Author Archives: nick.e.sheppard@gmail.com

Plans for scholarly communication professional development

This post was originally posted on Unlocking Research by Dr Danny Kingsley, reblogged here under the terms of CC-BY

Well now there is a plan. The second meeting of the Scholarly Communication Professional Development Group was held on 9 October in the Jisc offices in London. This followed on from the first meeting in June about which there is a blog. The attendance list is again at the end of this blog.

The group has agreed we need to look at four main areas:

  • Addressing the need for inclusion of scholarly communication in academic library degree courses
  • Mapping scholarly communication competencies against training provision options
  • Creating a self assessment tool to help individuals decide if scholarly communication is for them
  • Costing out ‘on the job training’ as an option

What are the competencies in scholarly communication?

The group discussed the types of people in scholarly communication, noting that scholarly communication is not a traditional research support role either within research administration or in libraries. Working in scholarly communication requires the ability to present ideas and policies that are not always accepted or embraced by the research community.

The group agreed it would be helpful to identify what a successful scholarly communication person looks like – identifying the nature of the role, the types of skill sets and what the successful attributes are. The group has identified several examples of sets of competencies in the broad area of ‘scholarly communication’:

The group agreed it would be useful to review the NASIG Competencies and see if they map to the UK situation and to ask NASIG about how they are rolling it out across the US.

The end game that we are trying to get to is a suite of training products at various levels that as a community is going to make a difference to the roles we are recruiting.  We agreed it would be useful to explore how these frameworks relate to the various existing professional frameworks, such as CILIP, ARMA and Vitae. 

The approach is asking people: ‘Do you have a skills gap?’ rather than: ‘Do you (or your staff) need training?’. It would be helpful then, to develop a self assessment tool to allow people to judge their own competencies against the NASIG or COAR set (or an adaptation of these). The plan is to map the competencies against training provision options. 

Audiences

We have two audiences in terms of professional training in scholarly communication:

  1. New people coming into the profession – the initial training that occurs in library schools.
  2. Those people already in a research support environment who are taking on scholarly communication roles. 

The group also discussed scope. It would be helpful to consider how many people across the UK are affected by the need for support and training.

Another issue is qualifications over skills – there are people who are working in administrative roles who have expanded their skills but don’t necessarily have a qualification. Some libraries are looking at weighting past experience higher over qualifications. 

There needs to be a sense of equity if we were to introduce new requirements. While large research intensive institutions can afford professional development, in some places there is one person who has to do the scholarly communication functions as only part of their job – they are isolated and they don’t have funds for training. An option could be that if a training provision is to be ‘compliant’ with this group then it must allow some kind of free online training.

Initial training in library schools

As was discussed the previous time the group met, there is a problem in that library schools do not seem to be preparing graduates adequately for work in scholarly communication. Even the small number of graduates who have had some teaching in this area are not necessarily ready to hit the ground running and still need further development. The group agreed the sector needs to define how we skill library graduates for this detailed and complex area.

One idea that arose in the discussion was the suggestion we engage with library schools at their own conferences, perhaps asking to have a debate to ask them what they think they are doing to meet this need. 

The next conference of the library schools Association of Library and Information Science Educators is 6-9 February 2018 in Denver. Closer to home, iConference 2018 will be 25-28 March and will be jointly hosted by the UK’s University of Sheffield’s Information School and the iSchool at Northumbria. However, when we considered the conference options it became clear that this would not necessarily work, the focus of these conferences is academic focus, not practitioner or case studies. This might point to the source of some of the challenges we see in this space.

One of the questions was: what is really different now to the way it was 10-20 years ago? We need to survey people who are one or two years out from their qualifications.

Suggestions to address this issue included:

  • Identify which library schools are running a strand on academic librarianship and what their curriculum is
  • We work with those library schools which are trying to address this area, such as Sheffield, Strathclyde and UCL to try and identify examples of good practice of producing graduates who have the competencies we need
  • Integrate their students into ‘real life’, taking students in for a piece of work so they have experience

Professional Development option 1 – Institutional-based training

In the environment where there is little in the way of training options, ‘on the job’ training becomes the default. But is there a perception that on the job training comes without cost While the amount of training that happens in this environment is seen as cost neutral, it could be that sending someone on a paid for course could be more effective.

