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 vpnsrus.com)
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
https://pintofscience.co.uk/event/the-ultimate-survival-guide-to-computers

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