Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Seminar: 101 maps, or thereabouts: why data visualisation is only part of the story

Dr Alasdair Rae
Senior Lecturer in Urban Studies and Planning

28th April 2016 | 12 noon | RC-204 Lecture Room in Information School, Regent Court

No need to book.

In this talk I discuss some recent data-driven projects, covering housing markets, commuting, internet search and neighbourhood deprivation. These projects involve collaboration with partners or funders such as Rightmove, Google, the Bank of England, the Department for Transport and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. What they all have in common is that I was seeking to find answers in data and communicate the results in visually meaningful ways, in order to make some kind of contribution to policy, practice or understanding. This kind of approach often helps capture the attention of policymakers and draw attention to important issues. In this sense, then, it takes numbers out of the domain of data and towards information and knowledge and, it is hoped, wisdom (i.e. 'what should we do?'). But such normative questions cannot be answered by analysing or visualising data, no matter how captivating or illuminating it may be. At the same time, it doesn't mean that we should stop doing it. Rather, I argue that we need to think carefully about maps, data and other forms of information and their contribution to knowledge. I look forward to hearing your views on the topic.

Alasdair Rae is a Senior Lecturer in Urban Studies and Planning and Director of the Sheffield Q-Step Centre. Alasdair's work focuses on housing, neighbourhoods, spatial interaction, deprivation and visualisation. He mainly publishes in urban and regional journals and also regularly contributes pieces to a variety of media outlets (e.g. The Guardian, CityMetric, The Huffington Post). Recently, he's worked with Rightmove, Google and a range of funders (including The Bank of England) on projects which attempt to make sense of new datasets. He has a PhD from the University of Liverpool, an MA from The Ohio State University and a BA(Hons) from the University of Strathclyde.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Student article published in Legal Information Management Journal

An article entitled ‘Back to School: a Student Insight into LIS Qualifications, the LIS Sector and What it can Offer to New Professionals’ by Information School student Josephine Bailey was recently published in the Legal Information Management journal.  Josephine’s article offers a student’s perspective of LIS qualifications and the current challenges for professionals.

Further information on the article can be found here.

Monday, 18 April 2016

The Data Science Forum Meeting - 4 May 2016

The Data Science Forum aims to provide a catalyst for networking and the sharing of knowledge between industry/business practitioners, academics and students on topics related to Data Science. 

The Forum is organised by the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University for data professionals located within the city of Sheffield and surrounding areas.

The first forum meeting will take place on 4 May 2016, 7:00pm - 9:00pm, Richard Roberts Building, University of Sheffield.

The evening will include a talk from Christopher Hopkinson- Virgin Media
Title: Understanding Processes and Experiences from Event Data
Abstract: In a large organisation, understanding the myriad of processes and experiences can be a complex task. Traditional Business Process Analysis methods rely on interviews and observations which are then documented by a Business Analyst. By focusing on event data generated by source systems we can build an alternative view of processes and common sequences of events. This approach is not without challenge. Dealing with noisy systems in order to provide actionable insight requires a considered and iterative approach. Process Mining using tools such as PROM and DISCO provide methods for process discovery from event data. Other algorithms used in frequent item set mining and frequent sequence mining also provide tools that can help present meaningful information back to business stakeholders.

There will also be an opportunity to network with other data science professionals and students.
The forum is free to attend and open to all. You can register for the forum here.  Refreshments will also be provided.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Final call: Postgraduate Advantage Scheme

Interested in a flexible work placement during term time or vacation period? Bursaries of £1000 available! 

The Postgraduate Advantage Scheme is still accepting applications and we would particularly like to see more applications from Information School students. 

Successful applicants will receive a bursary from the University to undertake an internship of 100 hours, which can take place at any time before the end of July 2016. You can fit the hours around your studies. 

To take part in the scheme, you first need to find an internship. You can either source and secure your own in an area that interests you (help on the PAS website is given), or apply for one which we have already found via myVacancies. 

Roles which are still available include:
Data Scientist (particularly keen to attract students from the Information School)
Marketing Intern
Project Coordinator
Conversions Analyst
Or you can source your own internship which is suited to your career interests. 

Interested in taking part?
The first step is to familiarise yourself with details of the scheme on the PAS website: http://www.shef.ac.uk/careers/postgraduates/pas
Once you have found an internship, you will be required to submit a bursary application for approval. This is to authorise the suitability of the internship and approve the bursary. 
We have limited number of bursaries available for each department and they will be awarded to those who apply first with a good application. 

What did last years participants think? 
“For me, the whole point of going to university is not just the academic degree, but also to gain a well-rounded experience. 
The Postgraduate Advantage Scheme helped me to achieve that. It really made my university experience more meaningful.”

This scheme is a unique opportunity and only available to postgraduate taught students in the Faculty of Social Sciences - don't miss out!

Upcoming event: CV and Online Application Workshop

18th April 2016, 13:00 - 15:00 - Room 205, Information School

Applying for jobs?
•    What are employees looking for in your CV?
•    How do you deal with complicated online application forms?

This will be an interactive session run by careers advisor, Sarah Kettlewell that will help iSchool students to improve their CVs and provide advice on how to get the most out of online job applications.

This session is particularly recommended for Information School Masters students.

