26 October 2014

Using scenarios in introductory RDM workshops for library staff

On Tuesday I am presenting at eResearch Australasia 2014 in Melbourne on Using scenarios in introductory research data management workshops for library staff.

The scenarios I'll be talking about were used at Monash University in 2012 and at Griffith University in 2013, and have been made available by both organisations for re-use under Creative Commons CC-BY licences:

[Update 28/10/14: Here are the slides that I'll be using this afternoon.]

I also wanted to provide a list of some of the reading I have been undertaking while writing this paper. This is a fascinating area that I'm pleased to have delved into. I'm hoping to write this up for publication, so stay tuned!

Cox, Andrew. 2014. Why Librarians Should Be Clumsy with Research Data. Information Today Europe. Accessed July 9.

Cox, Andrew, Eddy Verbaan, and Barbara Sen. 2012. Upskilling Liaison Librarians for Research Data Management. Ariadne, no. 70 (November).

Errington, Edward Peter, ed. 2010a. Preparing Graduates for the Professions Using Scenario-Based Learning / Edited by Edward Peter Errington. Mt Gravatt, Qld: Post Pressed. 

Shadbolt, Anna, Leo Konstantelos, Liz Lyon, and Marieke Guy. 2014. Delivering Innovative RDM Training: The immersiveInformatics Pilot Programme. International Journal of Digital Curation 9 (1): 313–23.

Toci, Vicki. 2014. “Why Use SBL?

12 September 2014

A communication and marketing campaign for research data storage

On 1 August this year, Griffith University launched its Research Storage Service. I don't want to focus too much on the service itself in this post: you'll get a good sense of what is on offer by checking out the information for users provided on the website.

Instead, I want to talk about the marketing and communications activities that are accompanying the launch of this service, as this has been a key part of my work as the change manager on this project. I was involved in a lot of other things in the lead-up to the launch - such as making sure that our helpdesk staff and discipline librarians were aware of the product and how they could support it - but now that the service is in production the focus is very much on getting our target audience of Griffith researchers (staff and Higher Degree by Research candidates) to start using it.

It's convenient (if a little simplistic) to think about these activities as bottom-up and top-down. Rather than split this into two posts I've decided to cover all the activities here, so this will be a much longer post than usual.


These activities are targeted directly at potential users of the service, with the goal being to get researchers using the service. Two other teams from within my division of Information Services (INS) - Communications and Media Services - have provided invaluable assistance to me in developing a campaign for the service that covers a range of print and digital channels.

One of the great things that our Communications and Marketing team provides is a page with information about each campaign that they have worked on. Using existing statistics they are able to come up with a general idea about how many people you can expect to reach through different channels (they call this "estimated impressions"). As it stands currently, this campaign's potential reach has been estimated by the Comms team as follows:

Online advertising for 10 wks (Library and INS websites)159,647
Digital signage1 for 10 wks229,710
Library twitter540,710
INSight newsletter21,842
INSider newsletter42,368
Here is a bit more detail about the work involved with these different channels.

1. Postcard

Postcards are used widely at Griffith to advertise Information Services products and services. Here is the front of the postcard for the Research Storage Service:

Postcard image. © Griffith University, 2014.

The process for creating this postcard had a few steps. Our INS Comms Manager Tara Anderson walked me through a range of commercial stock imagery until we found a concept that seemed to work. Tara modified the original image on the spot to accommodate my feedback; this included replacing a foreboding grey background colour with the bright aqua, and replacing some of the small icons hanging from the cloud with more research-oriented icons, like the graph.

I had to provide Tara with the text for the back of the postcard. I aimed to be concise and focus on the benefits to the researchers:

Back of the postcard. 

Note the QR code, which will take an interested researcher straight to the website on a mobile device.

2. Digital banner, digital signage and slideshow

Following the design of the postcard, Tara could quickly rework the imagery and text on the postcard to produce a digital banner, which is currently on rotation on the landing page for Information Services:

Screenshot of INS landing page showing the digital banner.

Again, the 'Find out more' link at the bottom of the digital banner directs interested researchers straight to the website.

Tara has also created a similar image that will be displayed as digital signage in libraries across the multiple campuses and possibly in the building that houses the Office for Research at the Nathan campus (we have yet to negotiate this with the Office for Research). The digital signage is in high demand for undergraduate-related notices and promotions during semester, so we are aiming to run our image during the mid-semester break at the end of September and possibly over the summer.

3. Newsletters and blogs

INS Comms has two regular electronic publications.

INSight is a monthly newsletter for Griffith general staff and academics that is connected to the INSight blog. The email newsletter and blog combined are seen by about 2,000 people a month. In August I submitted a story, New Research Storage Service now available, that provided details about the service along with a link. Coincidentally Griffith's new cloud hosting policy, which prohibits use of Dropbox and other third party storage solutions, was also featured in this issue; the two articles were linked so that the Research Storage Service was presented as a timely solution to people needing to switch to an institutional service to comply with the new policy.

INSider is a fortnightly newsletter for INS staff. One of the July issues included an article, Research Storage Service pilot - a success. As with INSight the newsletter is linked to a blog, and these jointly receive around 4,000 visits a month. Although INS staff are not the primary users of the service, many INS staff are directly or indirectly involved in supporting researchers so this is still a useful channel for promotion.

More news articles about the service will be added to both of the newsletters at appropriate times in future.

4. Social media

The service has not yet been promoted using the @GriffithLibrary Twitter account but this is planned. This Twitter account has more than 700 followers and receives regular retweets from other Griffith-related accounts.

5. Animated video 

In addition to the campaign planned with INS Comms, I was fortunate enough to work with our Media Services team on an animated video.

Our Media Services manager Eva Czaran provided me with guidance about the process to develop a video like this. Because we didn't have much time, Eva suggested that we stick with an animation, since recording interviews with people would require much more time for scheduling and editing. Animation would also enable us to have a video with a similar visual style to the other products like the postcard and digital banner.

