24 November 2008

The Delphi workshop

Friday's Delphi study went very well. We held it in Gothenburg, the morning after snowfall, with a temperature of about -2 (that's outside, of course; inside, Swedish offices are well heated!). We had about 15 participants in this final round, to examine the results of the second questionnaire survey (in which they had all participated) and to arrive at a consensus on the priority to be assigned to research areas. We used two rounds of the 'diamond nine' technique, which requires cards to be sorted into priority order and eventually had a short-list of ten items sorted by priority. Considering that we started with 64 areas, this means that all ten are of high priority but, when potential research resources are scarce, further priority setting would be necessary.

All we have to do now is some report writing :-(

18 November 2008

In Sweden again...

...where I'm working, among other things, on a Delphi study on research needs in Swedish librarianship. We have finished the second round of the survey and have a workshop on Friday in Gothenburg to see if we can establish a consensus on the priority to be assigned to different research areas.

We began with a list of 64 research areas (collections of topics on various themes) and, as a result of the first round of scoring, reduced this to 42 for the second round. The second round appeared to produce a slightly higher degree of consensus on the importance of the topics, as measured by correlating the rankings suggested by the scores from different library sectors. We go to the Workshop with a set of fourteen research areas, identified on their appearance in at least two of the top ten rankings from the different sectors. It will be interesting to see what emerges as having top priority.

12 November 2008

Philosophical distinctions

I'd like to recommend a blog item from Jeffrey Bardzell Interaction Culture. It describes the tension in the human-computer interaction community over the different philosophical distinctions that lie behind 'scientific' and 'humanistic' research. Jeffrey notes that objections to a conference paper (which he thought was worthwhile) were raised not on points of logic or method, but on the 'appeal to authority' - which is a fundamental logical fallacy.

I'm sure that, as information research becomes more and more inter- or multi-disciplinary, warning notes like this will be needed more and more.

06 November 2008

The election

I suspect that the world outside the USA was holding its breath until the moment the victory of Barack Obama was certain. The universal sigh of relief was almost audible: the fear that the American people would once again make the wrong choice was palpable. Whether he can can do much to repair things in the short term is debateable, but he is one of very few politicians I have listened to in whose sincerity I can believe and whom I can believe will try. He is clearly one of the most intelligent Presidents the USA will ever have had and he is a striking orator who projects the capability of leading and who knows where he wants to lead. The world of scholarship, that Information Research seeks to serve, is hardly likely to suffer during his administration and I imagine that, by the end of his first term, the global economy will be recovering enough from its present difficulties to enable research and scholarship to benefit.

My one fear, having lived through the early, squandered promise of the Blair years in the UK, is that promises will be difficult to keep and the disappointment we feel will be felt in America. But Obama is a better man than Blair and that fear is modest.

03 November 2008

...and things happen.

While the Weblog has been dormant a number of developments of potential interest have happened. The first I noticed was the decision by the American Library Association to make American Libraries open access. You have to load the ebrary reader (which needs a workaround if you use Firefox 3.0).

The next item to come to my notice was a similar decision by the British Medical Association to make the British Medical Journal (which now seems to be known only by its initials) entirely open access. I imagine this will mean more obscure diseases being reported to GPs by their usual hypochondriacs!

Finally, there's been the launch of academia.edu, a kind of social networking site for academics. It is rather sparsely populated at present with both institutions and people. For example, my old university, Sheffield, appears not be present at all, while the University of Boras, where I now work part-time, is present, but with only one staff member. Perhaps it will grow.

Time passes...

I hadn't realised how long it had been since I posted anything to the Weblog - I've simply been too busy to bother with it. Doing what? Well, shortly after the ISIC Conference, referred to in earlier posts, I had ten days in Sweden where I'm working on a couple of projects. The first is just coming to an end: a Delphi study of research needs in librarianship for the Svensk Biblioteksforening (Swedish Library Association) - we were in the process of getting the second round of questionnaires returned and building another SPSS data file of the returns. The other project is SHAMAN, funded by the European Community and with 18 partners. Not long after the trip to Sweden, the SHAMAN members of Work Package 1 met in Nice to finalise the first deliverable and to discuss relationships between the different work packages. From my point of view, this was a useful meeting which sorted out a number of difficulties I had seen in the work package for which we at Boras have primary responsibility - Demonstration and Evaluation. As for Nice - well, the weather was truly awful - low temperatures and almost continuous rain. However, one plus was one of a number of free concerts being given over a three day period in various venues. This was the concert to celebrate 20 years of the Virgin Classics record label, held in the Acropolis convention, exhibition and concert hall complex. The concert was held in Apollon, the main concert hall, and I would guess that almost all of its 2,500 seats was occupied. The artists performing were excellent and two and a half hours passed very quickly!