Encourage better data management in research groups: a #Scidata16 approach

Last week I attended the conference “Better Science through better data” or #Scidata16 for short, organised by Nature’s journal Scientific Data and the Wellcome Collection. From its inception, the first Scidata conference back in 2014 wascidata16-1s a highly enlightening event and so were the subsequent in 2015 and this year’s (2016).


At the end of this post you will find a list of reports by other participants which give a very detailed account of the day, so I thought, instead of repeating the day in a linear fashion, to pick some questions from the audience and respond to those based on the proceedings.


The organisers this year used sli.do to capture audience engagement and it was nice for me to experience it from the participant’s side rather than the instructor’s, and use it to quickly up-vote questions appearing from others, especially early career researchers.

The honours of the first question comes from Twitter rather than sli.do and go to Ben Britton who is one of my academic colleagues.



How can we encourage better data management in our research groups?

This is a universal question, prominent throughout the conference, expressed in different ways such as:


  • How can we build a better culture of reproducibility? [Sli.do question from Erica Brockmeier]
  • How do you convince your PI to share data, particularly pre-publication? [Sli.do question from Anonymous]
  • Everyone here agrees with you – we need open data. The problem is that most people outside this conference can’t be bothered. How do we get THEM to care? [Sli.do question from Anonymous]
  • Have you had any push back from colleagues and peers for sharing all your data? [Sli.do question from Anonymous]
  • How much are problems with data management simply problems with a historical lack of knowledge on best practice? Can we teach old dogs new tricks? [Sli.do question from Anonymous]
  • How to convince your supervisor to make your data open source? What arguments and advantages? [Sli.do question from Anonymous]
  • Why should I make my data and work transparent when no one else does? [Sli.do question from Anonymous]


If we accept that one of the advantages of Data management is to make your data reproducible, then the keynote by Dr Florian Markowetz  at the start of the day explored a set of motivations and reasons why every researcher should care for reproducible research. No matter how idealistic it is to believe that at the core of science there is the ability to reproduce experiments, and definitely the right and honourable thing to do and of course the world would be a better place if everyone did it, in reality the academic career is a very competitive and demanding path where a long CV and a list of publications matter a lot.

With this in mind Florian suggested 5 selfish reasons to work reproducibly:

  1. Avoid Disaster (from a small to large-scale disasters good Data management practice saves you time in the long run whenever you need to return to your data for further analysis or revalidation of results – see for example a big career disaster which happened while transferring data across spreadsheets (Kolata, 2011),  or not being able to validate your own results (Markowetz, 2015).
  2. Easier to write papers (good documentation of code and data enables us to look up numbers and transfer them in the manuscript, be confident that figures and tables are up-to-date and of course computational data handling results in automatic and flawless update when data change).
  3. Easier to talk to reviewers (This is especially important when you submit articles for peer review. The reviewers can go to your data, check your analysis and test for themselves any suggestion for improvement before returning to you with their feedback).
  4. Continuity of your work in the lab (People move their careers across Institutions/labs and good documentation can ensure the continuity of a research project especially a long-term one without needing to start all over again). Scidata2016-3
  5. Reputation (PhD students and Postdocs engaging with reproducible research and Data management have the opportunity to learn new tools and apply this knowledge in their daily routine. Automatically this contributes to a cutting-edge skillset and more and better career opportunities. The PIs -Principal Investigators- also create a culture of best practice and reproducibility in their own labs, resulting in better research and leading by example).


Dr Jenny Molloy emphasised the benefits of being an open researcher drawing from her own experience as an early career researcher.

Data Sharing Benefits

Data Sharing Benefits

Open research:

  • accelerates career recognition;
  • leads to citations to your own research;
  • opens new possibilities for collaborations;
  • career opportunities in Open Science projects.

Dr Kevin Ashley reiterated some of the “selfish” reasons to engage with reproducible research adding the current funding mandates. With this in mind, not all data should be made open. There are always exceptions when data should be safeguarded, however a statement on how the underlying data can be accessed (a “data access statement”) is essential and required by funders.

Royston Robertson from Ludic Creatives produced this fantastic Scrib

Royston Robertson from Ludic Creatives produced this fantastic Scrib

There were asked many great questions during the day. In subsequent posts I will try to address some of those drawing from the other talks on the day.

Check back for more posts under the #scidata16 tag.





References mentioned above:

Kolata, G. (2011) How bright promise in Cancer testing fell apart. The New York Times. Available from: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/08/health/research/08genes.html?_r=0 [Accessed: 1 November 2016].

Markowetz, F. (2015) Five selfish reasons to work reproducibly. Genome Biology.  16 (1), 274. Available from: doi:10.1186/s13059-015-0850-7 [Accessed: 10 November 2016].

Reports and Recordings:

Follow the recordings and the presentations from the event at the Scientific Data blog


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Designing Evidence-based education technology: What the Research Says


If you haven’t seen this event announcement, you still have 22 hours to sign up to attend for FREE!

