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Friday, 13 November 2015

An introduction from a new Information Specialist

Hi! My name is Naila Dracup and I am the most recent Information Specialist to join the Information Resources Group (IRG) within ScHARR HEDS. 

Prior to working here I worked as an Information Specialist at the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) where I worked on providing Information Specialist support for a range of research outputs including 5 guidelines that were in development as part of the NICE Collaborating Centre for Social Care consortium. Other past positions have been as an Information Specialist at Bazian ltd (as part of the Economist Intelligence Unit) and NICE Evidence - cancer. 

I recently relocated to Sheffield from London to take up this position so whilst not in work I'm getting to enjoy exploring the city and the surrounding areas. I’m originally from West Yorkshire so I’m very glad to be back in ‘God’s own county’.

I obtained my Master's degree in Information Studies from Leeds Beckett in 2009 and my Undergraduate degree was in Sociology from Leeds University. I am a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) of which I am a member of their Health Libraries and Information Literacy Groups.

It's very exciting to be working here having been aware of the wide-ranging activities and research quality of ScHARR for some time.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

5 Must-Have Peripherals For Your Tablet Device

There are an increasing array of mobile apps and technologies that learning technologists, teachers and academics can use within the institution. Added to that are a growing number of peripherals that can be employed to make teaching and content production an easier process. In this blog post we look at five that you should take note of. The five pieces of tech below are not necessarily the best ones for each task, but are ones I have employed personally with my iPad. There may be cheaper and better options available out there should you wish to explore further.

Be louder

CC BY NC ND 2.0 Gibbyll
All too often when going out to present or deliver teaching you can find the room facilities non-functional. There may be no sound coming from the speakers attached to the teaching lectern, or just no speakers at all. One way round this is to have your own set of speakers with you. Naturally you do not want to be carrying around a big heavy 4kw sound system, so need something small and lightweight. One alternative is the X-mini speakers series
There are various models and all allow users to chain link multiple ones together to increase the sound output. Many give an output in the region of 2kw, which can be built upon with more speakers. For a small to mid-sized seminar lecture room they give enough audio to ensure you won’t be put off playing videos in your class ever again. You can get a pair of good quality x-mini speakers for about £15.

Stand Tall
When trying to capture any content, whether it be yourself in front of your tablet camera, or using it as a reading device you are often limited as to where you can prop your device. Even doing something like relaying your teaching over the web using Twitter video conferencing tools like Periscope or Meerkat it can be quite tough. This can be negated by buying a tablet stand, which looks not too dissimilar from your typical music stand. The Ezi-Tech Music Stand Mount, priced around the £30 mark is a good one which works with Apple and Samsung devices. It allows the user to free up their hands to hold a paper, or maintains a consistency when trying to record a piece to camera, whether that be video or just audio.

Be Heard
Tablets have come on a long way from the first wave of smart devices from a few years ago. One thing they have improved on is audio capture and recording, yet there is always room for improvement. Often sound can be the most important aspect of a digital artefact, as users may want to only hear what you are saying rather than watch. Content can be stripped down to a podcast, so good quality audio is essential. Using a USB microphone can help improve on your audio capture and can give a richness of sound when it lacks. A good series of microphones is the Rode USB, which comes with a tripod stand and pop shield. It works with Windows and Mac OS and connects, as you would suspect from its name, via USB. It is important to note that iPad users would require an Apple adaptor cable for the USB which costs about £25 The mic, which is powered by the tablet device, costs somewhere in the region of £100 upwards

Project Yourself
CC BY 2.0 Paul Hudson
If you use the likes of Google Slides, Haiku Deck and Nearpod to present then it should make sense to use your tablet device to deliver them from. Just because you have a tablet device, and not a laptop, does not mean you cannot use your own little bit ot tech to deliver your slides. For Apple devices with the miniport you can use it to connect to a VGA device like a projector, which costs about £30 Android users can hardwire connect to projectors by using a mini HDMI to HDMI cable if the projector supports it. Obviously there are an increasing number of ways to mirror and connect devices to big screens without the need for cabling, but not everyone has access to that just yet.

Be Seen
CC BY 2.0 Dave Taylor
A useful technology with real potential that has appeared in the last year or so is Swivl. The little round, flat Swivl robot allows your teaching and presentations to be captured and shared live as it follows you around the room while you present. By wearing a small dongle that picks up on your voice, the device hosts your tablet device allowing it to capture your teaching and either record it or deliver it to elsewhere remotely. Swivl costs somewhere in the region of £450, so is not so cheap. Nethertheless, if you do a lot of teaching, flip your classroom or have online learners and want to maximise your output, it could be a worthwhile investment. Regardless of how fast you try and move the Swivl does a really good job of trying to keep up.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

The Great ScHARR Library Bake Off

Every year we host a bake sale in our library at ScHARR in aid of a local charity. This year we chose the North Derbyshire charity Fairplay that works to support disabled children and young adults.

