Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Dr Antonio de la Vega de Leon attends SRUK award ceremony

The SRUK (Society of Spanish Researchers in the United Kingdom) is a non-profit organization that aims to support Spanish researchers abroad, foster scientific cooperation between the UK and Spain, and provide a cohesive position of our community to influence science policy. It organizes science outreach events, provides awards and funding for outstanding members of the community, and generates many networking opportunities. I joined as a volunteer at the beginning of the year and I currently serve as secretary of the Yorkshire constituency, which includes Sheffield, York, Hull, Leeds, Bradford and Huddersfield.

I had the pleasure to attend an award ceremony that took place on the 14th of December at the Spanish embassy in London. This was the 2nd SRUK emerging talent award, that recognizes and supports young Spanish researchers that have developed their careers in the United Kingdom. The awardee this year was Xavier Moya, material physicist in the University of Cambridge, for his work finding materials that would make cooling (in ACs and fridges) both more energy efficient and environmentally friendly. The awards was funded through Fundación Banco Santander.

The award ceremony started with short introductions by the Spanish ambassador (Carlos Bastarrache Sagües), the president of Fundación Banco Santander (Antonio Escámez), the head of the award selection committee (Alfonso Martínez-Arias), and the president of SRUK (Estrella Luna-Díez). Then Xavier Moya told us about how he ended up working in material physics, and what he had done at Cambridge, as well as what he planned to do with money from the award. One highlight was his discovery that ammonium sulfate, a very common and cheap fertilizer, provided several orders of magnitude better refrigeration capability than traditional gases. He is currently working with a large European appliance company to design a prototype.

His talk was really well done and entertaining. To better explain his research, he gave everyone a rubber balloon and asked us to place it touching our lips (they are the most sensitive part of our bodies to temperature changes). When the balloon was stretched, we could feel it becoming slightly warmer. This is because the material becomes more organized, releasing a small amount of energy as heat. After a bit of time, we let it go back to normal and could feel it become colder. He also showed a video of this process using thermal imaging to illustrate further the point.

The event finished with some very tasty Spanish nibbles, like tortilla de patata, provided by the embassy. It was a good opportunity to meet many scientists and SRUK members. Although going to London and back on the same day was tough (I was back in Sheffield at 1:30am), it was well worth it.

Dr Antonio de la Vega de Leon

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

UKSG Conference - Report by MA Librarianship student

MA Librarianship student Terry Bassett recently attended the UKSG conference in London. Read on to hear about his experiences.

In November I was lucky enough to be chosen to attend the UKSG conference and forum at the very swanky Grange Tower Bridge Hotel in London. The UKSG is a professional group of librarians, publishers and anyone in-between, who work together to promote better academic communications and collaborative research practices. Their website has details of all the work they do and some of the presentations from the events.

Attending the conference and forum was a very eye-opening experience. My own background is in public libraries so although I’ve had exposure to HE in my undergraduate degree and the first few weeks of my Masters, I was still quite new to a lot of the concepts being discussed. That said at no point did I feel completely out of my depth; the sheer range of topics discussed meant everyone needed to give at least a quick introduction and that went a long way.

If had to pick a talk as my favourite (not an easy task), I would have to say that the Wellcome Trust’s talk by Robert Kiley was of particular interest. His introduction to Open Access was comprehensive but concise, and then proceeded to completely expand my understanding beyond what I’d even imagined - in a really good way. Wellcome’s vision is of a future where not just the journal article but the data behind it, the institution’s data collection policies and so on are also open to scrutiny. As a fledgling grounded theory fan the idea of institutional bias being highlighted as standard and the role of the researcher being presented as part of the research itself is pretty amazing. Exploring the ways in which Open Research (as an umbrella term) is not only more transparent (via open peer review - another bit of my mind blown) but actually faster and cheaper as well was quite compelling. It was contrasted nicely by the look at the obstacles (including researchers’ own concerns about their ability to publish), and also the discussion of where to go from here and how to get there. Overall it was a fascinating presentation in and of itself, but also, I think captured a lot of the overarching themes that other presentations then examined in more detail. These included UCL’s Pro-Vice-Provost Paul Ayris who discussed his university’s Open Science and Citizen Science projects; working to crowd-source data collection and analysis, and teasing at the prospect of an EU-wide shared repository of research data.

