Friday, 22 September 2017

Intro Week at ScHARR Library

Image of Sheldon Korpet
Sheldon Korpet
This week, ScHARR Library welcomed our new Postgrad students. Information Specialists, Claire Beecroft and Mark Clowes, delivered an information skills session teaching students about searching for literature. ScHARR Library even created some goodie bags for the occasion!
Image of Rachel Walker
Rachel Walker

The library is a place to work within the department, use the PCs and Chromebooks or sit on the soft seats for a coffee and a chat. The meeting table is also bookable for group work.

Myself and Rachel, Information Officers on the library enquiry desk, look forward to meeting and helping our new students. 

Here are our #ScHARRIntro17 tips for new ScHARR students:

  • Improve your assignments by working on your information skills – try the IRIS quizzes on MOLE to find out how good you really are at finding and organising
  • We can help you find information –if you have any burning questions please ask Rachel or Sheldon at enquiry desk
  • Our books and dissertations can be searched through our catalogue here (Note: our items are not on StarPlus)
  • We hold core text books for your courses

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Cite Hacks - A new video series to support scholarly communications, digital academia and gain a few extra citations (hopefully)

Image of Andy Tattersall
Andy Tattersall
Over the last couple of years I have created three series of videos to help researchers and academics make more out of technology and the web to support their work. The first series was Research Hacks which appeared in 2015, Learn Hacks followed shortly and then last year App Hacks was launched. You might notice a bit of a theme here, but the purpose of these videos are to offer quick and simple suggestions for the progressive academic to work differently. They were part instructional and part inspirational and focused on a myriad of technologies, tools, websites and opportunities. The videos are usually shorter than three minutes long and are an introduction to such topics and how I can help others take advantage of them.

Cite Hacks
Cite Hacks are about what academics can do to improve their chances of getting cited. More than that, the videos are about making your research easier to discover and exploit fresh opportunities within digital academia. There is conflicting evidence as to the many ways you can improve citations but these videos offer opportunities for explore much more. If you don't try then you won't know. The exercise of blogging, making data and research open, using social media and using better keywords and titles are all part of where academia is heading.

Cite Hacks Playlist

Monday, 11 September 2017

The Digital Transformation of Research Support - Northern Collaboration Workshop Presentation

Image of Andy Tattersall
Andy Tattersall
Myself and Alison McNab (University of Huddersfield) delivered a workshop of the Northern Collaboration Conference held at The University of York. The conference is a regular joint event between 27 northern based university libraries. Our workshop explored the potential for the creation of a specialist role that helped support research that was very much aligned to the library and information community.

The workshop was an opportunity to ask attendees what digital, research and library competencies they already had that could contribute to the role of an academic/research technologist. We asked them to suggest other attributes form our list and then chose which ones they would most like to focus on. It was a really good opportunity to discuss these embryonic ideas at the conference. The findings from this workshop will form more presentations and writing as we explore this idea further. Our slides and abstract are below.  

This session will provide delegates with an overview of the digital research landscape, an introduction to tools and resources to tame the landscape, the opportunity to consider the skillsets required in the context of their own workplace, and an introduction to the research technologist manifesto. Please bring a mobile device (and your Eduroam password) to contribute to this interactive session.
Image of Alison McNab
Alison McNab

Researchers increasingly need to understand a multitude of topics including digital copyright, impact, altmetrics, communications, social media, research data management and sharing, open access, infographics, video, animation and mobile apps. Yet all too often they have little time, support or encouragement to explore these topics and have they need to make informed judgements on the most appropriate technologies. 

For decades skilled LIS professionals have provided researchers with excellent services around collection management, content curation and discovery, critical appraisal and reference management. More recently they have stepped into new areas of support and applied their knowledge around social media, metrics, scholarly communications and research data management. Given that the modern LIS professional is adept of working across platforms, good at problem solving and the use of new technologies, are they positioned to guide and work alongside researchers as research technologists?

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Andy Tattersall featured in new ebook on digital academia

Andy Tattersall has been featured in a new e book by Jobs ac uk called 'The Digital Academic. It comes off the back of a talk he delivered for Jobs ac uk in 2015 at The University of Warwick alongside Dr Inger Mewburn and Dr Nadine Muller.