 All of the team came together to create a host of delicious creations as well as some of our friends from within ScHARR Towers. We had everything from two types of scones, brownies, carrot cake, gluten free options, biscuits and even a Guinness cake...hic!

This year we ran the charity picnic on the same day as we welcomed our new intake of students, so we took it as a good opportunity to say hello and introduce ourselves. I was worried that the students wouldn't venture down from a day full of talks and inductions, but they did thankfully. In fact we were overwhelmed by how many came to see us. 

At one point the library was as full as I'd ever seen it in my 14 years at ScHARR. Everyone was fed and watered with juices and hot drinks provided by the library team. Although there may still be money to be donated we probably broke our record for donations from our cake sales (this is about the 8th one we've run it). At present we have raised £156 for a very worthwhile charity - so well done all. Salads are the order for today.

Thankfully there was very little left at the end of the day, and my beetroot brownies (with my own orange beetroots) and scones (with homemade and picked jam) all went.

For more information about Fairplay and the work they do, go to:

Next year we hope to have Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry on hand to do some judging.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

For what it’s worth – the open peer review landscape

The topic of open peer review has been gaining some traction for some time. It's been a slow burner in the academic community for many years and through the increasing use of social media in research it continues to polarise academic communities. With open research and access increasingly attracting more support, it is inevitable that open peer review will follow that trajectory. How quickly, and with what resistance is not yet known. I have just published a paper on open peer review and looked at the main protagonists in a special issue focusing on open access for the Online Information Journal.
CC BY 2.0 Tim Morgan


The aim of this paper is two-fold, firstly to discuss the current and future issues around post publication open peer review. Secondly to highlight some of the main protagonists and platforms that encourages open peer review, pre and post publication.
The first part of the paper aims to discuss the facilitators and barriers that will enable and prevent academics engaging with the new and established platforms of scholarly communication and review. These issues are covered with the intention of proposing further dialogue within the academic community that ultimately address researchers' concerns, whilst continuing to nurture a progressive approach to scholarly communication and review. The paper will continue to look at the prominent open post-publication platforms and tools and discuss whether in the future it will become a standard model.
The paper identifies several problems, not exclusive to open peer review that could inhibit academics from being open with their reviews and comments of other’s research. Whilst identifies opportunities to be had by embracing a new era of academic openness.

The paper summarises key platforms and arguments for open peer review and will be of interest to researchers in different disciplines as well as the wider academic community wanting to know more about scholarly communications and measurement.
You can find the paper here.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

How can scholarly communication avoid becoming just a cacophony of noise?

White Noise -CC BY 2.0 Kyknoord (Mental State)
I was asked to write an editorial for the UKSG newsletter. UKSG purpose is to connect the knowledge community and encouraging the exchange of ideas on scholarly communication. So wrote a piece on how can scholarly communication avoid becoming just a cacophony of noise - a tough one to answer.
You can visit UKSG and subscribe to their free newsletter here

In Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy the author sums up how big space is by writing:  “Space is big. really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space.” Well the same applies to the web. In our own personal online universe we see it as something big, but do not realise how truly vast and diverse it is. Take for example the 300 minutes of video that is uploaded to YouTube every minute of every day. In 2013 it was estimated that there were over 14 trillion webpages on the Internet; and does that include the non-indexed, dark, intranet content or is it much, much bigger than that? When we think about scholarly content we often think about it in simple terms, journals, papers, presentations, databases and (for more web-focused academics) a collection of tools and social networks. It is likely to be much more than we can imagine, as academic content and comment seeps into the media, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter with the latter providing a constant stream of academic Tweets. Then we have tools like iTunes U, JOVE, Piirus, Slideshare and Mendeley to name but a very few.

Even though academia has been slow in embracing what we used to often refer as web 2.0 in 2005, there is still an awful lot of chatter around the web from academics. Lots use Twitter, over 7 million on ResearchGate, 3 million on Mendeley and over 21 million are on It is a very big place with a lot of conversations going on 24 hours a day, globally. Naturally not all of these users are active or engaging with the platforms and communities. Nevertheless that is potentially a lot of sharing and conversations and this is before we really get our teeth into open peer review. Then look at Twitter and how many academics are on there using the micro-blogging site as a regular communication tool. There are no exact figures, but it is likely to be in the hundreds of thousands at the very least. Founder of, Richard Price estimated in 2011 that there were about 17 million faculty members and graduate students in the world. This is of course an estimate, as it is hard to track staff in-between contracts and those retired but still working.

