Poking and prying

“Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.” – Zora Neale Hurston


Last week saw the 2nd annual Newcomers Week held at Essex for early career researchers and final year PhD students. Over 200 participants turned up over the course of the week to learn some of the skills required to navigate the constantly evolving world of academic research. As well as sessions exploring more traditional areas such as knowledge of the publication process and how to write research proposals, we also held resilience workshops and talks on using google and social media. Helping out with this has shown me how technology, the publishing industry and the higher education sector are continuously adapting in response to new discoveries and ways of thinking, and how supporting library users requires an ongoing familiarity with growing fields and new developments.

With the guidelines for the next REF stressing the importance of open access for research being submitted by universities, it’s easy to understand how this has become an increasingly important subject. Helping with Open Access week earlier this year showed me how important a role librarians play in helping staff to understand the implications of their publication choices and the challenges associated with trying to maximise the impact of their work. From the beginning of my traineeship I have been blown away by the ingenuity displayed in many of the workshops and training sessions held for researchers. I would never have thought that a board game where I played an aspiring researcher would teach me so much about the pitfalls and opportunities provided  by choosing different types of copyright restrictions and publication choices, but thanks to The Publishing Trap I came away both entertained and better informed.

Before starting work at the Albert Sloman I had very little idea of the perils and pitfalls faced by academics. From predatory publishers to citation cartels the world they inhabit can be complicated and challenging. Stories of journals claiming to be peer-reviewed nevertheless accepting research of questionable if not entirely spurious merit are all too common as can be seen in blogs such as Scholarly Kitchen or Retractionwatch. Many have taken the opportunity to expose the system in a suitably comic fashion – one of my personal favourites is the fake science research paper based entirely on the plot of an infamous episode of Star Trek. In all seriousness I believe that librarians have a crucial role to play, not just in collecting knowledge and disseminating it within their own community, by helping academics with sharing the knowledge they create outside of their own institutions so that it can have the widest possible audience and (hopefully) the impact that it deserves.




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