Category Archives: research

Looking at the primary research process – an interview with Denise Carter researcher and author of the BIR Annual Survey

Below is an interview with Denise Carter reflecting on the primary research process that she goes through to gather the information needed for our annual research report into the information and knowledge sector.
Tell us about the research process you go through, how has it developed and changed from when you first started?

Usually based on the previous year’s discussions and then conversations with different information colleagues and peers during the year I try to pick on a couple of themes that I believe are of current interest to information professionals. In between surveys, over the course of the year, I try to pick up articles and news items that relate to those themes, as well as anything else I see in both general and professional literature. Evernote is my great “friend” here and I upload everything to a “BIR” notebook, so I can go through when I have time to then do my further reading and see what really is useful and what not so much.

That reading gives me the building blocks for the questions I want to ask, particularly of the telephone interviewees but also to include in the e-survey.
The first year I did the survey I followed much more closely the methodology as described by Allan Foster (BIR’s previous long term author, researcher and writer of the BIR annual survey). In the next couple I have moved to having the e-survey because it handles some of the more routine questions that Allan asked everyone at the beginning of the telephone interviews about the general business climate, budgets, team sizes and so on. Widening this out to an e-survey gives the potential to get more feedback from different people and hopefully make those answers a little more statistically significant.
The process now is that I select a very general theme, collect reading on that over the year. Then I will construct the e-survey, repeating some questions (I hope that in a couple of years we can then include some comparative data), and asking some new questions that are relevant to the theme or to any other issues I see on the horizon. This year I also included a couple more open questions which gave some very insightful comment and I will certainly do that again. I try to collate and do a basic write up of the e-survey results before commencing on the primary interviews. That way I can use any feedback gleaned there to inform the questions and discussion.
What challenges have you encountered?

The biggest challenge is definitely finding telephone interviewees. I have a list of people who are regulars who have been very helpful and loyal to the process. Finding new candidates is not easy and every year it seems that some people retire or go to work in a completely different area and are no longer able to take part. Between July and December this year I plan to make a much more directed effort to finding some new interviewees.

Time is always an issue. Working backwards from the submission deadline of mid-June, then ideally the e-survey would go out second half of January and telephone interviews would take place in February, March, April. Having more time to spread them out would be useful. That would give May to get the article written. Normally I try to add the interview notes immediately following the interview that way everything is still fresh in my mind. This year there was an unexpected event and that threw the timings right out, so this year in particular timing was very tight as the interviews got pushed into May/June. Hopefully next year will be more tranquil and I can stick to my plan.

How have you overcome them?

To be brutally honest I haven’t overcome the issues of time and finding interviewees yet. They are challenges that remain for 2019. As mentioned though I hope in the second half of the year to get my network going and reach out to some new potential interviewees. Hopefully I will be able to stick to the timetable next year and break the process down into chunks.

Can you list your top 5 best practice points for others completing a similar research process/methodology?

1. The more background reading and information you can pull together outside of the primary interviews and e-surveys the better.

2. Get a structure together earlier rather than later. That helps you think of the questions you want to ask interviewees and in the e-survey and build a framework for the final article.
3. But don’t be tied into your intial structure, when you start to get information from your interviewees there may well be a different story that is emerging, you need to be flexible.
4. Don’t make references and figures and tables a chore, try to get these done in the correct format as you go along. Leaving them until the end creates a tedious task.
5. Try to have a break of at least a week, if not longer, after completing the article, and then re-read with relatively fresh eyes (I’m hoping 4th time will be a charm on that one!). Athough you always need someone else to do a proof-read, you simply cannot see all your own errors.
Overall doing a large piece of research like this can be daunting, and every year I wonder why I put myself forward, but it has also been very interesting and enlightening to speak to other information professionals and to understand what they do day-to-day. It also forces you to read, and we all know that we often have great intentions but finding the time to read up on a topic is hard, so this gives me a great opportunity and I appreciate that. This year reading about AI has been particularly fascinating, and even though I’ve submitted the article I’m still collecting more information on that topic.

BIR Annual Survey into the information and knowledge profession now open

The BIR annual survey now in its 28th year, has just opened for this year.  The survey provides a look inside the library, information and knowledge profession, highlighting key trends and changes that have taken place over the last 12 months.

The survey is run by Denise Carter, the Managing Director of DCision Consult, a competitive intelligence & business analytics service provider to the pharmaceutical & bio- technology industries. She has 30 years of experience working in the library and information management sectors.

The e Survey is open now just click this link to contribute and give your opinion https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/BIRsurvey18 The survey is complemented by 30 minute interviews for those who wish to take part further.  These interviews, conducted by Denise are highly confidential in nature.   The resulting report does not identify any one person or company.

The report will be published in September’s Business Information Review.

