10 things we should probably be telling our research students about by Matt Holland

What knowledge or skills should Librarians be encouraging researchers to acquire? The following notes are offered as suggestions based on past experience in higher education and current experience of supporting NHS colleagues.   There are going to be omissions from this list. Possibly things included you don’t agree with. Add a comment if you have other suggestions or a different perspective. It’s good to share, lets crowd source the definitive list!   Anyway, here are my 10 things

#One. Predatory Journals

There isn’t much we can do about the epidemic of new predatory (pay to publish, peer review lite or not at all) journal titles and publishers. See Jeffery Beall’s blog Scholarly Open Access. The best response is to warn researchers about the danger they represent.   As potential authors, the risk to their reputation. As potential users, the risks to the credibility of their research if they unknowingly include references from predatory journals in their own footnotes and bibliographies. The solution of course, to use proper bibliographic databases and stay away from Google Scholar. More extensive advice is covered in a blog elsewhere.

#Two. Identity Management

This niche area is now going mainstream.   Identity management is being integrated into Institutional Repositories and journal publisher’s management systems.   I have to declare an interest as an ORCID Ambassador (no T Shirt). ORCID is a front runner but there are other ways of capturing your identify for example using Thompson Reuters ResearcherID tool. There are also benefits to securing your identity early in particular in sharing your information across networks. If you create the information yourself when you register with, for example ORCID, you have control over its quality and accuracy. It should be an easy sell.

#Three. Metrics and altmetrics

Reading questions on ResearchGate, as window on what researchers are concerned about, metrics and measuring impact are frequent topics. Its’s a source of misunderstanding among the majority and fierce debate among the minority who either agree or disagree about their value. Typically there is confusion between Journal Level metrics, the dreaded Impact Factor, and Article Level metrics based on Citations or its proxies. There is interesting too in altmetrics. The most common question being what is it? There are inks here to the other 10 things: #Five social media and #Four bibliographic software – Mendeley Readership shows a correlation with future citations. It’s something we are already experts in if we stopped to think about it that way.

#Four. Bibliographic software

If I mention Procite 3.1 then you will get an idea of how long I have been promoting bibliographic software. For younger readers, just assume it’s a long time. The uptake was generally low in the first instance because the interfaces were almost unusable, and latterly because the market leading products were expensive and fantastically over engineered. Just before I go on let me declare another interest in being a Mendeley Advisor (with eBadge and T-Shirt). Mendeley and Zotero seem to have brought the whole thing down to earth with good, simple free(mium) products. You can now look your researcher in the eye and say this is easy to use and it will help you.

#Five. Social Media for research purposes

Social media presents opportunities to smooth the process of research and encourage networking with other research colleagues. The evidence suggests that the generation most likely to use social media, Generation Y born between 1983-1992, don’t actually use it that much for research. Older researchers may use it even less.   Far from being behind the curve, Librarians are in the lead in encouraging researchers to use social media. Using social media for research purposes is another area where we can offer a unique perspective.

#Six. Open Access publishing

Open Access, Green or Gold, is set to be the default publishing output for UK all funded research. A recent question posted on LIS-Medical, and summarised replies, show there is an interest in NHS Trusts hosting research in their own Institutional Repositories (IR) providing a Green (self archiving) route. It raises questions about policies and procedures for deposit in the IR, relationships with publishers, copyright and who pays Article Processing Charges. This is all probably information we should be familiar with. Certainly we should be signalling to researchers that we are the go to people to answer questions about Open Access and publishing.

#Seven. Plagiarism and how to avoid it

One thing that isn’t on the list, because it’s so obviously important, is referencing. However, the correct attribution of research, where it is acceptable to quote a source, how much text to quote and how to reference it are all questions that come up. Knowing what plagiarism is should give researchers the tools to avoid it, if it’s a concern. Writing your own guide or using one of the hundreds on the internet should cover this space.

#Eight. Critical Appraisal

Well, its Critical Appraisal isn’t it. We create resources around it. We teach it. We do it. Critically appraising something is part of most degree and postgraduate a courses. No harm in driving home a good point though.

#Nine. Tools keeping up to date

I wonder if when we meet researchers, we talk about this kind of thing too early in their personal research cycle. They can see that it’s useful but don’t feel the need until they get started on their research. This is simple high impact stuff, eTOCs, Current Awareness, Twitter and social media, RSS and aggregators that takes the weight off in keeping up to date. This is something we should feel comfortable with too.   Recent experience following the death of Yahoo Pipes (sob) has provided a personal reminder of how good some of these tools can be.

#Ten. Advanced search techniques

Maybe not that advanced. At least not basic. You know the kind of thing, proper use of Boolean logic, in-field searching, using thesauri, use of limits, the right choice of database. Having the assurance when we are not sitting with them, or doing searches on their behalf, they have reached the self actualisation phase of the Maslow “Searching/Library” Pyramid.

Matt Holland, NWAS LKS Librarian, NWAS LKS is supported by the Health Care Libraries Unit [HCLU]. September 2015

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3 Responses to 10 things we should probably be telling our research students about by Matt Holland

  1. Tom Roper says:

    I’m not sure I could whole-heartedly recommend Beall’s list as authoritative to medical researchers. There are a number of cogent criticisms of his approach, See for example
    Berger M, Cirasella C Beyond Beall’s List: Better understanding predatory publishers
    Coll Res Libr News March 2015 76:132-135 http://crln.acrl.org/content/76/3/132.full
    And, with reference to Google Scholar, should we not be instructing researchers in using it intelligently, rather than forbidding it?

  2. matthewjholland says:

    Hi Tom, yes I have seen the article. I agree that conflating predatory practices and OA is a criticism made of Beall’s list among other criticisms. I also agree that conveying the richness of the publishing landscape to our users is the better strategy. Beals’s list is a sort of Bogey Man to shock users into being careful. This stuff is out there watch out. The times I have encountered predatory publishers in relation to users, checking lists or requests for hard to find articles (not all predatory publishers are OA, which I think refers to the point above) Google Scholar has been the culprit. I would take the Cnut line on Google Scholar. Discourage its use in favour of PubMed and Medline etc. knowing its hopeless! Thanks for taking the time to comment. BW Matt

  3. Pingback: Supporting Individual Researchers by Matt Holland | LIHNN Clinical Librarians

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