The London Knowledge Lab team has brought together an excellent programme of researchers to discuss how we can build upon evidence derived from research in order to improve the quality of instruction.

I will be attending the event and hopefully I will report my main takeaways via the blog here.

Nymphaea Waterlilly taken by Eleni Zazani, May 2015

Nymphaea Waterlilly taken by Eleni Zazani, May 2015


Read more at the London Knowledge Lab Innovations website and book your place at Eventbrite.


Morris & Hiebert (2011). Creating Shared Instructional Products: An Alternative Approach to Improving Teaching. Educational researcher, 40(1), 5-14.

Cooper, A. (2010) knowledge mobilization intermediaries in education. Available at http://www.oise.utoronto.ca/rspe/userfiles/file/csse2010kmintermediariesfinal.doc

Bell, M. Cordingley, P., Isham., C. & Davis., R. (2010) report of professional practitioner use of research review: practitioner engagement in and/or with research. Coventry: CUREE, GTCE, LSIS & NTRP. Available at: http://www.curee‐paccts.com/node/2303

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Make a start with Ethnography in Libraries

On Monday 23rd of March I had a great opportunity to participate in a workshop, delivered by Donna Lanclos at the Imperial College Library, on Ethnographic Research Methods.

Donna has a unique professional identity; she is an Anthropologist employed by an Academic Library, the J. Murrey Atkins Library, UNC Charlotte, and applies Anthropological Research in this context.

There are too many takeaways from this workshop, the first one being that Librarians have a lot to learn from engaging with Research Methods in general and Ethnography in particular.

Here are some of my major reflective moments:

What is a Visitor and what is a Resident

The workshop started with disentangling the notions of Visitors and Residents developed by David White.

Very often we think of a digital space in conjunction with our persona and the kind of identity we develop. There has been a lot of buzz in recent years around visitors, residents, natives, immigrants and so forth but this session came to clarify the original thinking behind these notions as a mode of behaviour, motivation and presence in a digital space.

Visitors and Residents continuum

Visitors and Residents continuum (White & Le Cornu, 2011, p.7) Image is linked to the original.

So being in a Visitor mode means that we interact in a digital space without leaving a trace by means of contributing. For instance, we have a Twitter account but we use it as a news-stream or observe what others are doing without posting anything.

At the other end of the spectrum we operate as Residents when we contribute and have an active presence in a digital space.

Let’s map our engagement

Talking about digital engagement in an abstract way does not create a massive impact or any major reflective thinking. What happens though if we visualise this engagement?

Donna asked us to map our behaviours illustrating our digital presence across four axes (as per figure below)

I was amazed by the diversity of visualisations and the subsequent interpretations within our group.

I found the mapping an important reflective activity for our engagement with the web and our motivations, allowing us the time to think if we are happy as is or whether we would like to change something.

Looking at my map I realised that it is very difficult for me to map my engagement within its constraints and differentiate between the Institutional and the personal.

For example:

  • When leading an academic life within a “support” role, what is Institutional and what is personal?
  • For one with a portfolio career, which/who is the Institution?
  • How can the perception of our identity be compartmentalised into defined boxes?
  • When does the mode become identity?
Eleni Zazani’s V&R mapping activity

Eleni Zazani’s V&R mapping activity

In my map, I also found a recurring theme; my motivation is always about sharing and connecting.

Observing a silent study space

Donna divided us in pairs to visit different areas of the library and observe what is happening in a very structured way. She gave us ten general ethnographic domains:

1.    Setting 2.    Space
3.    Acts 4.    Objects
5.    Activities 6.    Time
7.    Events 8.    Goals
9.    Actors 10. Emotions

…and asked us to record our notes by drawing a map and observe locations, pathways, tools and interactions: In particular our notes should respond to

  • Where are the people in the space?
  • How are people moving through the space?
  • What tools people are using and where are these used?
  • Where are people interacting and what are they doing?

While wondering who the lucky colleagues assigned to the Library Café having a chance to smell the brewing coffee are, my colleague and I climbed up the silent study area. Donna allowed us 15 minutes for observing and some time for transferring our notes from the map to a full narrative.

What can happen in the silent study area? (Literally silent)

Our notes exceeded our expectations. Despite the silence there was a wealth of things to observe and record. Without immersing ourselves in our own interpretations we could see the stress of students while approaching the exams period. The desks were full of energy boosting products such as caffeine, vitamins, lots of water and fruit.

Writing up observations:

So what?…


There are many more digital places I use but didn’t include in my map. Many of us more or less noticed this pattern. It seems that places we use yet didn’t map have completely been embedded in our practice as if they are invisible.

