Archive | Research RSS feed for this section

Reputation – the major academic currency

Times Higher Education has released World Reputation Rankings 2014.

Institutional ranking is a major consideration for academics when moving jobs, for students deciding where to study and for potential partners and collaborators. The published rankings are based on over 10,000 responses from 133 countries.

US universities reign supreme

American universities take the top three slots – and take 46 of the top 100.  Harvard remains in first place, with MIT second.  Stanford University has moved into third, jumping ahead of Oxford and Cambridge Universities.  However, US State universities are slipping slightly after suffering budget cuts.

UK – cause for concern?

The UK holds ten of the top 100 places – up from nine last year but the survey suggests there is a growing gap between what it calls the London-Oxford-Cambridge triangle and the rest of the country.

Major Asian institutions make progress

Japan is the region’s best performer, with five in the top 100.  Korea’s Seoul National University has jumped from 41st to 26th.

The story in Europe

  • Two of Sweden’s institutions fell out of the top 100 leaving it with only one (Karolinska)
  • France also lost two universities from the top 100, leaving it with two (Université Paris-Sorbonne and Université Pierre et Marie Curie)
  • Germany is faring much better – it comes third after the US and UK with six universities in the top 100
  • Other European countries featuring in the top 100 are:
    • The Netherlands (Delft University of Technology ranks 42nd).  University of Amsterdam; Leiden University and Utrecht also appear in the top 100
    • Switzerland (ETH Zurich ranks 16th; Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne ranks 49th)
    • Belgium – Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

New survey open

Thomson Reuters has launched its fifth annual Academic Reputation Survey. The survey informs two key indicators of the 13 used to create the annual Times Higher Education World University Rankings, which will be released later this year.

Developing professional networks – what social network analysis teaches us

Social network analysis has been used to measure the impact of the DREaM project which set out to nurture a network of researchers.

Social Network Analysis (SNA) explores social relationships and their implications.  As a research methodology, it is employed by a range of subject specialists, and is much favoured by knowledge management practitioners seeking to explore the ‘human’ aspects of knowledge mobilisation.

A new article by Louise Cooke and Hazel Hall* explores the applicability and value of Social Network Analysis (SNA) as a means of investigating the development of researcher networks. The authors believe that their study provides transferable lessons about SNA as a tool as well as the interventions that can encourage speedy development of social infrastructure in new networks, which are applicable across professional groups.

After a discussion about the development of SNA as a research tool and its previous use in the context of library and information science (LIS), the article reports on a case study based on the Developing Research Excellence and Methods (DREaM) project.

DREaM was established in 2011 to create, and support the development of, a network of LIS researchers, connecting them in new ways and improving the quality and impact of LIS research. It is this case study that will be of most interest to LIS practitioners.

What does the ‘before’ and ‘after’ data from the case study tell us about how strong professional networks can be nurtured?

Key findings

  • ‘before’ data shows that members of this participant network were not highly connected or aware of each other’s expertise: existing networks were highly centralised around a small number of academic librarians and researchers
  • ‘after’ data shows a demonstrable increase in expertise awareness and interaction; participants had increased their number of network ties; the network became more ‘even’ with less dependence on a small number of densely networked actors; academic librarians in particular moved towards the centre of the network

What was it about the way the DREaM project was designed that helped develop the network?

The authors suggest that the combination of workshops, social events, networking opportunities, the development of an online community and the effective use of social media tools:

  • Reduced the isolation of participants
  • Helped participants exchange ideas and broaden their knowledge base
  • Provided opportunities for participants to exchange sources of information and references

A range of event amplification techniques (live-blogging/tweeting; delegate reviews; session recordings and many more) also helped those unable to attend events in person, to participate in the network remotely.

This inclusive, boundary-spanning approach helped the participants double their awareness of each other’s expertise and almost double their levels of social interaction.

———————

*Cooke, L. & Hall, H. (2013). Facets of DREaM: a Social Network Analysis exploring network development in the UK LIS research community. Journal of Documentation, 69(6), 786-806.

Further information about the article (Hazel Hall’s blog).  You can download the full text of the article from Emerald (subscription-based service).  You can download the full-text of the article manuscript at no charge here.   Further information on the DREaM project can be found here.

