Turn on, tune in, tweet out – experiments in engagement

This time of year is often one of reflection – what went well, what could be improved and so on. In this spirit we are putting up here an assessment of the livestreaming aspect of our outreach programme over the past couple of years.

This blog asks what was successful? What flopped? Where did we get bang for buck? Read on and find out…

Lofty goals

The OSC works towards collaborative engagement with the research community and relevant stakeholders – amongst other things, this helps us to communicate policies, promote our services and identify needs and knowledge gaps within the communities we work with.  

It will come as no surprise, therefore, that the words ‘open’ and ‘transparent’ crop up frequently when we are planning our communications. In the context of events and outreach, we usually start from the position of wanting to invite as many guests to the table as possible – not just those within the University but across the whole scholarly communication community. Given the international span of this group of people, one obvious solution is to take the party on the road – virtually speaking, at least.  

Starting in October 2016 with the ambition to make the most of technological solutions to achieve this (whilst taking into account the limits of our A/V expertise and resources), we experimented over 18 months with various platforms and approaches in order to live-stream, record and share footage from the events we hosted. Evaluating the returns on these efforts has led to some useful lessons: whilst we’d like to share our events as widely as possible, we have had to make some strategic choices to make the venture worthwhile.  

In terms of evaluating the impact of online sharing, we acknowledge that social media marketing is one small part of our Communications remit – whilst the scope for digging down into statistics on YouTube and Twitter engagement is almost unlimited, the time available to devote to this activity is not.

Stepping into the stream: live broadcasting and video recording 

Livestreaming allows viewers to remotely attend events, and we hoped to find a method of broadcasting that would adequately capture all sound and visuals (including slide presentations) whilst allowing viewers to simultaneously contribute their questions and comments. We found these goals something of a challenge!  

1. Adobe Connect

When organising one-day workshops, we initially managed the streaming, recording and processing ourselves using the Adobe Connect package (which came with the advantage that we could use the University’s subscription without any additional costs for us).

However, this method required a stable connection to the wired Local Area Network (LAN), plus high-intensity input from our team members, neither of which were factors that could always be guaranteed – many of the University’s lecture rooms are in old buildings with minimal A/V infrastructure at best, and it was not always possible to plug into sound systems or connect to the ethernet.

After the events, we made recordings of the live-stream available via our YouTube channel, despite some of them falling short of our expectations in terms of sound quality and uninterrupted broadcasting. We concluded that whilst Adobe Connect was excellent for hosting webinars in a controlled environment (where the room was quiet and we were familiar with the available technological capacity) it was not suitable for livestreaming large events. 

2. Calling in the professionals

We took a different approach when organising higher profile events such as the Engaging Researchers in Good Data Management event in November 2017, hiring an external company to take care of both the livestream and video recordings. The difference in quality was remarkable – of course, you get what you pay for!

We also trialled the approach of making video recordings of one-day workshops, without live-streaming. Hiring professional recording equipment from the University Information Service to do this and having a quick in-house tutorial on how to use it again required high-intensity input from our team, although it produced higher quality results than filming through Adobe Connect  

Was it worth it? 

After 18 months of trying out these different methods, we needed to establish if the investment of time and money was reaping rewards, particularly given that the hire of professional equipment and services accounted for the largest single expense for an event. We needed to decide how much priority to give recording and streaming events for sharing in our Communications Strategy.  

A summary of the statistics showed: 

  • maximum livestream engagement reached 50 participants (for the Engaging Researchers event)  
  • engagement with our content on YouTube at the time of dissemination (through advertising in our newsletters, emails and Twitter accounts) varied from ten clicks to 600 clicks. 

The engagement statistics at the time of the event were moderate, and the audience for the livestream did not exceed the audience in the room. We therefore concluded that we would reserve the option of livestreaming for events where sharing on-the-spot footage was of significant benefit to the wider scholarly communication and research data community – for instance for high-profile conferences or politically urgent discussions.

We would continue to hire professional AV services to video ‘headline’ events that were of interest to the community, but would not make recording standard practice for every event.  

A last experiment… 

We realised there was another aspect to this question: after the initial promotion of the recordings, they sat dormant in the YouTube playlist and embedded on our websites, relying on users discovering them by serendipity. We needed to think about continuing to maximise returns on the investment.   

In order to address this additional concern, between March and June 2018, we used our twitter accounts @CamOpenData and @CamOpenAccess to re-promote 33 and 54 videos respectively. We monitored the viewings on YouTube and looked at various metrics in the Twitter analytics. 

