University Helpdesk for Digital Research Skills #theta2015

Reimaging the University Helpdesk for the Next Generation of Digital Research Skills (abstract)
Dr. Steven Manos, David F. Flanders and Dr. Fiona Tweedie

Can’t hope to offer one-to-one support to all the researchers they need to support (especially in the context of the “digital native researcher”) so want to reimagine how they offer support.

Asked researchers what tools they use:
eg python, git, chrome, WebGL, OpenGL, Data-Driven Documents
eg ArcGIS, Google Maps, SPSS
eg Terminal, Matlab, Dropbox, Evernote, iPhone camera
eg Anaconda, R, PsychoPy, iPython, Markdown
Often have enormous of array of tools in their toolbox but still want to add more tools, so how can we hope to help them.

“Community: it’s what makes digital research possible”. Instead of supporting researchers with tools, encourage/facilitate users of these tools to support each other. [Ooh so much potential here.] Build community. Researchers already often learn from each other. All training done by researchers. Research networks tend to be self-sustaining and ongoing.

“A helpdesk is reactive. A training community is proactive.”

Sometimes run into “I have books, leave me alone” and “I don’t computer”. But many excited by being able to flash up a paper by adding a customised map. Workshop on this, very popular, researchers coming back, had 3-4 papers come out.

Software carpentry – teaching coding to non-coders. Teaching them enough coding to be able to make use of Python, R, Matlab in their work (eg a for loop) to make their lives easier without trying to turn them into computer scientists. Taught by researchers for researchers. Intensive, hands-on, many helpers. Every 15min stop talking and they do a challenge to put into practice. Code breaks – important for people to see how this works: you google the error message, the answer is on StackOverflow and you patch it up and continue.

Data carpentry assumes no coding experience. Teaching text mining/analysis for humanities.

How do we get people involved in 3D printing? Throw a grant at them. [Ah to be in an organisation where a few thousand dollars is spare change. 🙂 ]

Research Tool Speed Dating: set up tools on workstations around the room and rotate researchers around the room – if they like it they can set up a second ‘date’ ie training.

HackyHour: come to a bar and people can come, have a drink, ask questions.

Research Bazaar: pulled 19 courses together over a 3-day event.

Different people engage in different ways so having all these methods is really important.

Why would a university want to invest/engage in something like this? [Why wouldn’t it?!] Often IT shops are enterprise-focused, not researcher-focused. Take a user-driven approach.

Asked researchers to cite them if skills help produce articles, and 2 articles have been published citing ResBaz (Research Bazaar). Much social media engagement.

ResBaz going international – Mozilla Science taking over the community. 1st week of Feb next year if you want to do it at your university.


  • open and collaborative platforms
  • some fanatical community engagement
  • cost-effective

Introducing the ResBaz Cookbook (in development)

KISS Goodbye to roadblocks in scholarly infrastructure #theta2015

KISS Goodbye to roadblocks in scholarly infrastructure (abstract)
Martin Fenner, Technical Lead, Public Library of Science (PLOS) @mfenner

“Advanced search” screen vs simple Google-style search vs Wikipedia article about Crick and Watson article which also discusses Franklin controversy. Article itself is on Nature (doi:10.1038/171737a0) and requires a login, payment, or rent. Nature eventually made it [this vital historic article!] freely available for 50th anniversary if you happen to know the right link…

Another model: can get it for free but have to sign up first and insists on knowing your affiliation, job title, etc etc. Cf logins that require only email address, nickname, password. [We really need a secure, universal, federated authentication system. I’m not sure whether or not this is an oxymoron, but we still need it.]

For reuse: often have to say what for, what format, who you’re distributing to, etc and then pay ridiculous amounts of money to the publisher to just show a figure at a conference. [Earlier discussed history of why we have so many plug/socket standards – because window of opportunity to develop standards was around the 1930s and countries weren’t really talking to each other…]

Persistent identifiers. Could argue you don’t need bibliographic info, just persistent id eg DOI, PMID, Bibcode ID. First problem is that there’s more than one. Second problem is that there’s also URLs associated with these. And then, CrossRef DOI display guidelines says always display as permanent URLs in online environment [cf the problem earlier this year when their DOI resolver went down whereas other resolvers kept working, and they said that we shouldn’t rely on a single server/permanent URL]. [Plus and also, many DOIs aren’t as permanent as they were meant to be.]