Observation as a research method:

  • Despite our assumption that students replace paper with tablets or digital paper applications, those in the silent study overwhelmingly used a lot of paper-based notes and printed books. The devices were present but not dominant.
  • Recording our notes from a 15-minute observation took much longer than the observation itself. If you want to engage in this type of research method be prepared to allow more time than what you may have anticipated.
  • Furniture sets expectations of space usage.
  • Some students had “claimed” a study space by leaving their belongings unattended. What can “claimed spaces” tell us?
  • Donna suggested that when decisions are made, as a response to these observations, it is important for everyone involved to have institutional support in case of failure in the interpretation.
  • Iteration is very important in Ethnography.

Observation is only one of the instruments; others can be interviews, cognitive mapping, photo-diaries etc.

References and other resources:

David White on:

White, D., Connaway, L.S., Lanclos, D., Hood, E.M., et al. (2014) Evaluating digital services: a Visitors and Residents approach. [Online]. 2014. JIsc InfoNet. Available from: http://www.jiscinfonet.ac.uk/infokits/evaluating-services/ [Accessed: 27 March 2015].

White, D.S. & Le Cornu, A. (2011) Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday; Volume 16, Number 9 – 5 September 2011. [Online] Available from: http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3171/3049.

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Students as Partners


Since I completed my PGCert at IOE, I value opportunities to attend events where HE educators come together to reflect on their practice. The Annual Education Day at Imperial was no exception. This year’s theme was dedicated on considering our practice while partnering with students and learning from each other.

In order to prepare for the day prior to the event we were asked to read a recent report on engagement through partnership (Healey, Flint & Harrington, 2014). When Mick Healey (one of the authors of the report) came along to deliver the morning programme we were all prepared to unpack the idea of partnership and challenge our practices.

I found the ideas of students as partners to perfectly align with my personal philosophy of learning and teaching in the Higher Education context (Zazani, 2014).  Mick challenged us to think of students’ contribution beyond giving them a voice.  Instead, he suggested an engagement where students and staff are collaborators and co-creators in bringing about change. In that sense partnership is a joint responsibility, an engagement process and not an outcome.  As a process, it is governed by eight values:

“Authenticity – all parties have a meaningful rationale for investing in partnership, and are honest about what they can contribute and the parameters of partnership;

Inclusivity – partnership embraces the different talents, perspectives and experiences that all parties bring, and there are no barriers (structural or cultural) that prevent potential partners getting involved;

Reciprocity – all parties have an interest in, and stand to benefit from, working and/or learning in partnership;

Empowerment – power is distributed appropriately and all parties are encouraged to constructively challenge ways of working and learning that may reinforce existing inequalities;

Trust – all parties take time to get to know each other, engage in open and honest dialogue and are confident they will be treated with respect and fairness;

Challenge – all parties are encouraged to constructively critique and challenge practices, structures and approaches that undermine partnership, and are enabled to take risks to develop new ways of working and learning;

Community – all parties feel a sense of belonging and are valued fully for the unique contribution they make;

Responsibility – all parties share collective responsibility for the aims of the partnership, and individual responsibility for the contribution they make.”

(Healey, Flint & Harrington, 2014, p.14,15)


During the morning parallel workshops, I joined the group that looked at students as partners in the course design.  Colleagues drew examples from their teaching practice and we all became aware of some excellent models of co-creation of learning design.

Some of the benefits of working in partnership that we identified are:

  • Focus of students’ perspective: Ideas are coming from students and are intended for students.
  • Content of course is always fresh: students bring their fresh ideas into the design.
  • Disseminating power and expertise: Removing the expertise from the teacher and putting it in the room. From a rigid position to a constant flow.
  • Students have more brilliant ideas than us and there is true benefit to everyone exposed in that sharing of ideas.
  • Sense of community and interaction


This student’s contribution in particular put me in a reflective mode to examine my practice and identify the value in the face-to-face teaching. If students can follow a video and learn the “how to”, the true value comes from the interaction and ownership of learning, understanding all the “whys”, and leaving the room with some unanticipated learning outcomes.

Another important takeaway from the day came from the section discussing challenges and barriers as a result of partnering with students. In particular, it was noted that occasionally students’ feedback is harsh. They don’t know how to deliver constructive feedback which is frequently confused with judgemental criticism.

A suggested solution to tackle inappropriate feedback came from a student noting that it is important to train undergraduate students on how to deliver constructive feedback.

Some other challenges mentioned were:

  • Partnership puts a lot of pressure to teachers.
  • It takes a lot of effort to build accountability on both sides and
  • It becomes very difficult to manage students’ expectations (sometimes the origin of harsh feedback).

There are a few more points that ignited my imagination during the afternoon activities such as the passionate teaching in the Chemistry Department. From a big idea of teaching students self-efficacy with a LEGO spectrometer to a simple operational detail of timetabling lunch-time breaks during Lab sessions. (Credits go to Prof. John de Mello for the timetabling algorithm).

