A new survey on academics and data literacy

I recall last year at the CILIP Conference discussing what data literacy was and being quite doubtful about it as a concept that was distinct from information literacy. However, knowledge, data and information are different things so I’ve come round to valuing the benefit in recognising the value of defining these new literacies. We recently added a definition of data literacy to the information literacy website.

At the European Conference in Information Literacy (ECIL) conference this year in St Malo France, I attended a number of papers on data literacy research. Colleagues are conducting a multi-national survey not unlike the copyright literacy survey I worked on in 2014 with Chris Morrison. Geoff Walton, my colleague on the Information Literacy Group is working on a project with Gobinda Choudhury, Serap Kurbanoglu and Joumana Boustani to gather information about levels of data literacy among the academic community. Geoff needs as many responses as possible to create a really meaningful dataset so he has asked me to pass this on to academic colleagues to complete. I thought it was worth writing a short blog post about the research as well as encouraging my academic colleagues at City, University of London to complete it.

The survey aims to collect data about the data literacy of academics and research students in higher education institutions. Responses will enable the researchers to  fully understand the current levels of awareness and gaps in knowledge which will help us develop appropriate data literacy training for the higher education community. The survey is anonymous and it will take approximately 10-15 minutes to complete. By completing this survey you are consenting to the use of your data for research and dissemination purposes.

The survey is being carried out simultaneously in 14 partner countries: Australia, Bulgaria, China, Croatia, France (Lead Partner), Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Netherlands, Pakistan, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Turkey (Lead Partner) as well as the UK (Lead Partner).

Please visit this link to complete the survey:

If you have any questions or comments as you are going through the survey, please contact Dr Geoff Walton g.walton@mmu.ac.uk

Finding your place

I was asked to make a video about tips for new researchers and I was taken back to thinking about a workshop Emma and I ran twice on doing research as a librarian. We talked about finding your niche and finding a place to think. When I talk about finding your place I mean both of those things. But I also think librarians struggle with their identity as a researcher (as I suspect many people do, undergraduate students for example). But librarians often spend a lot of time helping other people do research and providing ‘support’ when in reality they should be acknowledged as researchers. I am not sure why they are not, but I think changing your own attitude towards your identity might help. If we didn’t have libraries and librarians a huge amount of research would be impossible. We provide access to the literature, we hold archives of huge significance which we help people to navigate and interrogate. We are not just providing a support to the research process, we are underpinning it, we are providing the research with the foundations on which it stands. As we know, all research and ideas are built on things that have gone before. So finding your place is all about recognising, even if you think you don’t do research, as a librarian you probably do. Or as someone who provides specialist advice and support to others on information related issues, then you are in a pretty important place! A house won’t stay up without solid foundations. And good research has to be built on solid information and knowledge.

I think research can sometimes be an exclusive place that makes people feel they are not worthy. Even the language and methodologies, in fact any of the -ologies are horribly scary. That’s not to say anyone can just do research. There are things you need to do properly, like devising a decent research question – and one that can be answered! And finding an appropriate way to collect the data you need. It’s also important not to just go looking for evidence that backs up what you think is true. Having a critical friend with a different perspective to you can be really helpful here. However, for me finding your place is all about finding the topics that you are passionate about, so the research really matters to you. The best research projects I have worked on are ones where I feel like I am making a difference, or helping to develop something that will make a difference, even if just in a small way. And there are lots of different types of research, much of what I do has a really practical application. But that still doesn’t mean I don’t try to read some literature, see what others have done in the field, and develop a robust methodology. One example is the research I’ve been doing with Chris on librarians and copyright – what do they want to learn more about and what aspects of copyright cause them concern? And then let’s try and see what their experience of copyright as a phenomenon might tell us about how to improve things. This research helped us write the recent guidance for librarians on the Copyrightuser.org website. But it should also help us to develop and improve resources like Copyright the Card Game. So, I urge you to start thinking of yourself as a researcher and get out there and try to find your place where you can make a difference!

Supporting research students: Czech good practice

Charles Bridge, PragueI’ve just attended an Information Literacy seminar held at Charles University in Prague, (founded in 1348) although the meeting was at the more modern Faculty of Social Sciences. I was invited to give the keynote which opened the seminar and to speak about the support for research students we offer at LSE. The IVIG seminar, which is an information literacy seminar, was organized by the Association of Libraries of Czech Universities, Institute of Information Studies and Librarianship of the Charles University in Prague, and SPRIG Civic Association. I have made my presentation available on Slideshare.

The programme was really interesting and it isn’t that often you get to meet so many Czech academic librarians. The group arranged for an interpreter to help me out, as the entire day was (unsurprisingly) in Czech. I had been invited following meeting Hana Landová, Lenka Bělohoubková and Ludmila Ticha last year at the ECIL conference in Istanbul. Their information literacy group has made great progress furthering good practice in information literacy in the Czech Republic and the seminars they organize are very popular with librarians.