Image of Andy Tattersall and quote text
Andy Tattersall
The talks were all about digital academia and using technology to be a modern academic, Andy's talk is below. The book offers useful on how to use social media, blogs, altmetrics and productivity tools as part of the academic process. The book is short, snappy and offers introductory advice as to help the novice explore some of the tools and ideas easily. Of course with is beign an online book there are plenty of links to further resources and tools. You can read the book here

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Article on Information Overload in The Statesman by Andy Tattersall

Image of Andy Tattersall
Andy Tattersall
Image of The Statesman newspaper
© The Statesman
Andy Tattersall has published an invited piece on information overload in the Indian newspaper The Statesman. The piece came off the back of his 2017 Pint of Science talk on how to deal with information overload. His article looks at different ways of creating protected periods of time for work and personal pursuits. It also includes a few extreme options such as having a NoPhone or using Pavlok to discharge an electric shock if you spend too much time on Facebook. The article can be read here and slides from his Pint of Science talk are below.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Book Review: Communicating Your Research With Social Media: A Practical Guide to Using Blogs, Podcasts, Data Visualisations and Video

Image of Andy Tattersall
Andy Tattersall
With Communicating Your Research with Social Media: A Practical Guide to Using Blogs, Podcasts, Data Visualisations and Video, authors Amy Mollett, Cheryl Brumley, Chris Gilson and Sierra Williams offer a definitive guide to communicating research using different social media tools. Reflecting on the utility of social media to all facets of the research landscape and lifecycle, this is a valuable book that will encourage readers to find the right platform for their voice, writes Andy Tattersall. 
If anyone was going to write a definitive book about communicating research using social media, it would be some of the people behind the various engaging blogs hosted by the London School of Economics and Political Science. The four authors either work or have worked for the LSE, and anyone who has ever followed the LSE Impact of Social Sciences blog will know that it has been at the forefront of social media and science communication for some time.
Social media, like most of the web, is a cross between a goldfield and a minefield. There are opportunities aplenty for those who engage with it, but also many potential problems lurking below the surface. For most academics, it still appears an unknown land when they come at it from a wholly professional perspective. There are those who know what they are doing, and often doing it well; there are those who are not engaging with social media at all; and there are those who are but just aren’t sure why. All three groups can benefit from a book like Communicating Your Research with Social Media: A Practical Guide to Using Blogs, Podcasts, Data Visualisations and Video, as no matter what you think you know about social media as part of your research communication, it probably isn’t enough.
This is because social media is in a constant state of flux, always changing and always spiralling off into new areas. Like the gold- and minefield analogy, many of these require some degree of support to help navigate them successfully. Whether you are new to Twitter or mastering video, podcasts and blogging as part of your research communication lifecycle, you still have things to learn. This title begins quite rightly at the theoretical and historical end of social media, which it covers in adequate depth. As with learning to drive, there is the practical and there is the theoretical: the latter in this case helps put some flesh on the bones as to why the web is how it is and what that means to anyone working in academia. The authors do this really well as they start out by defining social media from its early beginnings right up to recent times and how it has impacted for change on a global scale, such as through the Arab Spring and the Black Lives Matter campaign.
Contrary to many people’s beliefs about social media in an academic setting, it is not just about learning to use a new technology: it is not like unpacking your new kettle, looking for the ‘on’ switch and making your first cup of tea. It requires a reason to use that technology and considerations around that choice, which this book explains throughout. You can be told to use Twitter as it will help share your research, but you need to understand what the benefits will be as well as the potential barriers and costs. Thankfully, this book highlights those considerations through each practical chapter.
Image Credit: (Mike Mackenzie CC BY 2.0
Quite importantly, the research lifecycle and social media are also given their own chapter as both are not mentioned in close proximity to each other nearly enough. Yet, to myself and the authors, these two spheres seem to have been destined to be together for quite some time now. For those familiar with the research lifecycle as it exists, in Chapter Two the authors present their own iteration broken into six areas: Inspiration, Collaboration, Primary Research, Dissemination, Engagement and Impact. Social media is linked to all six, and the book addresses those connections to reflect on what the research landscape looks like for those who have embraced these digital opportunities.
The next four chapters are well-signposted and cover the main areas of interest: writing blog posts; creating infographics and visualisations; making audio and podcasts; and creating videos and images for social media. Each sets out to define these areas as there are plenty of academics still unsure what each element is and how it applies to their world. So the book’s approach is to work from the basics upwards and give clear signposting along the way.
The blog chapter tackles that most fundamental of problems: ‘what to write about?’ Advice on this and how to structure your blog (with the temptation being to just write a shorter version of your research paper) are plenty as well as on applying the right tone. Careful consideration is also given as to what platforms to go to when first starting your blog. The tone is light and positive so that anyone coming in from a basic level entrypoint will not feel overwhelmed by the content. The chapters regularly pause to ask questions to guide the reader towards understanding the reason for applying any of these digital approaches to their research communication, whilst also containing no shortage of textual and visual examples of cases studies to inspire the reader to consider as part of their own application.
The chapters also make clear connections between what a tool is and how it can be applied in research communication: an area many academics fail to link. For those looking to overhaul their research practices, keen to communicate their findings and ideas and to future proof their work, the book is a good place to start. Useful waypoints are added throughout the book so you can assess your progress before launching any new social content. The temptation when given new creative tools is to rush and get content out there for your peers and the world to see. Yet if the data is distorted, unreadable or not properly labelled and branded, you could be left with problems. Thankfully, the book sets out key checkpoints throughout to negate that, a good example being the infographics and data visualisation checklist which asks seven important questions before publishing your poster and data. The book also comes with a useful companion website that includes blog posts on everything from social media and the research lifecycle to guides on using Twitter and making podcasts.
Communicating your Research with Social Media does not require the reader to start at page one and work through it in a linear fashion. As with many books, it can be digested in one large sitting or bit-by-bit as and when needed. How you engage with this book will also depend on your level of ability to use social media professionally: it is important to note a difference here between this and how you use it on a personal level. The book is aimed at a very wide market: from students to established academics, from professional support staff to journal publishers and funding bodies, all will have useful things to take away from the text.
As with other work written by the authors about social media in research, this book is another valuable addition to the collection. Of course, with everything social media these days, there is no getting away from Donald Trump, who is mentioned six times. But his appearance is a reminder that in these uncertain times, with the suppression of experts and research evidence, it has never been a more crucial period for academics to learn new digital skills. The authors conclude that the research lifecycle has in many ways always been a social process, so it should make good sense to employ new digital technologies of communication to aid that. By communicating your research, not only can academics build networks and possibilities for collaboration, gather evidence of impact and share their research, but they can be a voice of truth in a world of fake news. To do this they must first find a platform for their voice, and this book will set them off on the right path or move them further along it.
Originally published on the LSE Review of Books

