Thursday, 22 June 2017

Mining for Data: Skills for TDM

Last week I was lucky enough to spend a couple of days in Salzburg in order to attend the FutureTDM Symposium. Text and data mining is a hot topic in academic libraries at the moment and I was flattered to be asked to discuss the skill set that both researchers and librarians might need in order to make the most of it.

What is TDM?

Text and data mining (TDM) is the process of electronically analysing large amounts of text in order to identify trends. This process has traditionally been done by people sitting down and going through text which is of course incredibly time consuming and laborious. There is also a limit to the amount of information which can be analysed and the number of trends which can be found in this way. Using electronic analysis means that vast volumes of information can be mined and patterns that might not be apparent to the human eye can be found. For example researchers can discover all mentions of a disease in the literature they have access to and find connections to possible treatments.

This obviously opens up a lot of exciting new opportunities for both researchers and librarians but they may need to develop their skill set to take full advantage.  

Librarians

Library staff have a wide variety of skills which fit in well with the TDM agenda including technical, data and teaching skills. This makes them ideally placed to offer help to the research community with TDM. Of course depending on their involvement they may not need to be experts but having a basic awareness of the concept of TDM and its associated areas is important in order to signpost those looking for help.

Researchers

The actual skills needed will vary by discipline. What is crucial is the need to embed the skills needed within the areas researchers are already looking to develop to avoid a situation where TDM is seen as “yet another thing” they have to learn about. This is especially true in light of the mobile nature of the career researcher who moves between institutions and has to learn new technologies and systems every time.

Skills to develop

So which skills should librarians and researchers focus on:

  • Copyright - as TDM involves accessing material which may be protected by copyright a solid grasp of copyright laws and exemptions is important. There is still a perception amongst many that if you can access a resource online then it’s free to use (I’m sure many librarians will have had this conversation with their users!). An understanding of copyright is important for both librarians and users in order to make sure that TDM projects adhere to the law. A knowledge of the different licences available for material and how they operate is also important in order to get the best balance between the rights of the author and the work that researchers want to undertake.
  • Data skills - solid research data management is the basis of the TDM of the future. If we can take care to manage, label and share the data that is currently being produced then it will be in good order for future researchers to mine. Librarians already have the skills needed to advise on preparing and managing data but perhaps need to be more proactive in offering this help to researchers. In order to take full advantage of TDM data needs to have good metadata attached to it. Poor metadata reduces the visibility of the data and means that computers struggle to process it. Again, librarians are ideally placed to help advise researchers on the skills and schema they will need to use to work with metadata.
  • Technical skills - technical skills are vital for this type of work but tend not to be present unless the individual works to develop them themselves outside of their formal education. Both librarians and researchers need to have the knowledge of the applications used to actually undertake this work, from a basic awareness of the tools available to being able to operate expert support. Again, this will likely vary by discipline. Knowledge of the different file formats available is also important as this can help to solve problems. For example digitised books are often saved as images files of the pages which is easily readable by the human eye but not by a machine. Skills in data analysis and programming are becoming more common in the library sector and these will also be important as we look to advise researchers.
  • Negotiation - TDM is still relatively new to many people and there is still work to be done on making sure that the current exemptions to copyright law work for the majority. It’s important that researchers and librarians are able to negotiate licences where needed, especially if it they don’t make explicit provision for TDM. A basic understanding of how to interpret existing contracts is also important. I would argue that these skills are particularly important for librarians. It’s likely to be too onerous for researchers to negotiate with all of the different rights holders they would need to contact and this provides an opportunity for librarians to act as intermediaries. In order to do this successfully they need to develop strong negotiating skills.
  • Future planning and adaptability - TDM is a constantly changing landscape and everyone needs to be able to respond to these changes and plan for the future rather than taking a reactive approach when it’s too late. Being able to look at the current landscape and using knowledge to try and predict future trends will help to ensure that both librarians and the research community are well positioned for the future.