Social Network Analysis (SNA) and LIS research

Louise Cooke and Hazel Hall have published an article in Journal of Documentation exploring the potential value of SNA in library and information science research.  Here’s the abstract:


Social Network Analysis (SNA) is a research approach that focuses on relationships among social entities, and the patterns and implications of these relationships. This paper reviews the value of SNA as a method appropriate to research in the domain of Library and Information Science (LIS). In addition to offering a brief overview of the academic antecedents of modern-day SNA, the relevance of SNA to LIS research is illustrated through the presentation of a case study.

The paper cites an article by Bonnie Cheuk (on SNA and knowledge transfer, published in BIR in 2007) and also develops ideas presented by Hall, Irving and Cruikshank in BIR in 2012.

If you would like to read the article, the published version can be accessed from JDoc contents page on the Emerald web site (non-subscribers to Emerald will need to pay a fee to reach the full text). The full-text of the manuscript is available also available and free to download.

Pharmaceuticals, research and data mining

An agreement has been reached between representatives of pharmaceutical companies and publishers which aims to help pharma companies undertake text and data mining.
The agreement has been made between the Pharma-Documentation-Ring (P-D-R – an association of 21 pharmaceutical companies), the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP), and the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers.

You can read more about the agreement on Research Information.

The importance of demonstrating value

The concluding conference of the DReAM project last week showcased just how much had been achieved in promoting LIS practitioner research and in fostering the take up of new techniques from other disciplines in the last two years. The audience was held spellbound by Ben Goldacre – demonstrating the importance of robust research and lateral thinking beforehand on how to realise the full potential from data.  You can see and hear all the presentations from: http://lisresearch.org/event-5-presentations/
BIR joint editor, Sandra Ward contributed to the One Minute Madness session – see:
Sandra’s message was:  Because you’re worth it – the importance of demonstrating value!
*  As joint editor of Business Information Review, I believe strongly in the value of effective information management to business and other sectors.
*  As a consultant, I am appalled that few information functions have processes in place to calculate and demonstrate value.  As a result, we lose credibility, opportunities –and jobs! 
*  I am convinced that research techniques can be used to design value into services. 
We must apply them to:
·       Identify, with our organisations, where information skills will contribute most value;
·       Focus services on business critical activity;
·       Recognise it’s our customers that reap the value from services;
·       Partner with them to assess the real business benefit
And, where you can – I ask you to share good practice through publication!  Because you’re worth it!

Celebrating social science research


The Festival of Social Science 2011 takes place in London during the week 20th October to 5th November.
Coordinated by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) the events provide insights into the impact that social science research has on economic, social and political policies.

As part of the event, Sage and the British Academy (in association with Times Higher Education) will be hosting a debate on 31st October at the British Academy. How Can Social Scientists ad Government Work Together to Strengthen Public Trust in Scientific Evidence will be chaired by Evan Davis and speakers from academia, government and policy will be represented.
Other events at the Festival are listed here.

The future for LIS research is bright : DREaM launched

Business Information Review was privileged to be given a place at the launch of the DREaM project at the British Library’s Conference Centre this week.
DREaM (Developing Research and Excellence and Methods) intends to build research capacity and capability, raise the quality and standards of research through training, and attract LIS practitioners to undertake research and to collaborate with academic researchers. Watch out for the three training events that will take place in the next few months – October, January and April.
You can click on this link to access to the story of the day. The most impressive speaker for me was Blaise Cronin, the Rudy Professor of Information Science at Illinois – informative, entertaining and accessible. Blaise told the story of LIS research with a wealth of information. I was struck by many of his points. Has LIS research over many years actually created a consolidated body of accepted knowledge on which new research builds? Can the field be precisely defined? The questionable quality of much past research – which backs the need for DREaM); and the recent increase in citations to LIS research being made by non-LIS researchers. This suggests changes in the definition of ‘our’ subject area as well as useful opportunities for cross- discipline collaboration – and the need to identify where we are major players with influence and should be creating waves.
One minute madness sessions demonstrated the impact possible from very quick stories of new research – and certainly stimulated active networking in networking breaks. Two that particularly struck me were Frank Huysman, University of Amsterdam reporting on a survey sampling an entire community on the value of public libraries and Simon Burnett, Robert Gordon University, exploring whether storytelling and blogging can be used to transfer knowledge in the police service. An appropriate topic for this week in the UK!
Sandra Ward

LISRC announces review

The Library and Information Science Research Coalition (LISRC), which is now two years old, has announced a review of its value and impact.

The review will be conducted by Ian Wooler and co-Editor of BIR Sandra Ward.

A questionnaire, which should take no longer than 15 minutes to complete, will be published on the LISRC website next week and will be available until 8th April 2011.

ESRC relaunches website

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) has just re-launched its website at esrc.ac.uk.

The site provides access to all ESRC-funded research findings including journal articles, books and papers as well as details of the impact that the reseach has on the economy, society and individuals. ESRC’s research covers a vast range of subjects including employment, education, health, crime, the environment, wellbeing, the economy, social diversity, innovation, skills, technology and security.