All posts by Office of Scholarly Communication

Tales of Discovery: stories inspired by Cambridge research

Five research papers and five traditional stories were combined during Cambridge Science Festival in March 2018 to make Tales of Discovery.

The session was aimed at families, to show them that there is a world of research available to the general public stored on Apollo, the University’s repository – and it’s all cool stuff.

It was also aimed at researchers, to get them thinking about new ways to make their research available to a general public – including uploading their research on to the Apollo repository.

At the end of each story the audience were challenged to interpret the stories and research in their own way.

Here’s what happened during the morning.

Labour Pains: Scenes of Birth and Becoming in Old Norse Legendary Literature

The research

Kate Olley’s article looks at the drama of childbirth as depicted in Old Norse legendary literature. This article made a great beginning to the session, because it looks into the power of story to give an insight into the past. Childbirth stories are fascinating and informative because they are such important moments – ‘moments of crisis’ not just for an individual but for a whole society. They show so much about a culture, from the details of everyday life, to a picture of a society’s values and structure. Also, unlike stories of great battles and adventures, they put women and everyday life at the centre of the story.

The story

I retold one of the stories from Kate’s article, ‘Hrolf and the elvish woman’ from the saga of Hrolf the Walker. An elvish woman summons Hrolf, a king who has fallen on hard times, to help her daughter who is under a curse. She has been in labour for 19 days, but cannot give birth unless she is touched by human hands.

Kate pointed out some things the story shows us: the extreme danger of childbirth in those times; and the way a birth changes everybody’s role. The woman becomes a mother, but the fortunes of Hrolf the midwife are also changed for ever. 

The challenge

We talked about how people still tell childbirth stories, and they often have the same mythic resonances as old Icelandic saga. Is there a story you tell your children about when they were a baby? (or a story that your parents tell you?)

Revolutionising Computing Infrastructure for Citizen Empowerment

The research

‘Internet dragon’

Noa Zilberman explains that almost every aspect of our lives today is being digitally monitored: from our social networks activity, through online shopping habits to financial records. Can new technology enable us to choose who holds this data? Her research, based on highly technical computer engineering, addresses a social issue that Noa feels passionate about. I chose a story that was a metaphor for her research, with a hero taking on the might of a huge and greedy dragon.

The story

‘Dragon’

I based the story on the epic account of Beowulf fighting the dragon, which reflected Noa’s passion and how important she felt the issues raised by her research are to society in general. But, as is the way with story, more links emerged during the telling. The flickering flames of the dragon’s cave, reflected the heat emitted by internet server farms. The ease with which a thief can steal gold from the hoard, and the potential harm this can do, proved highly topical. When the hero asks the blacksmith to make a shield of metal to protect him from the dragon’s breath, Noa produced her secret weapon: a programmable board, not more than six inches long, which enables data to be moved more efficiently by individual computers.

The challenge

It can be hard to visualise what ‘the internet’ really is. What might an ‘internet dragon’ look like? Can you draw one?

The provenance, date and significance of a Cook-voyage Polynesian sculpture

The research

Trisha Biers paper sheds light on the shifting sands of anthropological investigation. It has a particular Cambridge link: she uncovers the secrets of a wooden carving brought back from Captain Cook’s voyage to the Pacific in the 18th Century. The mysterious carving – of two figures and a dog – is now the logo of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

The story

Two men and pig

As I searched for a Polynesian story about two men and a dog, I discovered many of the same factors that Trisha highlights. Stories travel across the Pacific Ocean just as commerce, people, and artworks do, making it hard to pinpoint the source of the story.

The story I chose, about the deity/hero Maui, turning his annoying brother-in-law, Irawaru, into the first dog, fits only partially – just like the many theories about the carving. Stories about Maui are known all over Polynesia: but the trickster Maui from New Zealand, where this story comes from, is different from the godlike Maui of Tahiti, the carving’s likely provenance. Like the carving, the stories of Maui have travelled to the Western world, in films like Moanna, as well as to Cambridge. Stories, which can’t be carbon-dated like the carving, shift and change just like the dog Irawaru.