The first step was to develop a script. It was surprisingly difficult to write a script small enough to fit into a 90-second video - my first effort was more than double the length that it needed to be! In the end, the script for the video reiterated similar messages to the postcard:
As a researcher, you want to know that your data is secure. You want access anytime, anywhere and you need to share data with collaborators - at Griffith, in Australia and overseas.  
Griffith’s Research Storage Service helps researchers store, share and synchronise the digital data generated during their research projects.  
Once you have an account, it’s easy to get instant access to extra storage space for a research project. Just fill in a few details! 
Invite your collaborators, including researchers from outside of Griffith, and share your project space with them. 
Access control is up to you. Give your collaborators full access by default, or set permissions to prevent others from editing, sharing and deleting.  
You can also download and install apps for synchronising your files across your desktop, laptop and mobile devices.  
Storing data overseas can breach Australia’s privacy legislation and University policy. With the Griffith Research Storage Service, you know that your data is stored on Griffith systems, not off-shore.  
To find out more about the Research Storage Service, visit the website:
Eva commissioned a freelance graphic designer (who has worked with Griffith previously) to create the animation, using the same commercially licensed artwork as a base. (I did not realise that these commercial images come in layers containing each part of the image such as the clouds and each dangling icon as a separate element. This means that they can be easily modified and re-used, providing that you have paid for the rights to do that.) Eva also arranged the professional voiceover, music and sound effects. There were several rounds of feedback on this, with minor changes made to some of the animation, including the addition of red highlights (the first version was largely white and blue). Although there was some discussion about changing wording in the script slightly, we decided against this as it would have led to additional time and cost if the voiceover needed to be re-recorded.

The video has been uploaded to YouTube to facilitate links via social media, and a higher quality version is also available in MP4 format for local presentations.

7. Library outreach

Library and Learning Services staff will be involved in promoting the storage service as part of their roles in supporting research. I have developed a 'communications toolkit' that contains all the information that a Discipline Librarian might need to understand the service and how to promote it. This includes:
  • a briefing paper describing why the service was developed, what its benefits are from the researcher's perspective, and how the product is supported
  • an overview of questions that might get asked of the librarians and how they can be answered
  • a one-page table showing the attributes of multiple storage options available to researchers at Griffith, so that librarians understand how this service fits with other offerings and when this service might not be the best option
  • copies of the FAQs and user manual from the site
  • a slideshow that could be used for an information session with a school or research team, and
  • the video.
Feedback on this toolkit has been really positive. 


Top-down communications on a project like this should do two things:
  1. Ensure that senior research leaders in the university are aware that the new product is now available and how it fits with the University's strategies, and 
  2. Seek their assistance in promoting the service to researchers in their area. (I am not sure that we always do this! Remember that these people have far more sway over researchers than we do, so why not be direct in asking them for help?)
Key senior stakeholders identified during communications planning included:
  • Deputy Vice Chancellor Research 
  • Pro-Vice Chancellor, Information Services and Chief Technology Officer
  • University Executive
  • Research Committee 
  • Deans and Group Boards (Griffith has four Academic Groups: Arts, Education and Law, Business, Health and Sciences. These are often called faculties at other organisations.)
  • Centre and Institute Directors (The primary way in which research is organised at Griffith is through more than thirty centres and institutes.)
  • Heads of School
  • Board of Graduate Research
The kinds of messages that we want to get across to senior research leaders are that the new Research Storage Service:
  • contributes to the University's Research Strategy 
  • reduces risk
  • improves compliance (with various things including the Australian Code for Responsible Conduct of Research and privacy legislation, as well as Griffith's own best practice guidelines for research data management and newly released Cloud Hosting Policy), and 
  • helps meet funding agency and scholarly publisher data requirements.
Clearly these are quite different messages to those included in the bottom-up marketing campaign, which is all about benefits to the individual researcher. 

The program of activities for communicating with these stakeholders includes:
  • briefing the PVC INS by email
  • providing a demo and briefing for the CTO
  • briefing the DVC Research: this was done by the PVC INS, who contacted him via email to forward the briefing notes supplied to her.
  • Research Committee: the PVC INS will speak verbally to the topic, play the video and distribute postcards.
  • Deans and Group Boards: the four Library Services Managers will promote the service through whatever means appropriate, as each Group Board operates differently. Some receive a written report from INS, while others may include a presentation in one of their regular meetings. 
It may be difficult to capture all the relevant senior people through meetings alone, and one of the Library Services Managers asked for a template email that can be sent out to key people. This is part of the communications toolkit mentioned above and reads:
Dear [insert name here]

Information Services (INS) is seeking your assistance in promoting a new service to research staff and Higher Degree by Research candidates in [insert name of Group, Centre, Institute or School here].

The Research Storage Service - http://research-storage.griffith.edu.au/) - enables Griffith researchers to securely store the digital data and related documentation that they generate in the course of their research projects and to easily share with their collaborators at Griffith and elsewhere. The university is offering this service specifically to help researchers fulfil the requirements of the Australian Code for Responsible Conduct of Research and to ensure that researchers can comply with Griffith's Best Practice Guidelines for Researchers: Managing Research Data and Primary Materials and the new Cloud Hosting Policy.

It would be greatly appreciated if you could bring this new service to the attention of your colleagues and HDR candidates by directing people to the Research Storage Service website: http://research-storage.griffith.edu.au/. The website contains all the information needed to set up an account and get started with storing research data on the service; extensive FAQs and a user manual cover all common tasks. The website also contains information about how to contact INS for advice about alternative storage solutions for researchers with more specialised needs (e.g. very large data, a need to integrate storage with instrumentation or high performance computing, or higher-than-usual security requirements).

If you would like to include an item about the new service in any relevant meetings, a short video promoting the service is available on YouTube: http://youtu.be/J_krN4Pcfjs. Postcards for the service are available through your Discipline Librarian [insert name of librarian here] and an INS staff member can also provide a short presentation on request.
Note that the email starts with the request for assistance, rather than the information about the service. The email mentions specific actions that the recipient could take such as directing staff and HDR students to the website and adding research storage to the agenda of a meeting in their area.