Friday, 14 July 2017

Write Week

Write Club "Boot Camp" in the Diamond
Writing "Boot Camp" in the Diamond

Today marks the end of "Write Week" here at the University of Sheffield, and ScHARR's IR team have been busy both as participants and facilitators.

ScHARR library have been busy providing motivational tweets and tips and members of the IR team joined in to share their own projects and advice:

Meanwhile, Andy Tattersall ran a day-long "boot camp" during Write Week - a more intensive form of the popular "write club" sessions held weekly in the library.  This time staff relocated to the Diamond and worked through a schedule of 10 "pomodoros" - 25 minute time slots designed to allow for a concentrated burst of productivity on a specific task, punctuated by 5 minute breaks for refreshment.

There are definite benefits to being out of the building, away from the distractions of the phone (or colleagues knocking on the office door) and having some protected time to do nothing but focus on writing.    Like Write Club, these retreats are popular and staff need to book a place in advance using Eventbrite.    Motivation came in the form of a visual display using the Forest app, showing saplings which grow over the course of the day as illustrations of our productivity.
Do you have any tips for productivity, or on making time for those important but non-urgent tasks that can easily be neglected when you're running a busy service?

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

ScHARR Information Resources Team - European Tour 2017!

This month has seen a plethora of conference activity from current (and former) Information Resources staff.

Andrew, Louise and Mark presenting in Dublin
Andrew Booth, Louise Preston & Mark Clowes

The theme of this year's EAHIL / ICML congress (in Dublin) was "Diversity In Practice: Integrating, Inspiring and Innovative" and it featured:

  • A continuing education workshop "Room for a Review?" delivered by Louise Preston, Andrew Booth and Mark Clowes
  • An explorative workshop on "Partners for Leadership Exchange?" co-presented by ScHARR's Anthea Sutton with Lotta Haglund (Swedish School of Sport & Health Sciences, Stockholm).
  •  An oral presentation by Mark Clowes "What's the prognosis for health librarianship?" reflecting on how his professional role has evolved from librarian to information specialist via a case study of a prognostic health technology assesment project on which he has been a co-author.
  • Poster presentations by Anthea ("Co-design and shared delivery: working with partner organisations to meet the training needs of the health library and knowledge workforce") and Louise ("Developing search strategies to search for evidence on equality and diversity")

The event, held in Dublin Castle, was attended by several hundred librarians and information professionals from across the world and was an opportunity to catch up with old friends and colleagues, as well as meeting new ones.