During that period we saw an average 16% increase in the YouTube video clicks, with some videos attracting far more attention than others. These viewing figures were less than we had anticipated, and there were various hypotheses as to why: 

  • We were re-promoting the videos to an audience that may well have seen the videos the first time around, so were not offering anything new. 
  • Some videos were specialised in subject and therefore appealed to a limited audience. 
  • Some videos were lengthy and likely to hold the attention only of the most dedicated viewers. 

It was notable that the professional videos we’d commissioned performed better in YouTube as well as in Twitter in terms of engagement rates and impressions. Perhaps due to our confidence in the quality of these videos, we invested extra time in promoting them (for instance by adding images to our tweets), and engagement was indeed higher. However, the fact that many of these videos were short recordings of single presentations may also have added to their relative appeal. 

What we learnt 

There were lots of positive outcomes of this final experiment. The re-promotion campaign helped to maintain the presence of our brand on Twitter and YouTube, resulting in almost 600 clicks on existing YouTube content over three months. It added diversity to the content of our tweets and increased tweet impressions as a whole. It contributed to our strategic aim to disseminate professional knowledge, maintained contact with our community, and influenced the acquisition of new followers. 

In addition, we observed the most popular themes amongst our Twitter followers:  

  • Open access monograph publishing  
  • How to spot a predatory publisher 
  • Peer review and the benefits of openness 
  • Copyright 
  • Text & Data Mining 
  • Data management needs for different disciplines and different institutions 
  • Standard practices for managing and sharing code 
  • How to make data publications first class research outputs 

These are insights that will inform our planning for future engagement activity. 

Looking ahead 

Our re-promotion experiment has given us a handy list of priorities that will allow us to keep using our film resources even when staff time is scarce, and will inform our event planning from the outset if we know we want to record the occasion.  Our top take-away tips: 

1. Less but better – Resources are limited: livestream important events only but don’t compromise on quality.  Short videos are better received: take into account the length of talks, panel discussions and workshops. Can longer talks be naturally broken into shorter segments? 

2. Specific, practical, catchy – Take time to create engaging and specific titles for videos, and emphasise their practical focus, for example by starting with “How to”. These items are instantly more appealing to the browsing viewer, and also appear higher on search rankings when the subject is Googled.    

 3. Re-use and repurpose – Use short clips from older videos on social media when their content complements news or trends. Routinely reference videos when writing content, for example blogs or training slides. 

Want to know more? 

You can explore these recordings of past events on the OSC’s website, and subscribe to our YouTube Channel 

For an alternative perspective on using video to engage with the research and scholarly communications communities, join our Research Skills Support Coordinator, Claire Sewell, with an expert panel for the MmIT webinar, Using Video in your library and information service2pm Wednesday 12 December, and look out for her upcoming blog on preparing online training.   

 Published 10 December 2018
Written by Hannah Haines and Maria Angelaki
Creative Commons License

Blood: in short supply?

Two years ago (almost to the day) we called out Blood for their misleading open access options that they offered to Research Council and Charity Open Access Fund (COAF) authors. Unfortunately, little has changed since then:

Neither of these routes is sufficient to comply with either Research Councils’ or COAF’s open access policies which require that the accepted text be made available in PMC within 6 months of publication, or that the published paper is available immediately under a CC BY licence.

At the time, we called on Blood to change their offerings or we would advise Research Councils and COAF funded authors to publish elsewhere. And that’s exactly what’s happened:

Figure 1. All articles published in Blood since 2007 which acknowledge MRC, Wellcome, CRUK or BHF funding. Data obtained from Web of Science.

Over the last two years we’ve seen a dramatic decline in the number of papers being published in Blood by Medical Research Council (MRC), Wellcome Trust, Cancer Research UK (CRUK) and British Heart Foundation (BHF) researchers. The number of papers published in Blood that acknowledge these funders in now at its lowest point in over a decade.

It’s important to remember that the 23 papers published in Blood in 2017 are all non-compliant with the open access policies of Research Councils and COAF, and if these papers acknowledge Wellcome Trust funding then those researchers may also be at risk of losing 10% of their total grant. If you are funded by Research Councils or one of the COAF members, please consider publishing elsewhere. SHERPA/FACT confirms our assessment:

Sign the open letter

We’re still collecting signatures for our open letter to the editor of Blood in the hope that they’ll reconsider their open access options. Please join us by adding your name.