[Follow Val Skelton on Google+]

 

Open access: academic libraries and article processing charges

Despite challenges, the new emphasis on OA provides librarians with a positive platform to re-establish their role in the research process.

A new report published by SAGE explores the current – and future role – of academic libraries in helping implement OA processing charges.  The report explores the current state of the art, and shares recommendations.  Although librarians support the goals and principles of open access, the OA mandates from funders are creating many challenges.

Institutional policies – still evolving

  • Although some participants reported full OA policies were already in place, the majority of policies are still ‘evolving’
  • Libraries at every participating institution are involved in OA policy development
  • Institutional repositories are an essential element
  • Participants expressed concern at possible shortfall in funding for author pays (‘gold’) OA publishing (RCUK is currently making some funds available)
  • Some institutions are making up the shortfall; others are not

What roles and tasks are librarians undertaking?

  • Entering into publisher OA agreements
  • Allocating funding for individual papers – including one library which split its total funds into equal quarters for the year
  • Most reported a low take-up of APC requests by researchers – many librarians are working to educate and advise researchers
  • Working with publishers to administrate the cost – a task which many reported as frustrating or overly-complicated

Recommendations

  • Funders should provide clear guidance on reporting and measurement
  • Publishers need to better communicate copyright options and which of their publications are RCUK policy compliant
  • More robust systems for managing APCs are needed
  • Cross-industry initiatives and international standards should be developed

The report Implementing Open Access APCs: the role of academic libraries summarises the round table discussions of a panel of academic librarians and other interested parties and is available for free download here.

[Follow Val Skelton on Google+]

Managing information risk – European business must do better

European companies are improving when it comes to managing information risk, but they must do even better.

PWC and Iron Mountain have published their 2013 Risk Maturity Index, exploring attitudes to information risk and examples of best practice in mid-sized businesses in six countries in Europe (France, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Spain and UK*).  Their findings suggest there has been some improvement in attitudes to information risk, but that there is still a long way to go.  Middle sized (250-2,500 employees) European companies are ‘ill equipped’ to navigate the complex information landscape.

Key findings of the study

  • Awareness of the importance of information risk management is growing
  • The average number of data breaches is growing 50% per year
  • 36% of companies are keeping all of their data ‘just in case’
  • Only 45% of companies have an information risk strategy
  • 42% of those surveyed are worried about the security of their company’s stored data
  • Only 25% consider their employees to be a serious threat to information security
  • 45% do not monitor employee social media use

National differences

Companies in the Netherlands performed better than in any other country.  They were more likely to have strategies and plans in place to deal with BYOD and minor data ‘mishaps’. They were also much more likely to have a corporate risk register.  Alongside companies in France, Dutch businesses were most likely to treat information risk at board level.

Hungary takes second place in the Risk Maturity Index.  Over the last 12 months, businesses have focused on raising employees’ awareness of information risk issues and providing relevant training.

Spanish companies lag behind those in other countries and are least likely to provide guidelines to employees or to have key security measures in place.

Best practice

  •  Information management and risk must be a board level issue
  • Information audits – identify what you have, where it is stored and how it is classified
  • Operate a policy of ‘controlled trust’

*600 senior managers were interviewed in mid-sized businesses in the six countries.

The White Paper is free to download from Iron Mountain.

[Follow Val Skelton on Google+]

Is Higher Education value for money?

The UK’s Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) and the consumer organisation Which? has published the 2013 survey of the student academic experience at English universities.

The first survey, in 2006, coincided with the introduction of HE fees and the surveys aim to discover whether students are getting a ‘better’ academic experience in the light of increased fees.  The report concludes that there is “no apparent relationship between the fees students are being charged and what they receive”.