Ruth Wong presenting at HTAI (Rome)
The following week, Andrew, Anthea, Ruth and Mark appeared at the HTAI Annual Meeting in Rome.   As a multidisciplinary conference about health technology assessment, the event attracts a mixed audience including reviewers, economists and health practitioners as well as information specialists.

  • Anthea presented a "vignette presentation" reporting an empirical study on the efficient retrieval of trial protocols.
  • Ruth gave an oral presentation entitled "The Impact of Searching Fewer Databases in HTA Rapid Reviews".
  • Mark gave an oral presentation on using visualization software (VOS Viewer) to identify candidate markers in a systematic review of prognostic factors in rheumatoid arthritis.

Both conferences offered stimulating programmes of presentations and workshops; as well as an opportunity to network with colleagues and see a little of two great European cities.

So, as this blog recently passed something of a milestone (WE ARE 10!) we raise a glass to Andy Tattersall who founded it back in 2007, and to all our readers.  Slainte!

Mark Clowes

Louise Preston
Anthea Sutton

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Andy Tattersall speaking at this year's Pint of Science

Image of Andy Tattersall
Andy Tattersall
I'm going to deliver a talk as part of the national festival of science held in pubs - Pint of Science. My talk will be on 'How to Avoid Information Overload', something many of us really struggle with - including myself. The talk takes place at Couch, 29-31 Campo Lane, Sheffield and entrance is £4 with doors opening at 7pm.
To book a place go here

The theme of the night is 'The Ultimate Survival Guide to Computers' The devices in our pockets hold more power than the rocket that first took people to the moon. With the progress of technology showing no sign of stopping, we present three talks aimed at giving you a sneak peek into some of the crazy complex processes that our mobile computers are capable of doing. Please note that this event takes place on the ground floor and is accessible for those with impaired mobility. Alcohol, hot and cold drinks will be on offer and there will cakes and snacks available.

Andy's Abstract Do you feel overwhelmed and distracted by all of the emails, text messages, website and social media updates, likes, pings, pokes, snapchats? Two things are certain, you are not alone and those distractions are not going to go away unless you get a handle on them. As the amount of content we generate on the web continues to grow at a rapid pace and we look to make better use of our time, personally and professionally, Andy Tattersall will show you some of the ways you can do to take back control. All you need is willpower and a terrible wifi connection.

Andy wrote a piece about how to avoid Information Overload which was covered by CNN.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Following the success of the learning technologist, is it time for a research equivalent?