The focus of the seminar was supporting PhD students and early career researchers and there were presentations from a wide range of universities. Overall I found the issues they were discussing were very similar to those we experience in the UK, such as how to promote courses to PhD students and also how to evaluate their effectiveness. The workshops being offered by Czech librarians were quite similar to those we run in LTI and LSE Library: literature searching, managing references, citation analysis, copyright issues. A couple of differences I noticed were several people talked about offering courses to PhD students on the publication process and on writing an academic (or scientific) paper. It struck me as a really useful addition to the programme we offer at LSE, and worth discussing with LSE’s Teaching and Learning Centre. This course covered how to identify high impact journals in your field and also discussed open access issues. Petra Dědičová from Brno, University of Technology was one speaker who had a particularly impressive programme of support for PhD students, with a complimentary Moodle course.

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Research and writing workshop

Today I’ve been chairing a workshop at CILIP on undertaking research, writing proposals and getting published. It was a joint event being run by the Information Literacy group and Library and Information Research Group. I got involved in my capacity as Editor of the Journal of Information Literacy. I was looking forward to the day and have always believed that undertaking research is a really important part of a practitioner. In fact I am in the process of writing a research strategy for our team which should be available on our website fairly soon.

The strategy is an attempt to provide a rationale and a strategic direction for the research that we have done for many years and it sets out the key areas of research interest. Up until this point our research has been driven by funding opportunities from organisations such as JISC and the HEA and from personal interests. However it’s helpful to have this work recognised more formally and to have an explicit strategy. Writing the document also helped me see how the various areas where we have undertaken research fit together. I’ve undertaken research on open education, on digital and information literacies and on the impact of new technologies on learning and teaching at our own institution and more widely. However the strategy should provide more focus for the activities.

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Sharing information literacy resources to support researchers

Last week Nancy Graham and I presented at the ALISS Summer Conference about the CoPILOT community of practice, and how by sharing information literacy resources as OERs librarians are really advocating open education and acting as exemplars to other teachers. We talked about the background to the CoPILOT Committee being established – it is a sub group of the CILIP Information Literacy Group. We also talked about the DELILA project, the survey of librarians we completed last year and the CoPILOT project which was a 2 month project funded by JISC and the HEA to explore whether some of the OERs we created during the DELILA project could be used in an international context. Other than a fire alarm going off shortly into our talk, it was a good opportunity to talk about this work and to encourage those supporting researchers to share their materials as OERs. I was therefore really pleased to see the Jorum Research Data Management collection launched today.

Exploring social media as research data

Yesterday I was facilitating a new workshop at LSE, which we ran in conjunction with the Department of Media and Communications and LSE Library. Entitled, ‘Exploring Social Media as Research Data‘ we had a fully booked session, attracting mainly academic staff and PhD students from across the School. I was there to learn as much as the rest of the delegates and we have spent some time putting together a variety of sessions, which we designed to stimulate discussion.

The icebreaker was both playful and serious (reflecting much social media?) and a chance for people to get to know the rest of their table. We had them working in groups of around 6 or 7. Then we launched into an activity using extra large post-it notes where we asked them to come up with advantages and disadvantages of social media as a data sources. It was a chance to ‘crowd source’ ideas and we had a great number of positive and negative comments, from the free, easy to access nature of social media data, to issues of bias, privacy and ethics.

We had two case studies presented during the afternoon, the first from Pollyanna Ruiz from the Media and Comms department, who is a Research Fellow exploring protest groups and their use of social media. The second from Veronica Cheng in the Statistics department who has been using Weibo, the Chinese Twitter, to correlate sentiments about specific companies with their share prices. It was a chance to hear about how they harvest, analyse and store their data, and some of their findings.

John Southall, LSE Data Librarian and Ella McPherson from Media and Comms then explored the ethical and legal issues of social media data. We had quite an intense discussion about what was ‘informed consent’ and Ella drew our attention to the Ethics guide from the Association of Internet Researchers.

We have made some of the harvesting, analysis and visualisation tools available on a wiki. We also had a useful final session exploring in more detail 5 articles that use social media data sources and the methodologies they used. I really enjoyed what I hope will be the first in a new series of workshops and it was great to bring together so many researchers at LSE and hopefully to stimulate and support their work.

LSE cited as example of best practice in digital and information literacy

I am delighted to report that LSE’s MY592 Information Literacy for Research programme, has been highlighted as an example of good practice in enhancing the information literacy skills of postgraduate students and early career researchers in UK higher education. On behalf of the Research Information and Digital Literacies Coalition (RIDLs), the Research Information Network (RIN) and Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL) have announced the results of this research, which showcases fifteen resources for information literacy training provision in a variety of UK higher education institutions.

The analysis draws from these cases, which provide a  range of online and in-house training resources, and incorporates various recommendations that may be of value to those planning to develop such resources.  The analysis is founded on the provisional criteria developed by RIDLs to describe and assess training provision in information literacy.

Project officer Dr Charlie Inskip said: “A number of self-selected information literacy resources have been evaluated, leading to a shortlisting of a selection of 15 good practice examples.”

RIN’s Stéphane Goldstein went on to say: “The value of the RIDLS criteria in this research has been to provide an analytical framework for such evaluations (for the researcher) and act as a reflective tool (for the developers/deliverers). Hopefully some of the recommendations and comments within the report, combined with a reflective look at the examples – and contact with their helpful representatives – may assist those attempting to deliver good practice information literacy in UK HE in 2013 and beyond.”

The full report and short list is now available on the project website, http://rilads.wordpress.com/