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UOA 37 - Library and Information Management

University of Brighton

RA5a: Research environment and esteem

1.0       OVERVIEW AND STRUCTURE

Since 2001, research in Library and Information Management at the University of Brighton has been strongly developed in support of an interdisciplinary research programme which:

  • explores the social contexts within which the design and use of information objects is mediated by information and communication technologies (ICTs);
  • sustains a critique of information/network society discourse, with particular emphasis on the policies and practices which constitute the ‘digital divide’;
  • gains insight from empirical research into the management of information in particular contexts, and the implications of different sociotechnical configurations for the distribution of professional and lay expertise; and
  • engages, and exchanges knowledge with, practitioner communities through strategic consultancy work and the creation of research partnerships.

Research income in the RAE2008 review period has risen to 236% of that in the RAE2001 period, from £463,679 to £1,094,541, demonstrating one facet of the strength of our development in this area, with competitively won grants and contracts from AHRC, ESRC, MRC, the Canadian Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), JISC, SEMLAC, HEFCE and LIC amongst others.

Research effort is concentrated in two foci, which are characterised below. 

1.1       Information Management

Information Management research provides insights into the principles and practice of information generation, representation, organisation, communication and evaluation; in particular, sociotechnical contexts, relating these to theories in information science. Among such contexts, visual information retrieval, information service delivery, and the shaping of the information profession are well-established at Brighton, each broadening and deepening their activities over the period. To these has been added a critical analysis of national and international information policy, engaging with pressing issues in information access, information literacy and the role played by information in the innovation process. 

1.2       Social Informatics 

Social Informatics research explores social and ethical issues arising in the design, development and use of information and ICTs, informing the interdisciplinary field of Science and Technology Studies (STS). Based on a series of detailed empirical studies of ICT deployments in specific contexts (currently, in community development and health care), the research provides more nuanced understandings of the sociotechnical configurations that can either inhibit or support progressive social change. The results feed into a sustained and critical engagement with discourses of the information or network society. 

1.2.1    Research activity in Information Management and Social Informatics is amalgamated within the Social Informatics Research Unit (SIRU). SIRU is one of several cognate research groupings which cooperate in the Computing, Mathematical and Information Sciences (CMIS) Research Centre. A total of 29 researchers from the Centre are being submitted to a range of other panels, with entries in Computer Science; Media, Communication and Cultural Studies; Art and Design; Education; and Applied Mathematics. The Computer Science return includes research in systems design and interactive technologies – areas which had been included in the university’s submission to the Library and Information Management (LIM) panel in 2001. This has enabled a more sharply focused submission to be made to the 2008 panel. 

2.0       RESEARCH OUTPUTS

2.1       Information Management 

2.1.1    Image retrieval has become a highly relevant issue within Information Management, due to massively enhanced Web-enabled access, a spreading interest in semantic image retrieval, and at the domestic level the advent of cheap digital cameras and populist internet sites such as MySpace. Enser leads a small team of colleagues at Brighton and Southampton universities, whose interests span the communication gap between image practitioners and the computer vision research community. This group has undertaken AHRC- and LIC-funded projects in collaboration with some thirty picture and film libraries and archives, and hosted the ‘Semantic Image Retrieval – the User Perspective’ conference, in 2007, to bridge this gap.

2.1.2    Enser has disseminated new understandings about the true span of the semantic gap between the functionalities of automatic and human inferencing systems in image retrieval to an appropriately broad range of communities, including library and information science [Enser,1,2], computer science [Enser,3] and cultural heritage [Enser,4]. Within the computer science community, Enser and colleagues have presented to the fully-refereed, ‘Challenge of Image and Video Retrieval’ (CIVR) conference series five times in this period, and to another five international conferences dealing with multimedia retrieval and cognate issues. Dissemination among the cultural heritage community has included papers to the influential ‘International Cultural Heritage Informatics Meeting’ (ICHIM), and ‘Digital Resources in the Humanities’ [Enser,4]. Invited contributions which reflect Enser’s standing include a chapter on image and video retrieval to the latest volume of the prestigious Annual Review of Information Science and Technology (ARIST) [Enser,1]; a special issue of the Journal of Information Science to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the Institute of Information Scientists; a forthcoming special issue of the journal Cognitive Processing, and a chapter in a bi-lingual text on multimedia information retrieval for AIDA, the Italian Association for Advanced Documentation.