The above is by no means an exhaustive list. I'm as new to TDM as many of my colleagues so am still learning as I go. If you want to explore TDM in more detail I would suggest following the reports from the FutureTDM project and checking out this blog post from CILIP for more information. It’s an exciting new area which is likely to feature heavily in the future of both the academic library and librarian.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Facts Matter at Cambridge

Last week Anglia Ruskin University, CILIP and Cambridge University hosted an evening of discussion on various aspects of CILIP's Facts Matter campaign. The talks were designed to inform the audience about the campaign, how to break out of the fake news filter bubble and get the facts they need ahead of the General Election. 

The collected tweets from the event can be found below for those who didn't get a chance to attend:

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Reflections on the Publication Process

Working in scholarly communication for the last eighteen months has been a steep learning curve in a lot of ways. I have responsibility for training others in an area that is still relatively new to me and constantly evolving which means that I spend as much time in training as they do! 

One way in which I've been learning about the process of scholarly communication is by taking part in it and publishing my first peer reviewed article. Doing this allowed me to better understand how the traditional publication life cycle works at the same time as developing my writing skills. Although I have published shorter articles in the professional press before these have usually been as the result of a specific request or winning a bursary. This was the first time that I actually responded to a call for contributions and been through the process of having my work critiqued and changed.

I always aim to encourage others to get more involved in the profession through research and sharing their knowledge so I wanted to document the experience of getting published here. Although it wasn't always a smooth ride hopefully it will encourage more people than it will put off!

Full disclosure: I sit on the Editorial Board of the New Review of Academic Librarianship where my article was published (although I hope that didn't sway the decision!). It did mean that I got to see the process from both sides which was an interesting experience - but that's for another blog post.

It really can take a long time to get published
Obviously this depends on where you publish but I hadn't fully appreciated how long the writing and peer review process can take. I first saw the call for papers in May 2016 which means that it was a year from responding to the final article being published. Obviously this is different from discipline to discipline and I don't mean it as a slight on the process used by this particular journal (if anything sitting on the Board and undertaking some peer review myself has given me a new insight into this). Understanding how complex the process can be has helped me to better understand what researchers go through to get to publication.

Aim to write for a particular journal
It's a good idea to aim for a certain journal when thinking about publishing your work, either by answering a specific call for papers or by checking their submission guidelines. The call that I responded to was for a special issue with a particular focus. Although the general idea of what I wanted to write fit within the scope they were looking for I was still able to tailor my approach to the article to meet the needs of the journal. Focusing your article in this way can increase the likelihood of acceptance to the journal you want to publish in.

Conform to the standards of the journal
We all know that it's easier to take care of references and citation styles as we go along but in practice when trying to write these things can slip. However it really is a big time (and stress) saver further down the line so try to make an effort to format the article as you go along. Most journals will offer some guidance on how best to approach this on their webpages.

Allow yourself plenty of time to write and edit your work
No matter how much you want to write your article real life will get in the way so allow yourself more time than you will need. I was always a good student who had her assignments in before the deadline but I don't mind admitting that there were a few times during this writing process that I was up into the early hours of the morning to complete a draft! Unless you're lucky enough to have writing time as part of your job you'll probably be juggling writing with your job. Things come up that need to be dealt with and writing is not always the top of the priority list. Planning more time into the schedule can help to take the pressure off slightly.

Keeping the momentum going
This is a problem all writers have - whether it's an academic assignment or a report due at work. It's easy to lose sight of your goal when there is so much else going on so try and reward yourself where you can. For every draft you complete give yourself a little reward. Alternatively set small, achievable goals to divide up your workload. If you have a period of time to write then try to finish just one section rather than the whole article. Everyone has different ways of getting through the process so find yours and make use of it.

Develop a thick skin
I was lucky in that my article was accepted fairly easily after peer review but this isn't always the case. The comments I received after the first round of review were very constructive and really helped to improve my final article. However I won't deny that it hurts a little to have something you have worked so hard on criticized in any way. Hopefully now that I've been through the process I've developed a little bit of immunity to critical comments. As I said, the comments I received were helpful so it's really just a personal thing that I need to get over!

