Women in IT and Science

Recent research in the US reveals that women are ‘outnumbered and out-earned’ in science.  Men are taking home an average of $1,117 to a woman’s $853 per week while the mean suggested starting salary for women was lower.  The research also found that all women –whether they had children or not – were at a similar disadvantage.

Meanwhile in Europe, the European Commission, working with international ICT stakeholders, has created the European Code of Best Practices for Women and ICT, stating that women are underrepresented in the industry as a whole and in particular in decision-making roles.

The Code represents recent positive developments and aims to ensure that more women choose ICT and are encouraged and supported in the industry.

Recommended changes in education 

  • Schools and universities should organise career events which feature successful female role models
  • Educate teachers as to possible job opportunities
  • Encourage mentoring programmes between young female engineers and students

Recommended changes to recruitment practices

  • Use gender neutral – or female friendly – vocabulary when advertising vacancies
  • Use recruitment procedures that promote diversity
  • Analyse the company’s gender statistics and compare them with local and sector market
  •  Set targets designed to improve gender balance
  • Apply flexible working practices at all levels – including senior management positions

Career development 

  • Offer competence development programmes
  • Finance care expenses (e.g. childcare) when training outside usual working hours
  • Make career planning a responsibility of the organisation and the individual and apply equal opportunities principles in exercising this responsibility

Monitor career development

  • Collect and analyse relevant statistics
  • Create processes to monitor relevant company policies
  • Introduce mentoring programmes

Work/family balance

  • Promote a positive philosophy of maternity/paternity leave
  • Produce guidelines  to ensure staff on leave (e.g. parental leave) are managed appropriately to ensure inclusion
  • Set up resource and competence monitoring during leaves of absence to identify training and support requirements for returners

Mobile Twitter users are ‘more engaged’

60% of Twitter’s 200 million active users are using mobile devices to log into Twitter at least once a month.  Working with Compete, Twitter set out to find out more about its ‘primary mobile’ Twitter users – those who are using mobiles as their primary device for Twitter.  Here’s what they discovered:

1. Primary mobile users are more active

  • They are 85% more likely to be on Twitter several times a day than the average Twitter user
  • 15% are using tablets, rather than phones, as their primary way to access Twitter

2. (Unsurprisingly) primary mobile users tend to be younger

  • 18 to 34 year olds are 52% more likely to be logging into Twitter primarily via a mobile device.

3. Primary mobile users engage with Twitter throughout the day

  • They are 157% more likely to use Twitter when they wake up
  • They are 16% more likely to use Twitter at school or work
  • They are 32% more likely to use Twitter while they are watching television.

4.  Mobile Twitter users engage more with content

  • They are 57% more likely to compose original Tweets than the average Twitter user.
  • They are 63% more likely to click on links
  • They are 78% more likely to retweet and 85% more likely to favourite a Tweet.

5.  Mobile users are more engaged with brands

  • They are 58% more likely to recall seeing an advert on Twitter than the average Twitter user.

Tips for information professionals

Twitter draws conclusions from the findings which, although aimed at advertisers, provide valuable tips for information professionals:

  • Create content that’s easy to interact with
  • Link to sites that are optimised for mobile
  • Consider the age of those you are targeting
  • Think about ‘a day in the life’ of your targets and time your tweets appropriately.  Is there a ‘library’ storyline or location in a TV programme?  Consider tweeting then.
  • Mobile users are amplifiers – remember to include calls for action

More on this survey from Twitter.

Digital Work Life – social media and office politics

Digital Work Life is the latest in AVG Technologies Digital Diaries series. 4,000 adults in ten countries (Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, the UK and the US) were contacted.  The research found worrying gaps in the education and guidance that organisations give their employees about what is acceptable to share.  It also found that 53% of respondents believe that social media has eroded their privacy in the workplace.   This figure rises to 64% in the UK and the US.

