‘Divergent’ Funding Opportunities as Tools for Reflective Research

By Katya MacDonald
Library Research Facilitator, University of Saskatchewan

A few years ago, as a grad student feeling the financial pinch of multiple extended research trips, I stumbled across an informal, seemingly one-off blog post listing funding opportunities across diverse disciplines and regions. I read the whole list, but nothing seemed like a plausible fit. I clicked on one link anyway; it had the word “history” in it. I was working on a history PhD. Close enough?

Not really; the granting agency funded research that dealt with a very specific theme in a very different region that seemed to have little to no bearing on my work. But the society was offering money and it just so happened that I needed money. So, after some hours with coffee shop treats and pieces of paper with a lot of arrows and question marks drawn on them as I tried to articulate a connection to my work, I submitted an application.

To my surprise, I got the grant. But by explaining my work to a non-specialist audience, and by reframing it to suit the (oddly specific) requirements of the granting agency, I also got a revelation about my dissertation that allowed me to be more precise about my process and motivations. Being explicit about these components of my work led me to clearer, more accessible arguments and away from my own initial assumptions. The process of reframing was exactly what my research needed, and in the end I based my entire dissertation on the explanations I developed for the grant application.

I open with this anecdote not because I think anyone really hopes to replicate the experience of being an impoverished grad student! Instead, I want to expand on what this story suggests about serendipity and the broadening of perspective to see the grant as a potential fit. In the remainder of this post, I consider potential ways to “stack the deck” to take advantage of similar opportunities that, because they aren’t readily predictable, probably can’t form the core of a research project, but that can help to clarify or expand it in transformative ways.

To help focus my discussion, I informally canvassed grant announcements in the areas I list below, with librarian research networks in mind and an eye towards funding opportunities that seemed to sit outside of the most common or apparent funding channels. I wanted to think more about to what extent it’s possible and practical to cast a wider net for unexpected opportunities as part of the research process. Here, I’m calling these “divergent” opportunities to reflect the fact finding them often requires taking a different path than usual.

Where to look for divergent opportunities?

– Research and grant communications in adjacent/cognate disciplines, or in disciplines asking similar methodological/ethical/theoretical/practical questions
– Grants and agencies based in other countries that may offer awards with broader eligibility
– Research listservs (e.g. university-specific, H-Net groups, multidisciplinary and discipline-specific)
– Prizes (e.g. for articles, professional activities, conference papers) – these are sometimes structured around broad themes or questions, rather than specific, discipline-defined topics
– Smaller-scale grants or other opportunities may have more flexible requirements and require less investment of time if they feel like a long shot

How do we know a grant opportunity when we see it? (Or, how to think about research to encompass a broad scope of grant opportunities?)

– Research as a story: main plot points probably support the larger/most relevant funding opportunities, but side plots or incidental moments can branch out to additional, supplemental funding
– Identifying themes, questions, or concerns in common is sometimes easier than identifying a topic in common
– Conceptualizing research in terms of its relevance or novelty to a new or unexplored audience
– Describing projects to new audiences often creates new ways of depicting the importance of the research

Why invest time and effort into applications that might seem random or unlikely?

– Doesn’t have to involve a large investment of time: reframing is a way of gaining access to expanded opportunities – not changing the project, just emphasizing different aspects of it to suit broader or more diverse audiences
– Kickstarting a project that lacks direction or momentum
– Building innovative research connections and conversations
– Impetus and support for engaging ideas that might not otherwise comprise an entire research project
– Can serve as catalysts for expanding awareness/impact/scope of existing research
– Small, divergent grant applications can also become conference papers and/or articles

But is it just too out there?

– Applying for divergent grant opportunities is an exercise in determining the difference between non-negotiable ineligibility vs. finding ways to fit within requirements using novel or unexpected framing
– Innovative thinking and strong, well-justified ideas are nearly always welcome even if they don’t end up being fundable in the context of a specific grant

The question above that especially stands out to me is whether or how to justify the time spent on these kinds of divergent opportunities. In my opening anecdote, the eventual benefits were well worth the investment. But particularly given the unpredictable nature of when these opportunities crop up, that may not always be the case. Is it best to consider them as single-dose antidotes to burnout (certainly also the case in my opening anecdote), rather than as regular features of the research process? Or is there room to keep an eye out for a broader swath of seemingly unrelated opportunities as a matter of habit and as a tool for thoughtful research, just in case they lead to new insights and activities?

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.

Doing Research as a Procrastinator

by Kristin Hoffmann, University of Western Ontario

I procrastinate.

I procrastinate with my research, and in many other aspects of my work. For example, I started writing this post at 1:43pm the day before it was due. At the same time, I needed to work on a mostly-unfinished presentation for a 40-minute workshop that I was delivering the next morning, and I hadn’t yet started compiling the data for a report that was due to colleagues at the end of the week.

