Student Dissertations in ORO

We are very pleased to have recently added some third level student dissertations to ORO.  They are for the History module “A329 – The making of Welsh history” and are listed in ORO on their own Student Dissertations page.

Adding student projects to ORO:

  • Is a great way to showcase the research done by OU students.  Providing access to them as exemplars for current and prospective students, supports student recruitment, attainment and retention.
  • Supports the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences objective of actively engaging with OU students as partners and co-researchers.

Example record in ORO

Module Team Chair Richard Marsden said:

A329 offers undergraduate History students a rare opportunity to conduct an independent research project on a topic of their own choosing. Some of the work they have produced is extremely impressive and constitutes a real contribution to our understanding of Welsh history. It is great to be able to make those contributions publicly available to members of the public and other scholars on ORO, especially as doing so is very much in keeping with the OU’s public mission and support for the open sharing of knowledge’.

We are in discussion with other modules to add more student dissertations to ORO.  Contact us if you are interested in using ORO in this way.

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If ORO was a drink.. what would it be?

I recently attended the Playful Learning conference at Manchester.  The conference introduced me to a variety of playful strategies to use in both teaching situations and in  everyday work scenarios.

One of the very first things we were asked to do by Katie Piatt in her keynote was to think about a game as a drink and then design a drinks mat for it. Why might you do this?  Well, firstly it brings a bit of fun to the workplace, and secondly, it may elicit responses that you might not get if you asked a straight question.

One of my favourites from the conference was Simon Says = Cocktail = Drink / Repeat.

So, I thought I’d bring the idea into our ORO team meeting and get the guys who work on ORO to think about ORO as a drink and then design their own drinks mat for it.

What did I get, what drink do we imagine ORO to be?  What insights on working with ORO did I get?


Not a great surprise, but they were by turns fruity, strong and, err, chewy!

a Sundae

Something light, to suit all tastes.


Definitely winning the prize for artistic merit: free water, although terms and conditions apply…


Yes, you love it or hate it… but is it a drink? [team meeting descends into bickering]

…and Gravy

Is that really a drink!  [team meeting descends into polite librarian brawl regarding viscosity and Newtonian fluid]

But Brown Open Access, available in cubes – that might catch on!

Or something else…

Bingo!  This was what I was after… I was being told that using ORO is too hard.  People don’t have the time figure it out – they want help to make it easier.

So maybe by introducing this technique, allowing the space for people to think differently, or at least licence to express this thinking, did provide me with some useful insight.

And it was a team meeting that was fun!  If you want some blank mats for you to try it yourself, I have some spare – let me know.

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ORDO online drop-in tomorrow

Our monthly online drop-in session for ORDO is tomorrow, Tuesday 7th August, 11:30 – 12:30.

Ask Dan about using our research data repository, ORDO, for data preservation, data sharing, showcasing your work, collaborative projects… and anything else.

To join, go to our Adobe Connect “Research Support” page and click on “join room” (and if you find the link takes you to the “DISS Home” page instead, click on “Resources” at the top and scroll down to “Research Support”).

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Official NVivo tutorials on YouTube

The makers of NVivo, the qualitative data analysis software, provide numerous playlists of official tutorials about their product on YouTube.

These may come in very useful if you are learning NVivo or have a specific issue that requires guidance!

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A roundup of free online training

There have been a few new, free online training resources for researchers released lately, so we thought with summer here it would be worth a roundup.

From a focus on working with data and data management to a broader range looking at different aspects of working openly, there should be something for everyone.

  • Data Tree is a new free online data management training course, funded by NERC. It’s especially aimed at PhD students and early career researchers in the environmental sciences, but useful for anyone who wants to learn new data skills. It includes ways to engage and share data with business, policymakers, media and the wider public.
  • FOSTER Plus is a 2-year, EU-funded project, carried out by 11 partners across 6 countries, with the aim of developing Open Science. Their draft Open Science training courses have just been released for use and public consultation, so early users have a chance to shape their development. Courses include What is Open Science?, Open Science and InnovationData Protection and Ethics, and Open Access Publishing.
  • We posted about the UK Data Service’s data skills modules back in May, but if you didn’t have time then, take a look now. They have introductory sessions on Survey Data, Longitudinal Data and Aggregate data.
  • We also posted before about the CESSDA ERIC Data Management course which takes you through each step of the research process working with data, from planning to publishing.

If you get a chance to work through any of these and have feedback that you’d like to share, please let us know so we can pass it on. Get in touch at




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ORDO online drop-in today

Our monthly online drop-in session for ORDO is today, 11:30 – 12:30.

Ask Dan about using ORDO for data preservation, data sharing, showcasing your work, collaborative projects… and anything else.

To join, go to our Adobe Connect “Research Support” page and click on “join room” (and if you find the link takes you to the “DISS Home” page instead, click on “Resources” at the top and scroll down to “Research Support”).

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A great new opportunity to access the Times Higher Education.