I paused on a comment by a Chemistry student while expressing his views on the value of engagement in the Department:



Another good practice example came from the Materials Department; Dr David Dye and his student Iacopo Russo shared how the teaching time is used to tackle threshold concepts with peer-instruction. David “flips the classroom” with recording his lectures and making them available to students prior to the “lecture”.  The actual teaching time is used by the whole class to challenge their understanding, to make meaning and develop critical thinking and problem-solving attributes. David Dye and his student Iacopo confirmed that these lectures are very well attended despite being scheduled as a first slot on Monday mornings and his having released the content beforehand. Without doubt what motivates students to participate is not the content but the sense of belonging and interaction.

Now, if you, like me, wondered why your students are passively attending a lecture, David’s remark may remind you, like it did to me, that lectures are not working! Why? Because… dr.David-Dye


The day concluded with Dr Tansy Jessop bringing her research-based perspective on the “assessment diet”, especially the one the modular provision of courses creates. Tancy Jessop brought along students’ data resulting from the TESTA (Transforming the Experience of students through Assessment) project.

For me, being in a Department that we don’t traditionally exercise summative assessment, it is a real luxury to be able to focus my energy on Assessing for Learning (AfL) than assigning grades. On the other hand, for the same reason, students see the Library interaction as less important and don’t tend to participate in AfL activities even if I offer personalised feedback. Those few, in the past, who took up the opportunity confirm Tessy’s assertion that the learning journey for both students and teachers is very rewarding despite the risky nature of innovative assessment and feedback.  It’s all about perspective!


Healey, M., Flint, A. & Harrington, K. (2014) Engagement through partnership: students as partners in learning and teaching in higher education. The Higher Education Academy. [Online]. Available from: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/engagement-through-partnership-students-partners-learning-and-teaching-higher-education [Accessed: 12 March 2015].

Zazani, E. (2014) Transformative and social constructivist approaches to designing courses and curricula: A portfolio. London, UCL. Institute of Education [Unpublished].

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British Library Labs Text Mining forum, 27 November 2014

I am looking forward to attending this event and reporting back via the blog later!

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Better Science through better data

On Friday 14th Nov I attended a half day conference organised by the Scientific Data,  in Nature’s HQ dedicated on the publishing of research data and its contribution to a better science.

More than 95% of the participants were either PhD or Postdoctoral researchers while the rest comprised of the organisers and 2 Librarians. (One more apart from myself).

The well balanced programme offered the perspective of publishers via Phil Campbel (editor in Nature), Iain Hrynaszkiewicz (Scientific Data Journal), of editors such as Monica Contestabile (Nature Climate Change) and Andrew Hufton (Scientific Data Journal), and of Research Data Managers like Veerle Van den Eynden (UK Data Archive) and Sally Rumsey (Digital Research Librarian, The Bodleian Libraries). The event wouldn’t have been complete without the voice of a curator, in this case Susanna Sansone, of a funder, David Carr from the Wellcome Trust, and of a scientific entrepreneur and founder of Figshare, Mark Hanhel.

Artwork from the venue

Artwork from the venue, photo taken by Eleni Zazani

Although I tweeted most of my takeaway messages, I would like to revisit these notes and reflect on the positive points made during the event.

As with all the evolving trends within Academia, the one of managing scientific data calls for an institutional cultural change…

… and although there are varied approaches in funders’ requirements, all have identified the need to cultivate a culture of data sharing and to raise awarenesses of and to integrate openness as easily as possible in the researchers’ workflow.

Top tips for researchers

What a good Research Data Management (RDM) Plan should look like to attract funding? David Carr from the Wellcome Trust suggests that an RDM plan should have clarity in responding to seven important questions:

What Funders look in a RDM Plan

What Funders look in a RDM Plan


How to choose a Data Repository:

Andrew Hufton suggests..

Andrew Hufton suggests..

 A Librarian’s advice of RDM:

Advice to Researchers from Sally Rumsey (University of Oxford

Advice to Researchers from Sally Rumsey. (University of Oxford)

Sally suggested that researchers should seek advice from their librarians; while in many universities RDM policies and infrastructure, in general, are in their infancy, we, as librarians, can take Sally’s  recommendations and use them as a starting point in raising our awareness in RDM. I was very pleased listening to Sally stressing the importance of properly citing datasets directing researchers to the Datacite’s guidance:

Editor’s advice to new researchers:

Transparency and Validity

Transparency and Validity

New publishing avenues & new type of content:

While a lot of discussion so far has been dedicated on managing data via repositories, a new publishing avenue dawns with the appearance of journals dedicated to publishing data. During the event, the case of Scientific Data Journal explained which is a new initiative from the Nature Publishing Group to offer an open-access, online-only journal where researchers have the opportunity to publish their data instead of only storing it locally. The researchers focus on a dataset generated through their research by providing a narrative, describing their data in a curated and structured manner, and by providing information of the methodologies and other technical analysis/tools used.