I get things done, but I often do them at the last minute.

I used to berate myself all the time, and feel very, very bad about my tendency to procrastinate. Then I heard a podcast with Mary Lamia, author of What Motivates Getting Things Done: Procrastination, Emotions and Success, and now I’m starting to re-frame my procrastination in way that is helpful, not shameful:

I’m motivated by deadlines.

Here is Mary Lamia’s definition of procrastinators:

“People who are primarily motivated to complete tasks when their emotions are activated by an imminent deadline. They are deadline driven.”

The idea is that our emotions are what motivate us to get things done. For some people, the emotions that motivate them come from having a task to do and wanting to complete it. For people who procrastinate, the emotions that motivate us come from deadlines.

Other characteristics of people who procrastinate include:

• Being energized and getting increased focus as a deadline gets closer,
• Feeling like they lack motivation and concentration when they try to get something done ahead of time,
• Having ideas percolating in the background, which come together as the deadline approaches.

I can see all of these in myself, and it’s been quite a revelation for me in thinking about my approach to research. In the last six months, a colleague and I have taken a research project from idea to ethics application to data gathering to analysis—thanks, in large part, to the motivation brought on deadlines. I’ve had other research ideas and papers in various stages, but I haven’t touched any of them for months; they haven’t had deadlines.

I’ve often talked with other researchers about the benefit of having external deadlines, such as conference presentations or submission deadlines. I’m realizing that my particular challenge is to figure out how to reproduce the emotional motivation of deadlines when an external due date doesn’t exist. I don’t need to feel bad about procrastinating, I just need to accept that I’m motivated by deadlines.

References and Further Reading

Lamia, Mary. What Motivates Getting Things Done: Procrastination, Emotions and Success. Rowman & Littlefield. 2017.

Blog posts by Mary Lamia at Psychology Today:
• Getting Things Done, Procrastinating or Not, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/intense-emotions-and-strong-feelings/201703/getting-things-done-procrastinating-or-not
• The Secret Life of Procrastinators and the Stigma of Delay, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/intense-emotions-and-strong-feelings/201708/the-secret-life-procrastinators-and-the-stigma
• How Procrastinators Get Things Done, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/intense-emotions-and-strong-feelings/201709/how-procrastinators-get-things-done
• Why You Should Hire a Procrastinator https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/intense-emotions-and-strong-feelings/201712/why-you-should-hire-procrastinator

Podcasts:
• CBC Tapestry, Procrastination 101, aired November 26, 2017, available at http://www.cbc.ca/radio/tapestry/procrastination-101-1.4416658
• Success.com, Ep. 85: What Type of Procrastinator Are You?, aired October 17, 2017, available at https://www.success.com/podcast/ep-85-what-type-of-procrastinator-are-you

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.

Researcher Degrees of Freedom

by Marjorie Mitchell
Research Librarian, UBC Okanagan Library

I recently learned about the concept of researcher degrees of freedom. The idea is that, as researchers, we make many decisions about the data we collect and how we analyze it (Simmons, Nelson & Simonsohn, 2011) and that these decisions have a direct impact on the results of our research. Obviously. And this is what begins to make this concept so powerful. I’ve been familiar with the idea of researcher bias, but this is a more subtle concept. I want to make it clear that I am not talking about deliberate falsifying of research results, but about the real choices a researcher who has gathered data, in any form, is faced with making during the journey from research question construction through gathering data through publication. Some of these choices include what data is being gathered and what is not, how to handle data outliers, how to group or cluster points of data when looking for significance or impact, and so on.

The concept has been around for some time and has been explored in the fields of medicine, psychology, and more widely in the sciences, where researchers were finding they could not replicate the results from published research studies. It’s spawned a whole area of research on false positive results, publication bias (more papers are published that show positive results than show negative results), selective reporting of results, and an “Open Science” network.

Evidence-based practice, no matter what field or discipline, has been one method of critically analyzing research results. It’s a valuable tool, but only one of many that can be applied. I, personally, would like to see more credit being given for rigorously trying to replicate previously conducted research. I would also like to see the publication of more null-results reports. It is incredibly handy to know a particular path is not a useful path to follow. I have to admit, I don’t know whether I’m ready to participate in the registration of my research methods in advance of collecting data. “A registration is useful for certifying what you did in a project in advance of data analysis, or for confirming the exact state of the project at important points of the lifecycle, such as manuscript submission or the onset of data collection” (Centre for Open Science, 2018). This certainly raises the bar for research.

We have a journal club in my library where we meet to discuss recent articles from the library literature. I am pleased with the “skeptical eye” we often apply to the articles we read, but I wonder whether our critical and skeptical reading ultimately makes us less biased researchers.

