Monday, 29 July 2019

Research Support Training Resources

Over the past few years, both within my role and outside, I have been lucky enough to develop a range of training materials. Most of these are related to scholarly communication and research support although other areas also creep in from time to time! I try my best to upload all of my content  to Apollo - the University of Cambridge repository - but sometimes life gets in the way. All of my content ends up somewhere and as people are often asking for copies of materials I have created a site on Humanities Commons to keep everything in the same place.

Research Support Skills Training Logo

I have compiled all of my training materials to date at the imaginatively titled Research Support Training together with lists of conference presentations and publications. All of the materials are available under a CC-BY 4.0 licence meaning that they can be used and adapted as needed as long as the original author is credited. 

Topics covered include Open Access, data management, the publication process, copyright, metrics and librarians as researchers. There are a variety of formats to choose from including printed materials, online courses, podcasts and webinars so there should be something for everybody.

Further training materials will be added as and when they are developed but for now please help yourselves! 

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Literacy Lessons from LILAC

The annual LILAC Conference took place a couple of weeks ago in Nottingham and I was lucky enough to attend (mainly thanks to Jane Secker who asked me to speak as part of a panel discussion!). This is likely to be my last LILAC Conference for a while so I tried to make the most of it.

I find blogging a good way to bring my thoughts on the conference together - although there was really too much to try and fit into one post. I always come away from LILAC full of enthusiasm and ideas and the 2019 conference was no exception. If you want to read my thoughts I have written a post for the CILN (Cambridge Information Literacy Network) blog which can be found here. I've also collected the tweets I sent during the event in an archive here. I use Twitter as a note-taking tool at events so hopefully I've managed to capture everything there that I was unable to in my post.

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Moving Online: Training Librarians in 2018

This blog has been a little neglected of late as I have had several projects to work on which sadly leaves limited time for blogging. Hopefully many of these projects will be wrapping up soon and then I can get back into writing. In the mean time you can catch up with some of what has been keeping me busy via the blog post below which was originally published on the Unlocking Research blog and is reposted here via a CC-BY license.

Moving Online: Training Librarians in 2018

As we move into 2019 it is a good time to look back at another year spent training the library community, both in Cambridge and more widely. Over the last 12 months, the Office of Scholarly Communication has held nearly 50 training sessions for Cambridge staff on topics ranging from navigating copyright issues to the mechanics of the publishing process. 

Face to face

We have continued to deliver high-quality face-to-face training sessions on many topics. Sometimes sessions just work better when participants are all together in a room, especially if there are a lot of activities. For example, our sessions looking at Research Data Management and Data Management Plans are designed to be interactive and so wouldn’t really work in any other format. Feedback from sessions tells us that participants really value the chance to meet other librarians and hear their perspectives on things.
Cambridge has more than 100 libraries including faculties, departments, colleges and connecting institutions. Many staff do not get to meet each other unless working on a specific project and even working in the same university it can be hard to avoid becoming too focused on local issues. Attending workshops and other training sessions allows conversations to happen and several people have told us that they really value the chance to connect with their colleagues. 
Webinars to the rescue!

Of course, librarians are very busy people so sometimes it’s just not possible for them to attend sessions in-person. Working in small teams often means that staff are unable to leave the library to go to training, especially when travel time and family commitments are factored into the equation.
To help with this we introduced webinars as a delivery method in 2017. This means that staff can either attend training sessions remotely or catch up with a recording.  Because of the success of this project we have continued to deliver sessions via webinar in 2018 and feedback from attendees tells us we are doing something right! Several people have commented that they have attended sessions online which they would otherwise not have been able to make but others have had some suggestions for improvement.
It can be hard to carve time out a busy schedule to attend even an hour-long webinar so there needs to be some incentive like an activity so people get the benefit of attending live. We have taken this on board and tried to build in interactive elements where appropriate. The main lesson we have learnt about webinars is that they are particularly useful for information delivery sessions which would usually involve someone standing at the front of the class delivering a talk. People can easily listen to this at their desk and/or ask questions through the webinar chat box without having to leave work.
Most of these webinars are shared with a Cambridge audience only but a few have been released more widely such as our talk on How to Spot a Predatory Publisher. As discussed in our previous post on advertising videos we have discovered that naming our content something that people are likely to Google is a great way to increase hits! 
Increasing discoverability