This new type of content in scholarly communication is called Data Descriptor!

While researchers have the opportunity of being cited for their data, and publish/describe standalone datasets, this approach will have an impact in generating quality research outputs.

I can only agree with Andrew Huffton when he mentioned the difficulty in discovering whether a research has used randomised methodologies. Last week, we spent a lot of time with a researcher shifting through a high volume of articles to establish whether individual pieces of diabetes research were randomised. In all these articles, nowhere in the text and in methodologies was the type of research being undertaken mentioned; instead we were only able to find random use of the word “randomised” and read the whole article to identify whether the route followed was the research method in question.

How much does it cost to publish in Scientific Data?

 New career Path:

Susanna explained that especially lab scientists have a lot to offer in curating datasets. They bring their valuable knowledge of the discipline, standards and vocabularies  that will enable systems to make data discoverable via the use of discipline-specific ontologies.

Semantic links between data and ontologies

Semantic links between data and ontologies

New Tools

ISA-Tools: It was really refreshing listening to a non librarian talking about the importance of metadata for reusability and discoverability. Susanna talked about tools for tracking metadata. These are called ISA tools, which stands for Investigation’ (the project context), ‘Study’ (a unit of research) and ‘Assay’ (analytical measurement).

The ISA-Tab triggered my imagination and I would like to further investigate the possibilities available for biomedical nanotechnology datasets (ISA-TAB-Nano) relevant for the Materials (Nanomaterials) Sciences researchers.

Figshare: It is one of the many possibilities for storing datasets. It was born out of Mark Hahnel’s need/frustration to be able to publish non-conventional data (videos) generated as part of his PhD. Figshare fills a needs-gap among researchers; being able to generate impact for their research and showcase the breadth of data that traditional journals cannot support.

As a personal view, I like the clean visual way pieces of research are shown on Figshare. If you have yet to explore its potential, have a look at the breadth of analytics and  visualisation in this poster I picked from its repository.

News of interest:

Data curation in (ORA-Data)

Data curation in Bodleian Libraries  (ORA-Data)

 Some recommendations for future events:

  • I found the event being invaluable for my personal understanding and for meeting other researchers; from the educator’s point of view I loved the ice-braking exercise in which we had to look in our conference bag and exchange a promotional t-shirt with that of other participants to fit our size. I would have liked to have been given 5 minutes so that I could have had the chance to talk to people rather than tuning to the introductory talk while checking the size of my t-shirt. That was a very clever activity but unfortunately we didn’t manage to break the ice.
  • At the start of the event we were asked how many of us were PhDs, or Postdoctoral researchers, and from which discipline; I need to admit that I felt a bit excluded. What if someone is a researcher but not directly linked with a PhD programme, like me writing a book, or others researching  as part of their employment with the same rigour as in a doctoral situation and still want to publish and share openly their data? An inclusive language can be a very powerful vehicle for cultural change.
  • Having said that, in a future event I would like to hear from a plurality of funders such as the voice of EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council), from the STFC (Science and Technology Facilities Council) and other RCUK councils.

Further links and resources:

Follow the recordings and the presentations from the event at the Scientific Data blog.

Read a snapshot of the event from the NatureJobs Blog.

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Deep learning and TEL: Do they have a future together?

I am really excited to have been invited today in the London Knowledge Lab to be part of the discussion of what the research says about the Potential and Impact of TEL on Teaching and Learning.

The presentations will be concurrently delivered to the audience present at the Lab and to  those who will join the event online.

To join online just follow the blackboard collaborate session that will start at 1:15 p.m

The researchers set up a survey  that explores the potential impact of Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) to kick off the discussion and bring the two audiences together. Consider to submit your views, participate in the online event and join the discussion on

 Twitter @LKLinnovations #wtrs16

Useful Links

Find more about the event at the Lab’s blog

Associated literature: the ALT-C findings and Incoming expectations of the digital environment formed at school.

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CoPILOT and OER Research Hub: A year of reflection and activities

The summer time is the ideal period for all Academic Librarians to recharge their batteries in anticipation of the new term. My recharging time includes a lot of pausing to reflect on my annual professional praxis and set new personal and professional goals for the year to come. Unlike the end of the calendar year, the academic year is complete mid-summer, a time for me to take stock and create resolutions.

This academic year has been very busy and I barely managed to blog about everything that happened. Two of my posts were about my involvement in CoPILOT and our collaboration with the OU OER Research Hub (OERRHUB).

In this post, I revisit this piece of research and reflect upon it.

CoPILOT stands for Community of Practice for Information Literacy Online Teaching and is a collaborative effort to disseminate information among librarians, fill in training needs with regards to OER and influence Open Educational Practice (OEP).