More often than not, it is challenging to attempt to make these decisions in advance of conducting out research. I admit to thinking “I’ll just have a look at the results of my survey before I commit to an hypothesis.” Often my research never reaches the publication stage but our research will ultimately be stronger if we try to make these decisions in advance.

I continue to look for new lenses to apply to the research I do and to the research I consume. It has not been my intent to criticize the people doing research but to discuss the challenges and struggles I wrestle with as I continue down a research path. I hope this concept will be of interest to others as well.

References
Center for Open Science. (2018).OSF FAQs What is registration? https://cos.io/our-services/top-guidelines/

Dickersin, K., Chan, S., Chalmersx, T. C., Sacks, H. S., & Smith, H. (1987). Publication bias and clinical trials. Controlled Clinical Trials, 8(4), 343-353. doi:10.1016/0197-2456(87)90155-3

Kepes, S., Banks, G. C., & Oh, I. (2014). Avoiding bias in publication bias research: The value of “null” findings. Journal of Business and Psychology, 29(2), 183-203. doi:10.1007/s10869-012-9279-0

Pickett, J. T., & Roche, S. P. (2018). Questionable, objectionable or criminal? public opinion on data fraud and selective reporting in science. Science and Engineering Ethics, 24(1), 151-171.
doi:10.1007/s11948-017-9886-2

Simmons, J. P., Nelson, L. D., & Simonsohn, U. (2011). False-positive psychology: Undisclosed flexibility in data collection and analysis allows presenting anything as significant. Psychological Science, 22(11), 1359-1366. doi:10.1177/0956797611417632

Stahl, D., & Pickles, A. (2018). Fact or fiction: Reducing the proportion and impact of false positives. Psychological Medicine, 48(7), 1084. doi:10.1017/S003329171700294X

Pickett, J. T., & Roche, S. P. (2018). Questionable, objectionable or criminal? public opinion on data fraud and selective reporting in science. Science and Engineering Ethics, 24(1), 151-171. doi:10.1007/s

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 Ethics for Canadian Academic Librarians and Archivists

by Lise Doucette
Assistant Librarian, University of Western Ontario

Background
Researchers at Canadian universities must follow the research ethics guidelines set out by the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (aka TCPS2), and this of course includes academic librarian and archivists who are conducting research. TCPS2 was developed by the Panel of Research Ethics, a group created by the three federal research agencies (SSHRC, NSERC, and CIHR) and composed of Canadian researchers.

TCPS2 guidelines are based on three interdependent and complementary principles: respect for persons, concern for welfare, and justice. Respect for persons involves respecting the autonomy of potential and actual participants, and seeking free, ongoing, and informed consent. Concern for welfare includes minimizing risks to participants, and providing potential participants with enough information about risks so that they can make an informed decision about their participation. Justice means treating people fairly and equitably, and designing the study such that processes like recruiting practices and inclusion criteria do not unfairly include or exclude certain groups (in particular, vulnerable groups).

Many academic librarians and archivists have practitioner, research, and service responsibilities. So how does research ethics relate to each of these roles?

As an individual researcher
It’s likely that at some point in your career you’ll want to do research involving students, faculty, or other librarians/archivists, using methods like interviews, surveys, or observational research. Before beginning your research, you must obtain approval from your research ethics board by submitting an application with details of your research project and methodology based on the board’s guidelines. Universities generally have two research ethics boards (for medical and non-medical research) comprised primarily of researchers at that institution, as well as research ethics officers and administrative staff.

The two most important things I recommend as a researcher: first, learn how to write a good research ethics application. Consult with colleagues who have previously submitted successful applications, and follow the board’s guidelines carefully. Make it exceedingly clear to the board what potential participants will experience in your study. Second, build the research ethics approval process into your timeline. When you’re excited about your research project, you want to get started, and it can be frustrating to be waiting for approval. Plan ahead as much as possible – for example, if you want to interview undergraduate students, submitting your ethics application in March may mean that it’s approved just as students are in the April exam period and then leaving for the summer. Work backwards from your desired study date and build in extra time for the ethics approval process.

As a member of the academic community at your institution

At some universities, librarians and archivists have a seat on the non-medical research ethics board. This is a great service opportunity. By serving on the board at Western for two years, I learned a lot about the amount of thought and care board members put into reviewing the applications from the potential participants’ viewpoints, as well as what types of issues regularly require revision in order to be approved. After reviewing and providing feedback on dozens of applications, I also learned what kind of language (concise and clear!) makes these applications easy for board members to read – remember that board members will be reviewing applications from researchers in many disciplines. It can be a fascinating and rewarding experience that will help you to better design your own research studies to meet ethical requirements.

