Tag Archives: new job

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.

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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.

Essential work tools

I tweeted today that IT at MPOW are having some trouble figuring out why dropbox won’t install on my work PC. Some background is needed. As I’ve recently changed teams I have been the lucky recipient of a long overdue new computer and I’m one of a handful of staff testing the Windows 7 environment that is to be rolled out as standard… er, soonish.

Dropbox installed fine on the old machine but something in the new configuration is stopping it. IT were able to get endnote to load and to get the system to allow me to designate Chrome as my default browser but dropbox is being problematic.

This led me to think about the tools I take for granted in my workday – dropbox definitely being one of them. Some are tech based, others not.

I use my (personal) iPad nearly every day at work, to take notes, monitor twitter via hootsuite, draw mindmaps using popplet, refer to annotated PDF documents, write meeting minutes or quickly look something up on the fly. From being initially very sceptical about the uses for the iPad I’ve become quite a convert!

image

I’ve just acquired the document holder you can see between keyboard & monitor in the photo & after a week I already cannot imagine how I got on without it.

I can’t imagine not having a couple of notebooks on the go at any one time. I love the iPad but sometimes I find there’s no substitute for physically writing it down. That said, I can never find a pen & have taken to haunting the stationery cupboard this week in anticipation of the monthly order delivery in case there’s new pens….

The new PC has come with OneNote loaded and I’m currently exploring its usefulness & capabilities – I’ll let you know if it becomes indispensable!

What tools do you rely on at work?

Data is the new black

Black-Eyed Susan 227 from cygnus921 via flickr CC

If you work in academic libraries sooner or later you are going to come across the issue of research data management. Increasingly, we are also working in an e-research space where everything from finding journal articles for a literature review through to making a copy of the finished work available in an institutional repository happens in an online space.

My previous posts on digital humanities send out a call for libraries to be more involved in this process and to come to the table as partners and collaborators with researchers.  This is an area of librarianship I didn’t know existed before starting at MPOW 15 months ago and it has caught my interest in a big way.

I did say much of this #blogjune from me would be about data. Now I can reveal that I have a new job for the next 12 months and am going to be working in our library’s repository services team, talking about research data management all day long. It starts next week – stay tuned!

Another day in the life

Today was the kind of day that would have been perfect for the library ‘day in the life’ project – it was a really interesting day at work and a great example of why I love working in a large academic library. Of course, I can just write about it anyway…

First up was an interview with the first of a small group of  international students as part of a research project gathering information about the students’ experiences following a research skills workshop we ran for them. I’m not part of the project at all, but the interviews are to be done by someone who had no involvement with delivering the workshop sessions, so that’s where I came in. We had to record audio of the interview – I discovered there’s no native voice recorder on the iPad (who knew?) so ended up setting up Evernote to record the interview. This actually worked out quite well as exporting the recording to the research team using the web client was simplicity. I haven’t actually used Evernote very much so this has been a good learning experience for me.

Next up was being a play tester for a third year game design class from the Media school. They are using the concept of plagiarism as the basis for designing a Serious Game so the library has been involved from the beginning – providing a design brief as the ‘client’ then acting as play testers for the students over the next few weeks. It was lots of fun and great to interact with students at such a detailed level. There are some seriously creative and clever young men and women out there!

After lunch I survived my 6 monthly performance review. We don’t actually call it a performance review at MPOW but whatever it’s called, it was an opportunity to sit down with my team leader to review my achievements to date and make a few suggestions for some professional development opportunities and goals for the next 6 months.

There was also everyday routine stuff of course. I replied to some emails, liaised with some faculty co-ordinators about the planning for the library’s involvement in a program for indigenous high school students that will be run in the mid year break, did some trouble shooting for an academic and had a discussion with a colleague who is working on a collection project that I’m co-ordinating.

During the afternoon I proof-read another colleague’s draft conference paper and provided some feedback, followed by a phone conversation with an ALIA staff member in my role as co-ordinator of the ALIA New Generation Advisory Committee.  Somewhere during the day I also took the time to do some reading on the digital humanities and digital libraries as I have to present back to staff about the conference I attended a few weeks back and I’m still trying to get my head around the concepts I heard about, let alone explain it to others.

It was a busy, productive day – without being overwhelming. I had spaces between my meetings and that doesn’t always happen. The last few months have thrown up many days like this – a variety of interesting projects and things to do that don’t always seem to be related to my job description. If only I could move the university to a more convenient location…..

