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Tuesday, 22 September 2015

The Great ScHARR Library Bake Off

Every year we host a bake sale in our library at ScHARR in aid of a local charity. This year we chose the North Derbyshire charity Fairplay that works to support disabled children and young adults.

 All of the team came together to create a host of delicious creations as well as some of our friends from within ScHARR Towers. We had everything from two types of scones, brownies, carrot cake, gluten free options, biscuits and even a Guinness cake...hic!

This year we ran the charity picnic on the same day as we welcomed our new intake of students, so we took it as a good opportunity to say hello and introduce ourselves. I was worried that the students wouldn't venture down from a day full of talks and inductions, but they did thankfully. In fact we were overwhelmed by how many came to see us. 

At one point the library was as full as I'd ever seen it in my 14 years at ScHARR. Everyone was fed and watered with juices and hot drinks provided by the library team. Although there may still be money to be donated we probably broke our record for donations from our cake sales (this is about the 8th one we've run it). At present we have raised £156 for a very worthwhile charity - so well done all. Salads are the order for today.

Thankfully there was very little left at the end of the day, and my beetroot brownies (with my own orange beetroots) and scones (with homemade and picked jam) all went.

For more information about Fairplay and the work they do, go to:

Next year we hope to have Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry on hand to do some judging.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

For what it’s worth – the open peer review landscape

The topic of open peer review has been gaining some traction for some time. It's been a slow burner in the academic community for many years and through the increasing use of social media in research it continues to polarise academic communities. With open research and access increasingly attracting more support, it is inevitable that open peer review will follow that trajectory. How quickly, and with what resistance is not yet known. I have just published a paper on open peer review and looked at the main protagonists in a special issue focusing on open access for the Online Information Journal.
CC BY 2.0 Tim Morgan


The aim of this paper is two-fold, firstly to discuss the current and future issues around post publication open peer review. Secondly to highlight some of the main protagonists and platforms that encourages open peer review, pre and post publication.
The first part of the paper aims to discuss the facilitators and barriers that will enable and prevent academics engaging with the new and established platforms of scholarly communication and review. These issues are covered with the intention of proposing further dialogue within the academic community that ultimately address researchers' concerns, whilst continuing to nurture a progressive approach to scholarly communication and review. The paper will continue to look at the prominent open post-publication platforms and tools and discuss whether in the future it will become a standard model.
The paper identifies several problems, not exclusive to open peer review that could inhibit academics from being open with their reviews and comments of other’s research. Whilst identifies opportunities to be had by embracing a new era of academic openness.

The paper summarises key platforms and arguments for open peer review and will be of interest to researchers in different disciplines as well as the wider academic community wanting to know more about scholarly communications and measurement.
You can find the paper here.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

How can scholarly communication avoid becoming just a cacophony of noise?

White Noise -CC BY 2.0 Kyknoord (Mental State)
I was asked to write an editorial for the UKSG newsletter. UKSG purpose is to connect the knowledge community and encouraging the exchange of ideas on scholarly communication. So wrote a piece on how can scholarly communication avoid becoming just a cacophony of noise - a tough one to answer.
You can visit UKSG and subscribe to their free newsletter here

In Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy the author sums up how big space is by writing:  “Space is big. really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space.” Well the same applies to the web. In our own personal online universe we see it as something big, but do not realise how truly vast and diverse it is. Take for example the 300 minutes of video that is uploaded to YouTube every minute of every day. In 2013 it was estimated that there were over 14 trillion webpages on the Internet; and does that include the non-indexed, dark, intranet content or is it much, much bigger than that? When we think about scholarly content we often think about it in simple terms, journals, papers, presentations, databases and (for more web-focused academics) a collection of tools and social networks. It is likely to be much more than we can imagine, as academic content and comment seeps into the media, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter with the latter providing a constant stream of academic Tweets. Then we have tools like iTunes U, JOVE, Piirus, Slideshare and Mendeley to name but a very few.

Even though academia has been slow in embracing what we used to often refer as web 2.0 in 2005, there is still an awful lot of chatter around the web from academics. Lots use Twitter, over 7 million on ResearchGate, 3 million on Mendeley and over 21 million are on It is a very big place with a lot of conversations going on 24 hours a day, globally. Naturally not all of these users are active or engaging with the platforms and communities. Nevertheless that is potentially a lot of sharing and conversations and this is before we really get our teeth into open peer review. Then look at Twitter and how many academics are on there using the micro-blogging site as a regular communication tool. There are no exact figures, but it is likely to be in the hundreds of thousands at the very least. Founder of, Richard Price estimated in 2011 that there were about 17 million faculty members and graduate students in the world. This is of course an estimate, as it is hard to track staff in-between contracts and those retired but still working.