If your university doesn’t have a seat on the board for librarians or archivists, consider approaching the research ethics office or the Chair of the non-medical research ethics board to discuss the possibility. Some groups (such as librarians/archivists and other academic departments in my own institution) have multiple people assigned to the same seat. With 12 meetings of the board per year, four librarian or archivist members each attend three of the meetings per year and also review delegated (low-risk) applications outside of meetings.

As a practitioner
As practitioners, especially those of us who do work related to assessment or user experience, we often conduct studies in our own libraries to better understand our users and make improvements to our online and physical spaces and services. TCPS2 states that “quality assurance and quality improvement studies … do not constitute research for the purposes of this Policy, and do not fall within the scope of REB review” (TCPS2 Article 2.5). This means that studies undertaken to make improvements to library services or resources, when there is no intention of publishing and sharing the results more widely, do not need to be reviewed by the research ethics board

In such situations, I would encourage colleagues to set the same ethical standards for themselves for internal studies as they do for more formal research projects, and to apply the concepts of respect for persons, concern for welfare, and justice to their recruitment and methodology. Thinking through these concepts as they apply to different aspects of your study will help you design a better study and feel more confident that human participants are being treated ethically.

Learning more

• Read the policy: Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans
• Your local research ethics board may require that you complete TCPS2 training before becoming a board member or before submitting a research ethics application. It’s freely accessible online, and the exercises are based on realistic research situations: https://tcps2core.ca/
• Read this previous Brainwork post: Ethics are for Everyone
• Read books about research ethics (here’s a list of suggestions)
• Pick up any social sciences research methods textbook – there should be a chapter on research ethics

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

Introducing the C-EBLIP List of Peer-Reviewed Journals in LIS

by Kristin Hoffmann
University of Western Ontario

Have you ever wondered where to submit your latest research paper? Would you like to be able to identify Open Access titles in librarianship?

I am happy to announce that the C-EBLIP site now hosts a list of peer reviewed journals in library and information science (LIS). This list was created to help librarians and archivists identify journals where they can submit manuscripts for publication. To that purpose, we have developed the list with three key features in mind:

Organization by category
There are twelve categories for this list, covering a wide range of topics in LIS, which help identify journals that relate to the topic of your manuscript. The category “Library and Information Science” contains the journals that are the broadest in scope. For simplicity, we have listed each title in only one category.

Identification of Open Access and Canadian titles
Open Access (OA) journals have theOpen Access logo logo at the end of their reference. Happily, there are many more OA titles now than when we started this list in 2007, in part because all of the journals that have launched since then are OA. Since C-EBLIP is based in Canada, we have highlighted Canadian titles with Maple Leaf .

Active titles only
The list does not include journals that have ceased publication, because the goal is to help identify potential venues for publication. We have listed journals under their most recent title, with previous titles provided in the entry.

Selinda Berg created this list in 2007 for the Librarians and Archivists Research Support Network at the University of Western Ontario, based on information from Ulrichs Serials Directory. I have since maintained this list in print, and we have shared it as part of the participant handouts at each Librarians’ Research Institute, updating it with newly created journal titles. Moving it to the C-EBLIP site means that this list is now publicly available and online.

In moving the list online, I reviewed each title over the past few months to check that the basic information about the journal was complete and up to date. Over the coming year, my plan is to add brief annotations to each title based on the focus and scope as described on the website for each journal.

There are almost certainly more titles we could add to this list, and despite our best efforts there may be typos or other errors. If you notice any incomplete or incorrect information about a title, or if you would like to suggest additional titles to include on this list, please comment here or write to Virginia Wilson, virginia.wilson@usask.ca

By the numbers
Journals currently on this list: 115
Open Access journals: 35
Canadian journals: 5
Journals that have launched since 2007: 14
Journals that have launched since 2007 and are Open Access: 14
Journals that have changed their name since 2007: 10

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.

Working together to join Software Carpentry in New England

By
Lora Leligdon, Dartmouth College Library
Kristin Lee, Tisch Library, Tufts University
Joshua Dull, Yale University Library

It seems that great collaborative efforts come together through a magical combination of timing, a common problem, and a group of enthusiastic people. This has definitely been the case with the creation of the New England Software Carpentry Library Consortium (affectionately known as NESCLiC), where seven New England institutions of higher ed are joining forces to provide researchers with the basic coding and data toolkit that will help them get the most out of their projects.

If you are unfamiliar with the Software Carpentry (SC) family of organizations, its basic mission is to “[teach] researchers the computing skills they need to get more done in less time and with less pain” (https://software-carpentry.org/about/). Membership in the SC organization has many advantages, like faster access to instructor training (so that we can teach the workshops), access to the rest of the community and curricula, and the ability to use the widely-recognized Software Carpentry branding to promote workshops that we teach on our own campuses. There are trained SC instructors all over the world and those instructors specialized in different aspects of the curriculum. This could mean that they know a particular coding language very well or that they have special insight into how those skills can translate into a certain discipline. This is a dynamic and growing community.

