camps’ happening at the same time, including electronic music and programming groups. We all converged on the dining hall each meal, a big hodge podge of people.

The largest and most intrusive group was the teenagers at the San Diego District Police camp. This is a para military organisation, we discovered. This did go some way to explain the line ups at 6am and also at 9pm, the groups shouting their responses in unison, and the instructors wandering around with guns on their hips.

On a much more peaceful note, San Diego is where Dr Seuss lived, and looking at the vegetation and landscape it is easy to see where his inspiration originated.

    

Published 22 August 2017
Written by Dr Danny Kingsley 
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Planning scholarly communication training in the UK

In June 2017 a group of people (see end for attendees) met in London to discuss the issues around scholarly communication training delivery in the UK. Representatives from RLUK, UKSG, SCONUL, UKCoRR, Vitae, Jisc and some universities had a workshop to nut through the problem. Possibly because of the nature of the attendees of the group, the discussion was very library-centric, but this does not preclude the need for training outside the library sector. This blog is a summary of the discussion from that day.

Background

The decision to hold a meeting like this came out of the a library skills workshop run at UKSG recently. In ensuing discussions, it was agreed that it would be a good idea to get stakeholders together for a symposium of some description to try and nut out how we could collaborate and provide training solutions for scholarly communication across the sector. There is plenty of space in this area for multiple offerings but we do want to make sure we are covering the range of areas and the types of delivery modes and levels required. In preparation for the discussion the group created a document listing scholarly communication training on offer currently.

What is scholarly communication?

An informal survey of research libraries in the UK earlier this year showed that while all respondents had some kind of service that supports aspects of scholarly communication, only half actually used the term ‘scholarly communication’ to describe those services.

A discussion around the table concluded that the term scholarly communication encompasses a wide range of definitions. Some libraries take the boundary that it refers to post-publication. Others address the pre-publication aspect and meet the need of Early Career Researchers for advice on publishing. Services can focus on the academic’s profile of themselves and their research, or the research lifecycle. In some cases there is a question about whether research data management is part of the equation.

The failure of library schools to deliver

It is fairly universally acknowledged that it is a challenge to engage with library schools on the issue of scholarly communication, despite repositories being a staple part of research library infrastructure for well over a decade. There are a few exceptions but generally open access or other aspects of scholarly communication are completely absent from the curricula. (Note: any library school that wishes to challenge this statement, or provide information about upcoming plans are welcome to send these through to info@osc.cam.ac.uk)

This raises the question – if library schools are not providing, how do we recruit and train the staff we need? Indeed, who are we actually recruiting? Is it essential for staff to have a library degree, or experience in an academic library? Or are our requirements more functional such as the ability to manipulate large data sets, or experience working with academics, or an understanding of the Higher Education environment?

While libraries are starting to employ post-graduate researchers because they can lend skills to the library, library culture is a consideration. Employing researchers who are not librarians has the benefit of bringing in expertise from outside, but there are challenges to integrate their work into the library culture. We need to look at competencies in terms of the structure and size of the organisation, both for current staff and staff of the future.

In the absence of scholarly communication instruction within the basic qualification, skills training in this space would appear to need to be addressed at the profession level.

One possible route to prepare the next generation is offering some modular approach of on the job learning with very practical experience. An option could be to work with people who have come from outside the library space. Given libraries seem to be starting to bring skill sets in, we need to consider how this sits with the existing profession.

Audiences and their training needs

The goal of the meeting was to resolve what kinds of training the sector needs, for whom and how it is delivered. For example, with many general library staff there is a basic need to understand the issues with scholarly communication. The number one question is ‘what is scholarly communication’? The possibly it is enough for these people to just be familiar with the terminology.

It is possible we need lots of short courses on the general topic of: this is what OA is, basics of RDM etc (that could potentially be delivered online), but probably fewer more complex courses on issues like analysing publisher and funder policies. There are also debates and higher order areas which require face to face debate.

  • Front facing staff
    • Need an overview so the language is familiar and they can refer queries on
  • People working in scholarly communication
    • Day to day practicalities of funder open access compliance
  • Specialist roles in scholarly communication
    • Specific areas
  • Senior managers
    • Very much need a refresher so they can help their staff.
    • Similar overview training, leadership is around the advocacy
    • Need conceptual framework for scholarly communication – how do the technical parts sit together for the infrastructure and governance of institutions
    • Stakeholder management skills.

Skill sets in scholarly communication

It was agreed that budgetary, presentation and negotiation skills are needed in this area as general skills. When it comes to specialist skills these include:

  • Research Integrity
  • Bibliometrics
    • Involved in providing specialist advice on metrics within a school discussion
    • Providing advice on impact
  • Pushing the open research agenda
  • Academic reward structure
  • Technical and infrastructure eg: integrating ORCIDS etc

Considerations – Lack of perceived need?

