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Showing posts from 2019

The end of an iSchool era

Friday, 20th December marks the end of an era for the Information School. Our very own Professor Peter Willett is retiring, having joined the department following the completion of his MA in Natural Sciences (Chemistry) from Oxford University in 1975. At the time, the School was known as the Postgraduate School of Librarianship and Information Science and Peter studied for an MSc in Information Science. Following the completion of his MSc, Peter undertook a PhD on the indexing of chemical reactions and post-doctoral work on the automatic classification of document databases. Peter was appointed to a lecturership in 1979, was awarded a personal chair in 1991 and a DSc in 1997.

We are privileged that Professor Willett has spent his entire professional career here in the School.
Professor Willett reminisces, “It was a very different world.  In 1975, one could go through one's entire primary, secondary and tertiary education without going anywhere near a computer, so it came as a bit …

PhD student Gianmarco Ghiandoni presents at GCC 2019

PhD student Gianmarco Ghiandoni recently attended well known chemoinformatics conference GCC 2019, in Mainz, Germany, as an official speaker.

'I presented some content from my PhD project which describes the use of Reaction Class Recommendation models in de novo Drug Design', says Gianmarco. 'These models have shown to have a role as deterministic search components which maximise the chance of generating meaningful synthetic patterns in de novo design and compound optimisation.'

'In addition to this, the application of these models has resulted to yield product libraries characterised by higher synthetic accessibility, whilst reducing drastically the algorithmic enumeration times.'

Dr Suvodeep Mazumdar - How and when will we know if ‘Smart City’ residents are happy?

After a very interesting meeting at the lovely premises of the Connected Places Catapult last week, I am back, researching Urban Planning initiatives, studying outcomes and output measures. Based in London, the Connected Places Catapult is a UK Government-backed urban innovation agency that aims to help UK firms develop innovative products and services to help meet the growing needs of cities across the world. The CPC works with Industry, SMEs, academics, transport and local authorities and provides an excellent setting for my Researcher in Residence project, UrbanMapper. Cities are constantly adapting, changing and innovating to meet the rising demands of increasing populations, constrained resources and increased expectations from residents. With the increased availability and affordability of sensors (IoT), faster connectivity (mobile, broadband and the Internet), smartphones and high computational resources, new opportunities are emerging where large volumes of data can be collect…

Celebration of Peter Willett’s Career

Over 40 of Peter Willett’s ex-PhD students and long-time collaborators gathered in Sheffield in mid-September to celebrate Peter’s long and very influential career and to thank him for the personal support that he has provided to very many throughout this time.

It is a mark of the very high regard in which Peter is held that so many people attended. They had travelled from as far as Canada, North America, Germany and Taiwan, as well as from all over the UK.

Many of the attendees are now in very influential positions of their own including in academia, software companies and industry. Their connections to Peter spanned the full range of Peter’s career with one of his early PhD students having obtained her PhD over 30 years ago.

A number of presentations were given that included reflections on Peter’s contribution to the fields of Chemoinformatics, Information Retrieval and Bibliometrics, a “Peter Willett: This is your Life” tribute, as well as many personal messages of thanks. The even…

Bite-size webinars for #GlobalMILweek - engaging citizens in transformational learning; food and activity logging

Global Media and Information Literacy weekis a UNESCO-sponsored annual celebration of media and Information Literacy, with events organised around the world. This year’s theme is Media and Information Literate Citizens: Informed, Engaged, Empowered and the centre for Information Literacy Research (Information School, University of Sheffield)  is responding with events and activities on this theme

Free bite-sized webinar for Global Media and Information literacy Week: Dr Pamela McKinney: The Information literacy of food and activity logging in three communities. 11-11.30am UK time, Thursday 24 October 2019 (check the time in your country at

To join the webinar go to just before the webinar start time. It uses Blackboard Collaborate (see here for details on how to use it). You do not have to register for the webinar in advance, but if you’d like to sign up and get r…

A message for new students from Professor Val Gillet, Head of School

As Head of the Information School, I would like to welcome all of those who are joining to study with us. I understand that this is a new start for you and I hope you have found your first few weeks with us to be beneficial.

