I was very lucky to attend DARTS 4 (Discover Academic Research Training and Support) earlier in June. Set in the beautiful surroundings of Dartington Hall, the event was packed full with lots of interesting workshops for library staff supporting research.


Dartington Hall (yes it really was that sunny)

Dartington Hall (yes it really was that sunny)


You can see slides from the event at http://www.slideshare.net/ARLGSW/tag/darts4 as well as a  storify of the event at: http://sfy.co/pXUH

The event kicked off with Miggie Pickton from the University of Northampton talking about being a practitioner researcher. She started by talking about impact and the move to show economic and societal impact beyond academic impact in the HEI research environment. By considering why we research (Build own and inst reputation, benefit to service, benefit to career), plus the aims of practitioner research (focus on problem or need, pragmatic, investigative, inform practice, audience is colleagues) we could see why impact was important for practitioner researchers like ourselves (e.g.Funders (& employer) demand it, justify use of resource, demo value for money, attract potential partners), and Miggie encouraged us to think about Impact at every stage by considering a)what difference do we want to make and to whom, b) how do we ensure stakeholders benefit and c)how will we measure impact. Through examples and making us think about our own possible research project Miggie demonstrated that in our day job we are all practitioner researchers in some way and this served to highlight the research we carry out and how we implement it. In her slides is an example of a Reading List project which I think demonstrates really well how we are all practitioner researchers. I came away feeling enthused and already developing a few project plans that could be beneficial to the research support our Library Service provides.

Next to speak was Jenni Crossley from University of West England who’s talk was entitled Research Data Management, where are we now. Her talk looked at the current RDM and how it has changed since the publication of the RLUK report “Reskilling for Research”. The original report identified key skills that librarians would need to have to navigate RDM. Jenni had devised questions around these skills areas and you can see the trends in answers from the initial period, 15 months later and where we would like to be in Jan 2016. While s snapshot of the work going on, it does show trends that we are developing those key skills and the support we can provide researchers. Key areas for providing support for RDM were:- ensuring we have adequate staffing; engagement with the University from the Senior management team to the individual researchers; the need for policy from licenses to deposit agreements. During the talk, Jenni also gathered answers on the skills questions from the DARTS audience and it was interesting to see the difference between the DARTS attendees and workshop attendees which demonstrated to me that we still have some way to go to make sure our  staff from across the Library Service (not just those at the RDM coalface) are adequately skilled to support researchers in this new area.

To end the day we had a talk from Leigh Garret from the University for the Creative Arts about the challenges of Research Data Management in the Visual Arts. His talk outlined the work that had already taken place around research data management and visual arts and included great pointers for what we need to consider when setting up a service around research data. Not only was his talk informative his quote ” what is research data? Oh you mean stuff” really brought home how to address research data management in the arts but inspiring after all me notes from this session were “READ THESES SLIDES” but also Leigh set us a couple of challenges in the workshop of looking at research outputs for the Visual Arts  so we could appreciate the range and variety of research data behind these. One of the tasks was to consider Easy chair by Ernest Race, 1953. Not only did these challenges reveal the variety of data that may need managing, but the entire room was filled with budding chair manufacturers.

A thought provoking afternoon was followed by an amazing conference dinner.


Yummy lemon tart for pudding

Yummy lemon tart for pudding


The following day started with an inspiring talk was delivered by Sheila Corral. Her talk highlighted the challenges facing libraries to provide high level support to researchers when the relationship between libraries and researchers is becoming more distant. She identified several  research support trends including bibliometrics, digital humanities, e-research, lifecycle models, one-stop shop, scholarly communication, and space as service. I really appreciated the research which Sheila had collated into one presentation and has saved me many hours of work tracking this down as I consider our own research support services. I would encourage you to look at Sheila’s slides which feature lots of examples of good practice  for research support services and space for researchers within libraries. (and not only because it featured our very own Research Support pages which Sheila commended for the researcher viewpoint).

This was followed by a talk by Yvonne Budden talking about “Open Access at the Coal Face”. Her talk was about what University of Warwick have done to meet the open Access challenge, including switching off IP access to journals to highlight that the library pays for these and incentives for depositing in the repository.  This talk gave me loads of ideas for open access advocacy that we can easily put in place.

This was followed by an update by Neil Jacobs from Jisc on the work they are doing around Open Access and Scholarly Communications. Luckily Neil has saved me the job of writing this with the creation of a new Scholarly Comms blog . The recent posts neatly bring together all the work that Jisc are working on around Scholarly Communications and I would definitely recommend following that blog to keep up to date with all the projects Jisc are coordinating in this area.

In the afternoon we were tasked with a challenge. During the previous day we were all given the opportunity to submit the challenges we face as research support librarians. In this sessions we were split into groups to find solutions to those problems. This session was refreshing as you realise that some of the challenges you were facing were also being faced by others, but also the groups came up with some really interesting and fresh ideas. The challenges and their solutions are one of the slideshows in the slideshare link above.

Finally Katie Fraser and Nathan Rush talked about their project which looked at how to improve communication with research students at De Monfort particularly around library training.  Results from their project showed that research students needed to be acknowledged as researchers,  a sense of community, to understand the relevance of library training, Importantly it also demonstrated that timing was everything  “Information is only useful at exactly the time we need it” Pettersson 2002. The project created a timeline with crisis points for research postgrads where the library could intervene and reduce the crisis.


Overall the event was inspiring and I left full of enthusiasm for the work we do to support research. Most beneficial was meeting with librarians in similar roles and the time to discuss current thorny issues as well as compare practice, especially as research support librarians are generally sole practitioners orin small teams. I came away with lots of ideas not only for how we can support researchers at my own institution, but also support research librarians – more on that soon.

And if you want to see more photo’s from Dartington head over to Millie Moo’s Musings