Background

  • Although students are paying more, universities themselves are not receiving additional money – student fees are simply filling the gap left by reduced centralised government funding.
  • Student fees trebled in 2012.  The average fee charged is now £8500+
  • Contact with academic staff has hardly increased, despite higher fees
  • Diverse student experience in terms of teaching format and contact hours and the perceived gap in helpful upfront information to help students choose the appropriate course

Key findings – choosing the right university

  • 32% of students might have chosen a different course if they had known what they know now
  • 21% of students thought information provided by their institutions was ‘vague’; 9% thought it was ‘misleading’
  • 29% of first year students think their course is ‘poor value for money’

Student workload

  • The average weekly workload is 30 hours per week
  • Women and mature students study more than men
  • 14% of the 10,000 students who said their course was worse than they expected said the course had not been challenging enough

Contact time

  • No significant change in the amount of contact time or proportion of small group teaching
  • Students paying less than £8000 received same amount of contact time as those paying more
  • Other factors important to students include their satisfaction with the quality of teaching as well as they amount of face-to-face time
  • Significant differences in contact time between subject areas and institutions
  • Students recognise the importance of small group teaching and the amount they receive contributes to their satisfaction levels
  • Contact time has risen by just 20 minutes per week since 2006

The report is available for free download from the HEPI website.

[Follow Val Skelton on Google+]

Using social media tools to disseminate academic research

There are many reasons for taking the measurement of academic impact seriously, particularly in the current economic climate. Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK and speaking at The Future of Academic Impact conference, reminded the audience that the public perception of academia tends to focus on the most visible aspect – namely undergraduate teaching and fees.  How can we increase the public perception of the value of academic research and its contribution to the economic and social wellbeing of the nation and beyond?

One aspect of improving the visibility of academic research was covered in a breakout session exploring the value of the ‘top five’ social media tools in supporting academic communication.

Know your audience

Each tool can bring your tool to different audiences.  It is therefore important to understand both the demographic of your chosen tools and the potential audiences of your work.

Twitter

With a global audience of over 100 million, Twitter is a realtime information network which encourages sharing of links and posts and facilitates conversation and feedback.  By using metric tools or the statistics of URL shortening services (e.g. Bitly), it is easy to measure the increased traffic to your blog generated by tweeting.

By mentioning your collaborators and using retweets and hashtags appropriately you can significantly increase your own visibility.  You can also use the ‘favourite’ button as a simple bookmarking tool.

Facebook

By far the most popular social network, Facebook offers an alternative tool to help drive traffic to your blog and other outputs.  It also has the potential to ‘go viral’.  50% of all Europeans use Facebook regularly.  The drive to monetisation by Facebook does mean that to appear in the newsfeeds of all of your ‘likers’ you may have to pay a small fee.

Pinterest

An image driven tool, Pinterest enables content creation and social sharing.  Although not particularly well-used by academics at the moment, use is increasing e.g. as a ‘visual ideas board’ for research interests.  It’s also a great way to disseminate visual outputs of your research.

Google+

Although not particularly well-used, a particularly valuable feature of Google+ for academics is the Google Hangouts option, which enables group collaboration and chats and the ability to record these sessions.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is evolving into a business focused social media site that enables sharing and discussion as well as another platform to showcase achievements.

Social media tools can help open us research and reach new, interested audiences.  “It’s not about where you publish, but who you reach.”

The breakout session was led by Amy Mollett  (@amymollett) and Joel Suss (@joelsuss).

Research libraries in the 21st century

Although the purpose of academic and research library collections remains the same – to support the creation and dissemination of new knowledge – the nature of collections is moving away from ‘local’ to collaborative and multi-institutional.  New forms of scholarship are transforming user expectations for broad, barrier free collection discovery and access.  Libraries must transform their approaches to meet new user demands.

The Association of Research Libraries’ (ARL) briefing paper for research library leaders sets out to draw a ‘big picture’ of the future of research library collections.

Key findings – the research environment

  • Publishing output will continue to increase
  • Global/interdisciplinary research will grow
  • The value of personal collections will increase
  • Open content will proliferate

Key findings – the future of libraries

  • Researchers must understand intellectual property frameworks – libraries can provide support
  • Other new roles for research libraries include: digital preservation and data management experts and as supporters helping researchers collaborate even more
  • There will also be roles to support the open content movement, for example as publishers as well as IP rights advisers
  • Metrics about value to the research community must be improved
  • Research libraries will need to maintain linked, digital content in order to enable discovery and future use.
  • Resources will increasingly be allocated to the development of tools, an activity well suited to inter-institutional collaboration.
  • There will continue to be moves to providing just in time services rather than building just in case collections

The report is available to download from the ARL website.