The challenge

Not knowing the true story can set our imaginations free! I asked the audience to draw or write their own story about two men and a dog.

Treated Incidence of Psychotic Disorders in the Multinational EU-GEI Study

The research

Hannah Jongsma’s research looks at the risk of developing a psychotic disorder, which for a long time was thought to be due to genetics. She finds that it is influenced by many factors – both genetic and environmental – for example the risk is higher in young men and ethnic minorities.

The story

I paired the story with a sinister little tale from Grimm, Bearskin, about an outsider who is rejected by society because of his wild appearance – he wears the unwashed skin of a ferocious bear and lives like a wild man. It touched the issues of Hannah’s research at many points. The hero is a rootless and penniless young man far from home – a situation identified as high-risk in Hannah’s study. His encounter with a wild bear with whom he swaps coats is the stuff of hallucination. Like psychosis, in Hannah’s view, the problem is partly one of the way society views the outsider. And, as in Hannah’s study, being accepted by a family and given emotional support is a protection against psychosis. The remarkable thing about this this wonder-tale, so far removed from reality, was how it opened up a wide-ranging conversation about the research. Its far-fetched images helped us explore the issues of real-life research. Hannah was surprised that her research could be re-envisioned and presented in such a different way.

The challenge

Using the ideas from Hannah’s paper, suggest an alternative ending to the story.

Determining the Molecular Pathology of Inherited Retinal Disease

The research

‘DNA helix’

Crina Samarghitean shows how bioinformatics tools help researchers find new genes, and doctors find diagnosis in difficult disorders. Her article looks at better treatment and quality of life for patients with primary immunodeficiencies, and focuses on inherited retinal disease which is a common cause of visual impairment.

The story

The story of the telescope, the carpet and the lemon turned out to be a celebration of the possibilities of medical research with bioinformatics. Three brothers search for the perfect gift to win the heart of the princess, and find that these three magical objects allow them to save her life. This piece of research was the first one I tried to find a story for, and it seemed to be the hardest to translate into non-specialist language, until Crina said ‘I see the research as a quest for treasure: someone who has looked everywhere for a cure for their illness comes to this data-bank, and it’s like a treasure chest with the answer to their problem.’

The challenge

Crina is already committed to the idea that the arts can be used to interpret science. She has made artworks inspired by the gene sequences she has been working on. The challenge was to make pictures inspired by Crina’s paintings and models.

Published 10 April 2018
Written by Marion Leeper
Creative Commons License

Perspectives on the Open future

‘More cash, more clarity and don’t make this compulsory’ is the take home message from a recent workshop held with Cambridge researchers on the question of Open Research.

The recent session, called “An Open Future? How Cambridge is Responding to Challenges in the Open Landscape” was with a group of new Cambridge lecturers at a seminar organized by Pathways in Higher Education Practice. This event  offered us an opportunity to go beyond the usual information we provide in our training workshops*.

This session provided a unique opportunity to speak with researchers from various disciplines further along in their career who already had a basic knowledge of Open Access and Research Data sharing requirements. This meant we were able to have more of an informed discussion rather than a lecture and we wanted to hear what they thought about Open Research.

(* The OSC is often asked to provide training on all things Open Research. Generally our training is focused on PhD students and early career researchers. We create our PowerPoint slides that explain the benefits of Open Access, the necessity of a good Data Management Plan or how to promote your research through social media (all of which are freely available here). We try to make these sessions as interactive as possible.)

Quiz Time

The session started by laying out how the current academic publishing model works. Basically, researchers submit their latest findings to a journal for FREE, peer reviewers review the paper for FREE, editors oversee the journal for FREE and the publishers format the article then turn around and charge libraries exorbitant subscription fees (yep, that about sums it up). This got a good laugh from the audience.

So our first activity was a short quiz. We were interested to know if researchers knew how much things cost. We asked them a set of questions:

  1. How much do you think we pay in subscription costs every year?
  2. What’s the average APC?
  3. How many papers were made gold OA and had at least one Cambridge author on it in 2016?