As we offer more and more webinars we are starting to think about the best way to collate and share these. Although they can be useful resources, people need to know where to find them without having to hunt around. One of our priorities for 2019 is to gather both our webinars and online resources together to create a mini-hub where library staff can go to find more information.
These resources include webinar recordings but also the results of two other training projects from 2018: our Research in 3 Minutes videos and our Scholarly Communication Information Booklets. Research in 3 Minutes in a series of short videos which outline basic concepts in scholarly communication. Most of these areas can be quite complicated and terminology laden and these videos aim to provide an accessible introduction. They can also be uploaded for display on screens around the library or on other webpages to engage users. We started to create Information Booklets when we realised that all librarians love a handout (at least in our experience!).
These four-page booklets can be viewed online or printed out and offer a more in-depth look at areas we are often asked about, for example what exactly is a Creative Commons license? There are six booklets in the series so far, covering everything from the publication lifecycle to academic social networking and we aim to add more in 2019. 
Online learning

One of our biggest forays into online learning took place with the Research Support Ambassador programme. This is an annual programme aimed at educating library staff on the core elements of research support and in previous years it has been run both face-to-face and via webinar.
This year we decided to do something different and used Moodle to create a completely online course. Participants were able to work though modules including video content, quizzes and discussions to test their understanding of the concepts. Each module was assessed by an activity which allowed learners to put their new knowledge into practice by undertaking a research support task. Examples of this included assessing a data management plan and attempting to spot a predatory publisher.
Overall the course was completed by 20 participants who gave us a lot of positive feedback on the format as well as suggestions for improvements. In the next few years this is something we would like to expand on, perhaps to those outside Cambridge… 
Beyond the University

That doesn’t mean we have neglected non-Cambridge librarians this year. In March our Research Support Skills Coordinator delivered two well-attended sessions on Moving Into Research Support with CILIP. The original session was so popular that we had to add a second and attendees came from around the UK to hear how they could get involved in this exciting new area. There was also a return visit to CILIP HQ in London for their 2018 Careers Day where attendees were introduced to the wonders of working in research support (including dealing with penguin poop and breaking the internet).

We also contributed to a range of other events such as LILAC 2018 and Dawson Day held in the summer – both of which gave us a chance to talk about the need for training in scholarly communication literacy for library staff. 
All in all 2018 has been a very busy year for training but we will not be slowing down in 2019. We have plans to expand our online training offer and deliver even more face-to-face sessions for our community. Who knows what this blog will contain this time next year? Readers had better stay tuned to find out! 
Originally published 8th January 2018 on the Unlocking Research blog.

Monday, 8 October 2018

No Nonsense Guide: Chance to Contribute a Case Study

The blog has been through a quiet period recently for several reasons but perhaps one of the biggest is that I have been writing my first book! The No Nonsense Guide to Scholarly Communication and Research Support will be published by Facet in early 2019 and aims to offer an introduction to the main areas of research support that librarians will deal with. Hopefully it will offer a pain-free introduction to the work of scholarly communication for those new to the area or planning to move into it.

Perhaps one of the most important chapters will look at the career paths available for librarians in research support. Because of my current day job I spend a lot of time talking to people about training for library staff and it worries me to hear that they are often unable to recruit for research support roles from within the library profession. Sometimes this is because of a lack of skill and other times a lack of confidence which means that people perfectly qualified to apply don't. One of the aims of my book and this chapter in particular is to encourage people to get involved in this area and that is where I would like to use the expertise of the community. 

As part of the chapter I want to include some case studies from people in the library and information sector who work in roles with some element of scholarly communication or research support. By talking about their careers so far, what they really do in their roles and the skills that they use I hope this will demystify some of the roles and encourage librarians to apply. If you would like to contribute to a case study then please fill in the Google form below, answering as many questions as you are able to. I'm happy to receive case studies from colleagues in a variety of roles around the globe at different levels. Depending on the amount and range of case studies I receive I may not be able to include all of them in the book and there is no financial incentive for contributing. The chapter will be made available via Open Access upon publication and by contributing you consent to both publication of the case study in the book and wider open sharing.

