Tag Archives: conferences

A Research Data Librarian’s experience of OpenCon2017

Photo: R2RC.org, CC-0After following and participating in the OpenCon Librarian calls for much of the last year I was delighted to win a partial scholarship to OpenCon 2017. The monthly calls had raised my awareness of the variety of Open Access, Education and Data initiatives taking place elsewhere and I was keen to learn more about others’ advocacy efforts with students, librarians, policy makers, social entrepreneurs and researchers from around the world.

Too often when discussing Open Access and Data it seems that researchers, librarians and policy makers are at separate conferences and having separate conversations; so it is great that OpenCon brings together such a diverse group of people to work across national, disciplinary and professional boundaries. Thus I was very excited to arrive in Berlin for a long weekend working with a dedicated group of advocates on how to advance Open Research and Education.

The weekend started with a panel of inspiring early career professionals discussing the initiatives they are working on which showed the many different levels it is possible to influence academic culture. These included Kholoud Al Ajarma’s work enabling refugee children to tell their stories through photography, the Bullied into Bad Science campaign which supports early career researchers in publishing ethically, Robin Champieux’s efforts to affect grassroots cultural change and research into how open science is (or is not!) being incorporated into Review, Promotion and Tenure in American and Canadian universities. Learning about projects working at the individual, institutional, and national level was a great way to get inspired about what could be achieved in the rest of the conference.

Photo: R2RC.org, CC-0

This emphasis on taking practical action was a theme of the weekend, OpenCon is not an event where you spend much time listening! After sharing how we all came to be interested in ‘Open’ during the stories of self on Saturday afternoon, we plunged into regional focus groups on Sunday working on how we can affect cultural change as individuals in large institutions.

The workshops used design thinking, so we spent time thinking through the goals, frustrations and preoccupations of each actor. This meant that when we were coming up with strategies for cultural change they were focused on what is realistic for the people involved rather than reaching for a technical solution with no regard to context. This was a great chance to talk through the different pressures facing researchers and librarians, understand each other’s points of view and come up with ways we can work in alliance to advocate for more openness.

During the do-athon (think a more inclusive version of a hackathon) I spent much of my time working with a group lead by Zoe Wake Hyde looking at Open Humanities and Social Sciences which was born out of one of the unconference sessions on the previous day.

When discussing Open Research, and particularly Open Data, the conversation is frequently geared towards the type of research and publishing which occurs in the physical sciences and so solutions do not take account of the challenges faced by the Humanities and Social Sciences. These challenges include a lack of funding, less frequent publishing which puts more pressure on each output, and the difficulties of making monographs Open Access. Often at conferences there are only a couple of us who are interested in the Humanities and Social Sciences so it was great to be able to have in depth discussions and start planning possible actions.

During the initial unconference session we talked about the differences (and potential conflicts) between Digital Humanities and Open Humanities, the difficulties in finding language to advocate effectively for Open in the Humanities, and the difficulty of sharing qualitative social sciences data. It was reassuring to hear others are having similar difficulties in getting engagement in these disciplines and, whilst trying to avoid it turning into a therapy session, discuss how we could get Humanities and Social Sciences to have a higher profile within the Open movement. It was by no means all discussion and true to stereotype several of our group spent the afternoon working on their own getting to grips with the literature in this area.

It was inspiring to work together with an international group of early career researchers, policy makers and librarians to get from an initial discussion about the difficulties we are all facing to a draft toolkit for advocates in little over 24 hours. Our discussions have continued since leaving Berlin and we hope to have a regular webchat to share best practice and support each other.

Whilst getting involved with practical projects was a fantastic opportunity my main takeaway from the weekend was the importance of developing a wider and more inclusive perspective on Open Research and Education. It is easy to lose sight of these broader goals when working on these issues every day and getting bogged down in funder compliance, the complications of publisher embargoes and the technical difficulties of sharing data.

The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion panel focused on the real world impact of openness and the importance of being critical in our approaches to openness. Denise Albornoz spoke powerfully on recognising the potential for Open Research to perpetuate unequal relationships across the world with wealthy scientists being the only ones able to afford to publish (as opposed to being the only ones being able to afford to read the literature) and so silencing those in developing countries. Tara Robertson highlighted the complicated consent issues exposed through opening up historic records, Thomas Mboa focused on how Open Access prioritises Western issues over those important in Africa, and Siko Bouterse spoke about the Whose Knowledge project which campaigns on ensuring knowledge from marginalised communities is represented on the Internet.

