Search This Blog


Wednesday, 21 September 2016

MmIT 2016 Conference Review - Digital Citizenship : What is the library's role?

Photo of Sheldon Korpet
Sheldon Korpet
Our latest recruit to ScHARR's Information Resources Sheldon Korpet attended the MmIT Conference last week and writes about her experiences over the two days. Sheldon is an Information Officer at ScHARR and a current MSc Digital Library Management student at the University of Sheffield.

This year's Multimedia and Information Technology Conference (MmIT) focused on “Digital Citizenship: What is the library's role?” and included a fabulous range of talks from librarians, head of services, computer specialists and suppliers which really reflects the scope and depth of the topic. As a relatively new professional, one who had never attended a conference before, I decided to join in mainly because I’d heard good things about the food. However I am always keen to broaden my horizons and I’m pleased to say not only did the food exceed my expectations, so did the conference itself. MmIT are a special interest group within Cilip.
MmIT Journal
MmIT Journal

Dr Chris Stokes (Joint Director of Digital Learning, University of Sheffield) spoke about his team’s process to make the University of Sheffield’s first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). This was inspired by an outreach scheme designed to give 16 to 18 year olds the knowledge, information and guidance to make a competitive application to the University of Sheffield’s Dental School. This digital course aimed to use technology to increase access to a course that promoted inclusion within higher education and unexpectedly inspired an online community that facilitated communication between a range of user groups. This group ranged from aspirational A Level students to individuals with fear of dentists and even dental nurses refreshing their knowledge before returning to work after maternity leave.

What I learnt from Chris: MOOCs aren’t just for graduates, or a specific age range - they can be all inclusive and empowering if you design interesting, interactive content which simplifies the subject.

This issue of safe and knowledgeable digital access for the masses was something which inspired Lee Fallin and Mike Ewan to create a website called “The Digital Student”. This project aimed to educate students at the University of Hull by creating a mobile optimised website applicable to all students which could also be embedded within the VLE (Virtual Learning Environment). This idea not only gives students convenient access to information from a point on the university system which they already utilise but also standardised, quality information which can be updated centrally and easily replicated over a large number of users quickly. Further to this, the site is also mobile enabled and also designed to appeal to a range of different abilities using a content layout inspired by the popular website, Buzzfeed. After creating this content to improve the digital literacy of their students, the project will next release guides which aim to help students sell the digital skills when applying for jobs.

What I learnt from Lee and Mike: Take content to channels students are already using and display it in a way they are familiar with, in a format they like.

The socio-economic benefits of digital literacy was the focus of Helen Milner CEO of the Tinder Foundation. Her keynote speech, based on digital social inclusion, explained work of the Tinder Foundation which aims to connect and empower individuals. This is as a result of an aim to raise not only digital literacy locally, but also for the awareness of the need and benefits of digital literacy and digital access on a national scale.

What I learn from Helen: In 2015, a shockingly large amount (12.6 million) of the population were still offline. What was even more shocking was finding out was that if you were uneducated, retirement age, disabled or had a low income you were less likely to have access to the internet despite the potential benefits including being able to apply for jobs (25% of which are online-only applications), making online savings as well as maintaining social connections.

Check out this brilliant infographic that captures the data around digital literacy and accessibility

Ian Clark
Ian Clark
Communication and digital access was a key part of Ian Clark's talk focusing on the digital privacy divide. He highlighted the clash between the government’s desire to protect society by observing their browsing and borrowing history versus the negative effects of surveillance on information exchange. Although there are benefits of surveying information exchange between individuals and groups undertaking illegal activities however GCHQ have undertaken projects (such as “Karma Police”) which aim to create unique profiles for each individual of the population, regardless of whether they are law-abiding citizens or not.

Although there are methods to avoiding online observation, such as encryption technologies and browsers such as Tor, these have received a negative spin as a result of illegal activities linked to the Dark Web and the popular attitude, “you have nothing to worry about, if you have nothing to hide”. These tools, while increasing security for individuals who want to protect their communications, are also complex to execute.