In their own words: working in scholarly communication

Last month we put out a call for people working in scholarly communication to record and send us their views on what it takes to work in this area. After a slow start we now have a few uploaded.

As a head’s up, here’s the combined responses from four Jisc sessions held over summer to the question:

Which personal attributes do you think are most valuable in scholarly communications roles?

With words like ‘persistence’, ‘communication’, approachability’ and ‘negotiation’, this word cloud starts to reflect some of the advice we published recently for new starters in open access. But it’s not all scary – some of it is even fun! Take it from those who are walking the talk.

On this last day of Open Access Week we are pleased to showcase some of the first responses. So far we have received four contributions and these have started to demonstrate the broad range of roles available in this exciting area. Below you will hear from colleagues working in data management, librarianship and training roles as they discuss their daily jobs, the challenges they face and the skills they need.

We hope that you can use them to think about how you could make your own career in scholarly communication. If you would like to contribute your own interview (either in video or text format) the submission form can be found here. We hope to bring you more interviews over the next few months, building up into a useful bank of information for anyone wanting to work in scholarly communication and research support.

(With huge thanks to our contributors – Clair Castle, Natasha Feiner, Kate O’Neill, Claire Sewell and Sarah Stewart)

Clair Castle – Working in RDM

Claire Castle, Chemistry Librarian and Research Data Coordinator at the University of Cambridge discusses her role supporting researchers with their data management:

Natasha Feiner – Working in Research Support

Natasha Feiner, Senior Library Assistant at the University of Reading, talks about what her role involves and the importance of paying attention to detail:

What are the core tasks of your job?

Day to day I spend a lot of my time checking and updating records in the university’s institutional repository, CentAUR. This often involves talking to researchers and publishers about things like copyright agreements and sharing policies. On an intermittent basis I carry out ‘health checks’ on the records in CentAUR, for accuracy and REF compliance. At the moment I am undertaking an ‘in-press’ check to identify newly-published books and articles in the repository. Beyond CentAUR, I provide administrative support for open access events and training at the University of Reading. I am currently assisting with the organisation of a conference planned for 2019 that will focus on open research and publishing. I am also an active member of the university library. I provide liaison support for the Arts and Humanities team, and am involved with user services for the Business and Social Sciences team.

What are the skills you need to do this job well?

For the CentAUR side of things, attention to detail is really important. Minor mistakes could have serious implications for REF compliance. More generally, I think that a willingness to learn is essential for anyone involved in supporting research in a university setting. Policies and requirements are always evolving – especially in relation to open access – so it is important to be able to adapt quickly. A good memory for acronyms is also useful!

Kate O’Neill – Working in Research Support

Kate O’Neill, Research Services Librarian at the University of Sheffield, discusses managing an institutional repository and supporting academics to engage with Open Access:

Claire Sewell – Working in Training

Claire Sewell, Research Support Skills Coordinator at the University of Cambridge, discusses her role training Cambridge library Staff:

What are the core tasks of your job?

It varies from day to day but essentially I’m providing training to Cambridge University library staff (across one hundred plus libraries) in the area of research support and scholarly communication. Cambridge is a very research intensive university and so no matter which library you work in or what your role is, you are supporting these researchers in some way. My role involves making sure that library staff are equipped with the knowledge they need to support the research community they serve. This involves a lot of topics from basic introductions to data management and open access through to hands-on workshops on text and data mining and presentation skills. I offer a lot of face to face training but recently I’ve been expanding this to include more online training and resources for those who can’t attend training sessions. 

What do you need to do this job that you didn’t learn at library school?

I qualified a few years ago now so there wasn’t much concrete information about scholarly communication on my course which meant that I had to develop my knowledge on this area pretty fast. I also needed to develop my communication skills in a variety of ways. I had done some presenting before but I needed to look at adapting my message to different audiences and their particular needs. I also needed to learn a lot about being patient. For some people this area is a big change and not one they want to accept easily so I have to practice my diplomacy a lot more than I thought I would have to!

What is the best part of your role?

I think the best part (and the thing that I enjoy the most) is that I’m getting paid to learn. I’ve always been enthusiastic about professional development and tried a lot of different things over the years to develop my knowledge, from online courses to job shadowing. I was by no means an expert when I took on my current role and I’m still not so my role involves doing a lot of learning. When I see a need or when I’m asked to provide some training on something I do a lot of research to make sure I know I’m talking about. This often involves looking outside the box at different viewpoints and applications so I can offer a balanced training session or resource. In this way I’m constantly learning about new things in the world of scholarly communication and getting paid for doing what I enjoy!