Different places refer to article with different identifiers – interoperability issues. [Does anyone map DOIs to PMIDs to Bibcodes to…?]

Rise of the stacks: Elsevier; ResearchGate; Digital Science; all trying to merge publishing and social sites for publishers [some coming from one angle some from another]

Cameron Neylon’s principles for open scholarly infrastructures: cover governance (stakeholder governed, transparent), sustainability (‘time-limited funds used only for time-limited activities’ [this is such a good principle!], revenue based on services not data), insurance (open data, open source). ORCID has tried to follow these principles.

Q: Given multiplicity of standards, how do we know ORCID is different.
A: ORCID is too young to say if it’s a success. Much thought went into it but of course always start out with best intentions.

Chat about Research Repository #theta2015

Elements Integration – lets chat about Research Repository and populating Researcher Profiles (abstract)
Leonie Hayes and Anne Harvey

[Facilitated audience discussion of various questions only loosely related. Probably unintended that largely drew an audience of people perhaps more interested in learning about Elements than of people who had already implemented it.]

Discussion of data – Creative Commons licenses not very appropriate to datasets because immediately locks down opportunities for reuse. Creative Commons Zero is better here.

“Sunshine cleaning” – when you hang your data out to dry and everyone sees how dirty it is so you quickly clean it. [Very effective but terrifying for many researchers so I suggest an alternative might be to put the data, like the journal article, out for peer review.]

Looking at impact for Creative Works – altmetrics. Many don’t see themselves as researchers but as practitioners. Uptake of workshops is low as often working from home. The institution needs to focus on areas outside STEM and traditional metrics – these alienate scholars in other fields.

Open Access policy. Many have ideals but doesn’t translate into practice. Especially license issues. Difficulties when managing a PBRF version vs an open access version.

Subject thesaurus for Higher Ed Learning and Teaching #theta2015

Towards a New Library of Resources for Higher Education Learning and Teaching (abstract)
Philip Hider, Barbara Spiller, Pru Mitchell, Robert Parkes and Raylee Macaulay

OLT Resource Library – repository for higher ed learning and teaching material coming out of funded projects.

Search effectiveness issues – average recall 0.45; average precision 0.33

Came up with new schema with mandatory fields:

  • Project title
  • Project summary
  • Topic (controlled)
  • Discipline of application (controlled)
  • Identifier (ORCID)
  • (and many optional)

Evaluated various thesauri for subject search (felt this was most important search) – content factors and maintenance factors. ATED (Australian Thesaurus of Education Descriptors) did best (Schools Online Thesaurus also did well) and did well at concept matching on words and on phrases. Not perfect fit (as broad education not higher ed) but came up trumps.

Literature comes in from publishers/researchers -> ‘goes through’ ATED -> Australian Education Index -> harvested by various external databases.

Had to map OLT keywords/concepts to ATED. 27% were exact matches. 1000+ terms to look at and map manually. OLT had a lot of proper names where ATED didn’t. Most were covered by ATED but the term need to be considered as a use reference. Some were new discipline areas; some teaching and learning concepts or technology concepts hadn’t yet got into ATED.

Good example of using conferences and trend reports to generate vocabulary terms that should be added to a thesaurus, rather than waiting for them to reach journals.

Gamification to improve awareness of library services #theta2015

Evolving customer engagement: Using mobile technology and gamification to improve awareness of and access to library services (abstract)
David Honeyman and Daniel Walker

[I’m reflexively sceptical of gamification. Maybe because it’s a buzzword and sometimes implemented as such without much thought about whether people want to play these games, and/or whether these games will actually help solve the problem? But certainly I’ve also seen cases where it’s been done really well.]

Acknowledge that it takes time to build a game.

Session includes a game:

Idea is adding game elements to less engaging activities to increase fun/engagement. Can increase motivation and improve learning outcomes. Many businesses even involving it – especially to get customers more involved. In libraries: orientation, infolit, fighting plagiarism, using library resources/services

Mobile technologies makes this more possible. “Opportunities that arise when everyone’s carrying around a computer in their pocket”.

Gamifying orientation to move away from guided tour. Started with self-guided orientation to blend paper-based with SurveyMonkey. Prizes offered. Worked okay but limitations – no embedded videos/images/links and not mobile friendly.