Other interesting findings:

  • Over 25% have felt pressured into accepting a friend request from a colleague (34% in Italy).
  • Over 50% of UK and Australian companies have cyber-bullying policies.  This falls to only 23% in Germany and the Czech Republic and only 20% in France
  • 15% of US workers reported they had received a social media insult from a colleague
  • Nearly one in 10 of worldwide respondents has had a manager use information gleaned from social media against them or a colleague.
  • 60+% of US and UK respondents believe employers are responsible for online behaviour of employees during working hours – even if they are using personal accounts.  This dips to 27% in Germany

The need for education

It is vital that organisations educate their employees about social media etiquette and are clear about who is responsible and accountable for the use of social media tools.  A blog post by RL Stollar highlights what exactly can go wrong – and how quickly – when inconsistent policies meet an inadequate understanding of the role of social media.  The resultant ‘social media meltdown’ is a case study in how to get it wrong.

Key learnings

  • Employers should offer clear codes, guidelines or policies and clear examples of what is, and is not, acceptable social media behaviour
  • Policies are not enough. Education and awareness in the application of policies is vital
  • Employees should create – and follow – their own personal social media guidelines
  • Gen Y’ers in particular should think carefully about how they ‘transition’ their social media presence into the world of work
  • Create special ‘walled gardens’ for colleagues if you wish to restrict what you share.

More information on Digital Diaries can be found here.

News in the digital first era

What used to be called ‘the newspaper business’ is under enormous pressure to change.  Sales of newspapers are down and, according to the US  Bureau of Labor Statistics, job numbers have been falling since 2001.  Its latest report shows there has been a steady decline in employment across many branches of what it calls ‘the information industry’, including film, radio, TV as well as newspaper publishing.

According to the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia Journalism School in the US, ongoing changes in the newspaper industry are unavoidable.  Journalism will never be able replicate the revenues previously generated by mass advertising and new business models for content creation and production must be found.  This is brought into focus by the ongoing debate between Google and the news media in a number of  European countries over payment for access to content.

Digital first

In the UK the Financial Times has recognised the need to change.  Its editor has written about the need to balance decisive leadership with ‘good journalism, deep reporting… and new delivery methods’ and why pursuing a digital first strategy was so important to the future success of the paper.

New business models and new roles will inevitably emerge and the situation is fast-moving and dynamic.  In the UK, Edinburgh Napier University’s Institute for Informatics and Digital Innovation is advertising for a Research Fellow in ‘e-punditry’ to explore this changing landscape of new roles, new skills and new formats.  The Tow Center researchers describe the need for ‘a … profession of highly skilled individuals who can work in a data-rich world of crowds and algorithms to find and tell the world important things they would not otherwise know.’

Information professionals and news content

FreePint recently surveyed corporate information managers on their news needs and preferences and identified the factors which they have to balance in their news acquisition decisions.   Beyond the tensions between fee and free content, they report their raised expectations for premium content.  They are looking for specialised features and content sets and additional functionality such as post-search processing and analytics.

The suggestion that [some] people will pay for guaranteed quality may well be reflected in the ‘surprising success’ of the New York Times paywall launched in 2011.  However, an increase in subscriptions is just part of a complicated story which includes a decline in advertising revenue and a reluctance by subscribers to renew after taking advantage of cheap ‘introductory offers’.

Digital natives, digital immigrants and the information professional

It is now over ten years since Mark Prensky coined the terms ‘digital natives’ and ‘digital immigrants’ and called for changes in education and teaching to reflect the new digital landscape.  The terms were easy to understand.  We all knew whether we were natives or immigrants by our use of the word ‘digital’ as a prefix (as in “I have a new digital camera”).

In the years since Prensky published his paper, new labels (e.g. Gen Y/millennials) have emerged for the younger generations entering education and the workforce.  We have discussed how to support them and how to get the best out of them.  But just how useful are these labels and what is the role of the information professional in ensuring that our users can use digital technologies to maximum effect?

This topic was tackled at the first NetIKX event of 2013.  Karen Blakeman and Graham Coult explored current research and trends in information behaviours and sparked discussions about the changing role of the information professional.

Forget the labels

Just because they were brought up with some of these technologies, this does not make the ‘younger generation’ experts.  According to David Griffiths, we should not… “confuse tech savvy, tethering to mobile technology and an intimate relationship with Facebook, with transferable knowledge and skills around social networking and communication.”

