Category Archives: Learning and studying

The copyright and licencing minefield

Copyright? What copyright? from edans via flickr CC

I currently have a research project for work related to copyright and licencing for digital repositories. Essentially, what do we need to know at MPOW to make sure we keep up with industry best practice and best meet the needs of those depositing to our repositories?

I’ve been working on this on and off since mid November and all I can really tell you dear reader, is that I now know for sure that I don’t want to be a lawyer when I grow up.

I was at a UTS seminar a couple of years ago, not long into my career as a professional librarian, when I first heard Derek Whitehead from Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne state that in his opinion, we need more lawyers working in libraries. At that point, I didn’t really understand what he meant, digital rights management was very new to me, but now! Particularly since I’ve started working in library repositories I’ve become very aware of the tricky-ness (a completely made up word meaning, more or less, complexity) of the issues of licencing in particular.

Creative Commons is the go-to answer, but part of my brief is to see what else is out there – are we just automatically using CC or is it in fact the best product for the wide and varied range of ‘stuff’ deposited to our repositories? It’s not helped by the fact that a lot of the literature on this comes out of the US – where the copyright laws are quite different to here. UK and European literature is also prolific and somewhat helpful, but it is the Australian and New Zealand stuff that is gold.

As always, my PLN has been invaluable in pointing me towards practitioners and I have a mountain of reading still to go. I’ll go get on with it shall I? Oh and if you have a useful resource for me, let me know?

Data management is exciting!

Trust me.

No, this is a reflection of the level of enthusiasm we were asked to have as part of our data management subject at Uni this semester. Our first assignment was to write a press release explaining research data management to the general public in a way that wouldn’t send them straight to sleep. I chose to take a narrative approach and promised that if I got a good mark, I’d reproduce it here. If you work in data management, skip the next bit – but if you’re not in an academic or research library and you’re curious about what we are all talking about with data, you might like this.

Sydney is playing host this weekend to social science researchers from around the world as the inaugural Social Science Research Futures conference gets underway.

“Managing research data output will be a focus of the papers presented”, conference organiser Clare McKenzie said today. “Imagine the impact on your life if you lost your laptop with all the contacts, photos and other personal information in it. Now imagine you are a researcher on a project that has interviewed 500 homeless about their situation and that the laptop was storing all the responses to the questions.”

While such loss of data can be catastrophic to a project, managing research data is not just all about avoiding disaster. As many research projects are funded with public money, there has been a push in recent years to make the results of that research publicly available at the end of the project.

What exactly are research data? Broadly, they are the factual information collected and recorded during a research project in order to prove or disprove the original research question (Carlson 2011). The Australian public’s responses to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) census are data, as are the daily air temperature recordings a high school science student collects as part of a school project. The data are rarely meaningful without analysis, so the ABS puts the data together in combinations to look for trends and the high school student may graph the daily temperature to compare against the average for the time of year in order to draw conclusions.  All of this is research data.

Making arrangements for back up and proper storage of research data is just one aspect of data management and is part of what’s known as data management planning.  Jane Smith, a senior social sciences researcher at City University has developed a data management plan at the beginning of her last two research projects and likens it to the idea of business planning. “You don’t normally plan for your business to fail, but you can fail to plan for your business” she says. “Research projects are the same. If you don’t plan for the fact that someone may wish to access your data in twenty years when the technology is different and the original research team long dispersed, then all your hard work during the project can’t be shared or expanded.”

Researchers need to think about planning for storage, rights of use by others, naming the data in such a way that others can find it, putting details of the data in a repository where it can be found, as well as the possibility that files created today may become an obsolete format in the future (ICPSR 2012).  These details are known as metadata – literally “data about data” – and are a way of attaching useful information to an object such as a dataset.

When it comes to data management planning, it doesn’t matter whether the research is social sciences or the ‘hard sciences’. Both McKenzie and Smith advise that time spent creating a data management plan (DMP) at the start of a research project can save a lot of time further down the track, particularly if the project is large and collaborative with many individual researchers. Establishing file formats and file naming conventions such as the complex file naming system the ABS use (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2009) ensures consistency and accuracy of records no matter who is working on the project at the time. Smaller projects need not go to this level of complexity, but writing it all down in a DMP can help ensure these details are not forgotten or lost. In fact, some research funding bodies have made preparation and submission of a DMP a condition of applying for a grant (Van den Eynden et al 2011).