Like yourselves, this year is a new start for me too. It is the first year in my current term as Head of the Information School. I have been Head of the School previously, and I am excited to see that the School is still evolving to meet the needs of our students and employers with our cutting-edge courses and technological advances.

That said, it’s not too much of a new start for me: After completing a degree in Natural Sciences at Cambridge, I took a short term research post in the Department of Information Studies (as the Information School was then called). This post fueled my interest in the discipline and I took the MSc in Information Science and subsequent PhD.

Having spent such a long time at this School, and in higher education in the UK, I am able to tel…

Top highlights from the iSchool Conference 2019

Now the dust has cleared from the 2019 iSchool Conference, we’ve had a break and come up with some interesting findings from the presentations at the event.

The conference boasted a wide range of disciplines that PhD students from the iSchool are researching. The day kicked off purely with quantitative research, followed by mixed methods methodologies and ending with some thought-provoking qualitative research presentations. Here are our top highlights:

Recommendation Systems in Drug Design

The morning began with the first presentation by Gianmarco Ghiandoni, a 3rd year PhD student in the Cheminformatics research group. The study looks at De Novo design, a branch of cheminformatics dealing with the design of molecular structures. Gianmarco adapted  methods that are widely applied for recommendation purposes on human data - for example by companies such as Google, Amazon, or Netflix - to the computational drug design processes, where chemical and biological data are mainly used to drive…

The Information School at CODATA 2019, Beijing

Yingshen Huang, from Peking University, China, who is working with Andrew Cox and Laura Sbaffi surveying Chinese universities about research data services, presented their joint work at  the CODATA 2019 Conference, held on 19-20 September in Beijing, China.

The conference theme was: “Towards next-generation data-driven science: policies, practices and platforms.”

Yingshen Huang presented the paper “Research data management in Chinese academic libraries”.

On Governing Information in a Globalised World

Lecturer in Information Management Dr Jonathan Foster responds to the recent news story about the historic 'Right to be Forgotten' ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union in favour of search engine giant Google.

The Ruling by the European Court of Justice earlier this week raises two important issues. First the issue of how democratic societies strike a balance between the privacy rights of the individual on the one hand, and the public interest on the other. Second, the limits of legal jurisdiction and of institutional obligation.

The ‘Right to be Forgotten’ - or ‘Right to Erasure’ as it is now known - is a provision under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This provision provides individuals with the right to request organisations, search engine operators for example, to remove specific personally-identifying information about them. A number of reasons can be given by the user to justify their request: that processing of the data is no longer necessar…

My Year as a Student Ambassador

I’ve been a Student Ambassador for the Information School this academic year, which mostly involved talking to prospective students for my course, MA Librarianship, during Open Days. As well as (hopefully) helping them make a decision about where to study, I also found this really useful for myself; I got to talk to other people working, or wanting to work, in the same profession as me, and it also gave me a chance to reflect on my own experiences so far.

I also really enjoyed getting to know other Student Ambassadors from other courses in the Information School – it was good to check in with them throughout the year, particularly when the dissertation period rolled around!

I had the chance to try out some other skills when I took on a special project for the School. I filmed myself on a day out around Sheffield where I tried out as many free activities as I could (find out what I got up to here). This was a great opportunity to explore the city I’d moved to, and I got to try out some…

Digital solutions in the field of cultural heritage: Mozambique-Sheffield research collaboration

Last month (5-10 August) Dr Jorge Martins visited the Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo, Mozambique, to meet with Professor Solange Macamo at the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology.

The research visit, sponsored by the QR Grand Challenges Research Fund, enabled the development of a partnership to scope out a research project focused on the opportunities created through digital technologies for the promotion and presentation of cultural heritage in Mozambique.

During the visit, Jorge met with research students working on information and communication technologies and heritage management projects and gave a research seminar on ‘Creative Industries and Digitalisation’ at the Faculty of Letters and Social Sciences.