Karen reminded us that, irrespective of the technologies available to us at the time, we all needed to be guided in information searching and research techniques.   Young people are image driven and interested in original sources, she explained but need support in filtering and evaluating what they find.

We must also keep in mind that the internet is NOT available to everyone and that in these economically challenged times, many younger people do not have access to the internet at home, while local library resources are also being squeezed.  Digital exclusion is still a major issue.

This explosion of content and tools should, in theory, open up opportunities for information professionals to offer guidance, filtering and curation to users as trusted intermediaries.   The challenge is to convince others that our services are financially and socially valuable.

Find out more about NetIKX here.

Karen Blakeman’s slideshow presentation is available here.


Teen technology trends

Some interesting blog posts and research have emerged recently shedding light on how teenagers are using social media tools.

In a blog post Josh Miller wrote about his 15 year old sister’s attitude to social tools and how her use of them differed from his own and that of his peers.  He noted that she described Tumblr simply as a photo service, rather than a blogging tool.  She and her friends were purely consumers of information on the tool, rather than publishers or creators. She also confirmed the view that has been discussed here previously – namely that (generally speaking) Twitter simply does not appeal to this age group.

Inspired by Miller’s post, others joined in the debate.  Gary Tan sought to find more hard data.  He surveyed just over 1000 young people in two age groups (13-18 and 19-25) to find out more about which services young people were using regularly. Tumblr came top of the tools for both age groups (61% of 13-18 year olds; 57% in the older group).  Facebook came second, followed by Twitter.  Instagram and Snapchat also had significant usage figures, in particular with the younger age group.

Another blogger also noted the popularity of Snapchat and Instagram with their teenaged children and friends and reports how they are using Google+ hangouts to – well – hangout.

Finally, Justin Hoenke, a teen librarian working in Portland, ME responded, reporting on how 12-19 year olds are using the library space and technology within it.  Interestingly he reported an ongoing interest in Facebook amongst his teens.  When it comes to providing Facebook support he is often helping teens regain access to their accounts, mostly because they have forgotten their email account passwords (due to infrequent use).  He also differed from other bloggers, noting that he has seen none of his teens using either Instagram or Snapchat.

His other observations include:

Music and entertainment

  • YouTube is an entertainment platform for teens, providing access to free music, TV shows and more.
  • They use YouTube as their main source of entertainment and music (unless they have iTunes vouchers, in which case they often need help to redeem them).  They are not using music streaming services such as Spotify or Pandora.


  • Hoenke agrees that when teens do use Tumblr they do not use it as a blogging tool.  He has set up a teen-themed Tumblr for his library.


  • If they do use Twitter, they are doing it differently to follow celebrities or for ‘rambling’


Children, reading and e-books

The popularity of e-books

The digital landscape for children and young adults is changing rapidly. Research from Digital Book World and PlayScience is aiming to monitor these fast moving trends in 2013.  In the latest report, The ABC of Kids & E-books: understanding the e-reading habits of children aged 2-13, the researchers have discovered:

  • 54% of children are reading e-books (double the number of adults)
  • 85% of them are reading digital books at least
  • Tablets are the preferred device for e-reading

An increase in e-reading is also explored in another recent study, this time by Scholastic.  Focusing on a different age group (9-17 year olds) Scholastic’s key findings include:

  • 51% in their age range report they have NOT read an e-book – and have no interest in doing so
  • 58% said they always wanted to read paper books, even if e-books are available
  • Interestingly, children prefer e-books if they don’t want friends to know what they are reading.  Hard copy books are preferred for bedtime reading

The popularity of reading schemes and the importance of libraries

In the UK, according to The Reading Agency (TRA) a record number of young people are involved in local library-led reading schemes.  750,000 children have participated in TRA’s Summer REading Challenge, supported by over 4,000 volunteers.

However, a report from Bowker Market Report notes that libraries in the US have lost the top spot when it comes to young people finding reading recommendations, with family and friends becoming the most important source.  The library retains the top spot for the place where children obtain their reading for pleasure books.

The future of children’s publishing

According to an expert panel speaking at Children’s Publishing Goes Digital, platforms are growing in importance and popularity with children, parents and teachers.