2.1.3    Both Wallis (working with Moore, Visiting Professor until 2004) and Eve have further strengthened Brighton’s engagement with the changing character of the information profession. Wallis led three research projects in which SIRU was commissioned by national bodies to obtain robust evidence upon which to base future strategic decisions in the library and information sector at a national level. The first of these [Wallis,1,4] was commissioned by the Research Support Libraries Group on behalf of HEFCE to provide the evidence base for a UK-wide strategic framework and mechanisms for promoting collaboration in the development and provision of library collections, their long-term management and services to support research. The report contributed to the creation of a new national framework for UK research information provision – the Research Information Network (RIN).

2.1.4    In the second such project, a study of MLE activity in all FE and HE institutions in the UK was commissioned by JISC and UCISA[Wallis,3]. The study resulted in the design of the MLE ‘integration matrix’ which has been used extensively across the sector to assess the level of integration in student-centred information systems. The report’s conclusion that pedagogical issues had been of secondary concern to institutions in developing MLEs was a key factor behind the strategic decision to create the JISC e-learning programme. 

2.1.5    The third such commission was awarded by the MLA South East to map the size and qualifications of the museums, libraries and archives sector workforce [Wallis,2]. This complex piece of work was described by the MLA as ‘groundbreaking’, its findings being the foundation of the MLA South-East workforce development strategy, and influencing the sector at a national level (MLA South East, 2006 (Change Forward: MLA South East Workforce Development Strategy 2006-8)). 

2.1.6    Eve has undertaken research on the interface between the learning environment and public library provision. Evewas the only academic partner in the EU-funded ‘PuLLS’ project (Public Libraries in the Learning Society). This developed a model for the provision of lifelong learning centres which was subsequently implemented and evaluated [Eve,3]. Eve has undertaken research on the impact of ICTs both on public library provision of services to users and on staff roles [Eve,1], and an examination of the political environment in which libraries operate by assessing the incidence and impact of the evaluation culture on public library provision [Eve,2]. Eve is active in the debate about the role of research in practice-focused disciplines such as LIS [Eve,4], resulting in invitations to address both the British Library seminar on the future of LIS research (2007) and the Umbrella conference.

2.1.7     De Saulles has examined the rhetoric surrounding national information policy and attendant financial implications and compared the emerging trend of open access within the software and content sectors with the more closed approach taken by UK policy makers in e-Government initiatives [De Saulles,3]. He has also examined national policies designed to encourage information literacy among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and shown these policies to be wrongly focused [De Saulles,2] In other research relating to economics of information, analyses were undertaken of innovation within UK public bodies [De Saulles,1] and of the accounts of such bodies in order to quantify central government profits from the sale of information [De Saulles,4]. Invitations to De Saulles to speak at two CIPFA Better Governance Forum workshops in 2005 reflect both the significance of this area of work, and his standing within it.

2.2       Social informatics 

2.2.1    Social informatics research at Brighton has contributed to conceptual development in debates about the information or network society, and to policy and practice developments in the community development and e-health fields. Drawing on detailed case studies of the use of ICTs to build capacity and empower communities, Day has produced a critical evaluation of the techno-economic paradigm found in the policy, theory and practice of the network society [Day,2] in a collection described as ‘unique in the field’ (Webster F., review in European Journal of Communication, 20(2), pp.271-4, 2005). Day has also argued the case for ‘a new public sphere’ that effectively employs the medium of cyberspace for social and environmental progress in work [Day,3], which is further developed in an invited contribution to an edited collection [Day,1]. Henwood and Horner have engaged with notions of ‘e-health’ and ‘e-government’, respectively. Henwood has provided a thorough critique of the discourse of the ‘informed patient’ in an article that has been widely cited in leading journals in the health and social sciences as well as library and information science [Henwood,1]. Horner has designed an innovative framework for evaluating the extent to which ethical problems faced in an e-government context can be attributed specifically to the technologies used as opposed to the wider environment within which they are used [Horner,1]. With this proposed framework, Horner has opened up new avenues for research within information and computer ethics. 