How much does it cost for us to get someone fully skilled using on the job training? There are time costs of both the new recruit and the loss of work time for the staff member doing the training. There is also the cost of the large amount of time spent recruiting staff because we cannot get people who are anywhere near up to speed. 

One action is to gain an understanding of how much it does actually cost to train a staff member up. 

Professional Development option 2 – Mentoring

There is an issue in scholarly communication with new people coming through continuously who need to be brought up to speed. One way of addressing this issue could be by linking people together. UKCORR are interested in creating some kind of mentoring system. ARMA also has a mentoring network which they are looking to relaunch shortly.

 The group discussed whether mentoring was something that can be brokered by an external group, creating an arrangement where if someone is new they can go and spend some time with someone else who is doing the same job. However, to do this we would need a better way of connecting with people. 

This idea ties into the work on institutional based training and the cost associated with it. We are aware there is a lot of cost in sharing and receiving info done by goodwill at present.

Professional Development option 3 – Community peer support events

Another way of getting people together is community and peer support, which is already part of this environment and could be very valuable. Between members of the group there are several events being held throughout the year. These range from free community events to paid for conferences. For example, Jisc is looking at running two to three community events each year. They recently trialled a webinar format to see if it is an opportunity to get online discussions going.

The group discussed whether we need more events, and what is the best way of supporting each other and what kind of remote methods could be used. There is a need to try and document this activity systematically.

Professional Development option 4 – Courses we can run now

The group agreed that while it might be too early for us to look at presenting courses, it would be useful to have an idea of who is offering what amongst the member organisations of the group and that we can start to glean a picture of what is covered. If we were to then map this to the competencies it helps decision making.

For example, UKSG have webinars on every month that are free which fulfils a need. Is there a topic we can put on for an hour?

UKSG is planning a course towards the end of next year – a paid seminar face to face, outlining the publication process, particularly from the open access environment. This could be useful to publishers as well. It explains what needs to happen in a sequence of events – why it is important to track submission and acceptance dates. Pitching it to people who are new in the role and at senior managers who are responsible for staffing.

Professional Development option 5 – Private providers

Given the pull on resources for many in this sector we need to consider promoting and creating accessible training for all. So in that context the discussion moved to whether we were prepared to promote private training providers. This is a tricky area because there is such a range under the banner ‘private’ – from freelance trainers, to organisations who train as their primary activity to organisations who offer training as part of their wider suite of activities. Any training provision needs to look at sustainability, it isn’t always possible to rely on the goodwill of volunteers to deliver staff development and training.

For example, UKSG as an organisation is not profit-making — it is a charity and events are run on a non-profit basis. Jisc is looking at revenue on a non-profit basis to feed into Jisc’s support for the sector. ARMA work on a cost recovery basis – ARMA events are always restricted to members. Many of the member groups engage with private providers and pay them to come along and speak for the day.

We agreed that when we look at developing the competencies framework and identify how someone can achieve these skills we should be linking to all training provision, either through a paid course, online webinar or mentoring.  The group agreed we are not excluding private providers from the discussion. We are looking to get the best provision for the sector.

However, the topic came up about our own expertise. Experts working in the field already give talks at many events on work time, which is being paid for by their employer — who are in effect subsidising the cost of running the training or event. Can we use our own knowledge base to share this information amongst the community? Perhaps it is not about what you pay, it is what you provide into the community. 

Opening up the discussion

The group talked about tapping into existing conferences held by member organisations of the group to specifically look at this issue ‘branded’ under the umbrella of the group.  To ensure inclusion it would be good to have a webinar as part of the discussion at each of these conference so people who are not there can attend and contribute. Identified conferences were:

We also need to address other groups involved in the scholarly communication process within institutions, such as research managers, researcher developers and researchers themselves.