Image of Andy Tattersall
Andy Tattersall
With so many scholarly communications tools and technologies now available, how do academics decide which are most appropriate for their research? Andy Tattersall suggests it might be time for a research equivalent of the learning technologist, a role that has helped drive innovations in teaching underpinned by technologies. The research technologist would be embedded within the university department, make recommendations on appropriate online tools, provide technical assistance and also offer guidance on accompanying issues of ethics or compliance. With the right ongoing support, academics can improve the communication, dissemination and impact of their research.
The research cycle is changing rapidly and a lot of that change is due to the proliferation of technologies and websites that support the research process. Many of the most useful tools have been captured by Jerome Bosman and Bianca Kramer in their excellent 101 Innovations in Scholarly Communications. Whilst this work is a great help to those aware of it, the reality is a majority of academics are either unaware of or unwilling to engage with the myriad tools and technologies at their disposal (beyond social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, ResearchGate, etc.). There are several reasons for this: workload and deadline pressures; fear of technology; ethical implications around their use and their application, especially when it comes to third party software; or too much choice.
The usefulness of these tools has been recognised by major publishers, who have made certain strategic investments in order to create their own research cycle workflows. So if the likes of Elsevier are looking to use these tools to change the research ecosystem, this should be of great interest to anyone who publishes with them, right? But with so many tools available, how do academics navigate their way through them? How do they make the connection between technology and useful application? And who helps them charter these scary, unpredictable waters?
Image credit: A Multitasking Busy Guy by uberof202 ff. This work is licensed under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.
Lecturers and teachers have their pedagogy, what do researchers have?
If we look at applications of technology and social media in teaching, we can see more clearly how things have been implemented. Post-2004 and the advent of Web 2.0 there was an increased uptake of technology in the teaching community. The advent of virtual learning environments aided this, with the ability to employ discussion forums, blogs, video and, more recently, social media. Of course research has also taken advantage of these tools but the difference with teaching is that it was often led and facilitated by the learning technologist. This group of centralised, university-educated professionals help drive teaching innovations that are underpinned by technology – the clue is in their job title. The technology itself does not drive the teaching innovation but can help initiate and improve on it. By championing technologies with teaching staff, technologists have helped refresh higher education, making it more fit for the 21st century. They have helped shape learning and teaching through approaches such as blended and flipped classes, video and screen capture, fresh forms of assessment, use of mobiles, and social media. In many cases the innovation is led by the lecturer but, like research, in most cases it requires a good degree of guidance to get them there.
The research technologist
Whether we call it a research technologist or digital academic specialist, this role would not be too different from its learning technologist counterpart. It would support research and its dissemination in the use of video, animation, infographics, social media, online discussion, mobile device use, and social networks, to name just a few technologies. The learning technologist applies pedagogical reasoning for their technology choices, and the research equivalent would need to assess the same considerations. Not only that but good communication skills, information literacy, and an understanding of data protection, ethics, and what constitutes a good technology – and how it can be applied to a specific research setting in a sustainable and timely manner – are all essential. For example, the use of video to disseminate research around speech therapy would potentially be more useful than an infographic. In the same way, an infographic published in a blog post might be a better way of conveying the results of a public health project.
The reason why in-house support could benefit the practice and dissemination of research is that researchers are very pressured for time, and often don’t know what they need regarding research technologies and especially dissemination. Secondly, when they do know what they want, they often need it “as soon as possible”. These two problems are more solvable within the department, especially as researchers often don’t know where to go for specific help. The research technologist would be a designated, focused role, embedded within the department. They’d be a signpost to new ways of working, problem solving and, most importantly, be able to consider all issues of ethics and/or compliance when passing on advice. They’d become the “go-to” person for anyone wanting to use technology as part of their research.
More than just using technology
The issue of employing more technology in your research comes with various challenges. For example, with research that is sensitive, controversial or otherwise likely to attract negative attention, using social media does come with many issues. Instructing researchers to use Twitter to communicate their research is all well and good until they receive negative comments, especially abusive and threatening ones. Something like Twitter requires a technical explanation (e.g. how to use the block function or employ a dashboard like Tweetdeck) but also advice around negative comments, how, if and when to respond, when to block, and, in some cases, when to report to the platform, your institution or the authorities. Another example might be the copyright issues around ResearchGate or YouTube. Unless time is spent helping researchers understand how to use these tools and what the accompanying major issues are, those researchers will remain reluctant to use them at all. Additionally, the more those who use them have bad experiences, often through no fault of their own, the more likely others will see good reason to navigate around such opportunities. One bad experience on social media could put a researcher off using it for good. With the right ongoing support, these technologies can, in an impact-driven environment, help communicate and disseminate your research to wider audiences.
The role I am fortunate to have, information specialist, is akin to a learning technologist but I work more closely with researchers these days. My role was established a decade ago to look at how technologies can be leveraged to support my department. That extended to research and teaching staff, students and our own academic library. In that time I put my department on the path to their first MOOCs in 2013, edited a book on altmetrics, and championed Google Apps, as well as the use of video and social media on campus. Whilst I have seen the creation of new roles around learning technology, marketing and impact, there remain areas of support that fall between the cracks. This is where I pick up much of my work, supporting research and teaching colleagues around the use of video, infographics, social media and the many less attractive associated issues, like copyright, security, ethics, and the negative impact on productivity. I work closely with the centralised departments, which benefits all parties involved, and carry out some teaching, marking and write the occasional paper. In effect I am a hybrid model that is, hopefully, better able to understand the needs of all involved, including the centralised departments that work so hard to support researchers.
For teaching, which has always required librarians, IT technicians, and marketing experts, the learning technologist does not replace these roles, but complements them. The establishment of learning technologists within departments has helped bring teaching forward to take advantage of new technologies. For the same to happen within research it needs institutions to consider the learning technologist and explore whether there is value in developing an in-house research equivalent, a kind of “Swiss Army knife” professional, who can exploit the burgeoning number of opportunities afforded by the many new technologies out there.
Originally published in the LSE Impact Blog and republished under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License

Friday, 24 February 2017

ScHARR Library YouTube Channel hits 100k views

Image of Andy Tattersall
Andy Tattersall
According to the stats our own mini TV channel, ScHARRVids has gone beyond 100,000 views. First of all I have to say that I am who is usually wary of stats, especially those relating to web analytics, but 100,000 views, or something akin to that figure is still a good reflection on the response to the content we create to support our department and institution.