Degrees of significance

Bowling Alley Score Sheet by Steve Snodgrass via flickr CC

I’ve mentioned before that my book club uses a rating system on books – we put a score out of 5 against our name on a card in the back of the book and then everyone else knows who enjoyed it, who couldn’t finish it and so on.  This is really useful in a group where everyone’s reading preferences are different – you can work out who else likes the same books you do and pick those up to read.

The rating system over the years has been controversial.  At the very first meeting more than 10 years ago we decided on a scale of 1-5 where 1 = couldn’t finish it and 5 = couldn’t put it down wish I could read it again tomorrow.  We have never allowed half points – preferring to make people commit one way or the other.  Some of us love the no half points, others hate it and it comes up for discussion at least a couple of times a year.

I was thinking about this system in relation to some quantitative outcome measurement we do at MPOW.  One of the measurements we use is ‘significant’ – in the context of has this resulted in significant change from the way things were before.  I had a meeting on Thursday that I think had ‘very significant’ outcomes – but just like my book club, there are no degrees of significance in the system so we can’t sit on the fence, and I don’t think it merits the next measurement up in the scale, so significant it shall stay.

A day in the life…

I know it’s not a designated Library Day in the Life date, but frankly, by the 23rd of June, I’m running out of puff for #blogjune posts (in spite of the crowdsourcing I did the other day – thank you, they are all firmly tucked away as ideas to be developed).

So, what did I do today in my still #newjob?

8am: arrived at my desk with coffee & toasted banana bread (believe me, to get here at 8am from my place I can’t have breakfast at home, I’d have to get up at 5.30am…). Did a bit of ‘how was your evening’ with some colleagues while waiting nearly 10 minutes for the work PC to boot up and labour to the point where I could actually use it.

8.15am: sorted through a few emails that had arrived after I left yesterday, mostly FYI, not much action required

8.30am: I’m reviewing the Libguides for one of my Outreach areas, so spent some time looking at what other Universities do in this subject area.

9.45am: Coffee with some team members – possibly my favourite part of the day 🙂

10:00am: More libguides, plus wrangling the University Handbook to try and work out what subjects are taught in this area and who teaches them, so I can make more informed choices about the Libguides review

11:00am: Quick scan of Google Reader led to some reading of interesting articles

12:00pm: Attended a University seminar The iPad in tertiary education with some colleagues.

1.30pm: Lunch – maybe my second favourite part of the day? Beautiful sunshine today, with semester break nearly upon us the Library Lawn is fairly quiet and there’s plenty of places to sit and enjoy the day.

2.00pm: Preparation for a meeting with an academic – well that was the plan. In reality? This is where my day departed from the planned. Instead of preparing during this time, I ended up meeting with the academic earlier than the original meeting time as she had some other issues to discuss and we needed more than the half hour previously allocated. My preparation therefore consisted of a 10 minute conversation with another of my team members enroute to the earlier iPad presentation…

2.30pm: Scheduled meeting (over coffee) with an academic to try and improve my understanding of what is taught in her area and find out what her personal research interests are. Of course, this meeting actually started at 2pm instead.

3:00pm: Evacuation procedures training (refresher?) from the new Help Zone on the main floor of the library – what we have to do if we are rostered onto the Help Zone when an evacuation takes place.  I ended up missing this – see earlier entry about prolonged meeting, which ran over time, didn’t get back to the library until 3.20, by which time the evacuation run-through was finished and I arrived just in time to walk back up the stairs with the rest of the team (thereby possibly managing to look like I had been at the run-through?)

4.00pm: Home! The very good thing about arriving at 8am is I can leave at 4pm and still accrue some flextime.

Actually, it was a pretty good day 🙂

Overdrive(n) to despair

readinglist by wsmith via flickr CC

This is not meant to be a rant about Overdrive, more a discussion of my experiences (ok, frustrations) navigating this e-landscape.  I haven’t really taken up the e-books challenge yet, I like physical books, I love audio books and don’t really have a ‘need’ at this point to outlay for an e-reader.  I get all the arguments for and against, I really do, and I can see a future with an e-book reader, but at this point I’d rather spend the money on something else.

I’ve had a few forays into Kindle for the iPhone, and apart from the iPhone screen being too small for serious or long term reading, have found that to be a very positive experience.

However, my main interest at this point is audio books (well, it’s always been an interest as has already been discussed here) as I have some bus travel in my daily commute to work and I can’t ‘read’ on a bus due to travel sickness.