This panel, much like the whole of OpenCon, left me reflecting on how we can best advance Open Access and Open Data and re-energised to make a start with new allies from around the world.

Photo by: Rachael Ainsworth, License: CC-BY

An Astronomy Open Science Champion’s experience of OpenCon2017

Advocating for openness in research is a big part of the work we do in the Library’s Research Services team. Trying to win the hearts and minds of skeptical researchers can be a challenge but increasingly we find that we are having conversations with researchers who are themselves advocates for open research. Facilitating the development of a network of open champions across campus is something we’re keen to do more of and two recent examples of this work are holding an Open Research Forum in Open Access Week and funding Rachael Ainsworth, an Early Career Researcher, to attend OpenCon2017. To do our job well we also need to be involved in developments and discussions, so we were delighted that Rosie Higman, a member of our team, won a sponsored place at OpenCon2017. Read about Rachael’s experience at OpenCon here and come back to read about Rosie’s later in the week…

AinsworthRround

Hello! I am Rachael Ainsworth, a Research Associate in Radio Astronomy at the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics (JBCA) here within the University of Manchester. I am the Open Science Champion in my department where I advocate, give presentations and organise events relating to Open Science in Astronomy. I am also in the current cohort of Mozilla Open Leaders, working on the project Resources for Open Science in Astronomy (ROSA): an Open Science how-to kit for astronomers to help them research openly from proposal to publication. Are you running or starting an open project and want to grow as an open leader? Apply now for the next round of Mozilla Open Leaders! You can view my application for Round 4 on my GitHub here 🙂

Photo by: R2RC, License: CC0, Edited by: Rachael Ainsworth

I applied to attend OpenCon 2017 to be inspired by and network with other pioneers of the Open Movement. There were thousands of applicants for this year’s event from over 175 countries, but there were only a few hundred places at the conference to represent our global community. I was waitlisted to attend based on my main application (which you can read on my GitHub here along with the response from the OpenCon 2017 Organising Committee). This was pretty good considering the odds, but I was still gutted. However, I was lucky enough to see that the University of Manchester Library was holding a competition to sponsor a student or staff member to attend. I therefore remixed my main application to answer the University of Manchester-specific questions (which you can read on my GitHub here) and submitted it to the competition. I was very happy when it was announced that I won the sponsored place!  

I arrived at OpenCon ready to dive into the challenges still facing Open, collaborate and brainstorm actionable solutions – big and small. I gained a lot through the European regional workshop – How might we help individuals shape the culture around them in a university? We broke into groups to establish personas/stakeholders associated with our workshop topic, we considered their pains and gains, and brainstormed potential solutions to the challenges they face. I worked in a group focusing on the persona of a 30-something year old researcher, discouraged by toxic culture in academia and seeking allies to make it a more open and inclusive environment. You could say her challenges resonated with me 🙂

As a larger group, we voted on which problems/challenges we wanted to discuss further in the second half of the workshop. We then broke into new groups based on the topics we wanted to work on, and I chose the group addressing “How might we tackle time issues?” as many researchers perceive that open science practices will involve extra time and effort without much reward. It turns out that a how-to kit and templates could be a good solution to this problem. As a result, I have met enthusiastic people to collaborate with on my Mozilla Open Leadership project, ROSA.

Since I knew I would be writing a blog post to reflect upon my OpenCon experience, I participated in the Unconference session: “How can openness be advanced with podcasting, blogging and other DIY media?” I am not a natural when it comes to blogging, vlogging, podcasting or whatever the kids are doing these days, so I went to this session to learn from those that are. We discussed how to be more effective science communicators through Open Media, and joined together to form the OpenComm Network, a group to share resources, best practices, and openly licensed content to support science communication based on our various backgrounds and expertise.

During the Do-a-thon sessions on Day 3 of the conference, the OpenComm Network collaborated to record a podcast and write a blog post around Open Media and our OpenCon experience. We set up a mini recording studio in the cloakroom for interviews and answered prompts such as what does Open Media mean to you? What are the challenges to communicating about Open issues? How would you describe your experience at OpenCon?