Sharing and re-use of data becomes easier if that data has been managed properly. Making data accessible to others or allowing re-use and re-purposing of that data later on for another project is part of making research more collaborative and reduces the chance that money will be wasted on ‘re-inventing the wheel’ (Van den Eynden et al 2011). It also may help establish trends, such as comparing the interviews with the homeless (from the lost laptop scenario above) to information collected again in five years time.

Smith comments that for one of her recent projects she was able to search Research Data Australia (RDA http://researchdata.ands.org.au/), an online catalogue of research datasets, to find details of a project from a number of years ago that had data relevant to her project. Through contact details in the RDA listing, Smith, in her words “got access to the most wonderful population data from five years ago that I was able to re-use in the context of my current research project”.

Like preparing a DMP, research funding bodies in Australia and overseas are beginning to make continuing access to research data a condition of the funding.

The future of publicly funded research in Australia is going to depend on good planning.

I enjoyed the subject, it was serendipitous timing with my secondment to Library Repository Services and like all my uni subjects, I’m now glad it’s over.

Data management, open access and more

Drinks & Data by Andrew Turner via Flickr CC

I seem to remember promising some sort of #newjob update. As I’ve now been there nearly 2 months (time flies!) it’s a good time to stop and think about what I’ve learned and what I’m doing.

I’m reading and reading and reading about research data management, funding body requirements, data management planning and data citation at the moment. It’s more interesting than I’ve just made that sound – but it is a fairly dry subject to write about! My first uni assignment this semester is to write a press release for the general public on the importance of research data management. Really? I’ve had to have the jargon-buster out on that one trust me.

I ended up falling back on the good old narrative, story, analogy, what have you. How do you begin to describe the need for data management to people outside either the narrow data librarian world or the (some would say equally narrow) research world? By likening it to losing your mobile phone or laptop with all your photos, contacts and documents you were working on. A hook? Perhaps. Time (and whoever does my marking) will tell. If I get a good mark, I’ll share the press release here :-)

I do get to practice some of this in the real world soon. As part of my secondment to the library repository services team, I’m taking joint responsibility with a colleague for putting together some research data management information sessions for our academic services librarians (which is where I’m from). It’s an interesting juxtaposition – on the one hand I still feel like an academic services librarian, but I’m also starting to get my head around this data management stuff in a way that I hadn’t been able to before my secondment. The test will be if I can get a workshop written that convinces my former colleagues!

At the same time, I’m (slowly) getting a repository project underway. One of our faculties is about to acquire a collection of films and we are negotiating to store it in an open access repository. Enter a whole technical world full of phrases like harvesting, data streams, web-interface, deposit tool and wireframes. Yep.

Then there’s copyright. Particularly in relation to the upcoming film collection, I’ve spent weeks trying to get my head around copyright and licensing issues. Copyright in film is particularly complex – of course it is. I’m about to start adapting our legal-office-approved rights agreements that relate to theses and other written research outputs to suit film.

While most days I still feel like I’m going around in circles it is starting to make sense and writing it all down here has further crystallised some things for me. Proving that I need to blog more.

Value added information – in the beginning

Carcassonne cite by lorentey via flickr CC

This semester, in my quest for a postgraduate qualification, I’m doing a subject called Value Added Information Services. Turns out this more or less covers what we do all day every day as LIS professionals, but with a slight twist towards a kind of business advisory service.

Anyway, I’ve chosen to look at the feasibility of setting up a particular kind of holiday business in the south of France. This may be because I constantly have plans to actually visit the south of France – but the lecturer did suggest we choose a topic we are actually interested in as we’re more likely to remain focussed. I am pretty sure there’s enough angles to come up with plenty of information from different sources to turn into a report with some recommendations backed by decent data. I hope so anyway.

One of the things I’ve done as part of looking at marketing and gathering information is set up a Scoopit for the topic – making use of one of the countless information gathering and/or curation tools that are out there.

