Friday, 10 August 2012

Collaborative research - living the DREaM

Edinburgh Napier University was awarded £45,000 grant funding in 2010 from the AHRC to support the DREaM project. The purpose of the grant was to develop a formal UK-wide network of Library and Information Science (LIS) researchers in 2011/12. Several events were held since its creation bringing together researchers to share their strength and weaknesses, and share good practice.

Hazel Hall introduced the event by giving everyone an overview of the project and where it had got to. From the evidence she supplied it seems to have met its main objectives which were to improve access to LIS research and to improve its impact on services. She went on to express her hope that the DREaM legacy of collaborating and communicating across the sector would continue and the following speakers built on her address.

The first keynote speaker of the day was Professor Carol Tenopir from the University of Tennessee. Carol emphasised how the world economic situation was creating challenges and opportunities for libraries, not just problems, and that it was a good time to promote the increase of research and its value. She is currently working on the LIBvalue project of which the ultimate outcome will be that there will be tried and tested methods of proving impact of libraries on their institutions so that others can use or enhance them. This should be ready by next year. Carol explained all the different types of value which could be measured from purchase exchange value to explicit and implied value, warning of the need to measure the right one or face the consequences of it not providing the results needed. She also highlighted the need to use a range of measurements to provide a greater depth of understanding and tailor the results to match the institutions mission and values, for example, there’s no point spending time looking at the affect of the library on the grants process if the university isn’t research intensive. Cater too for senior managements own peccadilloes, for example , show economists statistics such as academics spend on average three months reading – 67% of which is from the library (despite many academics claiming they don’t use the library) and show social scientists what a successful graduate looks like in terms of how much reading and accessing of resources they do. The final message from Carol was to work out where your value is – whether it is the buildings, the space, the collections or the librarians and brand this effectively.

Next we had One Minute Madness which was very much like a Teachmeet for anyone that’s ever been to one, expect that in this case candidates only got one minute (hence the name)to showcase their project rather than five. There were twenty speakers in twenty minutes and some were timed brilliantly, others not so much so they got the foghorn treatment. I generally like this kind of thing as it really cuts out the waffle and introduces you to an idea – you can always then chase this up if you’re particularly interested. Some highlights for me were; Allan Parsons talking about transforming the role of the academic liaison librarians, Jennifer Hopkins talking about improving relationships via teaching, Peter Cruickshank talking about online reputations and Sue Reynolds telling us about social media, open access and research. One Minute Madness videos

After lunch, Dr Louise Cooke from Loughborough University spoke of the social network analysis she had completed based on the DReaM members – she found that they had all strengthened their ties and that they all had several connections whereas previously they had only had one or two and were vulnerable to being kept out of the loop. She told us that on the basis of her analysis of the network cadre academic librarians performed very well. She finished by emphasising the importance of using social media to create networks.

The panel discussion which followed consisted of four participants in the project who used the opportunity to consider what the next step. Members of the audience were encouraged to participate. The theme of lifelong libraries ran through the session with the suggestion that the sectors should not be put in boxes and should all be engaged in research. It was also recommended that projects should help bridge the gap between researchers and practioners and that this should be key to all events.

The second keynote, and final session of the day, was delivered by Dr Ben Goldacre . He spoke about medical journals only publishing positive trials and not negative ones therefore skewing the view of medicines, often to the detriment of patients’ health. We often only hear about positive library stories and research is rarely disseminated, however, in medicine this can have fatal consequences.

My photos didn’t come out very well so here are some others taken by event amplifier Kirsty Pitkin.

In my past role, I was involved in a fair bit of research via all aspects of the annual questionnaire, focus groups, mystery shoppers and information skills feedback. In my current job I haven't had the opportunity yet but having attended this session I at least now know my first port of call if I do.

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