The Research Game
Needed to be cheap, easy to make, desktop- and mobile-friendly, look good, let people save and resume, gather responses (ie a form tool).
Considered TextAdventures, Twitter, Blackboard, Facebook, Blogger. Went with Blogger because it was customisable – many other tools come with one look-and-feel. Embedded Google Forms. [Looks different on desktop than mobile but both work.]

Points were displayed on a leaderboard using Infogram – either compared to whole uni or to own faculty. Development took 200 hours, and a couple of hours each day to collate results and post updates. Second year they changed questions and tasks (so people who’d done it last year could do again) which took an extra 70 staff-hours.

The Bond Med Student Challenge” – students descend on library, get the URL, and go off to do the challenge. One staff to supervise and answer questions, but doesn’t need to do much. 100 staff hours to create tasks and questions but will be able to reuse this in future years.

The Law Library Challenge – could embed videos and image which improved look and performance. Being on Google Docs means it doesn’t look as good as Blogger but easier to create and quick to collate results.

Tried to blend tricky/serious with fun/lighthearted questions. 2-3 hours to update each semester for next students as just tweak questions.

Donated textbooks as prizes.

What worked:

  • Completion rates: paper-based system had some drop off from question to question; gamified system has more even response rate
  • 85% of players said they’d use a resource they weren’t previously aware of.
  • Reduced environmental impact – less printing!
  • Students can use own devices – most have their own. [What about the few who don’t?] Don’t need to download software with webapp.


  • Google Forms limits layout options so not as game-like as desirable.
  • Blogger more tailorable, but had its own downsides: required multiple Google Forms and takes time to collate these. [Seems solvable using some kind of data munging software.] Every time they complete a task they have to enter their ID to enable scoring, which isn’t ideal! Suggest looking for something with a good login system.

Q: Are you looking at orientation differently?
A: No, same content but more fun.

Q: Was there any resistance to this?
A: No. Supported by management.

Q: Any thoughts of integrating with LMS?
A: Hadn’t thought about it – too clunky and doesn’t look like a game. (Blackboard)
Q: Ours also very restrictive.

Q: Can people come back and refresh?
A: Done over 2 days. But can’t come back later as requires setup in the library.

Q: Percentage uptake?
A: 50% uptake for Law last semester, out of 100 students (helped because draw for iPad)

Library design, education pedagogy and service delivery #theta2015

‘Let’s be brief(ed)’: Library design, education pedagogy and service delivery (abstract)
Blair Gardiner, Sarah Charing, Karen Kealy, and Naomi Mullumby

Library basement flanked by lecture theatres. Trend at uni is for consolidation – more than one discipline in one building. Faculty were emphatic about keeping the library in the building.

Participatory design. Designers looked at evolution of libraries and at what was going on on-campus – designing building in context. Asked students what they’d want in a new library (power outlets, big tables, task lighting). Got collaboratively space, and compact shelving near study space. Lots of workshops – consistent communication was important. Was good to get facilities recognising librarians know what they’re talking about so involving them heavily.

“Built pedagogy”. Students can learn [architecture] with reference to the library itself.
Windows into lecture theatres. Connectivity between student space and staff space – people can see how each other works.

Audio from architect: research traditionally seen as rarefied part of scholarship, inaccessible. But knowledge increasingly democratised. If accessible to everyone, needs to be curated. Role of library as place of critical debate is becoming central especially in context of design. In architecture there’s no one-to-one relationship between signifier and signified so these ideas in constant flux.

Pedagogical approaches:
Spaces for learning and spaces for research
“Library is a studio space”. Driven by social interactions. Need for collaborative space as well as quiet individual spaces. Student-centred approach. About how students learn within space. [Cf idea from Phil Long that people learn better if learning in different environments: what if we made every study carrell different? Somehow reward people for ‘collecting’ study environments?]

Took some work to put service desk at best place in library – not front-and-centre but off to side. Seeing a staff member is one of many options.

Exhibition spaces to display student work; hope to have student exhibitions too.

Need to do a post-occupancy survey. So far know the partnerships, having librarian engagement with process, etc, were successful.

Q: If you had to change one thing right now what would it be?
A: High-use room is obstructed by a book-case when you walk into library – would take that away so people could see it.

Q: Did you change the lecture space at all?
A: Still traditional lecture theatres. Decided was still needed for large undergrad cohorts. Solidly booked.