What I learnt from Ian: Individuals who thought they were under surveillance changed their information searching behaviours and automatically censored themselves. This arguably reduces freedom of thought which is indusive to critical thinking, idea generation and the democratic process.

Check out Infoism for more information

Dr Kevin Curran
Dr Kevin Curran
Another highly informative talk was hosted by Kevin Curran, who is a Reader in Computer Science at Ulster University. His overview, “Hacking: Child’s Play” highlighted just how hackers can locate unsecured databases and webcams by using Google dorks, hold a company to ransom with a simple denial of service attack program and receive money from illegal activity anonymously using a cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin.

What I learnt from Kevin: Great tips to improve your security online.

  • Check if your details have been breached. You can also sign up to the “Notify me” service which will tell you when you need to change your password so no unauthorised snoopers can access your accounts
  • Don’t invest in expensive anti-virus. Windows Defence is freely available available from Microsoft and will do just as good a job as Norton and other popular paid-for antivirus softwares.
  • Don’t use the same password for every website. You can use a password manager like LastPass (link to simply this for you

All of the presentations I attended were thoughtful and particularly made me reflect on the idea of using the benefits of technology to empower - Chris and his team's outreach MOOC gave disadvantaged students the chance to participate in a highly competitive career path. Additionally, Helen and the Tinder Foundation, as well as Lee and Mike from University of Hull, had recognised the need for further digital literacy training and the benefits of enabling individuals to use technology, in terms of both increasing employability and confidence.

Digital Privacy & Digital Citizenship
Digital Privacy & Digital Citizenship
The knowledge brought to the conference by Ian of Infoism and Kevin of Ulster University did however highlight some of the areas in which there is much at stake if individuals and organisations use the technology in an irresponsible way. The main thing I’ve taken away from the conference is the idea that using digital technology is like driving a car - it doesn’t matter how bright, young or reactive you are - if you aren’t taught how how to operate the machine and navigate the system there’s the potential for a crash.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Transforming your service: the right evidence at the right time and place: Virtual Issue of HILJ edited by Anthea Sutton

To mark the 2016 Health Libraries Group (HLG) Conference, Health Information and Libraries Journal (HILJ) has published a virtual issue on the topic of “Transforming your service: the right evidence at the right time and place”. The virtual issue, edited by Anthea Sutton, contains articles and features published in HILJ in the past two years (2014-2016), on the theme of service transformation, and the related key strategic themes outlined in Knowledge for Healthcare (KFH).
The selected articles and features all demonstrate initiatives in health care library and knowledge services in line with these strategic themes, including optimising investment,quick and easy access to relevant evidence, and planning and development of the knowledge service workforce. The virtual issue aims to give an overview of KFH, highlighting examples of good practice and complementing the presentations and discussions at HLG 2016.
The 2016 HILJ Virtual issue is freely available online, and includes a video abstract.
This post originally appeared on the Knowledge for Healthcare blog and has been reproduced with permission.

Public Health Informatics

As this is the beginning of the academic year, I get to meet our new Master’s students to chat to them about their module choices this year. This is part of my role as co-ordinator of a public health informatics module. Students can study the module as a CPD opportunity or as part of one of our Master’s programmes.
Informatics brings together two underlying disciplines: computer science and information science. Public health informatics is about applying an informatics solution to public health problems. It offers additional approaches to disease surveillance and facilitates service planning and public health research.  In the module we take an overview approach and look at various case studies on how informatics can be applied, such as in health promotion activities or in a disaster response situation. We also focus on how to evaluate an information system by identifying and applying an evaluation framework.  
Last year we created a new session on ethics in public health informatics looking at ethical theories and how they are enacted in practice. Ethics should be a live issue, and we considered the limitations and usefulness of ethical codes by discussing key papers in a journal club format.