A communication and marketing campaign for a research storage service can be complex and time-consuming. Having a 0.5 FTE change manager on this project has meant that a planned approach could be taken; communication has been seen as essential to the success of the project, not just an afterthought to the technical work involved. The availability of in-house communications and media specialists has helped with the production of professional and engaging print and digital products for promoting the service directly and supporting the face-to-face work of the discipline librarians.

While the impact of these activities remains to be seen, the project team hope that the effort expended will lead to a quicker uptake of the solution by the researchers it has been designed for, which will contribute to Griffith's overall goal to improve research data management across the organisation.

22 August 2014

Why data librarians need to partner with the helpdesk

Today my Director sent me a link to the latest EDUCAUSE survey of IT use by academics [1]. This has a strong focus on teaching and learning, but is still very much of interest to those of us involved in research support.

More than 17,000 responses from academics in 13 countries were received and the results are great reading. One of the report's key findings is that

The majority of faculty rely on the institution’s help desk for technology support.
According to the report, nearly three quarters of academics  go to the help desk for tech support, 
followed by the crowd-sourced “Hey, Joe!” approach of asking peers or colleagues (57%) and the do-it-yourself method of just Googling solutions (45%).
A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to speak to an Australian National Data Service data intensive for staff from regional and teaching-intensive universities about change management in the context of research data support. I talked a bit about the work that I have been doing to get my university prepared for the launch of our new research data storage service. At one point I asked the attendees in the room - a mix of librarians, IT and research managers - to think about what advice a researcher in their institution would get if they called up the university's IT helpdesk to ask for research data management help.

The reason I asked this is because, although I have worked supporting research data management for the past seven years, it is only in the last three months that I have ever actively worked with my organisation's helpdesk team to ensure that they are aware of a new service and are fully equipped with the information they need to be able to resolve basic queries and make referrals to the correct people where a query is more complex.

This work has been part of the process of developing an operational support plan that makes the roles and responsibility for the different tiers of support (from self-help materials through to consultation and technical troubleshooting) very clear. A significant amount of effort has been involved in this, including:
  • A briefing meeting with the manager of the help desk and the team leader of the staff that answer queries
  • Developing a new category for research storage within our service desk software and ensuring that automated queries from the Contact Us form were routed correctly 
  • Completing a handover checklist document, which outlined 
    • the purpose of the new service
    • details for how to resolve common queries that might come through
    • how to make a referral for a query that could not be resolved by the help desk
  • Discussing training needs with the team leader and then providing four information sessions to staff from the helpdesk team
  • Providing information regularly to the team leader about updates to the service and associated changes to the documentation (FAQs and user manual) that the helpdesk staff need to be aware of. 
All of this work was new to me, and it has been a real eye-opener. As data librarians or eResearch support professionals, many of us seem to be seeking to establish ourselves as the "single point of contact" for data management inquiries. Particularly for librarians, there is a push to be the friendly face of data management support in our institutions. It's true that librarians have networks that enable us to make serious inroads in terms of advocacy and I think the attempt to become the single point of contact for research data advice is being done in good faith; we hope this will prevent researchers from getting bounced from pillar to post as they try to find the right person to help them.

But really, shouldn't we also make the best use we can of the single point of contact that already exists and is used by the majority of our researchers right at the point when they decide they have a problem? Don't miss out, as I now realise I have for the last seven years, on the opportunity to partner with the people who are probably most likely to receive that call for help.


Dahlstrom, E. & Brooks, D.C., 2014. ECAR Study of Faculty and Information Technology, 2014., EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research. Available at:
http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ecar_so/ers/ers1407/ers1407.pdf. (subscriber-only for the first five months after publication)

30 June 2014

Goodbye #blogjune

Well, it's the last day of June and that means no more #blogjune after today. It's been great to be a part of #blogjune and thanks again to Con Weibrands (@flexnib) for organising this and all the other participants for inspiration along the way.

I managed to post every day during the month, which I feel really proud about. I now have ten times more posts on this blog than I did before! There were definitely some factors that helped with this, such as my partner being away which meant lots of quiet evenings at home without things like Game of Thrones and Scrabble for distraction!

I also spent more time reading blogs than I ever have before. My RSS reader was pretty empty before #blogjune; it's become a regular part of my day to read blog posts on my morning commute and I think that will continue and probably grow.

I've learned quite a lot about blogging and about myself through this process. In no order whatsover, the things I have found out are:

I'm a nightowl

I did already know this but it's interesting to observe it while doing something as intense as #blogjune. I tried to write a couple of posts during the daytime but mostly I posted after 10pm. I've always found late at night to be my most productive time for creative endeavours. Had I not had to go to work I'm sure that I would have been blogging even later and posting at 2am!

Lots of other people aren't nightowls

Just because I post at midnight doesn't mean that's when I should send the tweet out about it! I realised that if there was a post I really wanted people to read that I needed to wait until they were actually awake to notify them about it. It was a good prompt to learn how to schedule tweets anyway.

All my traffic comes from Twitter

I have plenty of things to write about

Before #blogjune I started gathering a list of possible topics so that I would never be faced by the blank screen. I did look at this list seven times during the month, when I was stumped for something to write about. The rest of the time I had no trouble coming up with something to write about based on what was happening around me at that particular time. In fact, there were a number of topics that I really wanted to write about that I didn't get around to!

Some things are more interesting than others

A data management post with a slightly provocative title (for me) got by far the most views, re-tweets and comments. I had been nervous about writing this one, but I'm glad that I did because it seemed to strike a chord.

After that though, the posts that were most of interest to other people were on more generic topics to do with professional development; the posts were about librarians as internal consultants, project-based careers and pathways into data management. A post reflecting on my use of Twitter for professional networking was also pretty popular.