Next steps

  • Engaging with library schools to discuss the need for inclusion of scholarly communication in their academic library degree courses, possibly looking at examples of good practice
  • Discussion with NASIG about rolling out their scholarly communication competencies
  • Mapping scholarly communication competencies against current training provision options
  • Creating a self assessment tool to help individuals decide if scholarly communication is for them
  • Costing out ‘on the job training’ to evaluate the impact of this on the existing team

Attendees

  • Helen Blanchett – Jisc
  • Fiona Bradley – RLUK
  • Sarah Bull – UKSG
  • Helen Dobson – Manchester University
  • Anna Grigson representing UKSG
  • Danny Kingsley – Cambridge University
  • Valerie McCutcheon – representing ARMA
  • Ann Rossiter – SCONUL
  • Claire Sewell – Cambridge University
  • Nick Sheppard – representing UKCoRR

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Jisc co-design workshop: ‘Digital Skills for Research’

On 25th April I was amongst a number of colleagues from a wide range of stakeholders and organisations invited by Jisc to a co-design workshop on ‘Digital Skills for Research’.

Co-design is Jisc’s “collaborative innovation model” by which they have engaged with the sector to identify 6 discrete challenges to explore and we were here today to think about next generation research environments.

Our first task was to brainstorm around research support roles which perhaps turned out to be rather more discursive than our hosts expected. Rather than a clearly defined list of discrete roles, a consensus began to emerge that associated skill sets are extremely fluid and that professional nomenclature, and institutional structure, can potentially have the effect of artificially limiting the scope of a role  (it is perhaps instructive in this context to revisit the range of job titles posted to the UKCoRR mailing list in 2016, and, no doubt, the many similarities and differences of the associated job descriptions.)

research_support

This led on to a discussion about qualifications, training and appropriate professional accreditisation, which is certainly an issue for repositories and Open Access (also see related  blog posts from Cambridge at the bottom of this post). A similar issue was also raised in the context of research software development.

ARMA’s Professional Development Framework is perhaps the obvious resource for research support skills and the Vitae Researcher Developer Framework (RDF) is a valuable resource for researchers and their support services alike and might highlight the increasingly collaborative relationship between researchers and support services – a theme that also emerged at a recent White Rose Libraries Digital Scholarship Event

We got back on track in the next exercise, considering the range of (digital) skills required by professionals working in research support roles, although it was observed that ‘skill’ doesn’t necessarily describe the sheer range of knowledge required, such as an overview of the myriad funder policies around open access and data management for example.

To consider bibliometrics as but one skill set that might often fall to a Librarian or other information professional in lieu of a trained bibliometrician (how many institutions have one of these exotic beasts?), there are myriad proprietary data sources covering both ‘traditional’ and ‘alternative’ metrics that we must be familiar with and which might help to inform impact assessment and yet there is no clear training offer, at least I’m not aware. The best resource I have found is MyRI, a collaborative project of three Irish academic libraries, freely available at http://myri.conul.ie/.

So, which organisations are responsible for fostering these myriad digital skills, now and in the future? The day’s final exercise identified the usual suspects – Jisc, ARMA, CILIP and of course our very own UKCoRR, though there is the ongoing question around our capacity as an unfunded, voluntary organisation and positioning in relation to other organisations. We hope to continue our consultation around the future vision and remit for UKCoRR (survey) at our members’ day at the University of Warwick on 7th July.

A useful lunchtime conversation with Helen Blanchett considered some sort of OA training provision and network support from Jisc, the discussion was obviously informal but we hope that Helen will be in Warwick for our members’ day to discuss the idea further.

If the landscape is complex now it will only become more so, with ever more specialist roles and associated skill sets and the final discussion was around the potential role for Jisc and by extension, for our own purposes, for UKCoRR:

future_research

Jisc’s provision currently comprises “144 guides and case studies”, as well as a number of face to face and online courses, both fee paying and free models, including their Digital leaders programme and the Digifest conference for example; one suggestion was that there is in fact a gap for a conference dedicated to cutting edge digital research practice, in view of the fact that Digifest2017 focused on teaching rather than research.

Related posts from University of Cambridge Office of Scholarly Communication:

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CRIS and repositories (draft briefing)

I’m just going through old files before I leave my current post and uncovered this which I drafted for the Repositories Support Project (RSP) several years ago but which was never used. As the RSP is now defunct, I’m linking it here in case it might be of use to someone:

Current Research Information Systems (CRIS) and repositories

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Repository Professionals: The Next Generation

The internet is basically a teleportation device for information [citation needed] and like the original Star Trek series, where the technology may have aspired to be futuristic but is very firmly rooted in a 1960s aesthetic, repository systems are still using technologies and protocols from the early days of the web (COAR 2016).

