UBC Okanagan’s First Researcher-in-Residence Day Report

by Marjorie Mitchell
Research Librarian, UBC Okanagan Library

A small and intrepid group of librarians and archivists gathered on December 15, 2017, in the University of British Columbia Okanagan Library Special Collections room for a day focused on the processes of conducting research. Librarians from Okanagan College and UBC’s Vancouver Campus joined their Okanagan colleagues to hear Jane Schmidt talk about her experience conducting research while on sabbatical, the challenge of peer-review for a topic that takes a critical stance, and, following the publication of her article Little Free Libraries®: Interrogating the impact of the branded book exchange, the media attention she and her research partner, Jordon Hale, received. Jane talked candidly about doing research on a topic she was passionate about, creating strong research partnerships with people who have complimentary skills, and about managing the aftermath of publishing an article critical of a US-based not-for-profit organization that caught the media’s attention.

In the question and answer time following Jane’s formal presentation she said one thing she would have done differently was to have secured ethics approval for portions of the research. She ultimately ended up excluding from her article what she learned from following social media on the Little Free Libraries® because she hadn’t sought ethics approval in advance of joining the closed Facebook group whose members are all people who built individual installations of a Little Free Libraries® box. A participant also asked Jane how she would have done this research if she had not been on sabbatical. Jane emphatically answered that the research would not have happened!

Following Jane’s candid and engaging talk, invited speakers Pierre Rondier and Mary Butterfield, both from UBC Okanagan, talked about writing grant proposals. Pierre focused on information about applying for Social Science and Humanities Research Council grants including the types of grants available, their scope, deadlines and criteria. Mary shared her insight as both a person who helps members of the Faculty of Management to write grant proposals and as an adjudicator for community grants such as community arts grants and grants from the Central Okanagan foundation. Both agreed researchers need to thoroughly understand the criteria of the grants for which they are applying.

The final session of the day was a panel presentation and discussion of research collaborations. Jane Schmidt talked about working with her researcher partner who was a student at the time they worked together. Sajni Lacey spoke about finding research collaborators during her time as a contract academic librarian prior to starting at UBC Okanagan on a tenure track. Finally, I spoke about collaborating in a large group over long distances highlighting my participation within the national studies on research data management practices of groups of faculty. Audience members added their experiences to the discussion to round out the breadth of variety of research, especially research done while on sabbatical or study leave.

Participants expressed an interest in seeing this type of event happen again.

This article gives the views of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

Research Groups and the Gift of Spaciousness

by Marjorie Mitchell
Research Librarian, UBC Okanagan Library

As I write this, it is early August. The days are long and hot, and a haze of smoke from wildfires tints the air. It’s a time of year I always find spacious. I have spent much of my life guided by the rhythms of the school/academic year and summer is that glorious time-out from regular duties and a period less scripted than most of the rest of the year. It is the time of the year for “projects” and “research” and “planning” and, my favorite, “reflection.” Traditionally, in the next few days, I would move from this feeling of spaciousness to one of increasing claustrophobia and borderline panic. Oh, it always started off as a mild discomfort. Niggling thoughts of “I should get this done before September” shifted to “I better get this data analysis done” to “OMG, I haven’t done nearly as much as I planned to do and now all my deadlines are getting pushed forward and now I have to plan for the classes I have to teach….” and so on into full panic mode.

This year is different. It’s not perfect, and yes, I still have a few “To Do” lists floating around, but I can see a big difference. This year I have seen evidence of increased research productivity and reduced stress that really are the advantages of sincere, concerted teamwork, specifically a research team.

I have been actively participating in research investigating the research data management needs of faculty from all across Canada and specifically from my institution, the University of British Columbia. I was not the initiator (a big thank you to Eugene Barsky who did initiate these studies at UBC), nor do I do the bulk of any of the work that goes into this research, and that’s the beauty of these research teams – sharing the work really does make it seem more manageable.

The larger team is a group of Canadian librarians, the Canadian RDM Survey Consortium, who saw a situation developing (research data management plans being made mandatory by multiple international granting bodies) and who decided to pro-actively prepare in the strong likelihood that Canadian granting bodies would follow suit. In order to effectively prepare, we needed to understand the research data management needs of our researchers across the disciplines. In other words, we needed to conduct original research about the actual practices and needs of researchers. We sought answers to questions as general as how many research projects did the respondent lead in the past year to specific questions about how much data a respondent’s research generated and where the respondent stored it, etc. We didn’t research all the disciplines at once. Instead, we started first with engineering and natural sciences, followed by the social sciences and humanities in the second round, then concluded with the health and allied sciences. This has taken over two years to complete.

The smaller team is a shifting group of librarians at UBC who have all participated in this research as we have worked our way through the disciplines. These research surveys and their results all form the basis of the national research, but were able to provide significant insight into our local research landscape. If you have questions about what researchers are doing with respect to research data management, we have discovered some of the answers.