We are now at a crossroads within academia when we think about openness, whether that be MOOCs, altmetrics, open peer review, open access or big data - they all have an open element to them. With more websites creating opportunities for open dialogue between academics worldwide, it seems wrong not to grasp them with both hands, provided that this openness comes with responsibility. The problem is that researchers have not adapted to these changes very well, and through no fault of their own. After all, they are busy professionals who are encouraged to build a sustainable and credible career mostly based on publishing and winning grants. As the web has changed, they have too, just not at the same pace. Critiquing, discussing or passing comment on a peer’s output has very little in terms of formal recognition and reward. Added to that there has been a lack of support for academics to reap the rewards afforded to them by being able to share their work via the various freely available technologies. Academics are still very cautious when it comes to publicly discussing and commenting on research in their area. The notion of discussing someone else’s work in the open, away from the safety of the office or blind peer review is somewhat uncomfortable, and with good reason. It is understandable given the legacy that pre-21st Century academia created, that not to rock the boat is the safer career option. Many wonder what there is to gain from talking about their own work on the web, which can be seen as narcissistic or another person’s work which can seen as antagonistic, even when it might not be in both cases.

CC BY 2.0 Nancy<I'm gonna SNAP!
Whilst critics of open peer review might see public commenting, discussing and reviewing research as a luxury or waste of time it does have potential benefits. It can help identify flaws in published and ongoing research, as you may believe that you are the only person conducting research like this, but there is always a chance someone has carried out similar work and can contribute their knowledge. It aids forming potential collaborations and help identify peers who can help build a personal learning network. Communicating, collaborating, problem-solving are all things we teach students at university. Academics have the potential to tap into an organic, intelligent community on the web for similar benefits. Yet it still feels like the exception to the rule. In time I am certain we will see a lot more open peer review, post publication comment and review and the continued growth in useful communication using social media platforms, in particular academic-inclusive ones.

If the digital immigrant - native model is anything to go by we will soon see further changes within academia underpinned by open access and the wealth of research-focused web-tools appearing almost daily. This will happen as more web native students move on from junior to career researchers and utilise the technologies that are so openly available on university campuses, that is of course unless they become institutionalised by existing practices. Change is already happening, but we are still some way away from a critical mass. In time this change will be good as more knowledge is shared, mistakes spotted earlier by peers and collaborations forged from around the world. Naturally with these benefits comes a bitter taste as internet trolls do and will continue to exist, bad and mischievous research will be published, and we could struggle to sort out the useful chatter from the banal. There is also the Kardashian Index to consider, as academics should always be judged on their research output over their social media popularity and an ability to communicate. That said, researchers should hone the core skills of communicating their work to a variety of audiences.

The biggest problem is still one we have struggled to cope with since the beginning of the web: how best to sort out all of the data into easy to access, discoverable, manageable chunks. If academics spend more time traversing the web to discuss and reply to the new forms of scholarly communication, they might well get fatigued by it all. The modern phenomena of social media fatigue is just one of the problems, as for example active and popular Twitter users simply stop using the platform once it becomes unmanageable. Therefore there is a need for training and support to help researchers not only understand why they should embrace their online communities but also be skilled-up to flourish in them. That includes netiquette, dealing with negative feedback, time management and deciding which technology is best. Communities need to be well defined, moderated and where possible open.

The likes of Twitter and blogging are essential tools for academics to communicate beyond their peers to a wider audience, but there is also a strong need for secure, private academic-only communities, that are open but also closed to elements outside of their subject areas. No single solution can push scholarly communication forward, it has to be lead on several fronts. Whilst the benefits for participation in such communities might seem modest right now, so more thought is needed as to how active participation in scholarly communication and open review can be more rewarding. The benefits of creating a hive community of knowledge across the globe could be that it solves huge problems faster than before. We need to have systems that allow us to see these solutions, rather than lose them in a wall of sound.  

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Work experience in the ScHARR library

Hi! My name's Eleanor Rimmer (also known as Melanie Rimmer's daughter). I'm a year 10 student at Poynton High School, and I've been doing a one week work experience in the ScHARR library.

I want to work with books, either in a library or a bookshop, once I'm done with education, because I've always liked books and organizing things. I think my house counts as a miniature library in its own right-family and friends are always 'borrowing' books, and there are even shelves in the bathroom!

Work experience may not be over yet, but I've really enjoyed it so far. Everyone I've met has been really friendly and helpful, and I've learned a lot about databases and social media and shelving and things like that. It's obvious that the people working here take pride and enjoyment in what they do-that attitude is inspiring. This has been a great learning experience for me, and I'll definitely have a lot to think about when I'm done with my GCSEs.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Research Hacks - How to Hack Your Research

I was lucky enough to be invited to give a talk for in the spring as part of a half day event themed about the Digital Academic at The University of Warwick. The talks were captured and have now been published on YouTube.
I have to say that I am not asleep in the last video :-)