Spock and Kirk 1968

© Public domain. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

In April 2016 the Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR) launched a working group focussed on Next Generation Repositories and as the 9th International Open Access Week rolls around it’s another chance to take stock of the repository landscape and its mission to boldly promote open access, the recent ongoing discussion around which is captured by Richard Poynder and Kathleen Shearer of COAR.

Equally important as the technology, if not more so, are those on the bridge and in the engine room who increasingly need a professional skill set the breadth and depth of which rivals anything required by Starfleet; from traditional librarianship, to web-science, from a hundred and one technical protocols to an arcane realm of policy edicts from university, research funder and government. We even have our own Borg in the form of the commercial publishing industry, ever more efficient at assimilating the infrastructure and co-opting the language of open access. As a case in point, the publishing giant Elsevier that acquired Mendeley in 2013 as well as [Atira] Pure (CRIS software) in 2012 and more recently SSRN in 2016, now run a Mendeley Certification Program for Librarians, as they seek to lock-in researchers and their librarians, Facebook-like, into their ecosystem. A particularly jarring example of corporate hubris even by their standards.

For this year’s Open Access week, then, we want to know what you think UKCoRR’s role should be in nurturing the next generation of repository professionals?

As argued by UKCoRR member Jennifer Bayjoo recently in her paper Getting New Professionals into Open Access at the Northern Collaboration Conference, OA and repositories are still not a priority in many CILIP accredited professional library and information management qualifications. CILIP assess courses against their Professional Skills and Knowledge Base which has just one single reference to Open Access buried in point 7.3 ‘Selection of materials and resources’ (and which is only accessible to paid-up members of CILIP, in stark contrast to Elsevier’s ‘freemium’ model for Mendeley.)

It is instructive also to consider the types of job that have been posted to the UKCoRR list which increasingly focus on a broader range of skills than the traditional ‘Repository Manager’ and with a growing emphasis on research data management for example. Of the 16 roles posted to the list in 2016 only 2 explicitly mention the word ‘repository’ and just 1 ‘librarian’:

Research Repository Data Administrator
Research Publications Officer
Research Data Management Advisor
Research Data Support Manager
Copyright and Scholarly Communications Manager
Research and Scholarly Communications Consultant
Open Access & Research Data Advisor
Manager of the Institutional Repository
REF and Systems Manager
Research Data Adviser
Research Publications Manager
Research support librarian
Research Publications Officer
Research Data Officer
Research Publications Assistant
Open Access Officer

The most common perspective on the value of UKCoRR seems to be our supportive community which is largely self-sustaining via the email list, do we need to do anything beyond this?

What is our role in liaising with other organisations like Jisc, CILIP or ARMA?

Might you be willing to share your expertise via an informal mentorship scheme for example?

With these issues in mind, we have put together a very short survey and would like your help to identify the skills and knowledge the future Open Access professionals should have.

As Captain Jean Luc Picard might have said to send his (much more modern) Starship Enterprise to warp speed, “Engage!”

Technology words for repository managers

Posted on behalf of Nancy Pontika, UKCoRR External Liaison Officer and Open Access Aggregation Officer for CORE 

The role of the repository manager is constantly evolving. The repository manager of today needs to be aware and interpret not only their affiliated institution’s open access policies, but also the national and international ones that emerge from public funding agencies. The proliferation of these policies introduces technical requirements for repositories, the use of current research information systems (CRIS) and the installation of various plug-ins for example, and often repository managers serve as intermediary between the IT department of their institution and their supervisors or library directors and have to communicate messages and requests. A couple of months ago on the UKCoRR members list we had a discussion around the specific technological terms that repository managers hear regularly.

Even though currently I am not a repository manager, I couldn’t help but sympathise. The past year that I have been working for CORE – a global repositories harvesting service – I am the only non-developer in a team of four (wonderful!) developers. As a result, there are times where I feel lost in our discussions, so I decided to put together a list of often used technical terms that can relate to repositories. As a first step, a Google Spreadsheet was created with some basic terms. Then the UKCoRR list members were asked to add more of these jargon words and also weight each term based on how often they tend to hear it. (I am going to keep this list over there for future reference and do not hesitate to save local copies if you find it useful.) In the end, with the help of two CORE developers – Samuel Pearce and Matteo Cancellieri – we tried to provide brief definitions and give simple examples when possible.