The spirit of collaboration, goodwill, and support that members of these groups exhibit every time we meet (virtually) is inspiring. We discuss the tasks that need to be done for research, from the ethics applications, to analyzing the data, to writing the paper or poster, to colour schemes for graphics, etc. As we decide on the tasks, we also volunteer for them. One of the biggest advantages of such groups is the depth and breadth of skill within the group. Each of us aspires to creating the best paper or poster possible and each of us contributes something of value.

The other benefit of these collaborations has been the scheduling of the research, analysis, and writing. When working with a group, I don’t always get to set the timeframes for when the work needs to get completed, and that is not a bad thing. Yes, there can be some long days or extra work on a weekend as I race to meet a deadline I agreed to, but, ultimately, not letting the members of this group down is strong motivation for me. I appreciate that all the members of the group are also putting in the time, one way or another. The scheduling is often driven by conference or journal proposal deadlines, and those all happen in the winter and spring, and not so much over the summer. And so, this year, RDM research is not on my list of things yet to do before September. They really were right at the Librarian’s Research Institute when they suggested not being a solo researcher.

If your research practice is stalled, or hitting some speed bumps, or just not going the way you envisioned it, think about creating or joining a team/group/consortium. The benefits outweigh the costs significantly. And you might have some fun – I know I do.

This article gives the views of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

Collaborating for Research – Experiences and Lessons Learnt

by Maha Kumaran
Leslie and Irene Dubé Health Sciences Library, University of Saskatchewan

True collaboration does not happen unless all involved researchers invest time and energy towards every step of the project. Depending on the project, grants may need to be applied for and funding secured, ethics cleared from all required institutions, research assistants interviewed and hired, research participants contacted, interviews or forums set up, survey questionnaire prepared, tested, sent, and data gathered and analyzed, and a literature review conducted. Then the article needs to be written, the journal chosen and seen through the peer-review process, and the order of authors for publication established. Accomplishing all of this takes time, teamwork, communication, and a willingness accept and finish assigned tasks in a timely fashion.

In my most recent project I worked with one collaborator. Our project involved surveying and interviewing internationally educated nurses (IENs) employed at health regions in Saskatchewan. I needed to secure ethics clearance or operational approval from all 13 health regions in the province. My collaborator and I also sought ethics clearance from our own institutions which was a straightforward process. Securing ethics clearance from health regions was a little more complicated and time consuming. In some of the health regions, the contact information for ethics personnel was not clearly stated. In a few health regions, we had to wait for the health region’s board meeting where our ethics clearance request was placed on the agenda. In one case, they did not have time to discuss this at the scheduled board meeting, so we had to wait for the next meeting before we could get clearance. Many reminders had to be sent and finally ethics was cleared over a period of 3 months.

Our project was divided into 2 phases. In phase 1, I learnt to use FluidSurvey to create a survey. We hired a student from the U of S’s Social Sciences Research Laboratories (SSRL) to analyze the survey data. In Phase 2, interviews were set up for IENs with the SSRL researcher. Later we learnt to use NVivo to analyze the interview results.

Once all the research was completed I learnt to use NLM citation format to publish our paper in the journal of our choice. Unfortunately we hadn’t decided on the journal beforehand, so this stage also involved some learning. Throughout our research project, we planned for conference presentations and worked on posters in PowerPoint. This involved learning or re-learning many features of Excel and PowerPoint to create charts, graphs, and tables to present data.

Our project ran over a period of 3 years and this also meant a lot of communication – between collaborators, participants, SSRL, ethics and grant personnel, our journal editor and finance personnel to have our conference expenses reimbursed.

Lessons Learnt:
When seeking a collaborator, remember to find someone who is as invested and significantly engaged in the topic. This will be a huge motivating factor in accomplishing all the required work and seeing the project to finish. Be prepared to invest time and energy towards communications, learning new technologies and skills, writing the article and seeing it through the peer-review process. If collaborators are geographically apart, virtual meetings may need to be set up. Since my collaborator and I were in two different cities, we set up phone, Zoom, and Skype sessions. Initially, we set up agendas and took notes of what needed to be done after each meeting. As time progressed and our work lives got busier we were less industrious about such meetings and tried to accomplish everything through email. There were miscommunications or misunderstandings along the way, but we were both professional and mature enough to get past these hurdles. Be patient and understand that collaborators also have other priorities. There were many occasions when I felt overwhelmed with amount of work involved. On such occasions, I took a short break, made lists, prioritized the work, assigned tasks, and set deadlines.

Collaborative research when done well can be a rich and rewarding experience. Researchers learn to problem solve, gain new knowledge and skills, and ultimately have a strong project published in a high impact journal.

This article gives the views of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.