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Developing a Research Culture

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Presentation by Chris Powis, Head of Library and Learning Services at the University of Northampton. to the ALISS 2016 summer conference

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Developing a Research Culture

  1. 1. Developing a research culture Chris Powis Doing more with less: How information professionals can survive and thrive ALISS Conference 18th August 2016
  2. 2. Outline • What do we mean by research? • Why should we do research? • What are the barriers to research? • Overcoming the barriers • Case study: Developing a research culture at the University of Northampton 2
  3. 3. What do we mean by ‘research’? ‘Academic’ research • Problem solving or curiosity driven - purpose is to create new knowledge (or confirm existing knowledge) • Grounded in disciplinary context (literature, theory, methodology, interpretation) • Produce outputs of publishable quality • Audience: other scholars, policy makers, practitioners • Make an ‘impact’ (REF) ‘Practitioner’ research • Focused on current problem or need • Pragmatic approach to theory and methodology – often investigative or evaluative • Results inform practice – support decision-making for immediate benefit • Audience: often managers or professional colleagues but… • …dissemination frequently a secondary consideration 3
  4. 4. Benefits to the individual • Interesting – opportunity to explore something in more depth, learn something new, satisfy curiosity • Challenging – develop new skills, stretch yourself • Variety – a change from routine, opportunity to do something different, work with new people • Increase job satisfaction • Support professional development • Enhance personal reputation • Improve career prospects 4
  5. 5. Benefits to the service or organisation • Gather evidence of value / demonstrate impact • Engage with users: – Understand their perspective – Show interest in their needs – Do what they do • Support decision-making • Improve service / solve problems • Increase staff motivation • Achieve recognition (within and beyond the organisation) 5
  6. 6. Benefits to the profession • Further professional excellence • Create new knowledge • Provide an evidence base for practice • Provoke conversation and debate • Instigate positive change • Enhance reputation • Develop an engaged and vibrant professional community 6
  7. 7. But most of all to: Make a difference 7
  8. 8. Barriers to practitioner research • Lack of research skills / experience • Lack of confidence in ability to do research • Don’t know what to research / where to start • Insufficient resources • Insufficient time • Lack of support from managers / colleagues • Cannot see the benefit 8
  9. 9. Overcoming the barriers – skills • Training and skills development - research seminars, workshops (provided internally or externally; either generic or specific to LIS research) – put together your own if nothing suitable exists • Collaborate with partners (e.g. colleagues from other parts of your organisation; professional colleagues from other institutions; academic staff in LIS departments – anyone with whom you have shared interest) – Build a team with complementary skills – Take advantage of others’ expertise • Mentoring / buddying – share experience, learn together 9
  10. 10. Overcoming the barriers – resources • Time: – Choose a topic that complements / supports / informs your day job – Choose a project that leads to service efficiencies later – Combine a research project with other professional development (e.g. Chartership,HEA) – Share the workload with a research partner • Funding: – Many practitioner research projects are relatively low cost – Submit a bid for funding – internal pots are a good place to start 10
  11. 11. Overcoming the barriers - gaining support • Make the case – persuade others (line manager, colleagues, potential research partners) of the value of your work: – How does it support library/organisational priorities and strategy? – How will it benefit the individual and the service? – What is the cost of not doing the research? • Produce a formal research proposal, with costs, ethical considerations and deliverables 11
  12. 12. CASE STUDY: DEVELOPING A RESEARCH CULTURE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTHAMPTON 12
  13. 13. Developing a research culture at Northampton – top down • Research activity supported and encouraged by senior managers – Included as an objective in PDRs. Team leaders allow staff to participate in research activity – Included in departmental vision and operational plans – Culture of support for new ideas – learn from success & failure – Some financial support available for projects via LLS Research Award (competitive bidding process), university pots – Recognised and rewarded through funding to present at conferences, departmental notices etc. – Development Opportunities (Writing Retreat, Summer School etc) • Research Support Team with remit to encourage LLS research • LLS Research and Enterprise Committee (and Ethics sub-Committee) • Appointment of Visiting Professor (Charles Oppenheim) 13
  14. 14. Developing a research culture at Northampton – bottom up • Individuals encouraged to follow up own ideas for projects (with proviso that it will inform their practice) • Initial impetus sometimes comes from other professional development e.g. HEA, CILIP, leadership training • Peer example and support – from own teams and Research Support Team; first projects often done in pairs • Cross departmental and collaborative projects especially encouraged • Research training - proactive and reactive • LUNAR – lunchtime reading circle 14
  15. 15. Research Summer Schools and Writing Retreat • Summer Schools held in 2011 and 2013, each for two days – steps in the research cycle (e.g. defining the research question; winning support for the research; methodology; dissemination; generating research ideas; techniques for data collection and analysis; writing up) • Writing Retreat –two day, off-campus event in 2015 – mix of talks, peer support, one-to-one advice from experts and (mostly) time to write 15
  16. 16. LLS Conferences – 2012, 2014, 2016 • Purpose: – To share research findings with LLS colleagues – To promote ‘librarian as researcher’ to academic colleagues – To showcase the work of the department to professional colleagues – To celebrate our research successes – Academic and external attendance grown year on year. 2016 had 140 delegates with roughly a third each of LLS, University and External 16
  17. 17. LLS research - impact 17
  18. 18. LLS research impact • Reading lists –informed implementation of Aspire reading lists; similar project later undertaken at partners • Learning spaces – informed refurbishment of library building; Head of LLS invited to join Design Steering Group for new campus • Research data – results underpinned institutional research data policy and subsequent RDM activity • Creation of first UoN MOOC –LLS staff seen as ‘go to’ people for development of MOOCs; invitation to be part of an international project • Skills Hub and open educational resources – better understanding of student preferences in OERs, feeding in to subsequent Skills Hub content • Evaluation of free online survey tools – paper presented to University’s Student Experience Committee; wide practical application across LLS • Educational videos – informed the development of learning materials across the university • Transitions – leadership of work streams in major First Year Experience project 18
  19. 19. Chris.powis@northampton.ac.uk 19

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