Think about how you will promote your work
Publication used to be the end of a project. You had been through drafting, peer review and changes and your work was now out in the world which means it's time to start the next project. Today it's important to make sure you share your work so that people actually get to see it. In the Office of Scholarly Communication we practice what we preach and we were lucky that we were able to make the final version of our article available Open Access. Even if you can't do this it is often possible to share a version of it in an institutional or subject repository so that those outside academia can access it. You will have put a lot of effort into producing your work so feel free to brag about it! Share a link on social media, blog about it, put a link in your email signature - whatever works. More tips on how to share your work can be found here.

Use the knowledge you gain from writing
I work with librarians and researchers so the experiences I've gained have some direct applications to my role. When talking to researchers I have a slightly better understanding of some of the common experiences they go through. I can commiserate on the length of the process or how disheartening it can be to get negative comments during peer review. It's also helped me to explain the publication process to library staff which is a crucial step in preparing them to support the research community. How you use your experience might be different but please try and share it in some way if you can. I think it's really important to encourage others to get involved in sharing their knowledge in this way but this can only happen if they are supported and encouraged through the process.

These are just a few of the things that I've learnt over the last year. As academic libraries change and move more towards research support developing a deeper understanding of the publication process will become more important. Whichever sector you work in I think it's important to share what you are doing with the wider profession so that we can learn about what works and what doesn't work.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Predatory Publishers - Problem or Business Model?

A lot of the training I give as part of my role happens as a result of questions and interest from Cambridge librarians. Like a Bat Signal, if they're getting questions on a particular scholarly communication topic that they don't know how to answer I step in with some training. Recently I started getting a lot of questions about so-called 'predatory publishers' so last month I put together a training session on how best to determine if a certain publisher is appropriate to your work. The following blog post summarizes this training and my slides can be found at the end.

What do we mean by the term 'predatory publisher'?

So-called predatory publishers are a growing phenomenon in the world of academic publishing. These firms typically contact potential authors directly via email offering a chance to publish. To the novice researcher this can seem like a very tempting offer but it often comes with a sting in the tail. Unhelpfully there isn't one single definition you can point to to showcase what a predatory publisher is and the more you explore the topic the more it becomes clear that the term can mean different things to different people. 

Most librarians will have heard of predatory publishers thanks to the (in)famous Beall's List maintained by Jeffrey Beall, a scholarly communication librarian from the University of Colarado. Beall maintained a list of publishers which in his words "unprofessionally exploit the gold Open Access model for their own profit" (paywalled article - ironically). This list was removed without warning at the start of 2017 causing a number of online conspiracy theories about the reasons why to develop. 

Essentially predatory publishers are taken to be those who charge a fee for the publication of either articles or books without providing any of the publication services an author would expect such a fee to cover. This exploits the Open Access publishing model which charges for publication but provides author services such as peer review to ensure that academic standards are met. Missing out these important steps can result in bad quality research entering the scholarly landscape. 

Some of these publishing firms have also started to branch out into academic conferences. Having received a few invitations myself I know that these these can be very flattering but a quick Internet search will show that the reality of these events is not always so great. There are reports of several conferences being held at the same time in small hotels with little room and time for interaction with colleagues. Sometimes big names on the programme fail to turn up having never been contacted in the first place. As speakers have to pay to attend these events it can often prove to be a waste of money for little gain in academic reputation. 

Are these publishers a problem?

It depends on what you want from the publication process. Traditionally the motivation for publishing your work includes enhancing your reputation and visibility as an author and getting recognition of the work you have done. Some so-called predatory publishers meet this need but there are significant downsides. Many of these firms will do nothing to enhance an author's reputation and in extreme cases it may even result in damage. Even if your research is sound the lack of editorial and peer review services means it may end up sitting alongside work that is substandard or even wrong. 

Typically publishing with one of these firms means that the author has signed a copyright transfer agreement which may mean that they lose the right to use their material in better publications. Even if the work can be withdrawn at a later stage this often incurs a hefty fee and the damage may already have been done.

Having said this there is an argument that these publishing models are fulfilling a need. Different countries have different academic reward systems and if what you need is a physical copy of your work then this is a business model which works for you. In some countries it is also common to see authors trying to avoid the risk of (and lengthy time associated with) rejection by traditional publishers. If these researchers are prepared to pay to see their work in print should be just accept that these publishers are going to work to meet this need?