CoPILOT was the outcome of a research project and therefore any further research activities are part of the community’s DNA. This year we had the opportunity to collaborate with the researchers for the Open University Research Hub and further explore Librarians’ attitudes towards OER. Most importantly, we had the opportunity to investigate to what extent OER adoption attitudes have changed since Bueno-de-la-Fuente’s, Robertson’s & Boon’s report, (2012); De Beer’s (2012) SCORE findings; Graham’s and Secker’s report (2012), along with Harris’s (2012) and Taylor & Francis’s most recent findings (2013).

In preparation of the questionnaires, we reviewed all the known surveys that targeted Librarians’ use of OER but also we broadened our review to other reports that referred to Librarians’ role in openness in general. We believe that our roles are evolving as a result of open initiatives undertaken by our Institutions and therefore OER cannot be seen in isolation.

These reports, along with our personal interactions with colleagues, enriched our perspective and informed the formation of the questionnaires to fit a global community of Librarians.

Learning achieved:

Problem solving: While the literature review can be seen as a lonely process and due to my research interest it preceded the survey, the formation of questions was a collaborative bouncing of ideas that could start as a thinking-loudly reflective monologue evolving to a dialogic inquiry between representatives of CoPILOT and the OERRHUB researchers. That was a very productive collaborative practice giving us a taste of working remotely but effectively as a team and liaising back with our extended communities.

The surveys attracted a global pool of respondents with a decent number of Librarians offering their contact details to participate in further research. Back in February, I blogged about the preliminary results after Beck Pitt who leads the research project, posted a detailed account of the first findings.

 Learning Achieved:

The Following Infographic summarises some of the main findings:


Librarians and OER

 Note: If you want to embed this Infographic on your website please follow these instructions You can also view the Infographic at PiKtoChart

The following section reflects the broader perspective among CoPILOT members. Ella Mitchell, Chair of the Committee comments:

  • What key findings have come from evaluation activities undertaken by this piece of research?

The results concur with earlier surveys mentioned above and in the literature review. While it is good that the previous surveys have been supported by the findings of this research, it might also require some further analysis to investigate if more conclusions can be drawn from the research.

The quality of OERs seems to be questioned; perhaps, this is a reason why their use is not always so widespread. Also finding where OERs are still seems to be an issue and certainly ties with CoPILOT’s main objectives in providing training for librarians in those aspects.

One of the questions that come to mind is whether a more widespread creation of OERs would improve their quality. While less than 15% of respondents had replied to say they had created and published resources under a CC licence it seems that the demand outstrips the supply.

  • What opportunities and barriers currently exist that the project could help with?

Perhaps an opportunity exists to explore the reasons why so few respondents have produced OERs. It would be beneficial to know what holds librarians back from producing Open Educational Resources so that we could inform our training and workshop activities.


CoPILOT outreach and conferences:

CoPILOT members attended and presented in several conferences during the year where the above results were shared with a broad audience. The lively feedback received from colleagues worldwide through Social Media, along with the high number of viewings following the upload of the presentations suggest a wide dissemination of the CoPILOT impact. (e.g. Secker’s presentation in Portland has attracted 6,657 views to date.) These conferences included:


Graham, N. et al., 2014. From local to global: sharing good practice in information literacy. In LILAC 2014. Sheffield: Sheffield Hallam University, 23rd-25th April 2014. Available at: http://www.slideshare.net/infolit_group/grahamseckerflynnburke [Accessed August 18, 2014].

Pitt, R., Graham, N. & Zazani, E., 2014. Spreading the Word! Librarians and Open Educational Resources. In OER14: building communities of open practice. Newcastle, 28-29 April 2014. Available at: http://www.medev.ac.uk/oer14/45/view/ [Accessed March 6, 2014].

Secker, J. & Graham, N., 2014. From local to global: open and sustainable ways to share our teaching resources. In Library Instruction West 2014. Portland Oregon: Portland State University Library, 23-25 July. Available at: http://www.slideshare.net/seckerj/from-local-to-global-sharing-information-literacy-as-open-education [Accessed August 18, 2014].

Sieber, V. & Secker, J., 2014. CoPILOT: Supporting teaching with open educational resources (OER). In Higher Education Academy Annual Conference 2014. Birmingham: Aston University.


Workshop hosted by Glasgow Caledonian University, Wednesday, 12th February 2014

 References cited above:

Bueno-de-la-Fuente, G., Robertson, J., & Boon, S. (2012). The roles of libraries and information professionals in Open Educational Resources (OER) initiatives: Survey Report (p. 52). Retrieved from http://publications.cetis.ac.uk/2012/492

De Beer, T. (2012). SCORE Library Survey Report (p. 15). Retrieved from http://www.open.ac.uk/score/news/score-library-survey-report

Graham, N., & Secker, J. (2012). Librarians, information literacy and open educational resources: report of a survey (p. 19). Retrieved from http://delilaopen.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/findingsharingoers_reportfinal1.pdf

Harris, S. (2012). Moving towards an open access future: the role of academic libraries. London. Retrieved from http://www.uk.sagepub.com/repository/binaries/pdf/Library-OAReport.pdf

Taylor & Francis. (2013). Facilitating access to free online resources: challenges and opportunities for the library community (p. 38). Retrieved from http://www.tandf.co.uk/libsite/pdf/TF-whitepaper-free-resources.pdf

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10 + 2 useful reports on #MOOCs and online education

The International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE) published a digest of useful reports about MOOCs and online learning three days ago (25 June).