So I’m looking forward to working with our new students and the fabulous public health informatics team for the new academic year. For more information on the module which we provide in an online and on-campus format please see the relevant module pages or contact me at 

Picture credit: activity tracker by Zed Huang via Flickr (CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Altmetric Ambassador of the Month

On the back of his edited book - Altmetrics, A Practical Guide for Librarians, Researchers and Academics - Andy Tattersall has been picked for's Ambassador of the Month. He was interviewed by about his role and work with altmetrics.

The interview is below

Tell me about your current work at The University of Sheffield. What does a typical day involve for you?

I am an Information Specialist at The School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) at The University of Sheffield. My job has increasingly changed over the last few years, if anything I have become a digital research specialist/technologist with a strong focus on scholarly communications. I don’t have a typical working day and probably have one of the most diverse jobs within academia which suits me fine. I spend a lot of time helping colleagues and students make better use of technology to be more productive, communicate their research and work smarter on a modern digital campus. This can be everything from helping them understand altmetrics, to social media, to mobile apps to using video. I very much practice what I preach and use all of the technologies myself as part of my teaching and research. I try to find out the pros and cons to help others further down the way – I’m not afraid to fail so others don’t.

Where did you first learn of altmetrics?

It was possibly late 2011, but certainly early 2012 when I emailed this link to myself: – thank goodness for a well-ordered email file structure. I had been a big user of Mendeley since 2009 and by following them I was becoming aware of various things that were happening in the altmetrics space. I also spoke at the same parallel session as Mark Hahnel from Figshare at the defunct Online Information conference in London. At the time, I was not fully aware of what he and others were doing but made it my mission to find out more.

You’ve recently published a book, ‘Altmetrics-A practical guide for librarians, researchers and academics’. Can you tell us about the book and what inspired you to write on this subject?

I was approached by my publisher, Facet Books, in mid-2013 to write a book of my choosing and it was a simple case of deciding between two topics, those I was and am still most passionate about: open research and information overload. Both can feel like different sides of the same coin at times, but in the end I knew that information overload had been covered before very well, altmetrics in my mind needed that extra special attention. I realised that there were two issues that needed covering, the theory behind why altmetrics had come about and the practical ways academics and librarians could get behind it. With that in mind I approached some of the best experts I knew, William Gunn from Mendeley and Euan Adie from Altmetric to explain about altmetrics in the purest sense. Ben Showers, who at the time had was working for Jisc and had published on bibliometrics, and Andrew Booth and Claire Beecroft, who between them had years of experience in the library and information world, completed the title. I wrote just over half of the book and tried to capture why we had got to where we are and how best to navigate this brave new world. Hopefully readers have found it a useful addition to the growing literature.

How do you think Altmetric data can help researchers?

Quite simply, it offers them a feedback loop and window onto the world of how their research is being received globally. I think there is this misconception that most academics are not that interested in how their work is perceived. I think most are, they are just worried about negative feedback, criticism and miscommunication – but the world is changing, especially where impact is now so important. The idea that you can publish a piece of research and it just sits in a journal on a shelf has long gone, we have the potential to discover so much more with alternative metrics. Of course the balance is maintaining that high quality output and not being drawn into a world of just gawping at numbers – but that is the misconception for me. Altmetrics is about finding out much more than numbers; it’s also about more than just your papers, but also your data, books, posters among other outputs. It feels like we should have done this all along when the Web began.

How do you think altmetrics can help lecturers/professors?

I think altmetrics offers another dimension to their hard work, one that with very little effort can be explored. As I’ve written before, the Altmetric score is at its most interesting when it is zero. At that point, we have some idea that a piece of research is not being communicated or discussed–it may not be the absolute case, but it is a good indicator. For any scholars wanting to open up that dialogue, seeing a zero score can get them thinking about the scholarly communication process and what they can do, or who can help them facilitate that. I think altmetrics are part of a bigger picture that includes traditional metrics, impact, digital technologies and social media. They are part of an emerging ecosystem, we just need to take care that those who want to engage with it are given the right amount of support – I’m doing my best at my end. 