Sarah Stewart – Working in Data Services

Sarah Stewart, Data Services Specialist at the British Library, discusses her role working with data at a large institution.

Lucinda May – Working in Scholarly Communication

Lucinda May, Scholarly Communications Librarian at the University of Manchester, talks about the skills she needs for her role:

What are the skills you need to do this job well?

A lot of the skills required to do this job effectively are transferable: you need to be very organised, able to juggle competing tasks and prioritise your workload, manage your time to work to challenging deadlines, and have strong attention to detail – whilst working at speed!

I’m part of a relatively large team at Manchester and it’s essential to be able to work well with colleagues, sharing your different responsibilities as you work towards common goals. I’ve worked hard to build a solid understanding of numerous complex policies and their implications, and over the last year or so I’ve developed my skill-set to be able to translate this knowledge into implementing user-friendly processes, including considering service resource requirements and the user experience of our services. One of the most important skills to be an effective Scholarly Comms librarian is being able to explain complex information clearly to busy and sometimes stressed researchers. It’s essential that I have confidence in the expertise I’ve worked to build up whilst doing this job, as I need to be comfortable being asked for a view on issues or options by academics.

It’s not essential to have deep sector knowledge when starting this job, but you need to be committed to building a solid base of knowledge to draw on in conversations with researchers, and ensure you’re up to date on developments. I’ve always been encouraged to find and cultivate my own authentic voice – to explain things in my own words, and be authentic to my personality when communicating with stakeholders, as this contributes to building collegial, respectful relationships and partnerships with our colleagues across the University. I’m always aware that when I’m speaking to researchers or at an event, I’m representing Manchester, so it’s essential that I understand and am able to channel the culture of my organisation.

Resilience is another essential skill – both in terms of handling repetitive tasks and enquiries, and in terms of being challenged by people whose personal experiences of scholarly communication may result in alternative views on issues we’re discussing. I think to be successful in this role you need to have passion and enthusiasm. For me, my passion is sparked by understanding the real-world impact that effective scholarly communication can have – the research I help to disseminate can change the world. My enthusiasm comes from appreciating how important it is that we get things right, as there are real, serious implications for getting things wrong. I’m driven to develop our services and support, and always do better myself.


How did you develop these skills?

A Scholarly Comms librarian post isn’t an entry-level job: to hit the ground running I think you need to have experience of things like organisation, complex customer communication, and working under pressure. I moved into this role from an assistant-level role in the team. However I would like people to know that in my experience, sector knowledge isn’t an absolute necessity, at least to joining a team in an assistant role with a view to progressing to a librarian role. Before joining Manchester’s Research Services team I’d worked primarily with students in customer services roles, and before that in a public library, after a few years in the private sector – I had no previous experience of academic research, and issues relating to scholarly communication weren’t touched in during my library qualification. Of course I had to swot up on research support considerations for my interview, but from that base I’ve done all my learning on the job.

It’s essential to always listen to and watch your peers and senior colleagues – how do they approach tasks, explain things to academics, handle challenges? You need to be open to learning from things which don’t go well, and be receptive to feedback to improve. Working in a busy, demanding environment meant I encountered a lot of practice examples I could learn from. My manager has always supported my development by offering constructive feedback, and by encouraging me to observe things before having a go myself, and building my confidence, for example, by suggesting I deliver training sessions to postgraduate research students before moving to academic staff, and attending meetings at “friendly” Schools before progressing to more “challenging” Schools!

Working at a large institution like Manchester means we have loads of opportunities to get involved with projects outside our core responsibilities, and by doing so, to observe and learn from other colleagues in different teams – my sector knowledge has benefited hugely from collaboration with our Library copyright lead, and I’ve learned about negotiation and influencing by observing our Library subscriptions lead in meetings with publishers. There’s a lot of developmental support available in our Library, and I’ve been very lucky to be able to learn about leadership through involvement in our Leadership Development Network and exposure to members of our Leadership Team, including mentoring with our previous Head Librarian, Jan Wilkinson.

I absolutely love my job and feel proud to be part of the scholarly communications ecosystem. I would strongly encourage people to consider scholarly communication roles as it’s such an exciting and growing area for libraries and Higher Education institutions, there’s loads of scope to develop and make an important contribution.


Keep an eye on the blog for more interviews coming soon. Videos can be found on our playlist here.

Published 26 October 2018
Compiled by members of the OSC team
Creative Commons License