Watch this space for plenty of pretty pictures of stuff in the south of France. Oh, and maybe some observations about value adding.

Coding. Or not.

All the pieces fit together

OK. So the ‘thing’ for 2012 seems to be coding. Everybody is either doing it, or urging others to do it, or writing, blogging or tweeting about doing it.

Roy Tennant over at Digital Shift says all library professionals need to at least understand coding & urges us to try out Codeacademy’s Code Year initiative. I happen to agree – I find even my very basic understanding of HTML to be practical and useful (although at this point largely just for maintaining my blog), so I signed up and have been receiving my lessons weekly by email. I should point out here that I know absolutely nothing about coding. I am a complete novice with no experience with or exposure to coding before now (except that tiny bit of HTML I mostly learned mucking about in WordPress).

This has been a really smart initiative by Codeacademy, for lots of reasons, many of which you can read about here. There’s been an amazing takeup of the course, with tens of thousands signing up in the first few days of 2012.

Matthew Murray at ExtremeTech questions whether anyone can learn serious coding in this way and that it promotes a shallow view of the programming industry. Head on over there to read more of his opinion.  A couple of sentences in Murray’s piece rang true for me because you see, I haven’t enjoyed the CodeYear experience at all so far. Murray says

Just for kicks, I sat down with the opening lesson of Codecademy, just to see what it was like. It asked me to type in my name, then append it with “.length,” then type in a simple math equation. All of it was basic JavaScript, with no indication of what was happening or why.

I have just finished week 1 of the Code Year course. I struggled through it, partly because it’s so foreign to me and way outside my comfort zone. However, at least part of the problem lies in the way the course has been written (at least week 1). There’s no context, no goal setting, no outcomes, no sense at all of what comes next or where the piece you are copying and pasting fits into a bigger picture.

It’s early days yet. Much of what is written on the web about this so far is praising the initiative but there seems to be very little of substance about the content or the delivery. Over at Palely Loitering, Laura comments that she has managed to finish lesson 1, but she’s not really sure how much she learned about applying it in the real world. I hear her!

I have found the user forums that come as part of CodeAcademy to be both useful and frustrating. Useful because there are folks in there trying to help others and frustrating because everyone asking questions seems to have the same problems – lack of guidance in the ‘lessons’ and very little understanding of what is being asked of the ‘student’.

Checking the #codeyear hashtag on twitter brings up a lot of results, but scrolling through I think many of them are auto created by the program itself (for example, when you sign up you get the opportunity to send a pre written tweet that says

I’m learning to code with @Codecademy in 2012. Join me!http://codeyear.com/ #codeyear

Not helpful. I’m looking for critical comment, not more marketing.

I’ll go on to lesson 2 – I’m working on the theory that it may just all suddenly make sense or appear to be in context. I’ll keep you posted.

 

 

Reflection and evaluation

reflections by flickPrince via flickr CC

This post is my final entry for the Social Media subject for my Masters and is designed to both evaluate and reflect on my learning throughout the semester.

As library and information professionals there is no doubt that web 2.0 technologies and social media tools are useful professional development tools and allow us to find new ways of presenting information and communicating and engaging with our customers, including our internal customers. However, as with the introduction of any new library service, there is a danger in providing that service without identification and analysis of user needs first and a strategic planning approach is essential (Choy 2010).

The three study exercises that have most informed my thinking on this are represented in the posts Mapping my PLN, Our online identity  and Information policy. The first two bring together many benefits of social media, particularly in the sense of collaboration and engagement between professionals. The third post looks briefly at how good policy can ensure the tools are used in a way that benefits both organisation and individuals.

Collaboration and engagement are key elements of web 2.0 technologies. In the library and information profession we can use these tools to connect with other professionals as well as with our customers. We know from Li and Bernoff’s Groundswell (2011) that in social media it is important to engage and have a conversation, not just use the tools as a marketing platform for our own causes. This holds true for PLN development, regardless of the tools used. A ‘water cooler’ conversation in the physical office relies on at least two people, talking, listening and commenting, otherwise it is just broadcasting, not conversation.