On a slightly different note Janet Peters (Director of University Libraries and University Librarian, Cardiff University) and Gareth Owen (Programme Manager, Wales Higher Education Libraries Forum) gave two different perspectives of projects taking place in the same consortium; Wales Higher Education Libraries Forum (WHELF). At the conference Janet Peters discussed the service quality challenges and opportunities that arise from running a library service as part of a consortium, and then at the forum Gareth Owen talked us through the project of implementing a single library management system (LMS) across 9 Universities, 1 National Library, and 30 NHS Wales Libraries. Speaking as someone who has been through a fair few LMS changes covering just one library service at a time, the prospect of that project is scary! But doing it saved money, will lead to ongoing savings and process improvements for years to come, and gave them the purchasing power to insist the both the front- and back-end systems were bilingual - both English and Welsh. A massive win in terms of promoting the continuation of the use of the Welsh language.

It was an amazing experience; a chance to meet people from a wide range of backgrounds who all share a passion for getting researchers to talk to each other and then promoting all the fascinating work that these conversations lead to. Plus, the food was amazing and I got so many free pens!

Terry Bassett

UKSG One-Day Conference: London

UKSG Forum: London

UKSG Annual Review 2016

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Mapping the future of academic libraries

The ‘Mapping the future of academic libraries’ report commissioned by SCONUL was published on 8 December following a conference in London to discuss its findings. The report was produced by a team from the School: Stephen Pinfield, Andrew Cox and Sophie Rutter.

The report identifies a complex set of interrelated trends impacting on libraries the significance of which is often in the way they combine. In particular, it identifies five nexuses of trends bringing transformational change:

1. ‘Datafied’ scholarship: research increasingly underpinned by large datasets and digital artefacts, involving open, networked, algorithmically-driven systems

2. Connected learning: new pedagogies supported by technology-enabled flexible learning

3. Service-oriented libraries: libraries shifting their strategic emphasis from collections to services

4. Blurred identities: boundaries between professional groups and services being broken down with more collaboration and new skills development

5. Intensified contextual pressures: a myriad of political, economic and other pressures creating demands on HE and libraries

The ways in which libraries are responding to such change, and also the contributions they are making to change, are then discussed, with a set of challenges and opportunities identified. The report then goes on to discuss the need for libraries to position themselves to respond to current challenges and opportunities, proposing a multi-faceted approach to the alignment between the library and its parent institution. The library needs to be a service-provide, partner and leader.

The challenge is to balance the ways in which these different roles are implemented in any given institutional context. A key part of achieving these roles is communication, especially between the library and the institution as a whole. Understandings of its role outside the library are often hazy; libraries need to create and communicate a compelling vision of the current and future library role. At the same time, there is an ongoing need for change in library organisations and a need to forge partnerships, both within the library community (something in which libraries have a strong record) but also beyond (historically, not so strong).

The report proposes that in order to help address current challenges we should question commonly-accepted ‘library mantras’: mantras, such as, ‘the library is a strong brand’ or ‘the library is a trusted partner’, can sometimes get in the way of change, and need to be rethought. A set of new paradigms as ways of thinking about the futures of libraries are proposed, including the computational library, the service-oriented library, the library as digital third space, the globalised library and the boundaryless library.

These have the potential to act as a framework for discussion on library futures going forward.

The report concludes with recommendations for action within academic libraries and for SCONUL and similar agencies.

The report was compiled following mixed-methods research involving: extensive engagement with the literature, a set of semi-structured interviews with an international range of stakeholders, and a survey of UK library staff. As well as producing the report itself, the Sheffield team is now working on peer-reviewed outputs, and engaging in ongoing discussion including workshops and conference presentations.

You can read some of the Twitter engagement about the report here.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Dr Paul Reilly presents paper at ESRC CASCADE-NET seminar

Senior Lecturer Dr Paul Reilly is invited speaker at the ESRC CASCADE-NET Seminar “The role of Civil Society’s agency in governance and contingency planning: citizenship, participation and social learning” today. The seminar, organised by co-Investigator Dr. Martina McGuinness (Management School, University of Sheffield) is held in Inox Dine, Students’ Union Building, University of Sheffield.

Dr Reilly's paper is entitled ‘Social media, citizen empowerment and crisis communication during the 2014 UK Floods’ and draws on his recently completed EC FP7 funded research project CascEff . The slides for my presentation can be found here