16 July 2012

DREaM concluding conference

Last Monday I attended the DREaM project concluding conference at the British Library. I blogged about the launch event last year and found last week's event provided an excellent opportunity to catch up on some of the progress made in building a UK network or cadre of LIS researchers during the three intervening workshop sessions.

Professor Hazel Hall began the presentations by summarising the DREaM project's work and achievements so far and also outlining the relationship between DREaM (funded by the AHRC) and the LIS Research Coalition and the RiLIES project. Particularly interesting was the description of the impact of the DREaM project beyond the UK LIS field - with potential international interest in the model developed and interest from other disciplines which may experience a similar gap between practice and research. The three key themes highlighted for the final conference and for further development were: measuring value and impact of LIS; establishing evidence to demonstrate this value and impact; developing the UK network.

The morning keynote was delivered by Professor Carol Tenopir from the University of Tennessee on the subject of "Building evidence of value and impact: methods, metrics and ROI". This discussed research from the Lib-Value Project - which includes numerous organisations and stakeholders, such as JISC Collections. This highlighted a number of techniques for establishing value from the economic (including "purchase or exchange value" or "use value" based on outcomes described by Fritz Machlup), or the economic / social / environmental trio described by Bruce Kingma. Research which extrapolated up the time UK academics reported spending reading suggested that they "spend nearly 3 months of work time reading scholarly material", with the majority of the articles coming from the library. Although some academics may claim not to use the library, they are actually using it a lot, in the form of its online collections. Another approach to showing value provided cost ratios for the return on investment from access to journal articles in grant proposals, with quite a broad range of values depending on subject and study level. A fascinating slide synthesised some of the findings from the research to describe the archetypal successful academic: publishing 4+ items a year and having won an award in the last two years were key features which caught my eye.

The 20 One Minute Madness sessions which followed were once again excellent. I think they really seemed to benefit from not having a fixed topic for the session: the talks included Carolynn Rankin's description of the IFLA Sister Libraries project, which provides an opportunity for children's librarians in the Global South to pair up with others in the Global North; Louise Doolan's announcement of the exciting news that CILIP's CSG Information Literacy Group is now a Special Interest Group in its own right; Rossitza Atanassova promoting the UK Web Archive, and concluding with an invitation from Sue Reynolds (RMIT University, Australia) to collaborate with Australian LIS researchers.

After lunch, Dr Louise Cooke gave an excellent presentation examining the changes in the networks between cadre members who attended the DREaM workshops. It was really fascinating to see how links between individuals multiplied and diversified over time, with the effect of strengthening the group by reducing dependence on a small number of core participants.

The afternoon panel session gave the opportunity for discussion of some core issues in LIS research - how is this defined? How can academics and practitioners collaborate? How can we avoid short termism and ensure research is disseminated effectively and used in practice? How can we create a central place to store the relevant research?

This was followed by the presentation of the LIS Practitioner Researcher Excellence Award to the North West Clinical Librarian Systematic Review and Evaluation Group.

The afternoon keynote was delivered by Dr Ben Goldacre - "Bad Science". Some of this was familiar to me, such as the fact that positive studies are twice as likely to be published as negative studies. However, much of this was new news - one particularly interesting proposed project involves tracking PubMed search strategies to see which are most likely to succeed in locating reports on the outcomes of registered clinical trials.

The event ended with the LIRG AGM, followed by a wine reception - a great opportunity for networking.

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