Social media blurs the line between personal and professional and our online identities are often a blend between the two. Hutton (2008) points out that by participating in online communities we are putting our identities out there for all to see. In this situation it is difficult to keep our place of work from becoming connected with that online identity so careful management of that is required. The Victorian Department of Justice released a video to staff outlining the key points of its social media policy, including that they recognise staff are probably active users of social media and would like them to specify that any views in their personal online space are their own and not those of the department. This aspect of the policy protects both staff and employer from any unforseen consequences of reasonable online behaviour.

Information policy can also clear the way for staff within an organisation to use collaborative and innovative web 2.0 tools to work with each other and experiment with new ideas –in other words, to work in a Library 2.0 space. Support from management is essential if staff are to be allowed to try new things and take advantage of the benefits social media brings in the professional context. For example, an enterprise network such as yammer would provide an informal way for staff to communicate ideas, links, interesting readings and other things of professional interest to other staff, without further cluttering up the email inboxes of colleagues. However, setting up such a network requires support from management and parent organisations – again highlighting the need for good information policy that anticipates and allows for new services.

Personal reflections

To be honest, I started this subject unsure what there was to learn about the use of social media, given the already wide extent of my involvement. I am a heavy user of social media in both my private and professional life.

One of the reasons I participate in so much social media is because I feel that as an information professional I have a responsibility to experience and understand some of the information seeking tools that are being used. This is partly as a way of evaluating their usefulness to both my employer and me and partly as a way of attempting a connection or engagement with my client group (in this case university students).

However, as I started to do more reading about the subject and approach it from a learning perspective I found myself being more rigorous in my evaluation of various web 2.0 tools – to the extent where I even began to question the automatic adoption of them in academic libraries.  This shift from automatically assuming all social media is good and useful to critical evaluation of its application in my particular work environment has been significant.

A particularly significant moment for me during this semester came when I realised that my post questioning the automatic assumption that social media must be good for our customers was being referred to from a link inside a course management system at Monash University. This link started driving traffic to my blog a week or 2 after I wrote the post about ASU library minute videos – it is coming from a Library Science subject called Professional Practice. The implications of this for me are that I need to continue to think carefully about the views and opinions I publish online – they are highly visible and clearly linked to my online identity.

I have looked at Second Life as part of this subject but did not find it useful – I never seemed to be ‘in there’ at the same time as anyone else and found that it wasn’t intuitive to use and the viewer was resource intensive on my computer. Because I never met anyone else in Second Life, I can’t comment on its usefulness as a meeting place, but with so many other web based social media spaces available I can’t see that it offers any significant value given the difficulty in using it. There are, apparently, many benefits to using Second Life in the education/higher education sector but I was not able to engage with any of these benefits in the time I spent reviewing the space.

Similarly I did not really use delicious as part of this exercise. I looked at the collection of links tagged for our study group and added a few links to it but as I already have an extensive personal library set up within diigo I did not find it to be of much use (except as a way of looking at things highlighted by others in the study group).  However, it was a good introduction to using a bookmarking service collaboratively, as I use diigo as a personal tool rather than a way of sharing information.

And so we have come to the end of the semester. Drawing together some of the things that have interested me most in this subject has been an interesting exercise. I think my focus has been on the community development and engagement that web 2.0 and social media technologies allow – I think that Library 2.0 comes from this engagement rather than from a deliberate attempt to ‘2.0 the library’.

I also potentially now have a work related research project to explore further as a result of completing this subject.

As an information professional in an academic library, engagement with individuals is a large part of my role. My job is to build relationships and networks and leverage those to provide support and assistance to the research and teaching community at my university. Social media helps me do that – by helping me build and develop my networks and professional knowledge through engagement with others and their thoughts and opinions.

Building networks extends beyond my actual job – development and maintenance of my personal learning network (PLN) is a vital part of my ongoing professional development. Utecht’s 5 stages of PLN adoption is a useful measuring stick for understanding the process of PLN engagement but the true measure is whether it is a valuable personal resource or not.