There was a lot of debate among the groups. Some of the answers were wildly overestimated (one researcher suggested £50 million GBP for subscriptions per year), others were quite low.

What are people sharing?

For our next activity, we wanted to know what they were already sharing and what tools they were using to share. We presented each table with a Venn diagram and a bunch of post-its:

Unsurprisingly, the ‘Publication’ circle had the most post-its. Answers included tools such as ArXiv, ResearchGate, and Academia.edu as well as personal websites and Facebook. There were also mentions of Cambridge Open Access and the Departmental Libraries. Interestingly a few noted that they made their work available to researchers through personal contact such as email requests.

There were a few post-its in the ‘Data’ circle describing what tools they used to deposit, such as university repositories and Zenodo.

The ‘Other’ category mostly talked about sharing code and software through github; although, one lecturer noted free workshops they offered. There was only one post-it that made it into the centre and that was for “webpage”. For the future, it may be interesting to know which discipline the researchers were from when they were posting because this theme came up quite a few times during the discussions.

When are people prepared to share?

The second activity involved lots of sticky dots and large pieces of paper. The participants were asked if they were comfortable sharing different aspects of their research at different stages in the research lifecycle. Each sheet was laid out in a grid as follows:

All of the researchers were asked to stick dots in the grid. The results were interesting. Most researchers were happy to share the published version of their paper, but a large number were uncomfortable sharing their pre-print or submitted version. There were only two dots in the “yes” square to share pre-prints. During the discussion it was apparent that this was probably down to the culture of the discipline where one physics researcher said it was part of the process versus one of the lecturers from English who disliked having more than one version of her paper available to read. The Book Chapter had similar results.

Data and Data Management Plans were all over the place. There were quite a few dots in the ‘Not sure’ squares. Most were happy to share data at the time of publication or at the end of the project. For the Data Management Plans it was evenly split between ‘yes’ to sharing at the end of the project versus ‘not sure’. No one wanted to share their DMP at the start of the project. There was some confusion among researchers (mostly from the humanities) who felt they didn’t have any data and therefore there was nothing to share.

The majority of the researchers were unenthusiastic about sharing their Grant Applications or Grey literature at any stage. For Grant Applications the overall feeling was that if the grant was successful then researchers didn’t want to share their methodology. If the grant was unsuccessful, they were reluctant to share their failures or they planned to submit to another granting agency. Most lecturers in the room agreed that they were fine sharing an abstract of their grant awards (which many funders post on their website).

As for Grey Literature which we defined as working papers or opinion papers, no one wanted to share anything that could be considered unfinished or not well thought out. One member of the law faculty said that if they had produced any grey literature worth sharing, then they would publish it in a journal. Moreover, it could be detrimental to their career if they shared anything that wasn’t well-researched and presented.

More money please

To finish up the session, we asked researchers what more could the University be doing to promote Open Research. Not surprisingly most people were resistant to any University mandate telling them what to do. In addition, they were strongly against any Open Research requirements being tied in with HR practices like promotions. The researchers supported discipline specific requirements for Open Research.

Clearer instructions from the University and from funders of what is required of researchers was also desired. Having a myriad of policies is quite confusing and burdensome for researchers who already feel pressured to publish. In the end, most said that if the University would pay, then they would be happy to share their published work.

Published 4 April 2018
Written by Katie Hughes
Creative Commons License

Skills in scholarly communication – needs & development

This blog post is part of the write-up of an investigation into the background of people working in scholarly communication, with a specific focus on skills.

Introduction

Library staff need to have a wide range of skills in order to undertake their roles. Whatever type of library they work in and whatever their individual role there is a range of both generic and specialist skills which staff need to acquire over the course of their career. In the Office of Scholarly Communication our focus is on making sure library staff are equipped to work in research support roles but we also have a wider interest in who makes up the global scholarly communication workforce.

In late 2016 we conducted a survey to find out more about this issue. We were slightly overwhelmed by the popularity of the survey which gathered over 500 responses from people who self-identified as working in scholarly communication which we defined as:

The process by which academics, scholars and researchers share and publish their research findings with the wider academic community and beyond. This includes, but is not limited to, areas such as open access and open data, copyright, institutional repositories and research data management.