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Mendeley Masterclasses - Videos to help you master your references

Andy Tattersall
Andy Tattersall has created a new series of short instructional videos to help you make the most out of using Mendeley. The series of 15 videos are called 'Mendeley Masterclass' and help users find their way through the various web, desktop and mobile versions. More videos will be added a later date but you can see for yourself a couple below. Mendeley is a very worthwhile and simple tool to use and really helps academics and students save time and be organised whilst studying and conducting research. The videos are only a few minutes long, so with a cup of tea and half an hour you could master the software easily. The videos are on YoyTube and will be added to the University of Sheffield iTunes U collection later this year.

The Mendeley Masterclass playlist 

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

The problem many detractors have with altmetrics as a concept is that it seems heavily focused on numbers that may or may not be meaningful. Andy Tattersall sees this as a legitimate concern but argues researchers should consider further what can be gained from these scores, or indeed, the lack of one. In a world increasingly governed by impact and the dissemination of your research, the straight flat zero indicates an opportunity and a possible need to communicate your work.
A lot has been written in the last couple of years about altmetrics and the score that comes with them. Whether that be the, ResearchGate or Kudos’ score to name but a few. Some of the tools focus in different areas with being one that tries to capture a broad range of data from scholarly and public communications. With that comes their own score that is weighed depending on what platform was used. For example, a Tweet is worth one point, a blog post five and a news article eight. Hence with so many of these metrics, including traditional ones like the impact factor score, h-index and citation count, the bigger the number the better. With that may be good but not wholly useful, as small numbers, especially 0 can tell us a lot too.
The real value in altmetrics does not come from the score but that it measures previously ignored research outputs, such as individual papers and datasets. Also it shows us where these outputs are being communicated or in the case of an altmetric score of 0 – not communicated. The score of zero is to some extent more important than 50, 100 and higher. It tells us that this research has not been shared, discussed, saved or covered in the media. In a world increasingly governed by impact, scholarly communication and dissemination of your research, the straight flat zero indicates a possible need to communicate your work. Of course detractors of such systems will point to such as the Kardashian index and that science is not about popularity, or the ability to communicate beyond a niche group. It is about the ability to complete rigorous and quality research: ie research that is captured in journals, repositories, data management systems and shared at conferences. Yet when so many systems for global scholarly communication exist, why not use them?
Image credit: Håkan Dahlström Photography Flickr CC BY
Given that many research papers are never cited then it should follow that they will never be Tweeted, shared, blogged or saved in Mendeley. Yet as the research world increasingly uses social media to communicate with the wider world, whether that be publishers, charities, funders or the general public, the ease in which academics can communicate their work is apparent. If a researcher’s altmetric score is 0 it may seem depressing to think no one has shared or communicate their work but it does offer them a starting place in this new world. Unlike citations, it is an instant feedback loop, if you want to act upon that remains your choice.
Whilst critics may be wary of gaming altmetrics scores, and rightly so, the number 0 tells us something potentially important. That either no one knows your research exists and are yet to discover it or that sadly no one is interested in it. Obviously we cannot say this for sure, as we are just talking about active participants on the web, whether that be a discussion forum, blog, news or social media. There are many academics not engaged on the social web who one day with the aid of a literature search or conference presentation will discover your work.
At least with the altmetric score of 0 you can only go up, no one can get a negative altmetric score. So this means investigating who and where to share your research. The problem detractors have with altmetrics is that they are concerned we are focusing just on the numbers. It is a legitimate concern, how many Tweets your paper gets is not an indication it is a good piece of research. Yet that has always been the case, a high number of citations has not always indicated high quality research. The chances are that it is a good piece of research, but we can take nothing for granted in academia. If we were to put it into a sporting context and cricket, having the highest batting average or scoring the most runs in a team has never been an indicator of the best player. Given that it does give us insight that we are looking at some of the best of the bunch, it is merely a useful indicator. As with altmetrics, this is what they are, indicators of communication and interest of varying levels. So the concern is that funders, managers, journals might start to pay too much attention to big numbers. This in turn might cause some to gameplay to increase those numbers, but that was always the case pre-altmetrics. Journal editors have been known to ask authors to cite papers from their own publications and it’s not unheard for authors to self-cite.