'Critical views on open scholarship - an African perspective' - Summary of Speakers' Debate

On 3rd July 2019, the Information School, University of Sheffield, hosted a one-day workshop that started a conversation between Global North and Global South practitioners, researchers and academics about open scholarship in a global context, with Africa as a focus for that discussion. We were also lucky enough to be hosting (courtesy University of Sheffield GCRF QR funding) participants in this debate from Rwanda, a country in the East and Central African region, which has an interesting socio-political context deriving from a checkered colonial past, internal conflict and genocide and language policies implemented to craft a modern political identity. In introducing the debate, the two convenors of the workshop, Pamela Abbott and Andrew Cox, both senior lecturers in the Information school, set out some markers as to why they were interested in this topic. For Pamela, her background as an ICT4D researcher working in African contexts with librarian communities of practice, and her ow…

CILIP Conference 2019, by Library and Information Services Management student Kelly Hetherington

Two weeks on from #CILIPconf2019 has allowed me plenty of time to reflect on what I learnt over the two whirlwind days.

Firstly, if you ever have the opportunity to go… GO! It is friendly and gives you a real taste of a variety of sectors of the profession and creates an atmosphere that is sure to inspire information professionals to go out and make a difference.

One of the stand out things I have taken away from the conference was its focus on equality and diversity and that librarianship is overwhelming white… 97% of information professionals in the UK identify as white which is not representative of our society which is 88% (CILIP, 2019).  In her keynote speech, Hong-Anh Nguyen (@DeweyDecibelle) used a quotation from Ed Yong: “I knew that I care about equality so I deluded myself into thinking that I wasn’t part of the problem.  I assumed that my passive concern would be enough.  Passive concern never is.” This struck a chord with me – equality is important to me – but what do I ac…

CILIP Conference 2019, by Data Science student Min Guo

It was a great honour for me to participate in the two-day CILIP Conference with my lovely Information School classmates in Manchester on July 3. This conference is a major annual event of information experts. I was very grateful to be sponsored by the University of Sheffield to attend this event. Within a limited two-day period, we have gained a lot of industry knowledge, career inspiration, and advanced techniques from talented speakers. It is also a friendly and open platform for discussing and sharing different opinions with other participants. It was a valuable experience in my life.

The conference included five topics: big ideas, specialisms, knowledge & information management, skill & technical and career insight. For each topic, there were several seminars and workshops. Among these sessions, I was very interested in the K & IM government seminar led by Dr Derek Shaw, Dr Dominic Davies and Larry Mount. They showed us many actual cases from the Ministry of Defence …

CILIP Conference 2019, by Data Science student Na Li

I was so lucky to gain a bursary from the Information School to attend the UK CILIP Conference 2019. It was a great opportunity for me to meet professionals from information-related industries, as well as other students from the Information School. I got to chat with some fantastic people and made friends with other students.

The conference involved broad topics related to information and librarianship, such as Artificial Intelligence, Diversity and Data Behaviour, which allowed every attendee to find topics they were interested in. Attending different sessions of the conference sparked many new ideas and different ways of thinking regarding leadership skills needed by information professionals, which are so important for a future career. This blog will focus on what kind of skills recruiters are looking for from information professionals, based on three experts’ views.

According to Sally Connor, who is a senior analyst from PWC, it is vital to have strategic thinking and always ask y…

CILIP Conference 2019, by Library & Information Services Management student Victoria Edwards

The CILIP Conference 2019 was held in Manchester and I was really excited to be able to attend and represent the Information School at the exhibition stand. It was really beneficial to meet a variety of people from the library and information profession and to share my experiences of being a distance learner on the Library and Information Services Management course.

The conference programme had a variety of really inspirational keynote speakers including AI expert Kriti Sharma who raised questions about the neutrality of AI in terms of diversity, Hong-Anh Nguyen from the King’s Fund who highlighted the need for greater diversity in the library and information profession, and Creative Guide Aat Vos, who had some really impressive ideas about the design of libraries. There was a wide range of break-out sessions to choose from across the two days covering topics such as digital innovation, health, diversity in reading, career tips, information literacy, and linked data to name just a few…

CILIP Conference 2019, by Librarianship student Emily Pulsford

Thanks to the iSchool bursary, in July I attended the CILIP Conference 2019, my first large professional conference. As a full-time MA Librarianship student weighing up career options, I hoped to hear about new ideas and the latest developments in my areas of interest (academic and school librarianship) within the current wider professional context.