Entrepreneurship in Europe and beyond

The European Commission (EC) believes that entrepreneurship is a key enabler in improving Europe’s performance in economic reform, social cohesion and employment.  The promotion of entrepreneurship and self-employment in included in the EC’s 2020 strategy.

The Commission is focusing on encouraging unemployed people to start their own businesses and supporting social entrepreneurs.  It has been studying the development of entrepreneurship in Europe for over ten years and the results of the latest survey reveal the current situation in the EU and beyond – including 13 non-EU countries including Brazil, India and Russia.

Key findings

Attitudes to self-employment

  • 58% of EU residents would prefer to be an employee
  • 37% favour self-employment (down from 45% in 2009)
  • Self-employment is generally more popular with non-EU respondents.  In particular, there are high levels of people in favour of self-employment in Brazil (63%) and Turkey (82%)
  • Reasons for stating self-employment is not feasible include
    • The current economic climate
    • Lack of capital
    • Lack of skills
    • Risk of failure
    • Family commitments
    • 23% of EU respondents have started a business or are thinking about doing so

Why be self-employed?

  • Self-fulfillment, personal independence and freedom to choose the time and place of work are all popular reasons for EU respondents to consider self-employment.

Factors in choosing self-employment

  • Having an appropriate business idea (87%)
  • Having access to financial resources
  • Contact with an appropriate business partner (68%) and having a role model (62%)
  • Dissatisfaction with previous work situation (55%)
  • Fewer respondents are concerned about bankruptcy (43% down 6% since 2009) and irregular income (33% down from 39% in 2009)

Attitudes to entrepreneurs

  • 87% of EU respondents believe entrepreneurs are job creators
  • 79% believe they create beneficial products and services
  • 57% believe they take advantage of other people’s work
  • 52% would rather work for a family business, with 48% citing a stronger commitment to the community

The full report is available here.

‘Hashtag omnishambles’ – 2012 words of the year

Newly minted or newly popular words and phrases showcase the key social, economic, technological and cultural trends that have impacted the general consciousness.  Twelve months ago the words of the year included ‘Arab spring’, ‘Occupy’ and ‘The 99 per cent’.  A number of analysts and commentators have now chosen their words of 2012.

In the UK ‘omnishambles’ was coined by the writers of the political satire TV show ‘The Thick of It’.  Used by the foul-mouthed protagonist, it summed up a shambolic political situation and – in an example of life imitating art – was taken up in 2012 by ‘real’ politicians in the UK.  It was also briefly amended in the UK to ‘Romneyshambles’ after US-Presidential candidate Mitt Romney expressed doubt as to London’s capability to host the Olympic Games.

Omnishambles was chosen as word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries, which chose the verb ‘gif’ as the US word of the year.

Continue Reading →

Publishing trends and predictions for 2013

The dust has settled on the Christmas sales of books, e-readers and tablets and some interesting figures have emerged.

In the UK, over £75m was spent on printed books in the week leading up to Christmas. This was an increase of 19.3% on the previous week and up 1% on the same week in 2011. The figures represent a three-year high for hard copy book sales in the UK.

In the US, the latest Pew Internet figures show another increase in the numbers of people reading digital books – an increase from 16% of the US adult population a year ago to 23% by the end of 2012. 33% of Americans now own a tablet or e-reader device.

Borrowing of e-books from libraries in the US is also continuing to increase as is the public’s awareness of e-book offerings available in public libraries.

“It’s becoming harder to define what ‘publishing’ really is”

Meanwhile three specialist industry sites (The Bookseller, AuthorMedia and Digital Book World) have interviewed a number of thought leaders (including CILIP President Phil Bradley) and published their predictions for the publishing industries in 2013. These include:
• Migration from print to digital will continue to slow
• More mergers and consolidation between publishers and agencies
• Continued growth in self-publishing and the companies that support it
• A growth of ‘author collectives’
• New partnerships for independent booksellers
• Major authors to keep their digital rights
• E-book sales will ‘level off’ in 2013 and prices may start to decrease
• Digital publishing means increased global audiences for digital works
• New, dynamic marketing models for publishers