Image credit: Kilometre Zero at Plaza de Armas in Santiago, Chile. Public Domain Wikimedia
Whilst some of this might sound like counter arguments to altmetrics, they are not. We do need to have discussions about what we want from altmetrics. Many academics would be lying if they denied they were not interested in where their research was being discussed on the web. The useful by-product from altmetrics is that we have a much better idea if our research is not being discussed at all. The score 0 may be as significant as 1000 for some academics as it tells them that no one is talking about their research.
The bigger problem is that it has become confusing when there are several platforms that generate their own metrics,, ResearchGate and more public tools such as Klout have their own scores. It could start to feel like the early days of Ebay before commercial companies set up profiles and generating a 100% feedback score became paramount. These days it is not so important, big feedback scores on ebay mean nothing more than they have sold lots of stuff, one negative makes no difference. Whilst academics will become increasingly aware of the newer metrics, some may be shocked by the succession of zeros by their outputs, especially when so many could be highly cited. The solution is to explain why this happens should they wish build on that score. The scores do not convey the quality of their work or standing, but for those wanting to reach out or looking for feedback on how this is going, then the number 0 is a sign that the only way is up.

This blog post originally appeared in the LSE Impact of Social Science Blog and is republished under a Creative Commons CC Attribution 3.0 Licence.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Two new books from Information Resources

Books are like buses, you wait ages for one to come along and two come at the same time, or something like that. This is the case in Information Resources as Andy Tattersall  his and colleague Anthea Sutton alongside fellow ScHARR library and information guru Andrew Booth have published books.
Anthea and Andrew's book, Systematic Approaches to a Successful Literature Review is a second edition of their popular book for Sage and an essential read for anyone wanting to conduct a high quality literature review. Fellow ScHARR colleague and previous member of Information Resources Diana Papaioannou also contributed to the title which came out this month. Whilst Andy has delivered an edited book for Facet that looks at Altmetrics and the potential for research and libraries.

Systematic Approaches to a Successful Literature Review

Showing you how to take a structured and organized approach to a wide range of literature review types, this book helps you to choose which approach is right for your research. Packed with constructive tools, examples, case studies and hands-on exercises, the book covers the full range of literature review techniques,
New to this edition:
· Full re-organization takes you step-by-step through the process from beginning to end

· New chapter showing you how to choose the right method for your project
· Practical guidance on integrating qualitative and quantitative data
· New coverage of rapid reviews
· Comprehensive inclusion of literature review tools, including concept analysis, scoping and mapping
With an emphasis on the practical skills, this guide is essential for any student or researcher needing to get from first steps to a successful literature review.

To purchase a copy
A practical guide for librarians, researchers and academics

Whilst Andy Tattersall has published an edited book for Facet Books on the topic of altmetrics. The book also features a chapter from the ever busy Andrew Booth and fellow Information Resources member Claire Beecroft. There are also contributions from Euan Adie at, Ben Showers who has published previously for Facet on the topic of bibliometrics, and a chapter from William Gunn at Mendeley.
The book also came out this month and hopes to bridge the gap between practitioner and giving advice for library, information professionals and academics how they best make use of altmetrics. 
This book gives an overview of altmetrics, its tools and how to implement them successfully to boost and measure research outputs.

New methods of scholarly communication and dissemination of information are having a huge impact on how academics and researchers build profiles and share research. This groundbreaking and highly practical guide looks at the role that library and information professionals can play in facilitating these new ways of working and demonstrating impact and influence.
Altmetrics focuses on research artefact level metrics that are not exclusive to traditional journal papers but also extend to book chapters, posters and data sets, among other items. This book explains the theory behind altmetrics, including how it came about, why it can help academics and where it sits amongst current measurements of impact.

To purchase a copy