References

Choy, F.C. 2010, From library stacks to library-in-a-pocket: will users be around? Library Management Vol. 32, No. 1 / 2 pp.62-72

Hutton, G. 2008, Privacy & online social networks: a proposed approach for academic librarians in university libraries, Dalhousie Journal of Interdisciplinary Management, Vol. 4 http://ocs.library.dal.ca/ojs/index.php/djim/article/view/2008vol4Hutton/67
Li, C. & Bernoff, J. 2011, Groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, Harvard Business Review Press

Our online identity

identity crisis by woodleywonderworks via flickr CC

In June, I blogged about the issues of online privacy and security and I’m revisiting that a bit in the context of online identities.

The places you can find me online are outlined in a post here but the issue of online identity is a bit more complex than just a list of social media sites.

Because our online identities are public (often more public than we realise, in spite of privacy controls (Pearson 2009, Raynes-Goldie 2010)) it is important to manage the message that goes out to other people. Pearson says many people use a form of censorship in thinking about what to put out under their online identity – for example, don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your grandmother/kids/boss to read.

This is a practical form of privacy control and allows for the ever-present possibility that someone other than your target audience is reading your profile, status updates, e-portfolio or blog posts.

Harris (2010) looks at this from the other end – what can those of us in perceived positions of power or authority do to protect ourselves and our online identities so that they are not construed as being used inappropriately? The example Harris uses is teachers but this is relevant for those working in library and information services as well. From an institutional point of view, good policies around social media and communication can be an important part of safeguarding online identity, of both the institution and the individual staff involved.

In the professional world of libraries and information science, maintaining an online identity is increasingly important for individuals working in the space. Much of my professional informal learning and information exchange is via social media and it enables me to stay connected with others working in a similar field.

Managing the standard of that personal brand may be tricky because social media allows the personal and the professional brands to merge online – for example, my Facebook presence is largely for family and friends but some of those people are also professional colleagues.

Merely by putting our personal brand ‘out there’ in cyber space means we are, to some degree, forfeiting the right to privacy as it has been traditionally understood (Pearson 2010). We need to be aware that working and posting and commenting in the public social media space is akin to putting up a poster on a telegraph pole with our personal details and photograph attached (Hutton 2008). As I said in my June post – I’m ok with that, but the integrity of my personal brand is dependent on that being in the back of my mind every time I press send or publish.

References:

Harris, C. (2010). Friend me?: School policy may address friending students online, School Library Journal, 1 April. Available http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6724235.html

Hutton, G. 2008, Privacy & online social networks: a proposed approach for academic librarians in university libraries, Dalhousie Journal of Interdisciplinary Management, Vol. 4 http://ocs.library.dal.ca/ojs/index.php/djim/article/view/2008vol4Hutton/67
Pearson, J. (2009). Life as a dog: Personal identity and the internet. Meanjin, 68(2), 67-77.
Raynes-Goldie, K. (2010). Aliases, creeping, and wall cleaning: Understanding privacy in the age of Facebook, First Monday, 15(1), 4 January. Availablehttp://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/2775/2432

Information policy

The video Did you know 4.0 highlights a number of trends in the way we use information that have implications for policy development within the library and information sector.

Some of the shifts and trends identified in this video include:

  • a significant (and climbing) increase in the use of mobile devices
  • the increase in digital publishing,
  • increased participation by ‘mainstream’ consumers of Web 2.0 technologies means that more people are getting their news and information from social networking sites and they are using cloud services for collaboration and instant feedback
  • the rise of social media usage in organisations has led to the need for new policies to cover activities that were not invented 6 years ago
  • the cost of technology such as smart phones and tablets continues to decrease while the power and capabilities of those devices continues to increase
What does all of this mean for those of us working in the information management space? We have new ways of connecting with our customer base and need to explore which of those ways we implement.
Our organisations must make our services more mobile friendly with specially designed websites or creation of ‘Apps’ for smart phones and tablets.  We need the flexibility to enable us to keep up with new technologies and be able to experiment with new ideas, find our where our customers are and whether we can meet them there in that space.
Making these decisions is easier within a policy framework that provides guidelines for staff venturing into new spaces. The challenge for policy makers is allowing enough flexibility to enable changes (Web 2.0 technologies are only a few years old and would not have been forseen when policy was being written in the early 2000’s) while still ensuring decisions and actions are in keeping with the organisation’s goals and philosophies.  A good policy can protect the organisation and its staff while also allowing room for some creativity and quick decision making in order to meet a customer need.
References:
Bryson, J. (2007). Managing information services: A transformational approach  Burlington. Ashgate e-book