Monday, 6 July 2015

Andy Tattersall and Leo Appleton's CILIP Conference Presentation on Social Media

Dr Andrew Cox talking about Wicked Problems
Last week I made the trip over the Pennines as part of a small ScHARR expedition to present alongside my MmIT colleague Leo Appleton at the yearly Cilip Conference, formerly called Umbrella. The presentation followed one by my colleagues Anthea Sutton and Helen Buckley Woods about the work they continue to do with their distance learning courses for library and information professionals called FOLIO. I’d arrived in Liverpool the day before and attended various presentations and workshops including one by my MmIT colleague Andrew Cox from the iSchool in Sheffield. Andrew gave a talk about the concept of the wicked problem (Rittel and Webber 1973). He argued that research data management might be considered as a wicked problem. It was not a term I had heard prior to the conference but very much now realise I come across ‘wicked problems’ quite often in my work. According to that font of all knowledge, Wikipedia: “A wicked problem is one that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize.” I think we’ve all come across such problems at some point in our professional lives and at least I know what to call them when I meet one now.

I also saw the superb Cory Doctorow for the second time give a keynote which twisted and turned through the complex problems the web deals with in the 21st Century. Problems such as net neutrality, security and ownership were dissected by the journalist and blogger at lightening pace. It was an entertaining and as you would expect, a thought-provoking talk which perhaps left the audience with more questions than answers afterwards.

The day ended with two good keyontes from Stuart Hamilton, Deputy Secretary for the International  Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) and a really inspiring talk by Barbara Schack. Barbara who is the Director of Development at Libraries Without Borders talked about The Ideas Box. This is a comprehensive portable media centre and built in power source. You can see more in this video below.

Crosby Beach
At the end of the first day I decided not to take the guided tour to Liverpool Museum and attend the sponsored drinks reception, as I felt like I’d been inside long enough and persuaded Andrew Cox to join me and head off up to the coast to Crosby. I’d been recommended Crosy by Leo as it was his old home town. So once we had navigated Liverpool’s rail infrastructure we found ourselves trekking towards blue skies and a vast beach populated by 100 cast iron sculptures made by the artist Antony Gormley. It was a beautiful clear evening, so we headed down the coastal path for about five miles before hopping onto a train back south to Crosby and then grabbing a bite to eat; opting out of the general knowledge quiz that was going on around us. Back in Liverpool I headed to the Cavern Quarter and my The Beatles’ Hard Day’s Night Hotel. I could hear the sounds coming clearly from the Cavern and various bars till the early hours, probably much of the noise generated by a bunch of librarians, post conference. Nevertheless that’s what you should expect when you book a hotel in the cultural heart of Liverpool :-)

Erwin James giving his Keynote
Day two started with another popular keynote from the Director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti who talked about the threats to our democratic institutions. The final keynote of the day was from someone who knows all too well what it is like to be stripped of all liberties after spending a long spell in prison. It was a very powerful and thought-provoking talk by ex-prisoner and now Guardian journalist and author Erwin James. His talk had the audience engrossed as he told his very candid story about being sentenced for 20 years and finding his way out through the power of books and writing. In particular one book, Prisoners of Honour by David L Lewis had a dramatic and positive effect on James. From there onwards James was hooked on the power of learning and reading and has become a strong advocate for prisoners and other marginalised areas of society being given the opportunities to learn and engage with the arts. His talk was the highlight of the conference for me, it captured the idea of how important books and learning is to all parts of society and that we should never forget that. James showed he was still incredibly remorseful for his actions in what was a powerful but subtle a talk you would ever see.

In the afternoon myself and Leo gave our presentation ‘With Power Comes Great Responsibility - How Librarians can Harness the Power of Social Media for the Benefit of Others. We were very lucky to present in such a grand setting as St George’s Hall in Liverpool. Our own presentation took place in a very grand but intimidating old court room. So we found ourselves in the dock talking in trandem about the four themes relating to social media that make up for our conference in Sheffield on 14th-15th September. We showcased the potential for social media as a facilitator in marketing and promoting services. We spoke about the emerging interest in altmetrics, social media for professional development and with our own areas of research. It was great as always to deliver a talk with Leo but also to deliver one following my ScHARR colleagues who gave a very informative presentation. Next year the CILIP conference rolls onto Brighton, so all being well I will get another run out to the seaside.

Also, I noticed this sign at the conference, obviously from a previous event, suffice to say that we all ignored it. 

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

ScHARR IR team - going the extra mile

Growing evidence suggests that our increasingly sedentary lifestyles can lead to adverse health outcomes including back pain, obesity and diabetes.   For several years the University of Sheffield has taken part in the Global Corporate Challenge, a worldwide initiative aimed at making employees more active.

Participants wear a pedometer which monitors their activity for 100 days, and over this period are encouraged to try and improve their personal best at the same time as competing with others on a team or individual basis.

Never ones to shirk a challenge, the IR team are joining in and last night four of us braved the heat to go on a "night walk" through Sheffield's Whiteley Woods, where we achieved a total of 100,000 steps for our team, HEDS Will Stroll.