I have attended my first conference since the start of my PhD – the DREaM Project Concluding Conference held at the British Library on 9th July 2012. Before I registered for the conference, I was not aware of the DREaM project and its relevance to my work. It was regrettable to learn that the project is now ending at the end of July but the only consolation was at least I have managed to learn about the project and attended the event to take a last glimpse of its glory before the final curtain. Having developed such a successful UK network, it is hopeful that the impact and the legacy of DREaM will live on and helps inspire other LIS projects in the future.
Welcome and introduction: ‘DREaM past, present and future’
Professor Hazel Hall reviewed the events and the impact of DREaM since the events took place. Different training sessions and workshops were carried out throughout the duration of the project and were all very well received. It was interesting to learn that the 30 participants who attended the three linked workshops found a growth in their theoretical knowledge with an increase in their research capability and capacity after attended the sessions. This has been manifested in their growth of confident and research knowledge such as the learning and application of the new data collection techniques which has in turn raised the research standards. There was no doubt that the Cadre group has developed a foundation for future collaborations and widened the network and research relationships. Nevertheless where do we go from here to maintain a sustainable network so that all the hard work does not come to waste is certainly a question for all LIS professionals to mull over.
Opening keynote: ‘Building evidence of the value and impact of library and information services: methods, metrics and ROI’
Professor Carol Tenopir delivered an insightful speech on values measurement by looking at the LIS practice and LIS research as a combined and the different methods to measure values for analysis. The reason for research (i.e. research projects) and practice (i.e. academic libraries) to come together was because of change and the pace of change. The challenge such as the worldwide economic downturn has opened up opportunities for LIS professionals to demonstrate as well as choosing the best way to demonstrate values. She used the example of the Lib-Value Project to illustrate and define value in the library and information context. The discussion included: the definition of value (value and use value); Bruce Kingma’s (Syracuse University) economic, social and environmental library values; the measurement of implied, explicit and derived values; the four types of questions from the scholarly reading studies – demographic, recollection, critical incident and comments. Although the use of data as evidence to build a case or to make decision can be very powerful, Professor Tenopir stressed the importance of exercising caution when measuring value as the data could sometimes be misleading and portray an unsustainable trend depending on the methods of measurement. Another interesting point raised was the monetary value of ROI, which was both ‘controversial’ and ‘tricky’ for libraries as described by Professor Tenopir. Values such as the improvement in ranking and reputation are not quantifiable, just as success (or prestige) cannot be measured, it therefore becomes difficult for librarians to measure such variables, demonstrate their values and present them to the organisation. The last point about the embedded librarian vs the library has also given me food for thought.
One minute madness
It was remarkable to see how passionate colleagues were about their different topics of interest. My attention was particularly drawn to Miggie Pickton’s presentation about the promotion of practitioner research at Northampton University, as I was impressed of how supportive they were in encouraging their staff in doing research. If only this kind of good management practice could be more widespread and adopted by all UK HEIs libraries, the LIS research landscape would surely be different.
Invited paper: ‘Facets of DREaM: an analysis of network development to support UK LIS research and researchers’
Dr Louise Cooke presented the Social Network Analysis as a technique focusing on the relationships between entities. It was believed that by analysing the network composition and the position of an actor within the network, we could gain a better understanding of the world around us. It was fascinating to see the graphics presentation of the data analysed using the Ucinet software to calculate the network statistics and the use of Netdraw to visualise the results. The indication of the analysis has shown that the DREaM project was a success and has achieved its key aim of ‘developing a UK wide network of LIS researchers’. The fact that the analysis was primarily based on quantitative metrics meant that qualitative indicators were needed to help us understand the network better. This point has agreed with the emerging trend and popularity of qualitative research methodology used in LIS for explaining and understanding the perspective of real life phenomenon experienced by people.
Panel session: ‘… and so the DREaM goes on: means of sustaining the UK network of LIS researchers’
Coincidentally, one of the common themes from the four speakers was collaboration and integration. The financial challenge, new social media and public policy have opened up opportunities for the LIS profession to re-examine our strategies and to look at new research methods from other disciplines. By collaborating and forming partnerships, it has allowed the facilitation of a broad agenda for multidisciplinary research. Professional associations such as CILIP can help fostering high quality research and building the learning and research culture. Dissemination of research is an equally important issue where the lack of proper support and knowledge of disseminating the research outputs can hamper the development of the evidence base of LIS.
Closing keynote: ‘Bad Science’
In his closing keynote speech, Ben Goldacre satirically presented the misrepresentation of science around the world. It has opened our eyes to some of the fluke findings being selectively reported and published in journals, and how ‘evidence’ were being presented with the intention to mislead. Truthful data informs decision making whereas wrongful data induces a heavy price. It has made information professionals to think carefully about research ethics and the true meaning behind evidence. Although the topic was a solemn one, Ben Goldacre’s humourous presentation style has made me felt as if I was attending in the Comedy Store down the road at Piccadilly! (in the nicest possible way) It was a very informative and enjoyable session and has rounded the day off nicely.