The NESCLiC members decided to join as a consortium for both practical and philosophical reasons. SC offers tiers of membership, and as a group we were able to join at the top level (Gold). This allows the seven schools to get 15 people trained as instructors. We have members from different areas of academic librarianship and technology including the digital humanities, statistics and HPC, STEM and medical libraries, and data librarians. We are all familiar with aspects of the SC curriculum at different levels, and intend to work together to make sure that everyone is supported to learn new skills, apply the rusty ones, and provide the best workshops to our communities. Self-organized workshops are free with our membership, so we will have the opportunity put what we learn into action.

Our first group activity is to attend a SC workshop as learners. This workshop, led by James Adams from Dartmouth, will give us the chance to see what it is like to be a workshop participant – which is essential as we learn how to provide this instruction. It will also let us get to know each other beyond our Slack team so that we can all put a face and a voice together with an avatar and email address. Creating connections within our diverse group will also allow us to broaden our professional networks and think about new approaches to research and coding. Once our 15 members are trained as SC instructors, we hope to not only provide training, resources, and support for our institutions, but also to other new England institutions that may not have the needed resources or staff.

I realize that a lot of this post is about possibilities. This first year is a pilot for us; not just to see how Software Carpentry works in our schools but also to find ways for information and technology professionals in New England to combine our collective resources and skills to provide programming that might be impossible if we all act alone. In this world of greater demands, smaller budgets, and broader interdisciplinary and inter-university research connections, this kind of consortium seems like a great way to meet the needs of our communities.

The NESCLiC organizing team includes:
Andrew Creamer, Scientific Data Management Librarian, Brown University
Lora Leligdon, Physical Sciences Librarian, Dartmouth College
Julie Goldman, Countway Research Data Services Librarian, Harvard University
Sarah Oelker, Science Librarian, Mount Holyoke College
Kristin Lee, Research Data Librarian, Tufts University
Thea Atwood, Data Services Librarian, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Joshua Dull, Research Data Support Specialist, Yale University

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

Cultivating a Culture of Curiosity? The Benefits of Doing So if Research is on Your Mind

by Virginia Wilson, Director
Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice (C-EBLIP_
University of Saskatchewan, Canada

[This post was originally published on the LARK Library Applied Research Kollektive blog on August 31, 2017.]

Many information organizations strive to create a culture of research for different reasons. Some, like many Canadian academic libraries, do so to encourage their librarians who are required to conduct and disseminate research for professional advancement, i.e. tenure, permanent status. Others have embraced evidence based library and information practice (EBLIP) where research alongside professional expertise and what the users want/need is prevalent. Still others see research as an important part of librarianship where research can inform practice. And then there are combinations of the above. Indeed, our own University Library has spent the last 10 years developing a robust culture of research, where research and scholarly activity are supported and encouraged, as librarians are faculty members and on the tenure track. We also consider the tenets of EBLIP in our practice of professional skills.

However, many librarians do not have extensive training in the research enterprise. Library schools offer the obligatory research methods survey class and unless the librarian also has another graduate degree or opts for the thesis route in library school, research experience is not a given. So, when a librarian comes into a culture of research, it can be daunting and frustrating no matter what supports are offered and a common difficulty for new librarians is trying to think of or decide on a research topic. It seems to look (simplistically1) like this (click on charts for a clearer view):

Even though we ask candidates about their research interests, often the idea of the actual doing of research doesn’t hit home until the candidate is faced with the realities and requirements of the tenure process.

The research life cycle2 looks something like this:

This seems to be a robust and thorough depiction of the research process (although I might use the term “data” instead of “assets” in the Implementation box). I like how this process encourages open access publishing and includes social media as a source of impact metrics. It’s good stuff. But nowhere in this process is there a description of coming up with a research topic. It presumes that the topic is there and the research question is already at hand.

I wonder then if the idea of a “culture of research” is too late in the game. There are many different cultures an information organization can strive to create: culture of learning, culture of excellence, culture of success, but what about a culture of curiosity?

Curiosity
1: desire to know:
b: interest leading to inquiry – intellectual curiosity – Her natural curiosity led her to ask more questions.
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/curiosity

 

A culture of curiosity is in line with encouraging research amongst librarians as researchers. As defined by Merriam-Webster, curiosity is interest leading to inquiry. Fostering a culture of curiosity with the implicit and explicit aim of curiosity leading to research allows the research piece to be part of the natural process of having a question and seeking an answer. A culture of curiosity would look something like this:

Research, therefore, would be part of the process – just not the starting point.