You can read a summary of some of the findings from this research here but we wanted to delve a little deeper and look at which skills scholarly communication staff felt they needed and how they developed them. This blog post looks at that question.

Which skills?

Rather than come up with yet another list of skills that staff should or could have we made the decision to use an existing list from UKeIG – the UK eInformation Group of CILIP. This list is comprehensive in its coverage and we felt that it would provide a good basis for future comparisons as well as providing a list with which the community would be familiar. The list is of course not exhaustive and respondents were invited to add any additional skills which they felt were relevant to their roles.

Skills for current roles

Respondents were asked to highlight the skills which they used in their current roles. Their responses are summarised in Figure 1 (all figures can be viewed at higher resolution by clicking on them).
Figure 1 Skills used in current roles

Institutional repository (management/curation) (72%) and Copyright (63%) were the skills most used, closely followed by Open Access – content discovery (59%) and Understanding metrics (55%).

Some skills were used with much less frequency such as Resource Description and Access (RDA) (10%), Post-cancellation access and archiving (9%) and Mobile technology (8%). Under the option Other skills specified by respondents included knowledge of open educational resources, educating faculty and students about how to get published and electronic theses.

Skills for future roles

Respondents were also asked to select the skills they felt would be important for the future of the profession. The results are summarised in Figure 2:
Figure 2 Future skills

The top four selections had a similar number of responses: Innovations in academic publishing (51%), Research data management (50%), Understanding the user experience (47%) and Copyright (46%). It is interesting to note that Copyright is the only skill to appear in the top five of both current and future skills.

The other end of the scale again included RDA (6%) and Post-cancellation access (7%) as well as working with standards (6%). Under the option Other skills included instruction and education, developing strategic partnerships and gumption!

Developing these skills

What we really wanted to know was how people working in scholarly communication developed these skills – through their formal education, on the job training or self-directed learning. Survey respondents were asked how they had developed the skills included on the UKeIG list, and their responses can be seen in Figure 3 below:
Figure 3 Complete skill list

Almost all of the respondents had some level of either undergraduate or postgraduate education, with 71% either holding or working towards a postgraduate qualification in library and information science. Given this, it is surprising to note that so few felt that they had developed the skills they needed for their role through formal education. This gap could perhaps be attributed to the fact that 74% of respondents have held their qualifications for a significant amount of time and so these subjects were not offered at the time. They would have had little choice but to learn these skills on the job or in their own time as it was unlikely to be practical to return to formal education.

Generic skills on the list scored much higher with participants for formal education, perhaps because library school courses are designed to produce well-rounded information professionals able to work in a variety of sectors and so cover the skills that are most likely to be of use in a broad career.

Looking at the results in more detail we can see that a potential skills gap is being created. Looking at the top five skills respondents’ have identified as using in their current role we can see that the levels of formal learning for each are low (Figure 4).
Figure 4 How are current skills developed?

There is evidence that this skills gap could continue into the future. Figure 5 shows the top five skills respondents think will be of most importance to the future of the profession. Again the numbers developing these skills through formal education are low, showing that those working in scholarly communication are having to rely on either on the job or self-directed learning to develop the skills they identify as being important to the future of the profession.


Figure 5 How are future skills developed?

The results of this analysis seem to tie in with previously shared results which showed that just over half of respondents with an LIS qualification (56%) felt that this did not equip them with knowledge of the scholarly communication process.

Next steps

We will continue to analyse the results of the survey to find out more about how those working in scholarly communication have developed their skill sets and how they see future offerings being delivered. In the meantime the OSC is part of a group which is looking to tackle the provision of dedicated scholarly communication in the UK. As well as sharing our discussions on this blog you can talk to us at various events. We have already visited RLUK and are scheduled to present at LILAC and CILIP Careers Day so do come and chat to us if you have a chance!

Published 23 March 2018
Written by Claire Sewell
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