Checklist of things to consider

So given all this how do you spot a predatory publisher? There are a number of factors you can think about but be careful not to consider them in isolation. Just because a publisher meets one of the criteria doesn't mean they're not legitimate.

  • Transparency - a good publisher will share their information and details such as location, contact information and a mission statement should be easy to find. If a publisher claims to focus on a huge range of topics then treat with caution as this may indicate a for-huge-profit approach. If you receive an invitation to publish then check it's from a professional address rather than something personal like Gmail. Check for spelling and grammatical mistakes but be aware of cultural differences which may explain overly formal language.
  • Indexing - being listed in the typical indexes and databases for their discipline is a good sign but remember that there may be perfectly valid reasons why a particular title doesn't appear (it may be too niche or new). If you can't find a specific title then check for others by the same publisher.
  • Quality of previous publications - look at previous articles in the journal in question. Do these look like good quality articles or are there spelling and grammatical mistakes? Does the abstract make sense? Some journals have been known to publish abstracts with mistakes because they simply don't understand the terminology of the subject.
  • Fees - any author fees should be clearly accessible and explained prior to publication. Be aware of hidden fees - if the journal starts asking for extra payments then alarm bells should be ringing.
  • Copyright - if the publisher claims to be making the work available Open Access then check whether a Creative Commons or other type of open licence is being used to make sure that the resource is available. The publisher should also be upfront about the rights that the author will retain after publication.
  • Peer review - robust peer review is key to the academic publishing process and a good publisher should set out clear guidelines for both authors and reviewers. Be wary of the promise of review periods which seem to be fast - these are often too good to be true and may indicate a lack of thoroughness.
  • Editorial board - members should be listed on the website, with a named person acting as Editor in Chief. These people may be names you recognize but they should have some connection with the field the journal is publishing in. It may also be worth checking the web presence of some of the members to see if they mention their affiliation with the journal as some publications have been known to use the names of people without actually asking them!
  • Website quality - check that the website looks professional but be aware of cultural differences here. What may look sophisticated to someone from a large UK university may be out of reach of a smaller publisher in another country.

Above all, trust your judgement

If something doesn't feel right then you need to investigate further. Think of the publication process as you would online shopping - if a shop looks unreliable you are unlikely to give them your credit card details so exercise a similar level of caution!

For those who prefer their information in a more visual form the (slightly edited) slides from my presentation can be found below.


Thursday, 4 May 2017

My Role as a Social Media Editor: One Year On

Last year I wrote about my new role as Associate Editor (Social Media) on the Board of the New Review of Academic Librarianship. It's been a bit of a challenge at times but I've also learnt a lot from my experiences - something which has been really useful for my role within scholarly communication. 

When I took on the role I was interviewed about my plans and earlier this year I was contacted to do a follow up on the last twelve months. It's been a busy and exciting time for the journal as we've worked to establish our social media presence. The interview can be found here or by clicking the image below.


Thursday, 27 April 2017

Libraries’ Role in Teaching the Research Community – LILAC 2017



This post is reblogged from Unlocking Research, the blog of the Office of Scholarly Communication, Cambridge.


LILAC (Librarians’ Information Literacy Annual Conference) is one of the highlights of the information profession calendar which focuses on sharing knowledge and best practice in the field of information literacy. For those who don’t know information literacy is defined as:

Knowing when and why you need information, where to find it and how to evaluate, use and communicate it in an ethical manner (CILIP definition)

Showcasing OSC initiatives

Since it was my first time attending it was a privilege to be able to present three sessions on different aspects of the work done in the OSC. The first session I ran was an interactive workshop on teaching research data management using a modular approach. The advantage of this is that the team can have several modules ready to go using discipline specific examples and information, meaning that we are able to offer courses tailored to the exact needs of the audience. This works well as a teaching method and the response from our audience both in Cambridge and at LILAC was positive.