Contribute a case study here:

The deadline for case studies is Friday 16th November.

If you have any questions about this or would like to know more please feel free to contact me via the blog or at

Monday, 10 September 2018

Demystifying Peer Review: International Peer Review Week 2018

This week is International Peer Review Week which highlights and celebrates the role that peer review plays in scholarly communication. The theme of Peer Review Week 2018 is Diversity and aims to encourage more people from a range of different backgrounds to get involved in the process. Peer review as a process is changing - the introduction of open peer review aims to make it a more transparent process for both reviewers and reviewees. Hopefully by demystifying how and why peer review is carried out and arguable changing it for the better, more people will be encouraged to take part.

Much of my work this year has focused on developing online resources so I thought I would add to those this peer review week. Below you can find the first in a series of guides produced by the OSC which look at different aspects of scholarly communication. These first three titles look at different areas related to peer review - the publication lifecycle, avoiding predatory publishers and of course  the peer review process itself. These booklets can be viewed online or downloaded and printed here. All of them are available under a Creative Commons CC-BY 4.0 license which means they can be shared and adapted as needed.


Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Less is More: Introducing Research in 3 Minutes Videos

I'm now well into the third year of my job and finally starting to feel somewhat settled. I've done a lot of face to face training in the last couple of years but it can often be hard for staff to get away from the demands of their day jobs to attend sessions - however much they might want to! As a result I've been experimenting with more online training and I'll be sharing this on the blog over the coming months. 

At least locally there seem to be two main problems with learning about scholarly communication and research support: a lack of time to learn about something that may not be directly relevant to their role and not understanding the terminology (and therefore not knowing if particular training sessions are relevant). To help with this I've put together a series of short videos covering Research in 3 Minutes. Each video looks at a research support topic such as peer review, metrics and predatory publishers (click the image below for more). 

The videos themselves were easy to put together using a site called Lumen5. This was something I saw mentioned on Twitter as a way to create short videos easily so having little or no design competency I thought I would give it a try. Designed as a way to make blog posts and other content more visual, the site takes text and automatically turns it into the videos you can see above. It also automatically selects CC0 images for each slide although the algorithm which does this didn't always get things right! This can all be changed along with moving the text between slides, highlighting certain words and selecting the (copyright free) music. I just used a free version which allows you to have forty slides and this was plenty.

Some top tips for creating videos like this:

  • keep them short and sweet. Keeping the videos to roughly three minutes each allowed me to get my point across without going overboard
  • plan out what you want to say beforehand. The site allows you to copy and paste text from a word file and I found this to be the easiest method to make sure I stayed within my slide/word limit
  • always check your finished video, even if you have taken the time to prepare the text. Some things worked well in the Word document but didn't have the right flow in the video
  • the site offers both still images and video and I recommend trying to mix these up. Having both keeps the video fresh but having too many videos followed by a static image can be a little distracting
  • I used the same music on each slide for consistency but looking back I would change this. If someone was to watch more than one or even the whole sequence it can get pretty annoying! 
The videos were a nice distraction from some of my more intense work over the last few months and are helping to build up a solid bank of online training materials. I hope to release more in the future so watch this space! 

Monday, 13 August 2018

New Skills, New Challenges: CPD in the Information Profession

Readers of this blog will know that I have always been interested in professional development for library staff. Recently I was asked to put together a special virtual online edition of the New Review of Academic Librarianship looking at the way CPD has evolved over the years, as reported in the literature. The result can now be found online here with all articles made openly available for a limited time. As part of this exercise I also wrote an introductory editorial on New Skills, New Challenges: CPD in the Information Profession which can be found with the articlesBut don't worry if you don't get a chance to read it now - there is also a version of my editorial available in the Cambridge repository. Currently under an embargo it will be available to read early next year. 

Putting together this editorial was an interesting exercise. I've never been a big fan of literature reviews and even choosing publications from a defined list was hard. It was also difficult to get the balance and tone of the actual editorial right but I think I managed it in the end. It really helped me to focus and gave me a new perspective on some of the other writing projects I'm working on.

I've written a lot in the past about librarians getting involved in the publication process and I can recommend literature reviews as a route to try. They are often more helpful to readers than the original articles as all the hard work has been done for them!