Writing and reading together make for good reflection

The thing I have enjoyed most about #blogjune is that it has provided me with a way to reflect on what I have been reading. I feel like this month I read things more deeply and through writing about them I made more explicit connections with my own professional practice. Although I probably think of myself as a reflective practitioner, the acts of adding an article or report to Zotero and then writing something about it have shown me that my reflection is usually pretty shallow, consisting of skim reading, sending a Tweet and filing it somewhere at the back of my head. If nothing else, I hope that I will continue to use my blog as a way of engaging more critically with the articles and reports that I am reading.

I prefer building an argument to stating an opinion

I've been trained to write scholarly pieces that make reference to other people's works. I'm comfortable with that mode and find it hard to simply express an opinion without backing it up. I don't think this is a problem but I do wonder if blog posts with references are just silly, and if this actually means I need to spend more time writing some journal articles!

Short and sharp (no, not so much)

I wrote about 18,000 words over the month, with a lot of posts coming in around the 700-800 word mark. I don't think this is a bad length for a post, and I don't think they were particularly waffly, but I am wondering if the theme that I have applied to my blog might not be the best for posts of this length.

The other thing is that I am slooooooow. Many posts took me a couple of hours to write which would not really be sustainable on a daily basis without having to sacrifice other important things like sleep, exercise or time with my partner.

I'm not a visual thinker

Yes, I already knew this one too, but #blogjune certainly highlighted it. I really have to force myself to think about whether there is an image or two that could be added to a post for the poor people that aren't completely text-oriented like me.

I respond well to external constraints and deadlines

Which is why I will definitely see you next year for #blogjune!

29 June 2014

Looking to Canada for data management ideas

Here in Australia, we often look to the UK and the US as sources of inspiration about data management initiatives. I wonder why we don't look more to other countries. There is some great work happening in Canada at the moment that I think is worthy of more attention.

I am especially impressed at the level of library collaboration that is going in to building staff capability. In Australia, efforts to raise awareness and skills have been largely led by the Australian National Data Service through a program of webinars, regional 'roundtables,' and workshops, not all of which are targeted at librarians. While these are well-organised and well-attended, a more community-driven model in which everyone contributes to and benefits from programs more or less equally as a set of 'members' rather than as 'ANDS partners' (with the division between the hub and spokes that phrase implies) might look quite different. If that is the case, it will be interesting to observe how the development of data management services in Canadian research libraries progresses.

It seems that Canada's research funding councils currently do not ask for a formal data plan as part of the grant applications process; however many of them require (rather than just encourage, as the Australian Research Council does) data to be deposited in a repository at the end of a project [1]. There are signs that this is changing. As described by Michael Steeleworthy (Data Librarian at Wilfrid Laurier University), in 2013 a group of Canadian funding councils published a consultation paper that 
ask[ed] the nation’s scholarly community to develop a collaborative framework that encourages data sharing and invests in digital infrastructure... They also made three recommendations for RDM stakeholders that underscore the need for a holistic view of RDM’s people, processes, and technology: establish a culture of research data stewardship based on existing structures and practices at Canadian and international institutions; coordinate stakeholder engagement among all research partners, including libraries; and develop funding and resource capacity. [3]
In the absence of a centrally funded agency driving infrastructure development and providing project grants (such as ANDS here in Australia and Jisc in the UK), Canadian organisations seem to be building their data management capacity and capability more from the ground up. In the quotation above, the phrase "based on existing structures and practices" really jumps out at me as a key difference between what is happening in Australia and what is happening in Canada. While Canadian organisations are being asked to collectively develop the plans and funding models to achieve good stewardship of research data within the existing system, the establishment of ANDS in Australia has led to the development of a model in which large amounts of capability (in terms of staff with data management expertise) are located in a new lead agency, which partner organisations look to for vision, advice, training and community development. Neither model is more 'correct' than the other but they are certainly different approaches and must each come with benefits and drawbacks. 

Research Data Canada is described as "a stakeholder driven and supported organization dedicated to advancing the vision for research data in Canada." Individuals and members are encouraged to contribute, both financially where possible (though there is no membership fee) and through in-kind participation in working groups, projects and events programs. A very broad range of organisations is involved, not just as stakeholders who are consulted as required by a lead agency, but as active contributors to committees and working groups. This includes funding agencies, research infrastructure providers (for compute and academic networks), technology providers from industry, universities, government research organisations and a range of other government departments. 

Libraries also seem to be collaborating effectively by using existing channels for cooperation such as the Canadian Association for Research Libraries (CARL), rather than by devolving responsibility for capability building. Governance  is provided by the CARL Data Management Subcommittee (along with the the Research Data Canada Education & Training Subcommittee). As Steelworthy notes, data management competencies were made explicit by CARL in 2010, "including knowledge of data management and institutional repositories within scholarly communication, developing partnerships and collaborations with stakeholders, and understanding leading practices for digital curation and preservation". Recently a Canadian Community of Practice for Research Data Management in Libraries was established; this seems to be a real community effort that is sponsored by CARL and is being facilitated by seventeen staff across a range of institutions. This community emerged from a 2013 CARL training workshop in research data management services which invited institutions to send two participants to a four-day workshop. The course was co-developed by staff from seven organisations and was delivered by these staff as well as invited guests. The goal of the course was for participants to take back to their organisations an action plan for research data service development. 

A new project (Project ARC) started in March 2014 will build on these activities. The goal of this project is to build "a library-based research data management network" in Canada. Again, this project has been initiated from within the library sector by CARL. In the latest update for this project, Kathleen Shearer has described the design and population of a national information resource for data management planning and an automated data management planning tool that can help researchers create their data management plans. The project also plans to deliver a version of the MANTRA research data management training tutorial developed by the University of Edinburgh. [4]

To an outsider at least, it seems that existing library structures for cooperation are being used effectively in Canada to build research data management capability. Bottom-up initiatives that are developed and delivered within the community and for the community are the norm, and seem to be gaining great buy-in from the member organisations and the staff within them. There could be valuable lessons here for Australian research libraries and the agencies that support cooperation between them, such as the Council for Australian University Librarians (CAUL) and regional groups such as the Queensland University Libraries Office for Cooperation (QULOC).