2.2.2     Henwood and Day both question the notion of a ‘digital divide’ as being attributable to a lack of skills or competences. They have extended this somewhat simplistic attribution for non-use of ICTs, which is commonly found in the literature, by developing the notion that some non-use will not be overcome purely through access and training. Henwood has shown how gendered dimensions of work practice offer insights into resistance to the use of new technologies [Henwood,2], and how gendered and generational factors shape use practices [Henwood,4]. Henwood details the methodology which guided these studies in an invited contribution to the Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems special issue on ethnography and intervention [Henwood,3]. Day has also developed innovative methodologies. His research addresses the digital divide through the methodology of participatory action research, leading to the concept of ‘democratic design’, whose characteristics are set out in a normative framework of criteria related to community ICT initiatives [Day,4]. Day‘s work builds on that of Gill (Category B) who, prior to his retirement in 2004, played a key international role as director of the EU–India Cross-Cultural Innovation Network. Funded up to 2003 by the EU–India Cross-Cultural Economic Programme, the network fostered proactive collaborations in applied research in socio-economic and entrepreneurial innovation.

2.2.3     Horner, too, engages with claims made about new technologies in his ethical critique of technological forecasting. Conventional wisdom has it that the negative consequences of technology can be forestalled by anticipating potential undesirable outcomes. Horner has argued against this notion [Horner,2], illustrating the problems of forecasting through an analysis of views on the future of nanotechnology [Horner,3]. He has also analysed the phenomenon of ‘prospective’ ethical assessments [Horner,4]. The results of this research have all been presented at prestigious international conferences (‘Ethicomp’; ‘e-Government’; and ‘Computer Ethics and Philosophical Enquiry’, respectively). These gatherings involve a mix of ethicists, computer scientists and practitioners. Horner’s novel ‘anti-consequentialist’ approach to prospective technology assessments has resonated with these groups and subsequently his conference papers have been selected for re-publication as articles in leading journals within the discipline, including the ACM SIGCAS Journal Computers and Society [Horner,4] and the specialist journal in the field of computer ethics, Ethics and Information Technology [Horner,1].

2.2.4     Social Informatics researchers at Brighton see engaging policy makers and practitioners as vital in the debate about the promises and challenges associated with universal internet access and empowerment through information. We achieve this through collaborative research partnerships (local, national and international) in the community, health and (increasingly) library sectors. Day is a Director of the local Sussex Community Internet Project (SCIP) and both Day and Henwood work in partnership with SCIP on projects examining the potential of ICTs for the development of social capital and community learning. Important local partnerships have also been built by Henwood in the health and information sectors to advance research–practice links in e-health. Henwood’s participation in four national or international research programmes in e-health provided a platform for her organisation of three research–practice workshops funded by the ESRC (2002), the Department of Health (2003) and jointly by the ESRC and the Canadian SSHRC (2007).

2.2.5     Day is a founding member of the international Community Informatics Research Network (CIRN), whose annual conference links community informatics research directly to community development activities. Day is widely consulted locally, nationally and internationally by practitioners and policy makers as well as other academics. In addition to giving the keynote address on the ‘Engaging Ideas’ programme of the Queensland State Government in 2003, he was invited by a partnership of the Provincial Government of the Western Cape, the Centre for e-Innovation and Cape Peninsula University of Technology, the City of Cape Town, and the South African Department of Communications to facilitate a participatory learning workshop on community communications and social networks, and was contracted by the Open Society Institute/Soros Foundation in Budapest, Hungary, as a consultant and evaluator for the Veszprém Digital City Project, 2002–04.

3.0       ESTEEM INDICATORS 

In addition to the indicators of esteem embedded within the previous section, the following roles have been selected as evidence of standing within the relevant research and professional communities.

3.1       Honorary appointments 

Day: Visiting Senior Research Fellow, Central Queensland University, Australia.

Enser:Honorary Visiting Professor, Department of Information Science, City University, UK.

Henwood: Senior Visiting Lecturer, Centre for Primary Health Care Studies, Warwick Medical School, UK 2004–07.

3.2       Peer-review activities

Enser: Member, AHRC Peer Review College (2003–); Member, AHRB Librarianship, Archives and Information Management Peer Review Panel (1999–2002, and for the equivalent AHRC panel in 2007).      

Wallis: Assessor, DCMS/Wolfson award (1996–2003); Assessor, Institute of Public Finance DCMS Annual Library Plans (1999–2006)

 

3.3       Steering and advisory committees and professional body offices

Day: Founding Member and Director, Sussex Community Internet Project (SCIP); Founding Member, Community Informatics Research Network.

Enser: President of the Institute of Information Scientists, 2000–02; Elected Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Information Scientists, 2002; Elected Honorary Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), 2002; Chair, Accreditation Board, Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), 2002–; Chair, QAA Subject Benchmark for Librarianship & Information Management Review Panel, 2006–07; Member, Steering Committee, UK Multimedia Knowledge Management Network; Member, International Steering Committee, ‘Challenge of Image and Video Retrieval’ (CIVR) annual conference.