There appears to be a problem with a lack of perceived need for training in this space. We are encountering issues where people in libraries are saying ‘I don’t think this is our job’. This points to what should we be presenting librarianship as – what kind of people do we want in the profession? A ‘traditional librarian’ of 20 years ago is not the same job now, the skills are different. Today much of an academic librarian’s job is about winning over people who don’t want to hear the message. It is possible there does need to be a different sort of person who is pushing an open access agenda.

There have been other innovations in library work that required engaging different behaviours and tasks in the past. For example, is this move towards a scholarly communication future different from when the discovery search was introduced? The eResources experience is similar in terms of new competencies required in the profession. However the difference in the scholarly communication environment is there is an external driver – we need to understand the politics of how open access can move forward in the UK.

Considerations – budgets

There is a mismatch between what people would love to have, what can be designed and what people can afford. Anecdotally the group heard that training budgets are really squeezed so priority and focus might be heavily influenced by this, with geography and travelling costs being central to decisions.

The group discussed the need to make training accessible to all. Even free events can be prohibitive in terms of travel, and hosting them in off-peak periods can be helpful with costs. The blockage is not just money, it includes time – in terms of loss of a team member while they are away. This is particularly problematic if scholarly communication is only a part of their job. Most of the need comes from really small institutions where the work is part of a bigger role, however that is where there is little money. This also raises challenges for the time available for those people to self educate.

UKSG run events in London which is expensive for organisations north of London to attend. To increase participation UKSG are now trying to put regional events on, and have shifted their training to a webinar programme rather than face to face.

SCONUL has done basic copyright training and this has thrown up price sensitivity. One solution is trying to keep it local, and members can volunteer staff in kind.

One option could be online training where participants log on at a certain time once a week for 10 weeks. Many of the people in scholarly communication work in universities, and have distance education software available to them. An alternative is having courses done in house – that could part of a modular package (but how do you link this?). The course content needs to be agnostic enough to be useful (not discussing DSpace or PURE for example) before delving into institutional specifics. Make it modular with core principles and then have options.

There was a suggestion that we create a nonprofit making shared collaborative service. The costs to developing this type of deliverable include the development of the training materials, infrastructure costs, room hire, catering etc. Can we make it all online and available? This could work if it were modular.

Next steps

We have not yet bottomed out the need yet – perception of needs at the practitioner level and senior management might be different. Cost is an issue here. Universities need to work out how much it costs to do in-house training – what is the opportunity cost to employ a staff member without experience or training and then get them up to speed?

It would be useful to have an understanding of what training is happening within institutions. What subjects/topics are being taught, who is doing it, what language is being used, is there a dedicated staff member. Where else do people get information and support?

The general plan is to reconvene in September.

Useful Resources

Skill sets analyses

Here are links to work that has already been done on the required skill sets:

Organisations providing or coordinating training

Organisations are running similar events and then participants have to choose what to focus on. If we divvy it up across the sector it might help the situation.

The Society for College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL) does basic copyright training. There is more focus on the leadership end of the equation. The Collaboration Strategy Group is considering a shared service. People come from non traditional groups and this reflects a broader skills sets required in libraries than traditional library courses give you. SCONUL are about to scope out where those services might be and try to identify needs into the future. There are challenges are in recruiting people given the slightly moralistic nature of library culture and whether they are welcoming of people from different background. How do we promote, retain and incentivise people who may not come from this area?

Research Libraries UK (RLUK) don’t do direct training, but they do have programmes of works and networks around these issues. The RLUK board recently had a meeting to look at a new strategy – updating the existing 2014-2017 RLUK Strategy. They are looking at the bigger picture for scholarly communication – the infrastructure challenges, the bigger picture related to licensing and costs and how to leverage members in the consortia. Their role is very much supporting and helping out.

UK Serials Group (UKSG) runs a conference programme. One day events are a mix of standing repeated courses and one off sessions. In conferences often the breakout sessions are the things that people find really valuable. These include soft skills like mindfulness in leadership. The audience tends to be practitioners, people in their mid-career. Traditional areas such as library have been focused around collection management because that is where publishers are. But it is not just about traditional publishing. They are our members and that is moving our agenda to meet those needs. UKSG cannot get anywhere in contributing to university publishing courses. Libraries are starting to employ people who have publishing backgrounds.

The Association of Research Managers and Administrators (ARMA) has special interest groups in open access. (Note: ARMA were invited to this meeting but unfortunately couldn’t attend.)

The Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) conducts training at a local level. It was agreed we can’t have the conversation without having CILIP in the room – they are wanting to offer more support for academic libraries and seem to be recognising that the library schools program for CILIP is not the be-all and end-all any more. This is partly why they have developed a recognised trainer programme. (Note: CILIP were invited to this meeting but unfortunately couldn’t attend.)