The Library is pleased to announce that we have secured access for all staff and students to the Times Higher Education online through our institutional subscription.

Setting up a personal account will enable access to the latest and archive editions of Times Higher Education including news about the latest trends and issues in the Higher Education sector from across the world.

Are you interested? It is straightforward to set up an account for online access using your OU email address, visit the Library website for details.


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ORDO online drop-ins – ask us about the OU’s research data repository

Heard of ORDO already but not sure what it does?

Never heard of it before but interested in options for storing and sharing data to support your research?

I’ll be holding an online drop-in session for ORDO, the OU’s research data repository, on the first Tuesday of every month at 11:30 to answer any questions you have about data preservation, data sharing, showcasing your work, collaborative projects… and anything else.


The first session is on Tuesday 5th June at 11:30-12:30, and then at the same time on the first Tuesday of every month after that. Drop-in at any time and stay as long as you want.

To join, go to our Adobe Connect “Research Support” page and click on “join room” (and if you find the link takes you to the “DISS Home” page instead, click on “Resources” at the top and scroll down to “Research Support”).

If you want to get started right away, see the ORDO information on our website or get in touch at

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How does GDPR affect research data management?

It will probably come as no surprise to anyone with an email address that the GDPR comes in to force this week.

The GDPR is the new General Data Protection Regulation: an EU-wide regulation that provides rules for how personal data is handled.

It has implications for how organisations gather, manage, use and share personal data – for example when marketing and delivering services, as demonstrated by the many emails we have all no doubt received recently from companies we once interacted with in one way or another.

But there are also implications for researchers working with personal data, and in March Dr Marc Cornock wrote a guest post for us about GDPR and introduced his editorial about the issues affecting research.

Further to this, we have written a guide: GDPR – How does it affect Research Data Management and data sharing?highlighting the key issues for researchers and drawing together some useful resources and contacts.

If you have any comments or suggestions from your experience, please do get in touch. The guidance will be updated and improved as we all get to grips with GDPR.

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Opening Umbrellas: Icons in Academic Publishing.


With a (big) hat tip to Dr. Susan Gibbons, (Yale University) whose presentation at Researcher to Reader 2018 triggered this post.

Spending as much time as I do trawling the academic literature, one becomes immune to the plethora of icons that inhabit publisher, library, content aggregator, repository and other services that hook onto scholarly communications.  At a glance these icons are supposed to tell us something useful.  However, we now have so many different icons, I doubt they now serve any useful purpose.


The basic information these icons are supposed to convey is YES or NO; YES you can access this content, or NO you cannot.   Access to these subscribed journals may be indicated by green ticks, green unlocked padlocks, green rectangles, green squares, a green circular button or a green “S” – there may be a standard colour but there is no standard icon.  Moreover, even within the same website you can get different icons at article level or journal level, there is a lack of consistency across platforms and within them.

or NO

The scholarly content libraries do not subscribe to are often variations of locked padlocks – a variety of colours.  However, they are never red or crosses – that would definitely give the wrong impression!  Some cut to the chase and just present you with a shopping trolley, get your purse ready!  But, my favourite is just an existential empty white box – there’s nothing here to see…

or YES, for everyone

Then we get Open Access (YES for everyone – not just those that have subscription access).  “But that’s simple!” you might say “use the regular orange Open Access icon!”  Yes, well, but some publishers like their own flavour of this; some like a different coloured variation of the open padlock, and others just like an “O”.  Some like to have two varieties, orange for hybrid Open Access and blue for pure Open Access!  Some purely Open Access publishers like to get in on the act and have an open padlock icon too – even though everything in the journal portfolio is Open Access – erm why bother?

or YES, for a period of time

And then we have “Free Access” – access to papers bound by a time period or free access to particular types of journal items (e.g. editorials).  These can be notoriously difficult to tell apart from icons indicating subscribed content.  Different shades of green (or blue) open padlocks, or just plain “F” icons.  Perhaps the most successful of these resort to simple text stating “Free Access”.


Then we have partial access to this journal content; when you can read some journal issues but not others.  Mmm, getting tricky.  So we have green squares split into 2 – half green, half white. Or paler shades of green to indicate a more washed out type of access.  And then purple squares with an O split into 2 – partial access to Open Access journals – now that’s a niche use case!

and the ARCANE

“B” icons indicating Backfiles, “N” for New, “E”  for Earlycite (???) and “H” icons for “Held at the library”.  Library discovery systems aren’t great – Orange buttons with “Check Holdings” (what are holdings, again?).  Repositories with embargoed content have PDF icons with (or without) padlocks.  Some publishers have custom items to distinguish Open Access paid for by the author and that paid for by the journal.  Really, does the reader care?

Somewhere along the line we’ve lost the plot – publishers and librarians have requirements that the scholarly reader does not!  The best answer appears to be publishers who have just ditched icons and use clear text to indicate the nature of the journal content.  Nevertheless, wouldn’t it be lovely if it was all rationalised and we had a simple small set of uniform indicators/icons?

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