Participatory culture and cloud computing

Clouds by fifikins via flickr CC

At MPOW we get many requests from both academics and postgraduate students for help with referencing software such as Endnote.  One of the problems with download-able software such as Endnote is the portability of data between the devices on which it is installed. You either accept that you have different lists, or carry around USB sticks with data and never be quite sure which is the most up to date….. Enter products such as Endnote Web – storing the information in the cloud and accessing it from home, work, beside the children’s tennis lessons or while waiting in the doctor’s surgery.

This is not a post about Endnote – it’s just one example.

Access is the key – and if you are writing a paper or presentation with others, then sharing also becomes important. Web 2.0 tools enable us to show academics and students how to create a public Dropbox folder for documents, store favourite links in an online bookmarking service such as delicious or diigo, or use Google Docs to collaborate on a paper with colleagues. Kathryn Greenhill describes this process perfectly over at Librarians matter:

Zotero itself has taken the place of any social bookmarking like delicious or diigo. [We] used it to collect references for our [shared] VALA2010 paper over the last couple of months – just adding to a shared group library. We read through and tagged these references and pulled out useful quotes, so now as we write up the paper, we just click on a tag and instantly have a list of references on that topic.

Participatory culture means we need new, social skills as part of our work or study. Cloud services allow our skills in collective intelligence, judgement, transmedia navigation and networking to be utilised easily.

Cloud services carry risks that must be weighed up in making the decision to use them. Control over access to your data is largely out of your hands – behind whatever security has been set up by the company or organisation taking responsibility for the data. The security disaster faced by Sony earlier this year highlights how easily it can all go wrong.

On balance? I’m happy to take advantage of the convenience of cloud services, the way they allow access to my information and allow collaboration with colleagues.

References:

Jenkins, H., Clinton, K., Purushotma, R., Robison, A. J., & Weigel, M. (2006). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century. Available http://digitallearning.macfound.org/atf/cf/%7B7E45C7E0-A3E0-4B89-AC9C-E807E1B0AE4E%7D/JENKINS_WHITE_PAPER.PDF

Nelson, M. R. (2009). Building an open cloud [Cloud computing as platform]. Science, 324(5935), 1656-1657. Retrieved from http://www.sciencemag.org.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/cgi/reprint/324/5935/1656.pdf

Mapping my PLN

image created using Popplet for iPad

Alisa Howlett, blogging at Flight Path recently wrote a post based on Jeff Utecht’s 5 stages of PLN adoption.  I would echo much of what Alisa has written, so pop over and read it rather than have me repeat it all here.

Essentially, the 5 stages are identified as immersion, evaluation, know it all, perspective and balance.

It’s hard to identify at which stage I find myself – I have been through intense periods of involvement with my PLN and am certainly no longer at immersion. However, neither am I entirely happy with my current involvement with my PLN so I wouldn’t call it balanced.

Possibly ‘perspective’ is where I am at.  I know I can’t possibly see or take in everything my PLN puts out on twitter and I have stopped trying to follow all of it. Sometimes I find myself feeling left out when there appears to be an interesting conversation going on – and it’s apparent I’ve missed the good bits – but mostly I acknowledge that I can’t possibly see, understand, comment on and participate in every conversation. Or even most of them.

Meredith Farkas wrote a great post over at Information wants to be free about the problems associated with keeping up with the news flow on twitter and her preference for blogging as a medium for keeping all the big ideas in one place.  Adopting this philosophy, I still follow a lot of blogs – an RSS feed (I use Google reader) collects them for me and they sit and wait until I’m ready to read them, rather than rush by me in a busy twitter stream.

Between my RSS reader and my diigo bookmarks, I feel like I’ve got some measure of control over the information flow – and hopefully some balance (or at the very least, perspective).

(The image of my PLN and it’s connectivity is from a great little iPad app called Popplet, I found out about that via a blog post from Kathryn Greenhill over at Librarians matter).

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