I started the YouTube channel in 2009, two years after this blog which celebrates its tenth birthday later this year. The channel has become a hub for many of my own outputs but also contributions from the rest of Information Resources. The channel has various collections that are there to help academics and students learn how to search, manage references, use apps, communicate their research and make better use of technology. We have some of ScHARR's high profile public lectures and some recordings from our Bite Size talks around the use of technology within teaching and research.

Image of YouTube Stats
Our latest stats

The channel has 302 subscribers and over 300 videos that you can explore with the latest one uploaded today that captures me demoing Adobe Spark.

We have our collection set out in various playlists which you can subscribe to and share, or just subscribe to the whole channel. Below is the playlist for the Research Hacks animation series I created.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Gone In 60 Seconds

Mark Clowes
Mark Clowes
Mark Clowes braves the tough crowd that is the HEDS Section Meeting to give a one-minute presentation about his work.

One of the stranger things about working in an academic school rather than a traditional library is the departmental meeting, where you can find yourself sitting alongside people whose jobs have very little in common with your own.

The ScHARR Information Resources team sit within the Health Economics and Decision Science section of ScHARR, surrounded by systematic reviewers, economists, modellers and statisticians.   To help these different professional groups understand each other better, section meetings begin with quickfire one-minute presentations from each group known as "Gone In 60 Seconds".

As a Nicolas Cage fan (I even watch his really bad films, and God knows there are plenty) - and, not least, because it was my turn - I agreed to take part. But what would be "gone" in those 60 seconds?  My career prospects?  My credibility with colleagues (if I ever had any)?  Would I be challenged for hesitation, repetition or deviation?

I enjoy giving presentations and don't usually get too nervous; but the audience for this one (and the timing, with the expiry date of my contract approaching) made me particularly keen to impress. 

I decided to give my first airing to a topic about which I hope to present at one or two conferences in the summer - using a text-mining and data visualisation app (VOS Viewer) to deal with a large number of references retrieved by a systematic review.  I chose this topic to demonstrate to colleagues that IR staff were continuously experimenting with new technology and ways of working, and - since it has the potential to influence the scope of future review projects - because it would have relevance to all the different groups in the room.  An added bonus was that I could display some pretty images of the "heat maps" produced by VOS Viewer on the screen, which would take the audience's eyes off me.

The short format required more preparation than usual - generally I don't like to work from a script, preferring to maintain a conversational tone and improvise around bullet points - but my initial attempts to do so on this topic ran significantly over time.

In the end, I realised I was going to have to write out what I wanted to say in full - initially using free writing with pen and paper, then gradually refining and paring it down until I could beat the kitchen timer countdown (this was one of those tasks I could only have done working at home - colleagues would think I had lost the plot walking around reciting the same presentation over and over again).

I didn't want it to be a dry, technical presentation (in any case, there wasn't enough time to explain in depth how the software worked) so instead came from the angle of "why is this useful?" - i.e. for dealing with a common problem of facing too many references to sift in the traditional way, but potentially too important to ignore.

On the day, I think it went pretty well - people seemed engaged with what I was saying, although a slight technical hitch with my slides meant that I didn't quite manage my closing sentence before I (5...) was (4....) ruthlessly (3...) cut (2...) off (1...)

Monday, 6 February 2017

The Systematic Review Toolbox

Anthea Sutton
Last week I was invited to demonstrate the Systematic Review Toolbox (SR Toolbox) at our in-house Systematic Reviews Issues and Updates Symposium (SYRIUS) at ScHARR (School of Health and Related Research) at The University of Sheffield.  The symposium provides an opportunity for researchers to get together and share updates of systematic review methodological work being undertaken in ScHARR, so it was a great opportunity to promote the SR Toolbox and the resources it contains.  The SR Toolbox slot on the symposium programme consisted of a short presentation introducing the toolbox with a potted history of its creation and development.  This was followed by a live demonstration, which included some tips on using the toolbox.  Here are a few of those tips:
1.  You can use “Quick Search” to search for more than just the tool name
You can use “Quick Search” to search for tools by name, but you can also use it to search the titles and descriptions of tools. For example, if you’re interested in finding tools for critical appraisal, type it into the “Quick Search” box and you will find tools that mention “critical appraisal” in either the title or description of the tool. However, be aware this is exactly what it says it is, a “Quick Search”, so if you want a comprehensive list of all the critical appraisal tools in the toolbox, be sure to use “Advanced Search”.