But if the organization requires research and indeed it is part of a librarian’s job, that fact cannot be ignored. Can a librarian put that requirement to the back of their mind and go into their job all wide-eyed and curious? Surely there will be the looming spectre of research outputs and then the pressure to be curious in the right way – a way that will lead to an answerable research question. I don’t deny that the scenario could happen, and I’m not trying to institute tricking your employees into doing research as an active strategy. I believe we can have both a culture of curiosity and a culture of research, and that they will build on one another moving forward. Curiosity leads to questions which lead to research which can lead to innovation. An added bonus of working within a culture of curiosity is that curiosity will also increase employee engagement and provide the continuous impetus to examine and reflect on the work so to be open to innovation.

How does one develop a culture of curiosity? Obviously, having management that is on board with such a culture is important. However, in browsing around about this topic, I compiled four ways to encourage curiosity that anyone can try:

  1. Write agendas as questions: using the premise that employees are more engaged when they feel like they can influence the outcome, set up meetings that are as participatory as possible and encourage interest by structuring agendas in the form of questions.
  2. Encourage collaboration: because great ideas don’t generally happen in a vacuum, have employees work together often and in different groupings. They will be exposed to the talents of their co-workers and can take advantage of cross-unit ideas and inspiration.
  3. Get rid of fear by embracing failure: research and publishing can be a hot bed of disappointment. Harsh peer reviews, rejection letters, uncooperative methodologies – there are many ways to find yourself down the wrong path. An organization that calmly accepts that failure is a part of progress will enable employees to move on to the next thing faster and with confidence.
  4. Encourage questioning: while it is true that constant questioning has the risk of causing defensiveness, realistic questioning of policy and processes can help to stimulate new ways of thinking and new ways of doing the work. This is also the place where research topics are born.

A culture of curiosity will benefit not only the librarians who have research as a mandate, but also all the library employees who are working in the information organization and the organization itself. Encouraging curiosity, creativity, and innovation can help in a sea of constant change. And in our fast-paced work world, keeping pace with or ahead of change will serve us all better. And if a research mandate is on the table, curiosity is a must to achieve something relevant and useful.

Works consulted
Goodman, R. (2016, June 1). How to build a culture of curiosity [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.rickgoodman.com/build-culture-curiosity/

Kalra, A.S. (2015, October 23). 10 ways to build a culture of curiosity. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from  http://www.humanresourcesonline.net/10-ways-build-curious-company/

Karl, A. (2013, November). Create a culture of curiosity: guest blog by Allan Karl. [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://marksanborn.com/create-a-culture-of-curiosity-guest-blog-by-allan-karl/

Milway, K.S. and Goldmark, A. (2013, September 18). Four ways of cultivating a culture of curiosity [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2013/09/four-ways-to-cultivate-a-culture-of-curiosity

1I say simplistically up above because of course candidates at our library know prior to being hired that they must do research. We focus on it specifically during the hiring process to avoid blindsiding someone coming in.
2“Research Life Cycle” image from UC Irvine Library Digital Scholarship Services Found on University of Michigan Scientific Discovery Path of Excellence – An Information Resource Starter Kit http://guides.lib.umich.edu/DiscoveryPoE

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

Academic social networking sites – boon or bane of institutions?

by Nicole Eva
University of Lethbridge
Alberta, Canada

At our University, we are struggling with getting researchers to understand the value of the institutional repository. They think that putting their output in Academia.edu or ResearchGate is equivalent to putting it into the IR. It’s not, and the reasons are many: as public, for-profit entities these sites are likely to start monetizing their services (as was seen this spring with Academia.edu); there is no guarantee that these for-profit entities will remain in perpetuity (and in fact, it’s quite likely they will not); and they aren’t truly ‘open’, as obtaining copies of articles posted requires a login (even if that login is free) and thus does not comply with some funders’ Open Access mandates. Not to mention the trouble they could get into if they are posting versions of the article online for which they’ve signed away their copyrights.

I had the idea that we could view the researchers associated with our institution that have posted in Academia.edu and ResearchGate and contact them to see if they would allow us to harvest their articles for deposit in our IR as well. In hindsight, I should not have been surprised that a number of the scholars listed under the University of Lethbridge were not actually members of our faculty. Many were listed as either Graduate or Undergraduate students, the latter of which I wasn’t aware were part of the target market for these products, and neither of which generally posted any actual articles – presumably they set up their profiles simply to follow other researchers. But others were listed as department members who clearly had no affiliation with the University. There was much ambiguity and lack of authority control in the selection of department listings, including at least one that was completely fabricated.