The following table contains a list of these terms and their definitions. Since this is not an exhaustive list (and it was never meant to be) feel free to add other terms in the comments area of this blog post.

 

Web technologies
Apache Apache is a web server. When your browser such as Internet Explorer or Google Chrome requests a website (for example http://core.ac.uk) Apache is the software that returns the webpage to your browser.
Tomcat Tomcat is a web application server. Tomcat works like a web server but it serves more complex pages and operations than the web server. For example your online banking system uses a web application server while this blog uses a web server.
Java A programming language that usually runs in Web Application Servers (such as Tomcat). CORE uses Java for running the harvesting of the repositories.
PHP An Open Source scripting language particularly suited for website development. It is commonly installed with Apache, which allows web pages to be more complex without having to run a separate web application server such as Tomcat. For example, CORE uses PHP in its web pages.
robots.txt A text file that specifies how a web server regulates access of automatic content downloaders.  For example, CORE follows the rules in the robots.txt file. The rules may limit the number of requests per second made to your webserver or restricts access to certain places on your website, such as a login page.
SSH (Secure Shell) A protocol that allows one computer to connect to another and send commands by typing in text rather than clicking buttons.
MySQL MySQL is an Open Source Database Management System owned by the Oracle Corporation.
Perl A programming language usually used for scripting and text processing.
JavaScript A programming language that usually runs in your browser to allow web pages to be more dynamic and reactive. Web forms may use JavaScript to ensure they are filled in correctly before submitting them.
Crawler A crawler is a machine which automatically visits web pages and processes them. A common example is Google, which crawls websites, extracts content and makes it available via its search engine.
Cron jobs Programs that are set to run at specific times. For example, they are used for periodic tasks such as running automatic updates every day at midnight or extracting and processing the text from your full-text outputs in your repository to make them searchable.
Development
dev site A website used for testing. This allows developers to test and process information without the risk of breaking the “live” production website.
Git A version control system, like Subversion (SVN). It enables tracking changes in code.
SVN/Subversion “SubVersioN” – it’s a version control system, like git. It enables tracking changes in code.
clone A command in Git that copies code from a remote server to a local machine.
Other
UNIX An operating system analogous to DOS, Windows and Mac OS. Nowadays, Unix refers to a group of operating systems that adhere to the Unix specification. An example of Unix based operating systems are Linux and Mac OS.
LINUX An operating system based on Unix. The Linux code is open source and allows anyone to modify and distribute software and source code creating different variants of ‘Linux’. The most popular version of Linux are Ubuntu, RedHat, Debian and Fedora.
HTTP proxy An HTTP Proxy is a gateway for users on a network to access the internet. This allows large organisations to track internet usage and also limits the amount of downloaded data by storing it within the proxy. The next time the same website is requested, the local copy is sent to the user rather than re-downloading it.
External resolver A external resolver service (such as The DOI® System or HDL.NET®) allows a digital object, such as research outputs, to have a unique global identifier.
Mirrors A Mirror is a copy of another website. An organisation may mirror a website to reduce traffic and hits to the source website.
Metadata Protocols
OAI-PMH OAI-PMH, (Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting) is a standard for exposing metadata in a structured way – particularly for computers to understand.
SWORD SWORD (Simple Web-service Offering Repository Deposit) is a protocol that simplifies and standardises the way content is deposited into repositories.
Data access
API An API (Application Program Interface) is a set of rules that defines how parts of software or two separate programs interact with each other. For example, the CORE API allows developers to use CORE’s data from within their own applications.
Widget A small application with limited functionality that runs within a larger application or program. The CORE Similarity Widget retrieves similar articles based on metadata and runs within the larger application of a repository.
Plugin Similar to a widget, a Plugin adds extra functionality to software. This may add new features or change the way an existing feature works.
Text mining The process in which high quality data is extracted from text using a computer.
Data Dumps A single or multiple files that contain a large set of data.