For further details and to book a place click the eventbrite link here

Monday, 11 April 2016

PhD Student Wasim Ahmed presents at the 7th Annual SIID Postgraduate Conference 2016

A paper co-authored with Professor Peter Bath and Gianluca Demartini titled The Role of Social Media for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Management was presented by PhD student Wasim Ahmed at the Sheffield Institute for International Development (SIID). SIID is an interdisciplinary research body comprising of staff and postgraduate students from various disciplines within the University of Sheffield. 

The theme for this year’s Conference was “”Emerging Challenges facing Development and Development Studies”. A link to the slides can be found here.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

PhD student article published in the MmIT Journal

An article entitled ‘Ethical Challenges of Using Twitter as a Data Source’ by PhD student Wasim Ahmed was recently published by the Multimedia Information & Technology (MmIT) journal. In its 40th year of publication the MmIT has over 3,000 subscribers world-wide, with readership comprised of librarians, teachers, academics, and media and ICT specialists.

Monday, 4 April 2016

PhD student Sukaina Ehdeed presents at iConference 2016

Information School PhD student Sukaina Edheed presented her research poster 'Social media, Young Libyans and the 2011 uprising: an exploratory study of young Libyans' perceptions of the impact of social media during the period 2011-15' at the recent 2016 iConference, Philadelphia, US.

Sukaina's research investigates young Libyans' perceptions of the impact of social media in relation to the Libyan revolution and the post-revolutionary events during 2011-2015.

Libraries aren’t ‘dead in the water’ — even if some have given up

Having spent 15 years researching public libraries and trying to emphasise their contribution to education and society as a whole, you might expect that I’d be delighted at the good news that our public libraries are finally receiving the media attention and recognition they deserve? Sadly not.

The recent boon in media interest is of course linked to a large-scale BBC investigation into the “real” picture of library closures, staff redundancies and budget cuts which have taken place since 2010, the year in which UK Chancellor George Osborne “unveiled the biggest UK spending cuts for decades”.

I was one of a number of people interviewed as part of the investigation, and have been quoted in two depressingly entitled articles: one on how a quarter of staff jobs have been lost as hundreds of libraries close and another entitled “Libraries: the decline of a profession?”

The first article presented some stark statistics — based on an extensive series of Freedom of Information requests by the BBC — which revealed the extent of closures, planned closures and job losses, as well as the concurrent increase in community-run libraries — where the local authority hands over the management of a library service to a group of community volunteers — and volunteer staff.

Libraries aren’t over, they will just look different. A similar view was expressed by Elizabeth Elford of the Society of Chief Librarians, who observed “there will be fewer public libraries when we come out the other side, but they will be better and more innovative.” I sincerely hope that she is right, but I question whether the closure of so many public libraries could be characterised as a positive development.

Of course, not all libraries have “closed”. In addition to the 343 libraries no longer in existence since 2010, the BBC also reported that 232 libraries have been “transferred”, 174 of which have moved from council control to management by community groups (whether or not these should also be counted as “closures” remains a point for ongoing debate).
For Ian Stephens, chair of the Local Government Association’s culture, tourism and sport board, it is testament “to how much people value their libraries that so many have volunteered to help keep them open.” This might well be true but it provides little comfort to those volunteers who would have preferred the library service to remain council run rather than being forced to fend for themselves without professional training or long-term council support.

Community run
Community-run libraries are also under no obligation to conform to council standards and, as I keep being told by people working in community-run libraries, they feel that they are in competition with other libraries in the city or county, and are certainly not connected to them as they originally thought they would be.

This would appear incongruous with the public library service so familiar to many of us, with one large central library providing the greatest range of resources, and a number of smaller branch libraries serving the different parts of the community. The community-run service, at least in its current form, does not appear to replicate this service, and, as the statistics show, we now have an utter lack of consistency of provision across towns and cities.

Supportive role

Volunteers have long supported library services by supplementing existing work — shelving, routine enquiry work, storytelling sessions, and so on — or by adding value to a service with more specialised skills, such as cultural awareness sessions from members of local minority ethnic communities. This is extremely valuable work, and in no sense devalues the existing service. Many of our students will work as volunteers in library services before coming on the masters programme, and it serves as excellent preparation for an information career.
However, some politicians and other commentators seem to forget that there is an important distinction between volunteers used to supplement an existing service, and volunteers either replacing the specialised roles of paid library staff, or working in “community-run” libraries. The second of these seemed at the time to relate very closely to the coalition government’s Big Society ideology, the impact of which is still being felt, particularly in terms of the ongoing drive for local authorities to make the most of ever-decreasing budgets. Certainly before 2010 the community-run library was a very rare phenomenon.

Last year I was told that public libraries — and, by association, any research into them — were “dead in the water”. No such demise has occurred, as I wrote in a blog last year. Nevertheless, the recent media coverage is a clear reminder that we cannot be complacent about the future of public libraries. These are very difficult times for these organisations and those who work in them, and it would be naive to pretend otherwise.

People who have devoted their lives to supporting public libraries are now suggesting that we have gone past the point of no return. Yet there are still a huge number of individuals and organisations who still firmly believe in the role of the statutory public library service in a democratic society, and are working tirelessly to ensure that it remains.

To those fortunate individuals who appear not to have seen the extent of the contribution a public library makes to its community, I repeat a point made by David McMenemy, in his book The Public Library: “In all of the discourse around the diminishing use of public library services it is crucial not to lose sight of the fact that many people within our communities continue to need the services they offer.”

Public library services remain one of the most significant and democratising assets within our communities and should not be sacrificed for economic or political expediency.

Dr Briony Birdi, Lecturer in Librarianship, Information School, University of Sheffield.
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.