Photo by: Rachael Ainsworth, License: CC-BY

We then transcribed the interviews, edited the recordings, and re-wrote the transcriptions into content for the blog. Because we only had a few hours for the Do-a-thon, we ran out of time to complete our goal, but you can hear version 0.1 of our podcast here and read version 0.1 of our blog post here. We hope to have full version 1.0s at some point, but I quite like that this session resulted in a demonstration of Open Media and collaboration in progress! In the meantime, you can hear my interview here 🙂

Photo by: R2RC, License: CC0, Edited by: Rachael Ainsworth

The most impactful session/moment of OpenCon 2017 was hands down the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion panel. I won’t write too much about it here, because you absolutely need to watch and listen to it for yourself (skip to 7:47:00):

 

Photo by: R2RC, License: CC0, Edited by: Rachael Ainsworth

Through their stories, the panelists reminded us to stay critical, pay careful attention to who is missing from the room, to who is writing policy/history, and to deliberately collaborate with underrepresented communities. I was moved to tears and after three standing ovations for this session, I was eager to return to Manchester to turn these insights gained into action.

Photo by: R2RC, License: CC0, Edited by: Rachael Ainsworth

I cannot thank the University of Manchester Library enough for sending me to OpenCon 2017, and I am looking forward to working closely with them to advocate for openness across our campus and encourage researchers to take advantage of the resources and training available through the Library’s services. Next up: collaborating with Research Data Management to conduct training as part of the JBCA Autumn Computing Sessions (JACS) in December, to train postgraduate students on best open data practices!

 

Mind map workshop

A great conference for a newbie

Group workshops at the BLA Conference 2014
Group workshops at the BLA Conference 2014 in Leicester

I recently attended my first conference representing The University of Manchester, for the annual Business Librarians Association (BLA). It was a particularly good conference for a first-timer as the themes were interesting and relevant to most academic libraries across the country, not to mention the friendly and welcoming atmosphere from fellow delegates and sponsors.

The major themes were:

  1. Customer Service Excellence
  2. Employability and Information Literacy
  3. Marketing

Customer Service Excellence

Many academic libraries are thinking about Customer Service Excellence (CSE) status, which The University of Manchester Library achieved in 2013. Helen Loughran from Leeds Metropolitan University (soon to be known as Leeds Beckett University) spoke about her experiences with her institution’s application, which is the largest university in the country to achieve accreditation so far.

While Helen’s talk was of most benefit to people thinking about or currently working towards CSE status, there were certainly ideas to take away for those with it already, to maintain and continuously improve standards. She posed some thought-provoking questions:

  • Are customers engaging with a library’s social media platforms, asking questions? If so, are there staff allocated and trained to answer these questions?
  • Do all staff across the institution know who to pass online queries on to, including when received in error?
  • When a customer has expressed dissatisfaction, should we consider inviting them in for a chat?

To this I would add my own thought:

  • Could we use a computer-aided text analysis program for determining the tone of free-text (typed words) feedback? There are many processes for qualitative data summation, but putting qualitative text data through a tool like Diction could give better analysis.

How do librarians improve student employability?

The position of a careers service will vary between institutions, in some cases being closely tied to the library. But I think everyone whose work is related to students will have some concern for those students’ employability. Paul Chin from the University of Hull quoted that 79% of students go to university to improve their job opportunities (NSS, 2011). He went on to explain that people don’t always realise all the skills that they have already, asking this question:

Can students articulate their graduate attributes?

Mind map workshop
Image-enhanced mind map of information literacy and employability at academic libraries

In addition to developing and offering excellent training, if we can help students to be able to explain why they studied and what it will enable them to do, this will ultimately improve their interview performance.

Kaye Towlson from De Montfort University ran a breakout session titled How do librarians improve student employability? In groups, we produced an image-enhanced mind map to visualise a student’s journey through the library. Our group’s mind map (pictured) includes a customer-centric hub with spoke roads leading to books, social media, technology, skills portfolio, meeting spaces and global citizenship.

Jane Secker from LSE spoke about how information literacy relates to digital literacy. It’s not just about technology, but extends out of the library into the curriculum for all students. She also made this suggestion:

Just because young people are mostly “tech-savvy”, this does not mean that they can “just do” academic research without guidance.

Tuning out the white noise

Ned Potter from the University of York gave a great presentation on library marketing, explaining how unfocused communication is often lost or not seen at all (noticeboards, websites, some email). He suggested ways to counter it. We may well be offering services beyond the traditional (book lending) remit of a library:

Promote non-library specific expertise via non-library specific channels.

This could include ensuring your content is searchable via Google, which is used must more than a library’s website as a starting point (much more). Ned also encouraged the use of direct, tailored and targeted communications to ensure the message about library value really hits home.