We are now at a crossroads within academia when we think about openness, whether that be MOOCs, altmetrics, open peer review, open access or big data - they all have an open element to them. With more websites creating opportunities for open dialogue between academics worldwide, it seems wrong not to grasp them with both hands, provided that this openness comes with responsibility. The problem is that researchers have not adapted to these changes very well, and through no fault of their own. After all, they are busy professionals who are encouraged to build a sustainable and credible career mostly based on publishing and winning grants. As the web has changed, they have too, just not at the same pace. Critiquing, discussing or passing comment on a peer’s output has very little in terms of formal recognition and reward. Added to that there has been a lack of support for academics to reap the rewards afforded to them by being able to share their work via the various freely available technologies. Academics are still very cautious when it comes to publicly discussing and commenting on research in their area. The notion of discussing someone else’s work in the open, away from the safety of the office or blind peer review is somewhat uncomfortable, and with good reason. It is understandable given the legacy that pre-21st Century academia created, that not to rock the boat is the safer career option. Many wonder what there is to gain from talking about their own work on the web, which can be seen as narcissistic or another person’s work which can seen as antagonistic, even when it might not be in both cases.

CC BY 2.0 Nancy<I'm gonna SNAP!
Whilst critics of open peer review might see public commenting, discussing and reviewing research as a luxury or waste of time it does have potential benefits. It can help identify flaws in published and ongoing research, as you may believe that you are the only person conducting research like this, but there is always a chance someone has carried out similar work and can contribute their knowledge. It aids forming potential collaborations and help identify peers who can help build a personal learning network. Communicating, collaborating, problem-solving are all things we teach students at university. Academics have the potential to tap into an organic, intelligent community on the web for similar benefits. Yet it still feels like the exception to the rule. In time I am certain we will see a lot more open peer review, post publication comment and review and the continued growth in useful communication using social media platforms, in particular academic-inclusive ones.

If the digital immigrant - native model is anything to go by we will soon see further changes within academia underpinned by open access and the wealth of research-focused web-tools appearing almost daily. This will happen as more web native students move on from junior to career researchers and utilise the technologies that are so openly available on university campuses, that is of course unless they become institutionalised by existing practices. Change is already happening, but we are still some way away from a critical mass. In time this change will be good as more knowledge is shared, mistakes spotted earlier by peers and collaborations forged from around the world. Naturally with these benefits comes a bitter taste as internet trolls do and will continue to exist, bad and mischievous research will be published, and we could struggle to sort out the useful chatter from the banal. There is also the Kardashian Index to consider, as academics should always be judged on their research output over their social media popularity and an ability to communicate. That said, researchers should hone the core skills of communicating their work to a variety of audiences.

The biggest problem is still one we have struggled to cope with since the beginning of the web: how best to sort out all of the data into easy to access, discoverable, manageable chunks. If academics spend more time traversing the web to discuss and reply to the new forms of scholarly communication, they might well get fatigued by it all. The modern phenomena of social media fatigue is just one of the problems, as for example active and popular Twitter users simply stop using the platform once it becomes unmanageable. Therefore there is a need for training and support to help researchers not only understand why they should embrace their online communities but also be skilled-up to flourish in them. That includes netiquette, dealing with negative feedback, time management and deciding which technology is best. Communities need to be well defined, moderated and where possible open.

The likes of Twitter and blogging are essential tools for academics to communicate beyond their peers to a wider audience, but there is also a strong need for secure, private academic-only communities, that are open but also closed to elements outside of their subject areas. No single solution can push scholarly communication forward, it has to be lead on several fronts. Whilst the benefits for participation in such communities might seem modest right now, so more thought is needed as to how active participation in scholarly communication and open review can be more rewarding. The benefits of creating a hive community of knowledge across the globe could be that it solves huge problems faster than before. We need to have systems that allow us to see these solutions, rather than lose them in a wall of sound.  

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Work experience in the ScHARR library

Hi! My name's Eleanor Rimmer (also known as Melanie Rimmer's daughter). I'm a year 10 student at Poynton High School, and I've been doing a one week work experience in the ScHARR library.

I want to work with books, either in a library or a bookshop, once I'm done with education, because I've always liked books and organizing things. I think my house counts as a miniature library in its own right-family and friends are always 'borrowing' books, and there are even shelves in the bathroom!

Work experience may not be over yet, but I've really enjoyed it so far. Everyone I've met has been really friendly and helpful, and I've learned a lot about databases and social media and shelving and things like that. It's obvious that the people working here take pride and enjoyment in what they do-that attitude is inspiring. This has been a great learning experience for me, and I'll definitely have a lot to think about when I'm done with my GCSEs.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Research Hacks - How to Hack Your Research

I was lucky enough to be invited to give a talk for in the spring as part of a half day event themed about the Digital Academic at The University of Warwick. The talks were captured and have now been published on YouTube.
I have to say that I am not asleep in the last video :-)