Eve: Member, Organising Committee, CILIP ‘Umbrella’ conferences 2003, 2005; Treasurer, Library and Information Research Group (LIRG), 2002–06 (and newsletter editor from 2006). 

Henwood: Member, Board of Trustees, Help for Health Trust, 2002–05.

Wallis: Vice Chair and Board Member of the South East Museum, Library and Archive Council (SEMLAC), 2004 –; Chair, South East Branch, Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), 2005–. 

3.4       Editorial committees 

Day: AI & Society; International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology (ijEDict); Journal of Community Informatics.

Enser: New Library World

Henwood: Health Informatics Journal; Information, Communication and Society.

3.5       International conference programme committees 

Day: CIRN Conference, 2003–; International Conference on Communities and Technologies, 2005, 2007.

De Saulles: European Conference on e-Government, 2006, 2007.

Enser: Challenge of Image and Video Retrieval (CIVR), 2001–05; Co-Editor, CIVR 2004 Proceedings (Springer, Lecture Notes in Computer Science series); IEEE International Conference on Multimedia and EXPO (ICME), 2006; RIAO'2007 Large-Scale Semantic Access to Content (Text, Image, Video and Sound), 2007. 

Henwood: GASAT 12 Gender and Science and Technology, 2006.

4.0       RESEARCH INCOME

4.1       As reported above, research income has increased substantially since RAE2001. The most significant contributor to this was a fourfold increase in funding from Research Councils. Henwood secured a major grant from the ESRC and MRC under their ‘Innovative Health Technologies’ Programme, and was also invited to become an international co-applicant on a (subsequently successful) bid to the Canadian SSHRC for a five-year, $3 million project investigating ‘Technology and Health Information in the New Economy’. Day was a major grant-holder under the ESRC Programme ‘People at the Centre of Communication and Information Technologies’. Both Enser and Eve were awarded AHRC funding – Eve to investigate interactions between academics and practitioners in libraries and archives, and Enser with a major award for a semantic image retrieval project. A LIC/Resource-funded project on archival moving imagery was also completed by him during the review period. 

4.2       Funding from UK public corporations and Government also increased substantially, reflecting Wallis and co-workers’ success in attracting funding from JISC, HEFCE and SEMLAC, and Henwood’s substantial grants from the Department of Health Research Initiatives. Henwood also secured smaller grants from the Brighton and Sussex Universities Hospitals Trust, the Social Care Institute for Excellence, and the University of Brighton’s Community–University Partnership project. Day gained a further award in respect of a Brighton and Sussex Community Knowledge Exchange project to further develop the link between community informatics research and community development activities. 

5.0       RESEARCH STUDENTS AND STUDENTSHIPS

5.1       LIM research students form part of the wider community within the CMIS Research Centre’s Research Student Division (RSD). The RSD, which is reporting 99 FTE students in total to RAE2008, 14.36 of which are allocated to UOA37, combines monitoring and pastoral responsibilities with a well-resourced environment designed to stimulate academically rigorous and supportive original and creative inquiry. The university offers training in research methods to all research students. Monitoring of research students’ progress and supervision processes is conducted in line with HEFCE recommendations. The CMIS Research Centre is recognised by the ESRC for supervision of studentships. 

5.2       The supervisory teams associated with LIM students include other CMIS research staff, and LIM staff help supervise students who are reported elsewhere – typically UOA23 or UOA66. Since 2001, LIM students have successfully completed PhDs on: policies for a participative information society; national library and information services policy in public sector healthcare in UK; cultural shaping of scholarly communication within academic specialisms; and collaborative academic projects in a cross-cultural context. Ongoing projects concern: the branding of the information society; design in community health informatics; and comparative analyses of internet use by women in Malaysia and the UK. 

5.3       Completing research students have achieved significant career progression, including one student subsequently appointed lecturer at Brighton (Day, category A) and another awarded postdoctoral research fellowships at the University of North Carolina, the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and the University of Oxford, leading to appointment as lecturer at Loughborough. Another graduate was appointed lecturer at Sussex.  

