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!
UKSG One-Day Conference: London
UKSG Forum: London
UKSG Annual Review 2016