[1] Steve Marks, Amber Leahey. 2014. Guides. Resarch Data Repositories. Data Management Plans. http://guides.scholarsportal.info/researchdatamanagement.

[2] Steeleworthy, Michael. 2014. “Research Data Management and the Canadian Academic Library: An Organizational Consideration of Data Management and Data Stewardship.” Partnership: The Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research 9 (1) (June). https://journal.lib.uoguelph.ca/index.php/perj/article/view/2990.

[3] CARL Library Education Working Group and the Building Capacity Subcommittee. 2010. Core Competencies for 21st Century CARL Librarians. Canadian Association of Research Libraries. http://www.carl-abrc.ca/uploads/pdfs/core_comp_profile-e.pdf.

[4] Shearer, Kathleen. 2014. “ARC Project Update.” Canadian Community of Practice for Research Data Management in Libraries. http://data-carl-abrc.ca/2014/06/24/project-arc-update/.

Harvest exhibition at GoMA (+ two lovely libraries)

This morning I went to two gallery talks that were part of the opening weekend festivities associated with a new exhibition at GoMA, Harvest.

The first talk was a discussion between one of GOMA's curators and the photographer Joachim Froese, who discussed the history of still life in art and its influence on his contemporary photographic practice. It was fascinating, and Joachim mentioned a book that I am definitely going to track down: Looking at the Overlooked: Four Essays on Still Life Painting (1990), by Norman Bryson. There was a Griffith Uni connection in that Joachim was a former student at Queensland College of Art.

The second talk featured Prof Hugh Possingham, the Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions at UQ. The talk was advertised as "exploring the significance of Tomás Saraceno's Biosphere works" but ended up as a much more wide-ranging discussion that touched on the value of failure as a learning experience, similarities between contemporary art practice and scientific simulation, foodwebs, island ecosystems, the industrialisation of agriculture, the need for multidisciplinary collaborations to make big advances in knowledge, and the lack of funding available for long-term research in Australia that does not solve immediately known problems in utilitarian ways.

The exhibition itself was great. The friend I went with said that it was nice to see the slot usually occupied by a winter blockbuster dedicated instead to a local show curated by GoMA staff that showcases some of the amazing works in their collection, and I totally agree. Some of my favourite pieces included an animated short by a young Taiwanese animator (Chen Li-Hua, Family Reunion, 2011 - you can see a still from this work here), Tracey Moffatt's photographic series First Jobs (see First jobs, pineapple cannery 1978 here), and an etching by Bonita Ely about the Murray River called Life is full of situations (see here). Another piece I really liked was the installation Forking Tongues by Malaysian artist Simrin Gill, which was a mandala created from silverware and dried chillies; the label for this exhibit mentioned the artist's interest in the trade of food across cultures and in colonialism.

On the way back to the city for lunch, I stopped in the middle of the bridge to take photos of the two lovely libraries that sit on opposite sides of the river.

One one side is the State Library of Queensland. The redeveloped SLQ building was opened in 2006. It was designed by Donovan Hill Peddle Thorp and received the RAIA Sir Zelman Cowen Award for Public Architecture in 2007. I just discovered that the photographer mentioned above, Joachim Froese, was commissioned to do a series on the SLQ interiors which you can see here on his website.

On the other side of the river sits the Brisbane Square branch of Brisbane City Libraries (in the photo below, this is the blue box that sits at the bottom of the Brisbane City Council office block). The Brisbane Square tower was designed by Denton Corker Marshall and the Library (I think) was designed by City Design in the Brisbane City Council. You can read more about this library and see photos of its interior and furniture here.

I think both of these libraries are great examples of modern library architecture; if you are in Brisbane you should check them out.

28 June 2014

How researcher seniority affects attitudes to data management

I have been reading a really interesting article from Katherine Akers (Data Services, University of Michigan) and Jennifer Doty (Emory University Libraries) about how social factors such as the age or seniority of a researcher might influence their views on research data management [1]. I highly recommend this article not just because the results of the study at Emory are interesting, but also because it provides a review of the evidence base in this area, which should probably be informing practice more than it actually does.

The starting point for the study was the assumptions in discussions by information professionals that younger researchers are more interested in data sharing because they are immersed in an environment of more openness to information, and that older researchers might be more interested in preserving their legacies towards the end of their careers. As the authors point out, these are just that, assumptions, that are "primarily based on anecdotal evidence or small numbers of researcher interviews". They also note the contradictory results that have come from more formal studies.

Akers and Doty conducted a survey of academics at Emory in 2012 that received over 200 responses. The academics were divided up into four categories: professor (professor, professor emeritus, or dean); associate professor; assistant professor; or non-tenure track (instructor, lecturer, visiting scholar, or adjunct professor). In analysing their survey results, Akers and Doty found no significant rank-related differences in:
  • the volume of data or methods for data storage
  • willingness to share data
  • methods of data sharing
  • barriers to data sharing (such as private information, commercialisable intellectual property)
  • attitudes to not getting credit, possible misinterpretation or misuse, and the value of the data to others
  • the likelihood of depositing data in a repository
  • familiarity with data documentation and metadata
  • interest in most data services such as: help preparing data management plans; advice on legal and ethical issues; data management consultations for individuals and groups; an institutional data repository; help identifying suitable discipline repositories; metadata assistance; workshops for graduate students; digitisation; and data citation support.
However, some key differences did emerge:
  • Most professors and assistant professors and about half of the associate professors were somewhat or very familiar with data management plan requirements from funding agencies while most non-tenure staff were not. (Akers and Doty suggest this could be due to focus on teaching and less involvement in research grants.)
  • More senior researchers were more likely to indicate that the time and effort required for data sharing was a barrier. 
  • Non-tenure track researchers expressed a higher degree of interest in general data management workshops as a service that could be provided. 
Akers and Doty make some interesting observations. They suggest that outreach to early career researchers could focus on how datasets can be used to increase personal research impact and on the evidence that openly sharing research data increases the citation rate of associated journal articles.