6.0       STAFFING POLICY

6.1       Policies relating to the recruitment, management and development of staff are articulated at school level, in compliance with university staffing policy, which follows good practice in the sector. Research performance/potential is a key criterion in the selection of new staff, and new members of staff are allocated a mentor to assist in their early career development. Every effort is made to introduce new staff into the supportive environment of an existing research group, where experienced researchers assist less-experienced colleagues in their development. Although none of the CMIS Research Centre’s Early Career Researchers are being reported to UOA37, the integration of De Saulles into SIRU is an example of the development of research potential in staff who enter academe from a professional or commercial background, and who enrich our practice-based research focus. Three other staff are currently being integrated in this way and will have quality outputs to report to the next RAE. SIRU-specific support is complemented by a university-wide Staff Development Review system. The promotion of Henwood to a Chair in Social Informatics in 2006 reflects the operation of systems which recognise research performance of the highest calibre.

6.2        The CMIS Research Centre has been the beneficiary of QR funding emanating from RAE2001, and the decision to supplement that funding by means of a Faculty Research Support Fund in order to enhance research infrastructure and activity appropriate to its needs. QR and supplementary funding has also been used to fund conference travel and subsistence, and periods of teaching relief in order to enable selected staff to pursue targeted research and scholarly activity. A new initiative, ProposalNet, enables selected researchers to develop proposals into high-quality research proposals over the course of a number of active learning set sessions.

7.0       RESEARCH STRATEGY 

7.1        Research strategy for the LIM area is developed within SIRU, operating within the broader context of the CMIS Research Centre and the CMIS Research Strategy Group. These, in turn, reflect and implement research strategy articulated in faculty and university research strategy committees.

7.2       Within the LIM area, research strategy for the next five years will build on and extend existing commitments to interdisciplinarity, empirical research and collaborative research with practice-based communities, in order to produce rigorous interrogations of information society theory, develop new participatory research methodologies and contribute to debates about service development in practice-based fields. Specific objectives in the research strategy include:

  • Continuing to play a key role in decision-making in the information and library sectors through the provision of strategic consultancy work.
  • The further exploitation of evidence from consultancy work in the information and library sectors to produce critical and theoretical engagements with information management research. The information management research stream will receive a significant boost in the form of a Visiting Professorship recently conferred upon Blaise Cronin, Dean and Rudy Professor of Information Science at Indiana University.
  • Aligning the information management research more closely with social informatics research agendas through collaborative research between the two research streams.
  • Securing further external funding by matching our interdisciplinary, collaborative and practice-based engagements with the theory and practice of the information society to emerging Research Council, DH, MRC and EU research agendas that increasingly prioritise interdisciplinarity, user-engagement and economic and social impacts of research. Existing strong collaborations with library services, the NHS and the community and voluntary sectors provide a firm foundation for the preparation of new proposals.

7.3        Several projects begun late into the present planning period work towards these key objectives and will become significant over the next planning period. Key initiatives here include:

  • Research on community networking which is developing an innovatory participatory action research methodology known as ‘community network analysis’ (CNA). 
  • Research linking community and health informatics, currently funded by the Department of Health, which is exploring the potential for community-led health information systems design and will contribute directly to both the theory and the practice of user-centred design and notions of ‘digital citizenship’. 
  • Research linking information science with cultural informatics, synthesising existing strengths in image retrieval and semantic modelling reported to this UoA with those of a strong, EU-funded cultural technology group which is being reported to a different UoA. 
  • Research exploring interactions between information management research and information professional practice which is generating new research concerning theory and methods in practice-focused research. Funding is being sought to host a series of national and international workshops that explore the research–practice relationship in the health, library/information and community sectors that will reflect on both the nature of relationships and the implications of different forms of engagement for both academic research and practice and service developments. 
  • Research into the role of public libraries in the information society. Two projects exploring the role of libraries in supporting the development of healthy communities (undertaken in partnership with library services and supported by the SSHRC of Canada and the University of Brighton’s Community–University Partnership Project/CUPP) is leading to the development of theory concerning the distribution of professional and lay expertise in the ‘intermediation’ of health information (an invited chapter exploring this theme is in press in an innovative new collection on health ‘info(r)mediators’ to be published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2008). Further research will explore the role of public libraries in supporting the learning and citizenship needs of immigrants to and migrants within the European Union (a bid to the EU to establish a network of public libraries working in this area is already underway).
  • Research into the ways in which gender mediates the sociotechnical relations surrounding the use of information and communication technologies in health care (supported by the SSHRC of Canada) which has resulted in an edited collection of case studies (Informing Gender? Health and Information Technologies in Context, to be published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2008)
  • Research exploring the changing nature of the information profession, building on a recently completed doctorate by one of SIRU’s developing researchers, will be the basis for both a research monograph and new research proposals.