Category Archives: Library and training matters

The Data Picture

I was recently named one of “the next generation of [library] leaders” as part of the CILIP 125, having been recognised as an individual who contributes energy and knowledge to improving and impacting their organisation. My area of expertise, and thus recognition, lies with the use of data within libraries. As a data analyst for the Office of Scholarly Communications at Cambridge University Library, my role focuses on empowering decisions with data driven understanding – such as supporting the Springer Nature negotiations. To develop my understanding of data, and its role within a wider organisation, further, I engage with data beyond the library – such as the Big Data London conference and the Carruthers and Jackson Data Leaders’ Summer School. Reflecting on the use of data in the wider world, what can be expected of the library and data?

The summer school provided practical advice, proven methodologies, and guidance that could apply across a variety of businesses. The course is designed to provide insight on the workflow of data officers, and their role within an organisation – no matter its stage of data maturity and literacy. Over the course of the ten weeks, leading experts discussed the role of a chief data officer (CDO), both as a business development opportunity, and as a career path for individuals. It explored the risk and governance of data within an organisation, and the final weeks focused strongly on the role of people and teams associated with data.

Peter Jackson and Caroline Carruthers addressed the differing types of CDO and described a pendulum between ‘risk aversion’ and ‘value added’. Understanding the balance between secure and proper data governance (GDPR for example) and providing value through data (such as setting up automation). The pendulum of risk to reward is relevant to many roles, including those within the library. Understanding the need to divide time and energy between creating policies and getting decision making results, is just as relevant to my role as a chief data officer. In my role I have supported decision making staff through data production, but equally, to instil a culture of data, time and energy must be dedicated to risk aversion, through tasks of researching data management, preparing training sessions for data storage, and supporting staff in data preparation.

Another important concept introduced was the DIKW pyramid – Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom – for understanding the value created from data. The base of the pyramid is (raw) Data, which can be processed into (useful) Information. This Information is data with meaning and a purpose and can be organised into (insightful) knowledge. Knowledge combines experiences, values, insights, and contextual information, which can then transcend to (integral) Wisdom. Wisdom is considered a deeper understanding with ethical implications and the ability to define ‘why’. The DIKW pyramid provided a frame of thought for presenting and approaching future data projects. Understanding the requirement to provide, data, information or knowledge, to better support a decision-making team.

To develop communication skills, expert Scott Taylor, known as The Data Whisperer, spoke about the three V’s for data storytelling: Vocabulary, Voice and Vision. Combining an accessible vocabulary, with a common voice will illuminate the business vision, and why that is important. This overarching concept for an organisations data approach can be scaled down to support individual data workers, to provide value – which should either grow, improve or protect the business case. Understanding how to communicate the data is a key skill as “Hardware comes and goes, software comes and goes, but data remains”. And that data that remains should be used to either grow, improve or protect the business, such that data gathered should be usable data!

At Big Data London, the organisation Women in Data hosted conversations about nurturing a culture of learning within data teams. Pulling from their experiences from minority backgrounds, the speakers highlighted the power in upskilling, sharing skills across teams and being an advocate on oneself and skills. As for what to upskill, data literacy was a hot topic across the conference. Data literacy, also called data fluency and data confidence, is the combination of ability, skills and confidence surround data and its uses. Data literacy enables more efficient work, and begs the question, what is the base level of data literacy / confidence across the library? Librarians use data daily; checking in/out material, answering students’ queries, or tracking the use of space, but are all librarians confident to use that data? This is an area I hope to explore further at the CUL, to ensure staff can use the data they have to support decisions.

Engaging with the world of data provides a big picture of the possibilities within the library. Conversations of AI (Artificial Intelligence), data policies and maturity, and shiny-new databases, software, and services, demonstrate the growing adoption of data, and therefore, libraries should follow suit. Actively taking snippets of larger conversations, developing ideas within the library space, and exploring the possibilities with data will help libraries thrive in this world of technological growth.

The September 2023 Data Champion Forum

The Cambridge Data Champions had a fantastic September Forum at the West Hub. The forum started with an introduction to the West Hub by  Library Manager Daniele Campello and we welcomed Clair Castle as the new interim Research Data Manager with the Office of Scholarly Communication (University Library).

Dr Mandy Wigdorowitz kicked off the presentations by sharing with the Data Champions what she aims to achieve as the University’s Open Research Community Manager. This includes raising the profile of Open Research at the University and ensuring that scholarly and research outputs that are deemed to be open are indeed accessible and interoperable in accordance with FAIR principles.  As Open Research Community Manager, Mandy advocates for Open Research among University researchers from both the STEMM and AHSS (Art, Humanities and Social Sciences) disciplines. The latter proves to be more challenging as researchers in AHSS may often have valid reasons from refraining from making their research data open, such as working with sensitive data or working with interlocutors who object to their data being shared. Such issues will be addressed at the Cambridge Open Research Conference that she is organising, which takes place on 17th November 2023 at Downing College, Cambridge as well as online. To end, Mandy invited the Data Champions to join her Open Research initiative, a community of advocates for Open Research across the University.

Before lunch, Madeleine Taylor (Information Security Risk and Governance Manager with University Information Services, UIS) presented a follow up to a webinar session on monitoring the Information and Cybersecurity (ICS) risks for research data across the university, which she conducted with the Data Champions a couple weeks prior. After a brief introduction of what she has done so far to protect Cambridge’s research communities against ICS threats, she asked the Data Champions for help in her task of securing research data against ICS risks. They can do so by providing her with a sense of what data their own research communities are working with and how they were storing them. As the Data Champions ate the delicious lunch of sandwiches and cakes provided by the West Hub caterers, they provided feedback to Madeleine on two forms that she proposed as methods of gathering the information she needed: a 3-minute research data impact assessment form and a research data cyber security risk form. Maddy will continue to work with the Research Data Team and the Data Champions to refine, and gather information, through these forms.