2.  In “Advanced Search” selecting more than one feature will search for the features using “AND”
When using “Advanced Search”, it is important to note that if you select more than one feature, the toolbox uses the Boolean Operator “AND” and will return tools that meet all the features you selected.

3.  If you want to browse all the tools in the toolbox…
For Software Tools, tick the “Any” box underneath where it says “Check ‘Any’ if not concerned about any specific features”.
For “Other Tools”, check all 4 “Find me” boxes.
4.  The toolbox provides references to tool-related journal articles where available
The tool records in the toolbox link to/reference journal articles where they are available.  This might be an article about the development of the tool or a review of using the tool by a systematic reviewer who’s tried it out. If you know of any articles relating to tools in the toolbox, please get in touch and we will update the tool record accordingly.
I concluded the session by discussing the “community-driven” aspect of the toolbox.  Systematic reviewers and tool developers are encouraged to submit tools to the toolbox via the “Add a New Tool” feature.  The remit of the toolbox is to catalogue both software and other types of tools/supporting mechanisms (such as checklists, guidelines and reporting standards).  So if you discover a new tool that meets these criteria, please share it with your systematic review peers and colleagues by submitting it to the toolbox, which will help to continue the development of this really useful resource.

This post originally appeared on the Systematic Reviews Toolbox website and has been reproduced with permission.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Disentangling the academic web: what might have been learnt from Discogs and IMDB

Image of Andy Tattersall
Andy Tattersall
In recent years there has been huge, rapid growth in the number of online platforms and tools made available to academics carrying out their research activities. However, for many, such choice can lead to decision fatigue or uncertainty as to what is most appropriate. Andy Tattersall reflects on the success of Discogs and IMDB and considers what problems a similar site dedicated to academic research might help to solve; from version control and unique identifiers to multiple, diverse research outputs and improved interactions with data.
Academia can always learn a lot from the rest of the world when it comes to working with the web. The project 101 Innovations in Scholarly Communications is a superb case study, highlighting the rapid growth in academic and associated web platforms. As a result there is an increasing problem for academics when they come to choose their platform or tool for carrying out their work on the web. Choice is good, but too much can lead to decision fatigue and anxiety over having to adapt to more and more new tools and make decisions as to their value. In the last decade various organisations, academics and start-ups have noticed gaps in the market and created tools and websites to help organise and communicate the work of academics. This is now arguably having the negative effect of researchers not knowing where to invest their time and energy in communicating, sharing and hosting their work, as no one can use every platform available. Even by linking many of them there are still issues around their maintenance and use.
In hindsight, academia could have learned from two successes of the internet era. Discogs and the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) are two of the most popular websites on the planet. Each is authoritative and seen as the ‘go to’ platforms for millions of users interested in music and film respectively. IMDB is ranked at #40 and Discogs at #799 in Alexa, a global internet ranking index of websites. IMDB was one of the original internet sites launched in 1990, with Discogs arriving a decade later in 2000. Whilst there are other similar websites, there are few that even come close to their user numbers and the huge amount of specialised content they host. By contrast, academia has tried desperately to place large swathes of information under umbrellas of knowledge, but it all feels a bit too much like herding cats.
Image credit: Tangled Weave by Gabriel. This work is licensed under a CC BY 2.0 license.
Academia has always made use of the web to have discussions, host research and institutional websites but has failed to control the number of newer platforms that promise to be an essential tool for academics. Over the last decade – and notably in the last five years – hundreds of tools that aim to enhance a researcher’s workflow, visibility and networks have been created. Many of these do indeed offer a service: Figshare hosts research outputs; Mendeley manages references; and tracks attention. They are all superb and offer something befitting academia in the 21st century. The problem for many academics is that they struggle to engage with these tools due to the overwhelming number to choose from. If you want to manage references, do you use Endnote, Mendeley, ZoteroRefMeReadCube or Paperpile? If you wish to extend your research network do you sign up for ResearchGateGoogle ScholarAcademia.eduPiirusLinkedIn or even Facebook? This is before we tap into the more niche academic social networks. Then there is the problem of visibility; how do you make sure your fellow academics, the media, fund holders or even members of the public can find you and your work? ORCiD obviously solves some of this, but it can be seen as a chore and another profile that needs configuring and connecting.
As research in the 21st century continues on its current trajectory towards openness and impact, and as scholarly communications develop, there will no doubt be yet more tools and platforms to deal with all that content and communication. If we think about making data accessible and reusable, post-publication open peer review, as well as making other research outputs available online, we may see a more tangled web than ever before.