It made me really question the value of these tools – shouldn’t there be some sort of screening mechanism? There are also a few researchers with a two profiles within one site, with no way to merge the two. It is possible, whether purposely or accidentally, to set up more than one profile using different email addresses. A vetting process in ensuring the registrant has an email address associated with the institution they claim to be a part of would solve this problem in addition to the imposter problem. Allowing non-institutional email addresses may be by design, as Alumni are also allowed to create profiles and may no longer have access to their institutional email. But if these sites claim to be academic in nature, should there not be some sort of authority control or vetting process? What is the damage to the institution if multiple profiles associated with them are not legitimate? What if some of the articles posted by these phony researchers are terrible, tarnishing the university’s reputation? Should universities be taking a more active role in shaping these tools, or at least monitoring them? I have always told people that I see no harm in creating profiles as it just spreads the research wider (but recommend rather than posting papers on these that they redirect via URL to the institutional repository) but now I wonder if in fact these sites could be doing our institution more harm than good.

It was fortuitous that I began this process, because as these questions began to rise to mind I realized I could have a research project here. A quick literature search suggests that little to nothing has been done looking at these sites and asking these questions. There is a lot on how researchers feel about them, and how their metrics compare to more traditional metrics – but nothing looking at the institutional impact. I’ve been struggling for a few months with researcher’s block, feeling uninspired and unmotivated to start a new project; in fact, my lack of excitement over my planned research for a study leave led me to withdraw my application. Stumbling upon this was quite fortuitous so I’m hoping I manage to turn it into something useful. Perhaps not enough to sustain a study leave, but at least enough to get me out of my rut and get publishing again.

What do you counsel faculty members about creating academic social networking profiles? Do you think these tools have an obligation to institutions to try to provide a gatekeeping mechanism against fake profiles? Does it matter? I’m curious to hear others’ thoughts on this topic.

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

Public Library Research by Public Librarians

By Meghan O’Leary, MLIS
Collections and Reader’s Librarian, John M. Cuelenaere Public Library
Prince Albert, Saskatchewan

Most people reading this blog will already be familiar with the research process, so this post will not go into much detail on that. What I am going to talk about are research methods public librarians may want to utilize, as well as some other factors they will have to consider before getting started on a research project.

First, what type of research methods work well for public library research projects? Most of the research I do at my public library is statistics based; however, the following are some research methods that could work well for public library research. Leedy and Ormrod’s (2013) Practical Research: Planning and Design was the textbook we used in school and it is a great resource if you are trying to think of appropriate methods for your project. You may have a different method you think would work well in a public library setting, so I encourage you to comment and share your ideas!

Qualitative

    • Reference interviews
    • Focus groups
    • Photo narrative with follow-up interviews – Shailoo Bedi & Jenaya Webb (2017) wrote an excellent article about using photographic methods in library research. See the full reference down below.
    • Public consultation sessions
    • Qualitative questionnaires

Quantitative

  • Statistics (patron stats, collections stats, usage stats, etc.)
  • Anonymous surveys
  • Quantitative questionnaires
  • Behavioural mapping

The second factor public librarians need to consider before starting a study is the ethical framework behind their research methodology. When I was in library school I was taught that if you are dealing with one-on-one humans, asking personal questions, you need to get ethics approval before getting started. With the help of Virginia Wilson, Director of C-EBLIP, I contacted Beryl Radcliffe, Human Research Ethics Specialist (Behavioural) from the University of Saskatchewan’s Research Ethics Board (REB) and asked her some clarifying questions about research ethics for public libraries. According to Beryl, public libraries are not required to go through a REB to do research, nor is there really any mechanism for them to do so. There are some for-profit REBs out there but applications are expensive and are usually only used for clinical trials. Public library research tends to deal mostly with improvement of programs, assessment, and physical space; therefore, it is not necessary to get ethics approval. There is no point in wasting funds to get approval you do not need. If there is no need to go through a REB for public libraries where can public librarians go for approval of their research project? The first step would be to talk to your superiors and seek approval from your library’s Board of Directors. Second, check with your local professional association, for example, the Saskatchewan Library Association, to see if there are any research guidelines listed for their members.