For more senior researchers though, they suggest that investment in infrastructure might be more useful: these very time-poor researchers need tools that help them more efficiently organise data, generate metadata and deposit into open repositories. The lack of incentives in the current system might also need to be addressed for the time and effort involved in data management to be seen as worthwhile. 


[1] Akers, Katherine G., and Jennifer Doty. 2012. “Differences Among Faculty Ranks in Views on Research Data Management.” IASSIST Quarterly (Summer): 16-20. http://www.iassistdata.org/downloads/iqvol36_2_doty_0.pdf.

26 June 2014

Reflections on Twitter

A colleague emailed me yesterday to say that he had joined Twitter and to ask me if I would be able to have a chat with him about it. This got me thinking today about what I might say to him when he comes to see me next week.

I have been on Twitter since 15 November 2010 and passed the 2,000 tweets milestone sometime recently. I can say without a doubt that Twitter is probably my no.1 way of staying in touch with what is happening in my field as well as in cognate areas such as other library sectors, archives and recordkeeping, digital humanities, cultural collections, and e-learning. My network on Twitter has also helped me to avoid some of the isolation that can be involved in working in emerging areas where there may be no other person in your institution (or your city, or your country, depending on how small your niche is) for you to talk to.

I can remember quite clearly what finally tipped me into becoming a Twitter user after some years of scepticism; I was at the eResearch Australasia conference and realised that there was a very interesting 'back channel' happening on Twitter: people were live-tweeting the content of the presentations, but there were also discussions, links being provided to products and projects that were being talked about, as well as networking and social opportunities being organised on the fly.

Some of the things I have learned that I think I will pass on to my colleague are:

  • Start small - find a few key people to follow who tweet on the topics that are most of interest to you.
  • Don't worry about being a lurker for a while - it's OK to read and observe without tweeting yourself (though eventually you will realise you are missing out on half the fun).
  • Ditch the Twitter web application ASAP - experiment with the different desktop and mobile Twitter clients to find one that you like. After trying quite a few apps over the years, I now use the TweetDeck plugin for Chrome on my work and home PCs and recently started using Tweedle for Android on my phone.
  • Be clear in your own mind about whether your Twitter account is a work account or a professional account or a personal account. Find out if your organisation has a social media policy and be clear in your profile if the views you are expressing are official or your own opinions.
  • Don't be afraid to be yourself - the sky will not fall in if you drop an occasional more personal tweet into a mostly professional account.
  • If you are at an event, live-tweeting is a great way to help out other people who couldn't attend. Don't forget to use the conference hashtag and to include the name of the speaker and/or session number so that people can follow up if they are interested.
  • If you are not at an event, follow the hashtag from your desk - depending on the conference and the number of people tweeting you can get a surprisingly good overview of what's going on and can usually work out which 2-3 papers or presentations you might want to follow up on later. Cheap and easy professional development right at your desk!
  • If you enjoy your interaction with people on Twitter, make an effort to connect with them in real life. One of my favourite parts of VALA this year was the tweetup (which was of course tweeted itself by @flexnib!)
  • When you are out and about networking, think about writing your Twitter handle on your nametag. You might be talking to someone you know from Twitter and not even know about it! (Also, if you are organising an event, you could include Twitter handles on printed name badges and consider publicising a hashtag as part of the marketing.)
There is still plenty I have to learn about Twitter and it is important to reflect on how you use this tool if you want to get the most out of it. At VALA earlier this year, Kathleen Smeaton (@kathleensme) and Kate Davis (@katiedavis) gave a fascinating paper on librarians' use of Twitter (Kate has blogged the presentaton here.) Their research made me think about a number of things, but the one that stuck with me was the high proportion of librarian tweets that consisted of un-edited retweets.

Since this presentation I have been more conscious of having a look at a report or article before retweeting and offering some commentary, however short. Today, for example, I received a tweet from the Australian National Data Service (@andsdata) about their latest newsletter:
In the past, I probably would have retweeted this without providing an opinion (and maybe even without reading the newsletter). But, taking Kathleen and Kate's advice to be more opinionated into account (!), today I retweeted the link twice with some commentary on the articles I found most relevant:

After these tweets, Amanda Nixon (@MLNxn) from eResearch@Flinders and I had a further exchange about her article, which is really what Twitter should all about - making genuine personal connections with librarians and other professionals you share interests with, no matter where they live in the world.

25 June 2014

Q: Adapter or innovator? A: Adapter

I follow Joyce Seitzinger (@catspyjamasnz) on Twitter and today she posted this tweet from an event for doctoral students at Charles Sturt University:

What a good question! A little bit of digging later and I have discovered that I am most definitely... an adapter. Yep, not an innovator. Despite having worked in 'emerging' areas and 'startup' roles for the past twelve years, despite hanging out in a team with software developers that make cool things, and despite being a change agent in almost every job I seem to get, I am definitely not at the innovator end of the spectrum as described by Michael Kirton, the psychologist who has developed an instrument known as the KAI (Kirton Adaption–Innovation) Inventory based on research he conducted in the 1970s and 80s.

Kirton has released another book more recently that I think I might have to track down to read to learn more about this [1]. In the meantime, a nice summary of the characteristics of adapters and innovators as outlined by Kirton is provided by Hipple et al [2].

Efficient, thorough, adaptable, methodical, organized, precise, reliable, dependable Ingenious, original, independent, unconventional
Accepts problem definition Challenges problem definition
Does things better Does things differently
Concerned with resolving problems rather than finding them Discovers problems and avenues for their solutions
Seeks solutions to problems in tried and understood ways Manipulates problems by questioning existing assumptions
Reduces problems by improvement and greater efficiency, while aiming at continuity and stability Is catalyst to unsettled groups, irreverent of their consensual views
Seems impervious to boredom; able to maintain high accuracy in long spells of detailed work Capable of routine work (system maintenance) for only short bursts; quick to delegate routine tasks
Is an authority within established structures Tends to take control in unstructured situations

In looking at this list I would definitely put myself more in line with the first column than the second, and many of my colleagues more towards the second column. Interestingly though, many people who have written about this topic mention people who sit somewhere between the two extremes who can act as "bridges".