Q: Extended hours / 24/7?
A: Some area designed for 24hour access, however campus security restricts access.

A: Decreased collection space, doubled seating.

B(uild)YO skilled Data Librarian #theta2015

B(uild)YO skilled Data Librarian (abstract)
Karen Visser, Natasha Simons and Kathryn Unsworth

[Flipped classroom approach: 1) looked at recent data librarian job ads to work out what skills we/librarians would need to develop; 2) shared ideas previously generated of how to upskill (eg reading D-Lib articles; attending iassist conferences; data ‘bootcamp’ workshop); 3) discussed topics in teams – eg what skills does a data librarian need (we came up with subject ontology expertise, ethical/cultural understanding, knowledge of legal issues, then unfortunately time was up).

[Pretty chaotic but got through a lot especially since multiple ‘streamed’ discussions went on at once – organisers aim to distribute notes to attendees post-conference.]

Digital humanities’ use of cultural data #theta2015

How will digital humanities in the future use cultural data?
Ingrid Mason @1n9r1d

[Presentation basically takes the approach of giving an overview of digital humanities and cultural data by throwing lots of examples at us – fascinating but not conducive to notes.]

Cultural data is generated through all research – seems to be more through humanities, but many others too.
RDS building national collection pulling together statistical adata, manuscripts, documents, artefacts, av recordings from an array of unconnected repositories.

New challenge: people wanting access to collections in bulk, not just borrowing a couple of items. Need to look at developing a wholesale interface on top of our existing retail interface.

Close reading vs distant reading. Computation + arrangement + distance. Researchers interested in immersion; in moving images (eg change over time); pattern analysis; opening up the archive (eg @TroveNewsBot). Text mining/linguistic computing methods to look at World Trade Centre first-responder inteviews. Digital paleography – recognising writing of medieval scripts. Linked Jazz.

A dream: when an undergrad would have loved to have been in the Matrix. Have a novel surrounding you and then turn it immediately into a concordance.

Things digital humanities researchers need: Visualisation hours. Digitisation and OCR. Project managers. Multimedia from various institutions. High-performance computing experts.

~”Undigitised data is like dark matter” (Maltby)

What we can do:

  • Talk to researchers about materials they need
  • Learn about APIs
  • Provide training

Q: Indigenous cultural data
A: Some material is very sensitive and challenges to get it to appropriate researchers/communities so could be opportunities to work together.

Q: Any work on standardisation of cultural data?
A: At a high level (collection description) we can but between fields harder.

Learning Sciences & the Impact on Learning Technologies #theta2015

Learning Sciences & the Impact on Learning Technologies and Learning Activities (abstract)
Phil Long @radhertz

Learning = acquisition of knowledge (dictionary); reflects permanent change in behaviour (psychologists). Tied up with context; it’s about retrieving knowledge to suit present needs.

Summary: We’ve known a lot about learning processes for 50-100 years – just starting to get out of academic circles with advent of learning technology.

    Overlearning – learning beyond mastery – extremely powerful way to impact long-term retention
  • Variable/interleaved vs consistent practice – studying in different environments outperformed studying in same environment. Studying artists mixed up outperformed studying artists sequentially.
  • Mixing questions vs blocking questions: during practice blocking wins; on testing mixing wins. (However cramming for the test will often outperform – for that one exam, but not a week later.)
  • Giving a series of tests outperforms giving study time (but annoys students and is a lot of work!

We should build tools that make better learning practices part of the design.

Metacognition – awareness/understanding one’s own thought process.
Refers the Dunning-Kruger issue of people over-estimating their competence. Cleese sums up as “people who are so stupid they don’t know how stupid they are”. Conversely top performers underestimate how well they’re doing.

Digital tools building in these findings:

Learning Tools Interoperability – allowing multiple tools associated with courses to interact and link between each other. LTI apps on dedicated app store. But also and open source a federated store behing developed: Casa. tries to integrate learning into Facebook – people can sign up as a tutor. Can submit a drawing/voiceover as a question. Maybe-creepy part is allows people to charge for tutoring. Probably-creepy part is this can show up in LMS for professor to read and respond, which will show up on Facebook.

How are we connecting where students are hanging out with where we’re teaching? [Should we? Don’t people sometimes need downtime?]

Where do we stand on spectrum between adaptive tools and personalised learning tools.
Why aren’t we proactively developing our own learning app store that represents good learning theory?