Sunday, July 05, 2009

i3 report: Research Information Network

I'm afraid I am taking a while in finishing off my final few reports from the i3 conference that took place at Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, Scotland a few weeks ago. I've got another couple of half-finished reports, here's one I manged to tidy up!
Sharon Markless and David Streatfield talked about the findings from the Research Information Network report "Mind the skills gap". ("The report focuses on the nature, extent and organisation of the information-related training for researchers that is provided by universities and other higher education institutions. It looks at the roles that librarians and other information specialists play and how the training that they provide fits with the wider provision of generic training for researchers.")
The speakers' first point was about how the research evidence, as much of it as there is, indicates that transfer of skills from one context to another is difficult and certainly cannot be assumed. Therefore pushing "generic skills" courses (as has happened with Roberts money (i.e. money invested in the UK to support "employability" and research skills of research students) is problematic.
Markless and Streatfield saw a problem not so much in academics' view of the library, but rather the librarians' perception of the library and its role. In terms of events put on by librarians for researchers, they reported quite a "traditional" narrow range of activities, if you consider the full range of information literacy related support and education librarians could provide. The things which librarians most frequently mentioned (in the report) were doing literature searching, sessions on citing material, finding research material. There seemed to be more scope for them offering education to do with personal information management, evaluating information, development of metadata.
In terms of "how effective was the Roberts money" Markless and Streatfield felt it hadn't been very effective at all as regards involving/leveraging librarians. Academics also tended to talk about information skills rather than information literacy; librarians were talking about IL, but delivering information skills. In particular, Markless and Streatfield noted that people developing the Roberts programmes might well have been open to suggestions for IL. Another missed opportunity was the Vitae website: librarians were not contributing to "best practice" part of the website.
Another key message is/should be "it isn't all about training". The training offered did not sound appropriately constructivist. It could have been more successful if the "trainers" had got to know the researchers, and started to understand their needs.

Photo by Sheila Webber: Flag, Thessaloniki, June 2009

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