I prefer to borrow my audio books rather than buy them and my local library has an Overdrive service that I use regularly.  However, as most of the audio books in Overdrive seem to be in wma format, they can’t be downloaded to my Mac laptop. Before the Mac, I used to download them to my (Windows) laptop, then transfer them to my iPod or, more recently, my iPhone.

Now, I can only use audio books in mp3 format and that’s about 10% of the audio book collection on offer. I’ve given up on the Mac version of Overdrive and now download them via the iPhone app direct to my device – which method I had been avoiding because of the previously mentioned limitations on format….

I also can’t return them when I’m finished with them, which means they sit on my account (and therefore unavailable to anyone else) for the full 21 days, in spite of the fact that it only takes me about 7 to get through an average audio book (I know that sounds like I do nothing but listen to books, but in my new job I am commuting up to 3 hours every day). If anyone knows of a way to make that happen by the way, please, please let me know in the comments!

There is of course an up side to all of this.  I have to have an audio book to listen to, and because my choice is so limited I’m listening to a lot of books I probably would not have normally chosen, in genres that wouldn’t normally be my preference.  I think this is a good thing.  I’ve only given up on an audio book once, whereas I give up on print books easily if they are not grabbing me or I become bored with the story.  This is also a good thing. (The only reason I gave up on the audio book in question was the narrator’s voice – drove me crazy).

Am I getting something wrong? To use (another) of my favourite phrases: Is it just me?

Nodding and smiling

At the risk of sounding like I may have been employed under false pretences I have to say that when my current manager was interviewing me for my position and kept mentioning the term ‘bibliometrics’ I did a lot of nodding and smiling and quite frankly, pretending I knew what she was talking about.

Sometimes I feel like my whole professional life consists of nodding and smiling and pretending I’m following the conversation. I’m pretty good at absorbing information by an almost osmosis-like process – working on the theory that if I listen long enough, then go away and do some background reading everything will eventually make sense. Most importantly, I don’t commit myself to an opinion one way or another too early (I hate to appear ill-informed or under-prepared, even when I am).

On the whole this works. In a large academic library with 160+ staff one has to do something about the information overload and I have found that getting up to speed has come much faster by adopting a ‘nod and smile’ approach and not worrying too much about the details in the first instance. I find that absorbing the culture and the big picture of a new environment (whether it’s a new job, or a new soccer club the kids are involved with) is the quickest way through the confusion of those first few weeks and months.

I digress, as this was originally going to be about bibliometrics! However, I have probably reached the limit of your patience dear reader, I know you’ve got dozens of other blogs to pop off and read as part of your commitment to #blogjune so in my now familiar style, I’ll leave the specifics until another time.

Me? You want to ask me?

LIfe question by venturist via flickr CC

Last month I had a strange experience. Strange for me anyhow. If you follow me on twitter you’ll know I am @newgradlib – that is, a newly graduated librarian.  I don’t really know anything. I’m new. I’m learning. I offer words of encouragement and lots of nods & smiles but no real advice (except on parenting, I’m pretty experienced in that department…).

This, however, has not stopped three individuals recently asking me for my professional opinion in three different areas of my professional life. Yikes!

The first is another new graduate. I sat on an interview panel for a job she applied for and was instantly drawn to her – like me, she had little or no library experience yet had written a job application that convinced the panel we needed to see her. Like me, she was offered the job. Like me, she is starting her professional career in a very small, one person library (in fact, the very library I have just left).

I’ve found myself communicating with this librarian partly in a handover type way but also in a “why don’t you try this or this or this to help yourself get started in the profession” type way. You know, suggesting she get going on twitter, establish a PLN, start a blog, all that stuff. Perhaps I should have invited her to blog every day of June.

Next, I found myself being asked about my involvement with NGAC by someone potentially interested in nominating for a position on an ALIA Advisory Committee – expressions of interest were called for several committees during May. What did I think? Had I found it a worthwhile experience? How much work is really involved? Was it interesting?

Last, I had an email from someone who has recently started following me on twitter and is also reading my blog. This person wanted to ask me about studying LIS by distance. How had I found that with a family? Would I recommend one LIS school over another? What had my experience been with juggling time, motivation, kid wrangling and lack of library experience?

It feels strange to be the person being asked – I’m used to the mentoring thing working the other way around for me. It’s a bit daunting to know that people are seeing me as someone with knowledge they can tap into – but also kinda nice.

I’ve taken a few thoughts about public profiles and participation in a personal learning network out of this experience that I’m saving up for another post – after all, I do have to come up with one every day this month!