There was an equally enthusiastic response to my poster outlining the Supporting Researchers in the 21st Century programme. This open and inclusive programme aims to educate library staff in the area of scholarly communication and research support. One element of this programme was the subject of my final LILAC contribution – a short talk on the Research Support Ambassador Programme which provides participants with a chance to develop a deeper understanding of the scholarly communication process.

As well as presenting and getting feedback on our initiatives the conference provided me with a chance to hear about best practice from a range of inspiring speakers. A few of my highlights are detailed below.

Getting the message out there - keynote highlights


Work openly, share ideas and get out of the library into the research community were the messages that came out of the three keynote talks from across the information world.

The first was delivered by Josie Fraser, a Social and Educational Technologist who has worked in a variety of sectors, who spoke on the topic of The Library is Open: Librarians and Information Professionals as Open Practitioners.  Given the aim of the OSC to promote open research and work in a transparent manner this was an inspiring message.

Josie highlighted the difference between the terms free and open, words which are often confused when it comes to educational resources.  If a resource is free it may well be available to use but this does not mean users are able to keep copies or change them, something which is fundamental for education.

Open implies that a resource is in the public domain and can be used and reused to build new knowledge. Josie finished her keynote by calling for librarians to embrace open practices with our teaching materials. Sharing our work with others helps to improve practice and saves us from reinventing the wheel. The criteria for open are: retain, reuse, revised, remix, redistribute.

In her keynote, Making an Impact Beyond the Library and Information Service, Barbara Allen talked about the importance of moving outside the library building and into the heart of the university as a way to get information literacy embedded within education rather than as an added extra. The more we think outside the library the more we can link up with other groups who operate outside the library, she argued. Don’t ask permission to join in the bigger agenda – just  join in or you might never get there.

Alan Carbery in his talk Authentic Information Literacy in an Era of Post Truth  discussed authentic assessment of information literacy. He described looking at anonymised student coursework to assess how students are applying what they have learnt through instruction. When real grades are at stake students will usually follow orders and do what is asked of them.

Students are often taught about the difference between scholarly and popular publications which ignores the fact that they can be both. Alan said we need to stop polarising opinions, including the student concept of credibility, when they are taught that some sources are good and some are bad. This concept is becoming linked to how well-known the source is – ‘if you know about it it must be good’. But this is not always the case.

Alan asked: How can we get out of the filter bubble – social media allows you to select your own news sources but what gets left out? Is there another opinion you should be exposed to? He gave the example of the US elections where polls and articles on some news feeds claimed Clinton was the frontrunner right up until the day of the election. We need to move to question-centric teaching and teach students to ask more questions of the information they receive.

Alan suggested we need to embed information literacy instruction in daily life – make it relevant for attendees. There are also lessons to be learnt here which can apply to other areas of teaching. We need to become information literacy instructors as opposed to library-centric information literacy instructors.

Key points from other sessions


There is a CILIP course coming soon on ‘Copyright education for librarians’. This will be thinking about the needs of the audience and relate to real life situations. New professional librarians surveyed said that copyright was not covered in enough depth during their courses however many saw it as an opportunity for future professional development. The majority of UK universities have a copyright specialist of some description, but copyright is often seen as a problem to be avoided by librarians.

There is a movement in teaching to more interactive sessions rather than just talking and working on their own. Several sessions highlighted the increased pressure on and expectations of students in academia. Also highlighted were the benefits of reflective teaching practice.

There are many misconceptions about open science and open research amongst the research community. There is too much terminology and it is hard to balance the pressure to publish with the pressure to good research. Librarians have a role in helping to educate here. Many early career researchers are positive about data sharing but unsure as to how to go about it, and one possibility is making course a formal part of PhD education.

Originally posted on Unlocking Research on March 9th 2017. Shared here via CC BY licence

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Making the Modern Academic Librarian: The Supporting Researchers in the 21st Century Programme

As if a workshop and a short talk wasn't enough, I also decided to submit a poster to LILAC 2017! The poster looked at the Supporting Researchers in the 21st Century programme at Cambridge which aims to upskill library staff in the area of scholarly communication. We are very much hoping to offer this training to a wider audience in some form so keep your eyes open! 

In the meantime my poster can be found below and further details of the programme are available here.