Thank you to the West Hub and Daniele Campello for hosting the Data Champions Forum in your welcoming building!

If you are a member of the University of Cambridge and are interested in attending the Data Champions Forum, please join us as a Data Champion. If you are passionate about research data management and data sharing or you would like to find out more about what being a Data Champion entails, please visit the Data Champions webpage. We welcome applications from those working in all academic subjects across AHSS and STEMM disciplines. If you are unsure about how being a Data Champion would impact your research, please get in touch with the Research Data Team!

Cartoon by Clare Trowell CC-BY-NC-ND

Opening Up the Research Support Ambassadors

This Open Access Week sees the launch of the fully open version of our popular Research Support Ambassador programme. This initiative has been running in Cambridge libraries since 2015 and has seen over one hundred staff from across the library network enhance their knowledge of scholarly communication. It has also been through several different versions, transitioning from a taught face-to-face programme to an internal online course. The time is now right to open up this content to a wider audience and launch the programme as a resource for anyone who wants to make use of it. You can watch an online trailer for the programme on our OSC YouTube channel.

Research Support Ambassador logo
Research Support Ambassador logo

The Ambassador programme offers interested library staff the chance to learn about the fundamentals of scholarly communication and research support from data management and open access to copyright and assessing impact. It was first conceived in 2015 as part of the initial phase of training offered by the newly established Office of Scholarly Communication (OSC) which was tasked with improving the support offered to researchers by the library network. The OSC quickly realised that Cambridge library staff were keen to get more involved but perhaps that they needed a thorough grounding in the basics in order to improve their confidence levels. The Research Ambassadors were launched as a way to get people up to speed at the same time as producing an output which could be shared with the wider community. As with all new initiatives, it was not without its problems and these are highlighted in the case study that I wrote about the programme a couple of years ago. When I took over the programme in late 2015 I listened to the feedback from participants and began to evolve i into its current form as an educational programme. Initially this was delivered in a series of face-to-face workshops with participants being asked to work on a project like an online resource as an outcome that they could point to but it soon became obvious that this was too much for many busy library staff to commit to and so the project element was dropped and we focused on developing key knowledge. The next run of the programme used a blended learning approach with a mixture of in-person and online training but even this proved difficult for many staff to complete and so the programme was moved completely online in 2018. Feedback indicated that participants found both the content and the format useful, especially as they had the flexibility to learn around their other commitments and could dip back into the content as needed to refresh their knowledge. At the same time the OSC were starting to get a lot of enquiries from people outside Cambridge wanting to know if the content was available for everyone and so we have decided to open it up to anyone who wants to see it. As the programme was Cambridge focused this was not just a case of transferring the content so I took the opportunity to update and refresh all of the content.

The programme is now a resource and this terminology is deliberate. I didn’t want to call it a course as this comes with the expectation that people need to complete everything in order to get the best out of it. Learners can of course go through all of the units in turn and build their knowledge that way but they can also dip into content as needed as a refresher. The resource has six units which loosely follow the research lifecycle:

  • an introduction to scholarly communication 
  • research data management 
  • open access 
  • publishing research 
  • copyright
  • metrics and impact   

Each unit comes with a suggested completion time and learning outcomes but these are there to offer learners some guidance before they invest their time. The six units offer a brief introduction to the topic using a mixture of content from text and videos to podcasts and activities so it there should be something for everyone. Although of this content is optional, it helps to increase the flexibility of the resource so that it becomes truly open to more people. 

Research Support Ambassador screen shot showing part of the website
Research Support Ambassador screen shot

Turning an in-house programme into an open educational resource was not without other challenges. Obviously the original programme had a defined audience of Cambridge librarians who have a shared history and terminology. In the process of making the resource open I had to make sure that it was more accessible to a wider audience so I removed anything that was ‘Cambridge specific’ and gathered wider examples that I could use to illustrate the points I was making. I also had to make sure that I considered accessibility including making sure that images were labelled with alt-text and providing transcripts for videos. This was a good learning experience for me and something especially useful ahead of new government accessibility guidelines being introduced. However, this was very much a solo project and there will inevitably be something I have missed so we are launching the Ambassadors as a Beta resource with an option for people to offer feedback. I very much hope people will take us up on this and offer suggestions for inclusions and improvements. The resource is largely being released under a CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 licence which means that others are free to adapt and build on the content. If anyone does this I would be really interested to learn about it! You can also find a ready-made information leaflet and a cartoon abstract of the case study which can be downloaded and shared if you want to promote the resource to a group of people.

On a more personal note, the launch of the online Research Support Ambassador resource marks the end of my time working in the Office of Scholarly Communication. I will still be involved in projects to educate the library community in research support including some future plans for the Ambassador programme but day to day I am moving to be a research support librarian within the wider university. I’ve enjoyed educating librarians in research support so much and I really hope that people will find the online Ambassador resource useful. The main message I want librarians to take away is that they have a lot to offer in this area. The theme of Open Access Week 2019 is ‘open for whom’ and I really hope that by collating what I have learnt in the last four years I can help make research support and scholarly communication open for the wider library community.

Published 24 October 2019

Claire Sewell (Research Support Skills Coordinator turned Research Support Librarian, Cambridge University Libraries) @ces43

This icon displays that the content of this blog is licensed under CC BY 4.0