On top of answering my questions, Beryl also gave me some helpful ethics tips for public librarians wanting to do research:

  • Go through an REB application process, even if you do not intend to submit it because it will help you with planning your research project and will usually provide templates for consent forms, agreements, etc. The University of Saskatchewan REB documents are online and free to look at and use. Institutional REBs, such as the University of Saskatchewan REB, cannot approve unaffiliated research, but going through the process will ensure that you have covered all your bases, so to speak.
  • Tell people why you are asking them questions and what you plan to do with the information you gather. If you let people know how you plan to use the information people tend to be more open with their answers, which can provide better data.
  • If you are still concerned about research ethics you can take the TCPS 2 Tutorial Course on Research Ethics (CORE) and get your certificate of completion. Here is the link: http://pre.ethics.gc.ca/eng/education/tutorial-didacticiel/

Since I briefly mentioned it before, I will now talk about the third factor that public librarians should consider before starting their research project – funding. Doing research does not have to cost a lot of money. There are, however, unavoidable expenses that come with doing research. The money for travel costs or honorariums, for example, needs to come from somewhere. There are grants available online, and if your research is going to be used to further develop and improve your library, attaining one of these grants should be a simple matter. Consider which sector your research falls under and search for grants in that area. For example, if your research deals with programming for senior citizens, consider a grant from Employment and Social Development Canada or New Horizons for Seniors. If your research is specifically about the library building, apply for community infrastructure grants. For example, last year Western Economic Diversification Canada offered a Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program grants.

If you are unsuccessful in obtaining a grant, try pitching your research project to your library board. Explain why you want to do the research, why it is important for the library, and why you need funds to accomplish it. There may be reserve funds that can be brought forward to help with your research. Another option is to approach your professional organization and see if they offer grants for research, or ask if there are any funds available for research in exchange for future conference presentations.

The last thing public librarians should consider before starting their research projects is how to gain access to scholarly articles when, generally speaking, public libraries do not have access to academic journal databases. Or, if public libraries do have access to some academic journals through a database subscription they tend to be quite limited. There are a few options one can consider. First, check to see if you have access to your alma mater’s online journals. Most of the time, as an alumna, you will have access to the journals if you are physically on site. If this is not possible for you due to distance, your next best option is to search for open access journals. Evidence Based Library and Information Science hosted by the University of Alberta Learning Services is an excellent resource, but also check out the Directory of Open Access Journals to find some peer-reviewed journals in the discipline you are researching. There are some other ways to get the articles you need, such as the Twitter #icanhazpdf hashtag, SciHub, and LibGen; however, it would be better to try and get what you need through more official sources.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post, and I hope if you are a public librarian wanting to do research you found this article helpful. If you have any other tips for public librarians please leave a comment!

References
Leedy, P. D. & Ormrod, J. E., (2013). Practical research: Planning and design. (10th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.

Bedi, S. & Webb, J. (2017). Through the students’ lens: Photographic methods for research in library spaces. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 12 (2). Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.18438/B8FH33

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

Can you always do “just one more thing”?

by Jaclyn McLean, Electronic Resources Librarian
University of Saskatchewan

I grew up hearing the refrain “just one more thing” about my dad, usually around 6 p.m., as we were all sitting down to supper and his chair sat empty. One of us would say, “well, he probably had just one more thing to do.” And then we would sigh, or laugh, and eat. Now, this isn’t a post about nature/nurture, but I do find it curious that I often find myself trying to squeeze in just one more thing, at the end of the workday, or before going to sleep, and this attitude that I’ve always got time to squeeze something else in can get me into trouble.

Like now, as I am diving into not one, or two, but three new research-type endeavors (and wrapping up a fourth). All with specific and overlapping timelines; and different methodologies and topics. So how did I get there? It’s entirely my own fault, not that I feel negative about it. All of the projects are interesting, variously collaborative and solo, focused on publishing, presentation, and art curation. I am excited about all of them, and can’t wait to dig in and get past this beginning stage.

Planning how the projects will intersect and cohabitate in my brain for the next few months is key. To that end, I’ve been working out a detailed Gantt chart, and working on accepting that this chart will change on a weekly, if not daily, basis. I enjoy having lots on the go, different projects and ideas to divert my attention. I also like making lists, schedules, and organizing my time (and that of others, my collaborators should be warned). A key to my success is going to be paying attention to this careful planning and checking in regularly on the established timelines, shifting and nudging things around as things change.

I need to accept that this will all feel overwhelming at some point down the road. Probably when the days get shorter, and the deadlines loom much closer than they do today. Because you see, this isn’t the first time I’ve found myself with a lot on my plate. And I’ve learned that if I can do all the pre-planning, and have an established plan to shift and flex with, I am more effective. Flexibility and rolling with the punches is not my nature, but I am optimistic, and excited about the opportunities coming my way with these projects (and those that might emerge out of them in the future).

But it’s also time to sit on my hands, and stop coming up with new ideas of things I would like to do. Because I need to make sure I don’t exceed my capacity, and switch my perspective from excitement to dread, from optimism to overwhelmed. Stopping the flow of new ideas isn’t something I’ll be able to stick to (it’s good to recognize your own flaws, right?), but I am committing here, in this public forum, to write them down for later, or share them with someone else who might be able to take them and run. And I will keep reminding myself that my slate is full for this year. And as we head into a fresh new academic year, doesn’t that sound exciting?

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