It's important to note that Kirton and those that are using his methods don't say that either adapters or innovators are more creative than the other group. Rather they are just different styles and different ways of approaching problem solving that might work more or less effectively depending on the context. You also do not have to be an innovator to be a change agent; in fact, in order to be a change agent in a particularly innovative environment you might actually need to take a more adaptive approach. (That is an odd thing to get your head round, but it does make sense eventually.)

Ideally you would have people with a mix of these characteristics as part of a team, although the article that includes the table above also mentions some of the perceptions that each group has of the other. According to that, I am probably seen by some of my more innovative colleagues as
Dogmatic, compliant, stuck in a rut, timid, conforming, and inflexible
while I could perceive them as
Unsound, impractical, abrasive, undisciplined, insensitive, and one who loves to create confusion
I am not sure if we could all actually work together if we had such a harsh view of other people's approaches, but there is probably a kernel of truth in these descriptions too. As "the librarian" in the team I do often seem to be the "voice of reason" banging on about boring things like copyright and complying with University policy when everyone else is excited about getting some hacking done.

Have you come across the Adaption-Innovation Inventory before and where do you think you might sit on this continuum? Do you work with people who are similar to you, or do they sit at the other end of the spectrum?


[1] Kirton, Michael J. 2003. Adaption-innovation: In the Context of Diversity and Change. Psychology Press.

[2] Hipple, Jack, David Hardy, Steven A. Wilson, and James Michalski. 2001. “Can Corporate Innovation Champions Survive?” Chemical Innovation, November. http://pubs.acs.org/subscribe/archive/ci/31/i11/html/11hipple.html.

24 June 2014

New version of Research Data Curation Bibliography

It was a nice surprise today to receive an email from a colleague pointing out that an article I had co-authored appears in the latest version of the Research Data Curation Bibliography [1].

This bibliography is a great source of professional reading on research data management topics, with over 300 articles, books and technical reports included. (As an aside, I noticed when trying to add the bibliography itself to Zotero using the Chrome plugin that it is possible to import all these references directly into Zotero. PhD students in LIS must surely be cheering somewhere in the world right now.)

There are a number of articles included in the bibliography that focus on developments in Australia: the establishment and evolution of the Australian National Data Service (ANDS); predecessor infrastructure projects such as Australian Research Enabling Environment (ARCHER) and Dataset Acquisition, Accessibility, Annotation, E-Research Technologies (DART); institutional activities in universities such as Monash University and Griffith University; and Australian data management initiatives for disciplines such as crystallography and linguistics.


[1] Bailey, Charles W., Jnr. 2014. “Research Data Curation Bibliography.” Digital Scholarship. June 23. http://digital-scholarship.org/rdcb/rdcb.htm.

23 June 2014

Key skills for new roles: Katrina McAlpine, Uni of Wollongong (guest post)

Because there is no obvious pathway into eResearch and data management for librarians, I am always interested in hearing about the jobs that people have done before and the skills that they find most important. I often find some points of similarity with others that have moved into these new areas: a variety of work experiences particularly on projects, work with cultural collections, an interest in information professions outside of librarianship such as recordkeeping and archives and some university teaching experience are all things that I have discovered I share with Katrina McAlpine (you can find her on Twitter as @katreeeena). Another thing we have in common is having moved to new places; I wonder if the experiences that voluntary migrants gain from building a life in a new environment help us be more flexible and resilient when it comes to taking on new work opportunities too.

Katrina  recently moved into a new role at the University of Wollongong and she kindly provided me with some reflections on her transition - thanks for sharing your story, Katrina!

Katrina began her library career in 2006 and has worked in a range of roles related to records management and library functions, most recently at the State Library of New South Wales where she worked with cultural collections, social media, and curating online content as part of the eRecords and Innovation Projects and the Discover Collections teams. Katrina joined the University of Wollongong Library in 2014 where she is currently the Team Leader, Scholarly Content, leading publication management, research data management, and digitisation operations.

2014 has been a year of big change. I packed up and moved from Sydney to Wollongong to take on the role of Team Leader, Scholarly Content at the University of Wollongong Library. Right now I’m working in a new city, in a new role, and in a new area of librarianship for me. I’ve jumped across to academic libraries where my team is involved across scholarly communication, digitisation, and research data. 
Without going into my entire career in great detail (if anyone is particularly curious they can stalk me on LinkedIn), I’ve worked as a librarian in a public library, in records and document management, as a librarian in a 2-person library, then worked across a variety of librarian roles at SLNSW but primarily working on cataloguing original materials, and a brief stint in a federal government library as the technical services librarian. I’ve also had the fun experience of tutoring around metadata / resource description / classification / digital libraries in an undergraduate subject at UTS and marking a similar subject at QUT. 
Looking at these positions, I’m not sure that you could predict that I’d have ended up here working with scholarly content and research data in an academic library. Still, there are common elements and interests that I've built upon in each position that I think are invaluable in my new role, particularly when it comes to working with research data management and publications management:
The NSA might have made metadata a dirty word, but at uni I discovered I was good with metadata and it seems to have become one of those things that I really enjoy working with. Different roles have had different schemas and standards but it’s the same way of thinking. I always dreaded being labelled a ‘cataloguer’, but it’s really just the same thing, right? 
Open access to information
It wasn’t until I was studying that the importance of access to information struck me. In becoming a librarian I’ve always been concerned with people having unrestricted access to information. Even if I can’t be there putting it into their hands, I can work with the systems to make this information open, available, and findable. I think it’s important that research publications and data are made open and available whenever possible. 
Time management
I’ve done the balancing study with work, balancing tutoring on top of my full-time work, balanced committees and projects on top of other responsibilities, and at one stage I think I was juggling 3 different roles at the State Library. I won’t lie and pretend that it’s easy, but it’s definitely a skill I've worked up to and working as a team leader it feels like an essential skill. 
Professional development
At work I’ve had the good fortune of having some wonderful supervisors and managers who have supported my curiosity and desire to find out about so many aspects of the worlds of information, libraries, and cultural institutions. I’ve taken every chance to attend presentations, conferences, and networking events on work time or my own time, and I’ve never limited this to ‘just libraries’. I have a bad habit of putting my hand up for projects, groups and committees, and I spend a lot of time keeping up to date through Twitter, my personal networks, and a lot of different journals and blogs. Exhausting, sometimes hard to switch off, but it’s been really valuable in knowing what is happening outside of my own library sphere. 
While all of these things help, there are still challenges coming to any new role. In terms of research data management, while I was already interested in this area and followed discussions online and at conferences, working in this space has made me more aware of so many more opportunities and challenges. It’s been really great to look at work being done at institutions and universities in Australia and overseas, and I appreciate how much information they make available online and contacts who have been happy to share their thoughts with me, and as always Twitter has been super helpful for following current discussions and identifying who is doing what with research data, as well as having the good luck to meet people such as Sam working in this space. I think it’s an exciting time to be working in this area.