In this post, I look at these reports closely, to identify whether Library services and librarians’ involvement were included and to also take the opportunity to add two more recent reports to the ICDE’s list. If you manage to read up to the end of this post you will find some of my concluding thoughts and a call for adding your views.

 The new reports:

TechNavio, 2014. Global Massive Open Online Courses Market 2014-2018. Infiniti Research Limited. Available at: http://www.technavio.com/report/global-massive-open-online-courses-market-2014-2018 [Accessed July 27, 2014].

This report is the most recently published report (July 07 2014) covering a global forecast about the growth of MOOCs. The 56-pages report envisages that MOOCs will see a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 56.61 percent between 2013-2018.

Unfortunately, I cannot have access to the report due to its cost – being $2,500, for personal use – and therefore I can’t say with certainty whether TechNavio’s analysts considered the impact and challenges for academic libraries in their respective section.

It’s worth having a look at the table of contents and the snippets they reveal, such as the fact that learning analytics and management of big data are a major trend. As it was published in the press release “Big data tools and analytics are increasingly contributing to the increasing popularity of MOOCs. Universities are turning to MOOC providers for large student data analyses. Examination outcomes and assignment grading are made easy with MOOCs because of the online nature, which is otherwise a slow and tedious procedure with traditional data gathering techniques. The records are easily managed with big data tools, giving educators the advantage of real-time data management” (Sandler Research, 2014, para. 2).

Gordon, L., Peters, M.A. & Besley, T., 2014. The Development of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in New Zealand, Hamilton, NZ. Available at: https://akoaotearoa.ac.nz/development-of-moocs [Accessed July 26, 2014].

The report aims to provide a baseline account (pp. 1, 5) and raise awareness of MOOC-related developments in New Zealand to a mix of educational stakeholders. Although I found the report highly enlightening, the only reference to libraries was made during a discussion with the study’s participants (from which this report arose) on whether a New Zealand MOOC platform should be created, where the National Library Te Papa would be one of the partners, imitating the FutureLearn model.

From ICDE’s list

Hollands, F.M. & Tirthali, D., 2014. MOOCs: expectations and reality, Available at: http://cbcse.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/MOOCs_Expectations_and_Reality.pdf [Accessed July 12, 2014].

Hersh pointed out that it would be prohibitively expensive to provide student services including academic counselling, library services, tutoring, and proctoring to thousands of MOOC participants (2014, p. 61).

Kelly, A.P., 2014. Disruptor, Distracter, or What?: A policymaker’s guide to massive open online courses (MOOCs), Available at: http://bellwethereducation.org/sites/default/files/BW_MOOC_Final.pdf [Accessed July 26, 2014].

MOOCs clearly provide new opportunities to learn. But so do public libraries. (2014, p. 16)

Gaebel, M., 2014. MOOCs: Massive Open Online Courses. European University Association Occasional Paper An update on developments in first paper published January 2013, Available at: http://www.eua.be/Libraries/Publication/MOOCs_Update_January_2014.sflb.ashx [Accessed July 26, 2014].

No mention of any library-related issues except for a brief reference to the British Library as part of the UK FutureLearn partnership.

Grainger, B., 2013. Introduction to MOOCs: Avalanche, Illusion or Augmentation?, Moscow. Available at: http://iite.unesco.org/publications/3214722/ [Accessed July 26, 2014].

 This policy brief does not mention any library-related implication.

Van der Vaart, L., 2013. e-InfraNet: “Open” as the default modus operandi for research and higher education M. van Berchum et al., eds., Netherlands: e-InfraNet. Available at: http://e-infranet.eu/output/e-infranet-open-as-the-default-modus-operandi-for-research-and-higher-education [Accessed September 4, 2013].

This paper takes a broader view of openness and discusses some of the institutional implications potentially affecting Libraries as well. For instance, it refers to the preservation of digital assets using as an example the library-led open source LOCKSS system and the importance of up-skilling librarians to be able to proactively assist researchers with OA topics and in managing Research Data.

Finally it refers to the aims of EUDAT (European Data Infrastructure), one of which is to engage libraries in defining and shaping a platform for shared services that makes it possible for data-intensive research to span all the scientific disciplines .(2013, p. 70)

Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, 2013. 2013 Survey on Technology and Instruction: Taking the Board to School on Educational Technology, Washington, D.C. Available at: http://agb.org/reports/2013/2013-survey-technology-and-instruction-taking-board-school-educational-technology [Accessed July 26, 2014].