What Discogs could teach us

Like so many of the post-Web 2.0 academic interactive platforms, content is driven by the users, those being academics and supporting professionals. Of course, a large number of formal research platforms have remained as they were, hosted by institutions, research bodies, funders and publishers. Yet more and more research outputs are being deposited elsewhere such as GitHub (which has a comparable internet ranking to IMDB), Figshare, Slideshare, ResearchGate and Google Drive, to give just a few examples.

How can we compare the research world with Discogs?

In my mind Discogs is not too dissimilar to the research world and all of its outputs. Listed below are some of the similarities between them. Those who have used Discogs will hopefully make the connection quicker than those who have not.
Image of a table comparing academia with Discogs
A comparison of academia and Discogs 
IMDB and Discogs can be searched in various different ways, all of which allow a person to drill deeper into an area of the database or move around serendipitously using the hyperlinks. So with Discogs you may know the title of a song but not the artist, or you may know what label it was released on. You may also be keen to track down a particular version of a release based on geographical, chronological or label data. The search functions of Discogs may not be as complex as a research database such as Medline, but for the typical Discogs user this is not essential.
Image of Discogs webpage
What are the big problems a Discogs or IMDB-type site could solve?
Version control
With growing interest in academic publishing platforms that capture the various stages of publishing research, there is a problem of ensuring those searching for that research find the version they really want. We have the final, peer reviewed, accepted and formatted version; the report the paper may have contributed to; the pre-print; the early draft; the research proposal; and the embryonic research idea. Research platforms such as ROI aim to capture as much of this research process as possible.
Unique identity
ORCiD is a great tool for aligning the work of one person to their true identity (especially so for early career researchers or academics who change their name mid-career, for example). You do not have to have the common surnames of Smith, Brown, Taylor or Jones to be mistaken for another researcher, less common-named academics also have this problem. If a researcher publishes using their middle initial and then without, it can create multiple identities in some databases and tying them all together is not always straightforward and can be time consuming. In Discogs, an artist or band is listed with all name variations collected under the most commonly used title. ORCiD allows this, but sadly the problem is already very extensive.
Additional research outputs
The mainstay of academic output is the journal paper but that is not the case for some areas of research. There are artistic performances, computer code, software, patents, datasets, posters, conference proceedings, and books, among others. Some stand alone, whilst there are increasing numbers of satellite outputs tied to one piece of research. For example, in Discogs we might think of the LP album as the definitive item and of the single, EP or digital release as outputs resulting from that. For research this may be the report or journal paper with attached outputs including a poster, dataset and conference presentation.
Interaction with the research data
Each of Discogs and IMDB allows users to interact with its huge database of information. Users can set up accounts, add music and films to their personal collections, leave reviews and contribute knowledge. To flip that into an academic context, that might mean users saving research artefacts to a reference management package, leaving open peer review comments and contributing their own insights and useful resources.
Such a platform would not operate in isolation, as there would still be a need for other connected web presences to exist. Social media, such as Twitter, to communicate to wider audiences; publication platforms to host all of the published research; tools to manage references and track scholarly attention. Other tools would also be needed to help conduct the research, analyse and present results and data, create infographics, take lab notes, collaborate on documents and create presentations. Then there is the issue of who would oversee such a huge database, manage it and ensure it is kept largely up to date. Of course with something similar to Discogs and IMDB anyone could enter and update the content, with proper accreditation, audit trail and moderation. Such a platform would have been accessible to funders, charities and public, with certain limitations on access to certain content. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and given how IMDB and Discogs have grown into such well-known and used platforms it is a shame that the same did not happen in academia to help create such a central hub of knowledge and activity.
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About the author
Andy Tattersall is an Information Specialist at the School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) and writes, teaches and gives talks about digital academia, technology, scholarly communications, open research, web and information science, apps, altmetrics and social media. In particular, how these are applied to research, teaching, learning, knowledge management and collaboration. Andy is a member of the University of Sheffield’s Teaching Senate and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. He was the person who sparked interest in running the first MOOCs at his institution in 2013. Andy is also Secretary for the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals – Multi Media and Information Technology Committee. He has edited a book on Altmetrics for Facet Publishing which is aimed at researchers and librarians. He tweets @Andy_Tattersall and his ORCID ID is 0000-0002-2842-9576.
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This work was originally published on the LSE Impact Blog and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License unless otherwise stated.