Representatives attending the discussion

  • Helen Dobson – Manchester University
  • Danny Kingsley – Cambridge University
  • Claire Sewell – Cambridge University
  • Anna Grigson representing UKSG
  • Fiona Bradley – RLUK
  • Ann Rossiter – SCONUL
  • Katie Wheat – Vitae
  • Sarah Bull – UKSG
  • Stephanie Meece -UKCoRR
  • Frank Manista – Jisc
  • Helen Blanchett – Jisc (a member of the group coordinating the meeting, but was unable to attend on the day)

ARMA and CILIP were also invited but were not able to send a representative.

Published 15 August 2017
Written by Dr Danny Kingsley 

Open at scale: sharing images in the Open Research Pilot

Dr Ben Steventon is one of the participants in the Open Research Pilot. He is working with the Office of Scholarly Communication to make his research process more open and here reports on some of the major challenges he perceives at the beginning of the project.

The Steventon Group is a new group established last year which looks at embryonic development, in particular focusing on the zebrafish. To investigate problems in this area the group uses time-lapse imaging and tracks cells in 3D visualisations which presents many challenges when it comes to data sharing, which they hope to address through the Wellcome Trust Open Research Project. Whilst the difficulties that this group are facing are specific to a particular type of research, they highlight some common challenges across open research: sharing large files, dealing with proprietary software and joining up the different outputs of a group.

Sharing imaging data 

The data created by time-lapse imaging and cell tracking is frequently on a scale that presents a technical, as well as financial, challenge. The raw data consists of several terabytes of film which is then compressed for analysis into 500GB files. These compressed files are of a high enough quality that they can be used for analysis but they are still not small enough that they can be easily shared. In addition the group also generates spreadsheets of tracking data, which can be easily shared but are meaningless without the original imaging files and specific software to allow the two pieces of data to be connected. One solution which we are considering is the Image Data Resource, which is working to make imaging datasets in the life sciences, which have not previously been shareable due to their size, available to the scientific community to re-use.

Making it usable

The software used in this type of research is a major barrier to making the group’s work reproducible. The Imaris software the group uses costs thousands of pounds so anything shared in their proprietary formats are only accessible to an extremely small group of researchers at wealthier institutions, which is in direct opposition to the principles of Open Research. It is possible to use Fiji, an open source alternative, to recreate tracking with the imaging files and tracking spreadsheets; however, the data annotation originally performed in Imaris will be lost when the images are not saved in the proprietary formats.

An additional problem in such analyses is the sharing of protocols that detail the methodologies applied, from the preparation of the samples all the way through data generation and analysis. This is a common problem with standard peer-review journals that are often limited in the space available for the description of methods. The group are exploring new ways to communicate their research protocols and have created an article for the Journal of Visualised Experiments, but these are time consuming to create and so are not always possible. Open peer-review platforms potentially offer a solution to sharing detailed protocols in a more rapid manner, as do specialist platforms such as Wellcome Open Research and Protocols.io.

Increasing efficiency by increasing openness

Whilst the file size and proprietary software in this type of research presents some barriers to sharing, there are also opportunities through sharing to improve practice across the community. Currently there are several different software packages being used for visualisation and tracking. Therefore, sharing more imaging data would allow groups to try out different types of images on different tools and make better purchasing decisions with their grant money. Furthermore, there is a great frustration in this area that lots of people are working on different algorithms for different datasets, so greater sharing of these algorithms could reduce the amount of time wasted creating algorithms when it might be possible to adapt a pre-existing one.

Shifting models of scholarly communication

As we move towards a model of greater openness, research groups are facing a new difficulty in working out how best to present their myriad outputs. The Steventon group intends to publish data (in some form), protocols and a preprint at the same time as submitting their papers to a traditional journal. This will make their work more reproducible, and it also allows researchers who are interested in different aspects of their work to access the bits that interest them. These outputs will link to one another, through citations, but this relies on close reading of the different outputs and checking references. The Steventon group would like to make the links between the different aspects of their work more obvious and browsable, so the context is clear to anyone interest in the lab’s work. As the research of the group is so visual it would be appropriate to represent the different aspects of their work in a more appealing form than a list of links.
The Steventon lab is attempting to link and contextualise their work through their website, and it is possible to cross-reference resources in many repositories (including Cambridge’s Apollo), but they would like there to be a more sustainable solution. They work in areas with crossovers to other disciplines – some people may be interested in their methodologies, others the particular species they work on, and others still the particular developmental processes they are researching. There are opportunities here for openness to increase the discoverability of interdisciplinary research and we will be exploring this, as well as the issues around sharing images and proprietary software, as part of the Open Research Pilot.

Published 8 May 2017
Written by Rosie Higman and Dr Ben Steventon

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