This survey does not touch upon any library-related implications.

Mor, Y. & Koskinen, T. eds., 2013. MOOCs and Beyond: eLearning Papers 33.European Commission, p. 7. Available at: http://elearningeuropa.info/en/news/moocs-and-beyond-elearning-papers-33-released [Accessed August 27, 2013].

This issue is dedicated to MOOC case studies including ten papers.  Visibility of Librarians is found in the issue’s last article where the authors McCallum, Thomas & Libarkin suggest that Librarians (among other specialties) need to be part of multidisciplinary teams.

Taking as example the delivery of the FoS (Foundations of Science) MOOC in the University of Michigan, the librarians were part of the interdisciplinary teams.

Yuan, L. & Powell, S., 2013. MOOCs and disruptive innovation: Implications for higher education. eLearning Papers, 33. Available at: http://www.openeducationeuropa.eu/en/article/MOOCs-and-disruptive-innovation%3A-Implications-for-higher-education [Accessed July 26, 2014].

The ICDE showcases only this article from the eLearning Papers as part of the ten recommended MOOC reports mentioned directly above it. While it is not clear why this particular article is more significant than the remaining nine, it doesn’t bring any special focus to librarians and any potential disruption to Libraries.

Voss, B.D., 2013. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): A Primer for University and College Board Members, Washington, D.C. Available at: http://agb.org/reports/2013/massive-open-online-courses-moocs-primer-university-and-college-board-members [Accessed July 26, 2014].

It makes two references; the first compares the participating mode in MOOCs as opposed to “older forms of online learning” (2013, p. 4) (synchronous vs. asynchronous delivery and participation where learners used to listen to the lectures using Library facilities)  and the second refers to the Institutional readiness mentioning essential Library services such as “resource discovery, copyright clearance” (2013, p. 19).

Some thoughts:

Interestingly, the reports that broadly discuss openness acknowledge the Librarians ’emerging role, while in the MOOC-related reports the visibility of Librarians is sparse.

I noticed a similar pattern during my research, while comparing the growing number of Higher Education Institutions offering MOOCs in contrast to the low volume of articles being published by Librarians discussing their contributions in MOOC planning and delivery.

The New Zealand report discussed above raises an interesting point regarding how much Institutions are willing to reveal about their MOOC-related plans. In particular Gordon, Peters and Besley noticed the paradox between the notion of openness and the fact that “some organisations were keen to control the message about MOOCs in their organisations” (2014, p. 6).

It is not clear whether Academic Librarians are bound by a similar code-of-silence-principle as an extension of their Institutional culture or their involvement is not considered significant to be mentioned.  The literature available along with empirical evidence does not necessarily support the latter argument. Librarians do play important role in online delivery of courses and certainly have a strong interest in how MOOCs are affecting their current workloads and roles.

I would be very interested to hear any views in these thoughts that perhaps can shed some light to the lack of discourse involving the Academic Library in the majority of the reports. You can either comment below the post or contribute your view anonymously in the box below.

Reference list (other than the above)

McCallum, C.M., Thomas, S. & Libarkin, J., 2013. The AlphaMOOC: Building a Massive Open Online Course One Graduate Student at a Time. eLearning Papers, 33. Available at: http://www.openeducationeuropa.eu/en/article/The-AlphaMOOC:-Building-a-Massive-Open-Online-Course-One-Graduate-Student-at-a-Time?paper=124335 [Accessed July 26, 2014].

Sandler Research, 2014. Global Massive Open Online Courses Market 2014-2018. SandlerResearch.org. Available at: http://www.sandlerresearch.org/global-massive-open-online-courses-market-2014-2018.html [Accessed July 28, 2014].

The International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE), 2014. Ten useful reports on MOOCs and online education. ICDE. Available at: http://www.webcitation.org/6RM0YPkiL [Accessed July 26, 2014].

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Librarians and Open Educational Resources: Survey Results

Around late October 2013, I had posted an invitation to participate in a survey circulated by the OER Research Hub (OERRH) in collaboration with the Community of Practice for Information Literacy Online Teaching (CoPILOT).

The OERRH researcher Beck Pitt started reporting on preliminary results from both questionnaires that targeted Librarians’ views, challenges and practices on creating and using OER, on licensing-related issues, and whether they measure the impact of those efforts.


The 312 respondents contributed to great deal of insight but they also brought to the surface new research questions, for instance,

  • To what extend are librarians making a decision in distributing to students compulsory/optional OER material?

Beck will report on more granular and comparative results in spring 2014. Until then have a look in her detailed preliminary results in her blog, feel free to comment below the post and stay tuned with the OER14 conference where these results will be the focus of our paper.


The image was created with Big Huge Labs (Flickr Toys) http://bighugelabs.com/jigsaw.php

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