22 June 2014


I have been thinking about becoming a member of the International Association for Social Sciences Information Services and Technology (IASSIST) for many years, since Robin Rice (@sparrowbarley) from the University of Edinburgh first told me about the organisation. 

Last night I finally took the plunge and sent them my $US50 (bargain!) via PayPal for the 2014-2015 membership year. The thing that swung it for me was the superb program of the fortieth annual IASSIST conference, which was held in Toronto in early June. I didn't go to the conference but followed on the conference hashtag #iassist40 (which is well worth checking out). There were presentations from some of the organisations whose work in this space I really admire (including the Universities of Edinburgh, California and Michigan, Purdue University and the UK Data Archive), the theme was well-chosen (Aligning Data and Research Infrastructure) and many of the talks were on topics that really interest me (such as policy, skills development, and strategies for confidential data).

For those who don't know much about IASSIST, the website describes it as
...an international organization of professionals working in and with information technology and data services to support research and teaching in the social sciences. 
Its 300 members are from a variety of workplaces, including data archives, statistical agencies, research centers, libraries, academic departments, government departments, and non-profit organizations.
The majority of the membership is split between Europe and North America but there seems to be a small contingent of people from the Asia-Pacific too. The benefits of becoming a member include an email list, membership directory, jobs service, and the opportunity to join various committees and action groups. The organisation seems to be very grassroots in terms of its history and the way it works, which might distinguish it from more top-down initiatives such as the Research Data Alliance which are funded by government agencies and institutions, rather than by individuals.

Realistically I am not sure how much I will be able to contribute (other than financially through the membership) or what to expect from the various forums run by IASSIST. But I am looking forward to being part of a bigger network of international professionals with an interest in research data management, and see this as a good opportunity to interact with some new people (off Twitter anyway) and to gain more of an insight into what is happening in other national contexts. The only professional associations I have been a member of previously have been the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and the Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa (LIANZA). Joining IASSIST means, I think, identifying myself - after only eight years of work in this field! - as a data professional as well as a librarian.

21 June 2014

A day in the life of eResearch at Griffith

On Thursday our entire eResearch Services and Scholarly Applications Development (eRSAD) team got together for a half-yearly update on our program of work. Because our team of 30+ people is split across three campuses and most of our work is project-based, it's really difficult for any one person to know what's going on. I came away from the day feeling really energised and in awe of all the amazing talent that we have in our team.

The session consisted of a series of short updates on different things people are working on, which could be divided up into three main areas:

  • projects that support data capture, management, analysis and visualisation by particular research groups
  • activities that are more about underpinning infrastructure such as storage, computation, and enterprise tools for managing research impact
  • promotional activities that highlight the work of Griffith researchers and of the eResearch team.  
Some of the projects focused on particular research needs were:

Homepage for the BCCVL
A prototype design for the homepage for the website for the Prosecution Project
  • Redevelopment of the Australian National Corpus (AusNC), which supports linguistics research into Australian English
  • Supporting clinical trials through a randomisation service and through adoption of the RedCAP solution from Vanderbilt University for managing longitudinal health surveys 
  • Successful adoption of the Columbus software (based on the open microscopy OMERO product) for researchers from Griffith's Eskitis Institute for Drug Discovery 
  • Also with Eskitis, development work on Nature Bank, a collection of over 45,000 samples of plants and marine invertebrates that have have been processed into a library for high throughput screening.
The work on supporting infrastructure being done by our group includes:
  • Change management associated with new storage services for researchers for release later in 2014 including a Dropbox-like solution (ownCloud) and tools for easier provisioning of network shares (Operations Orchestration)
  • The redevelopment of our institutional data repository and other repositories for library collections, including a streaming server to support multiple repositories for teaching and learning, research, and corporate needs
  • Implementation of Symplectic Elements to support the identification and capture of information about research publications, including metrics and altmetrics
  • A two-year program of enhancements to the award-winning Griffith Research Hub
The homepage of the Griffith Research Hub, which aggregates metadata about Griffith researchers, projects, publications and data collections
  • Development of a more formal approach to software testing using Jenkins, a continuous integration system that runs tests, creates software builds, and help show the status of the builds.
  • Enhancements to our high performance computing services, including building easy-to-use web portals for less tech savvy users, job submission by email, and 'cloudbursting' (shedding computational load to cloud computing resources on demand).
Our Media Production team does high quality audiovisual work for our division (Information Services) as well as for external groups. On Thursday we got to see sneak previews of two videos the team have been working on, one of which was about the Columbus product for Microscopy mentioned above. Unfortunately these videos are not released yet but previous examples of the work of this team can be found in their gallery: I was in one of their videos last year and they made what could have been an excruciating experience into something that was actually quite fun!

Everyone I talked to agreed that having this session together with the team was really helpful, and that we should do something similar with other parts of our Information Services division soon to ensure they are aware of the work that we are doing and can help in promoting our services to researchers.