The set-up of the conference maximised opportunities to hear about projects and to network with other delegates. All delegates could attend the thought-provoking keynotes on a range of topics, from the ethical development of artificial intelligence to the role of the book in society, and designing public library spaces, while a varied programme of parallel break-out seminars and workshops ran throughout the two days of the conference. More than once it was difficult to decide which session to attend as they all sounded so interesting. Helping on the iSchool stand during breaks also meant chatting to professionals interested in doing a Mast…

CILIP Conference 2019, by Librarianship Student Elle Codling

On the 3rd and 4th July this year, I attended the 2019 CILIP conference in Manchester. In return for representing the Information School on the exhibition stand and talking to delegates about my experiences as a student, I got to attend a full programme of talks, presentations, and panel discussions about the world of libraries and information in the UK.

I’m particularly interested in school libraries, so the panel session on ‘Great school and college libraries’ by Lucas Maxwell (a former School Librarian of the Year), Corinne Walker (CoLRiC), and Alison Tarrant (School Library Association) was a highlight for me. There were some great tips for engaging both teachers and students in the school library (coffee and doughnuts is apparently the key to getting other staff members on board!), and Alison shared some fascinating findings from the recent #GreatSchoolLibraries campaign survey. I felt pretty inspired and enthusiastic about the sector I’m about to enter!

I also attended session o…

Visitors from Mexico City

Last week the Information School was delighted to host two visitors from Mexico City, as part of the project "Place-making for sustainable development: Learning from Xochimilco", led by Dr Andrew Cox and Dr Jorge Martins.

Gibrán Rivera González is an alumnus of the department and is now a lecturer at Instituto Politécnico Nacional. He has been working with Cooperatives in the city training them in business and IT skills.
The other guest was Carlos Sumano Arias, one of the leaders of the Chinampayolo an agro-ecological cooperative. They are combining traditional agricultural knowledge with scientific knowledge to create a form of sustainable agriculture that promotes biodiversity.

While in Sheffield Carlos and Gibrán took part in a joint seminar. They also visited a number of social enterprises working in the food industry in Sheffield.

Dr Efpraxia Zamani & Dr Laura Sbaffi conduct GCRF fieldwork in Malawi

Between June 18th and June 24th, Dr Efpraxia Zamani and Dr Laura Sbaffi travelled to Malawi to carry out fieldwork for their GCRF QR Pump Priming grant on promoting support networks for informal caregivers of people living with HIV in Malawi. The project focuses on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #3: ‘Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages’, and seeks to develop a collaborative network among caregivers, academics, NGOs, local authorities and health trusts for the support of caregivers of people living with HIV/AIDS in Malawi.

Malawi is third in world-wide rankings with respect to HIV-related deaths (more than 35,000 deaths in 2017), with 10.6% of the adult population in 2016 being affected by HIV. HIV/AIDS requires a lot of self-management for monitoring symptoms and conducting a healthy lifestyle, while being self-reliant. As a result, considerable support is required to help patients make decisions, adjust their behaviour and adapt to their c…

Holistic smart approach required to address social inequality in rural and urban areas - Student blog from WSIS 2019

Smart cities refer to urban areas where the power of ICTs is leveraged in order to provide more efficient services to local residents. They typically benefit urban populations at the expense of rural communities where ICT development is inhibited by the poor return on investment (ROI) of such structures. These challenges and opportunities for the global community were a major talking point during the 2019 World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS) held in Geneva, Switzerland. Our recent policy brief explored the development of smart cities primarily through the prism of gender inequality and identified the urban-rural digital divide as a barrier towards the development of future smart cities. Calls for developing smart villages aim to address this gap; however, such initiatives are unlikely to replicate the success of the smart city framework in light of these digital divides.
Digital divides within digitally connected cities persist between affluent and less wealthy communities. …