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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

Friday, 24 February 2017

ScHARR Library YouTube Channel hits 100k views

Image of Andy Tattersall
Andy Tattersall
According to the stats our own mini TV channel, ScHARRVids has gone beyond 100,000 views. First of all I have to say that I am who is usually wary of stats, especially those relating to web analytics, but 100,000 views, or something akin to that figure is still a good reflection on the response to the content we create to support our department and institution.

I started the YouTube channel in 2009, two years after this blog which celebrates its tenth birthday later this year. The channel has become a hub for many of my own outputs but also contributions from the rest of Information Resources. The channel has various collections that are there to help academics and students learn how to search, manage references, use apps, communicate their research and make better use of technology. We have some of ScHARR's high profile public lectures and some recordings from our Bite Size talks around the use of technology within teaching and research.


Image of YouTube Stats
Our latest stats

The channel has 302 subscribers and over 300 videos that you can explore with the latest one uploaded today that captures me demoing Adobe Spark.



We have our collection set out in various playlists which you can subscribe to and share, or just subscribe to the whole channel. Below is the playlist for the Research Hacks animation series I created.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Gone In 60 Seconds

Mark Clowes
Mark Clowes
Mark Clowes braves the tough crowd that is the HEDS Section Meeting to give a one-minute presentation about his work.

One of the stranger things about working in an academic school rather than a traditional library is the departmental meeting, where you can find yourself sitting alongside people whose jobs have very little in common with your own.

The ScHARR Information Resources team sit within the Health Economics and Decision Science section of ScHARR, surrounded by systematic reviewers, economists, modellers and statisticians.   To help these different professional groups understand each other better, section meetings begin with quickfire one-minute presentations from each group known as "Gone In 60 Seconds".

As a Nicolas Cage fan (I even watch his really bad films, and God knows there are plenty) - and, not least, because it was my turn - I agreed to take part. But what would be "gone" in those 60 seconds?  My career prospects?  My credibility with colleagues (if I ever had any)?  Would I be challenged for hesitation, repetition or deviation?

I enjoy giving presentations and don't usually get too nervous; but the audience for this one (and the timing, with the expiry date of my contract approaching) made me particularly keen to impress. 

I decided to give my first airing to a topic about which I hope to present at one or two conferences in the summer - using a text-mining and data visualisation app (VOS Viewer) to deal with a large number of references retrieved by a systematic review.  I chose this topic to demonstrate to colleagues that IR staff were continuously experimenting with new technology and ways of working, and - since it has the potential to influence the scope of future review projects - because it would have relevance to all the different groups in the room.  An added bonus was that I could display some pretty images of the "heat maps" produced by VOS Viewer on the screen, which would take the audience's eyes off me.

The short format required more preparation than usual - generally I don't like to work from a script, preferring to maintain a conversational tone and improvise around bullet points - but my initial attempts to do so on this topic ran significantly over time.

In the end, I realised I was going to have to write out what I wanted to say in full - initially using free writing with pen and paper, then gradually refining and paring it down until I could beat the kitchen timer countdown (this was one of those tasks I could only have done working at home - colleagues would think I had lost the plot walking around reciting the same presentation over and over again).

I didn't want it to be a dry, technical presentation (in any case, there wasn't enough time to explain in depth how the software worked) so instead came from the angle of "why is this useful?" - i.e. for dealing with a common problem of facing too many references to sift in the traditional way, but potentially too important to ignore.

On the day, I think it went pretty well - people seemed engaged with what I was saying, although a slight technical hitch with my slides meant that I didn't quite manage my closing sentence before I (5...) was (4....) ruthlessly (3...) cut (2...) off (1...)


Monday, 6 February 2017

The Systematic Review Toolbox

Anthea Sutton
Last week I was invited to demonstrate the Systematic Review Toolbox (SR Toolbox) at our in-house Systematic Reviews Issues and Updates Symposium (SYRIUS) at ScHARR (School of Health and Related Research) at The University of Sheffield.  The symposium provides an opportunity for researchers to get together and share updates of systematic review methodological work being undertaken in ScHARR, so it was a great opportunity to promote the SR Toolbox and the resources it contains.  The SR Toolbox slot on the symposium programme consisted of a short presentation introducing the toolbox with a potted history of its creation and development.  This was followed by a live demonstration, which included some tips on using the toolbox.  Here are a few of those tips:
1.  You can use “Quick Search” to search for more than just the tool name
You can use “Quick Search” to search for tools by name, but you can also use it to search the titles and descriptions of tools. For example, if you’re interested in finding tools for critical appraisal, type it into the “Quick Search” box and you will find tools that mention “critical appraisal” in either the title or description of the tool. However, be aware this is exactly what it says it is, a “Quick Search”, so if you want a comprehensive list of all the critical appraisal tools in the toolbox, be sure to use “Advanced Search”.

2.  In “Advanced Search” selecting more than one feature will search for the features using “AND”
When using “Advanced Search”, it is important to note that if you select more than one feature, the toolbox uses the Boolean Operator “AND” and will return tools that meet all the features you selected.

3.  If you want to browse all the tools in the toolbox…
For Software Tools, tick the “Any” box underneath where it says “Check ‘Any’ if not concerned about any specific features”.
For “Other Tools”, check all 4 “Find me” boxes.
4.  The toolbox provides references to tool-related journal articles where available
The tool records in the toolbox link to/reference journal articles where they are available.  This might be an article about the development of the tool or a review of using the tool by a systematic reviewer who’s tried it out. If you know of any articles relating to tools in the toolbox, please get in touch and we will update the tool record accordingly.
I concluded the session by discussing the “community-driven” aspect of the toolbox.  Systematic reviewers and tool developers are encouraged to submit tools to the toolbox via the “Add a New Tool” feature.  The remit of the toolbox is to catalogue both software and other types of tools/supporting mechanisms (such as checklists, guidelines and reporting standards).  So if you discover a new tool that meets these criteria, please share it with your systematic review peers and colleagues by submitting it to the toolbox, which will help to continue the development of this really useful resource.

This post originally appeared on the Systematic Reviews Toolbox website and has been reproduced with permission.