Monthly Archives: February 2017

Getting the most out of the UK Data Service


The UK Data Service holds the UK’s largest collection of research data. It’s also an extremely useful source of information about how to use data in your research.

To help researchers get the most out of the service they run a series of free webinars on what the service is and how to use it, training on topics like data management and data reuse, and introductions to some of their key data sets.

See the full list of webinars with links to registration. You’ll also find recordings of past webinars which will be added to, so if you can attend live you can always catch up later.

The webinars and resources are available to everyone, but could be of particular interest if you are funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). ESRC funds the UK Data Service and provides detailed guidance on data management planning for ESRC researchers.


Linking ORO to ORCID

This week Alan Stiles (ORO Developer) and I ran a workshop on ORCID with particular attention to linking individual ORO (the OU’s Institutional Repository) accounts to existing or new ORCID accounts. orcid hub The development work has gone on for some time and isn’t complete due to other emerging priorities – but we are currently able to link accounts so that all publications listed in ORO can be pushed to ORCID when individual researchers grant ORO permissions to do this.  I was a bit tentative about doing this and we had a few issues! However, this was countered by a few “wows” in the room when all the publications people had keyed into ORO suddenly appeared in their ORCID account! But there were a few things for us to take away:

  • “Yes, but why?” There were still questions about why do researchers need to do this.  Even though I ran through the 10 benefits to researchers on the generic ORCID slides – ORCID for researchers.  The message needs refinement and I’ll create custom slides in the future.
  • Permissions – the level of permissions on an ORCID record and the way we replicate this in connecting ORO to ORCID needs better explanation and execution.  It’s reasonably complex and we need to think about better user experience.
  • “It doesn’t work!” – and it didn’t work for those profiles that had works with abstracts of more than 5,000 characters.  ORCID has a character limit on their “Long Description” which threw a spanner in the works.  Alan is fixing this!
  • Is it like ResearchGate/ Well no, not really.  ORCID is primarily about disambiguation and connecting authors with their various outputs via persistent identifiers.  It’s not primarily about networking with peers – but it should aid discoverability and help make connections.
  • Does it auto-update with everything we now add to ORO?  Erm, it will. Once the auto update is working everything that has subsequently been added to ORO will auto update.  And then going forward whenever a new paper is added to ORO it will be pushed to ORCID shortly after.  So keep on adding to ORO and once the auto update kicks in, ORCID will look after itself.

The development is still best considered in beta and only those people who signed up for the session had the ability to link ORO to ORCID.  It’s not available to all ORO users by default.  However, if you want to be able to do  (if you do please email the Library Research Support team). At this stage it’s probably best to do this on a one to one basis or in small groups.

And one last thing… we did a very short flip chart warm up where I asked people “Where, or how, did you find out about ORCID” which was instructive.


Most people who had encountered ORCID had been prompted to add an ORCID by publisher or funder submission systems.  So people had created ORCIDs in order to complete the submission of an article or a bid… and probably hadn’t done anything with their ORCID account afterwards.  So what’s the wider impact of this – researchers signing up for ORCIDs to comply with funder publisher requirements but not really knowing what it’s for, or what to do with it?  Zombie accounts we called them… and that’s a problem.

Call for speakers at Soapbox Science event in Milton Keynes

Calling all female scientists – apply to be a speaker at Soapbox Science this summer!

Soapbox Science is a public outreach event that aims to promote the visibility of women in science, and challenge public (and academic) perceptions of who a scientist is. We have just launched our call for speakers for our 2017 events, including the Milton Keynes event which takes place in centre:mk this summer (by the indoor beach!). To get an idea of what the event is like take a look at this short film. All speakers who are selected receive training. There will also be a further call in April for volunteers (men and women) to help on the day.

Soapbox Science is expanding nationally and internationally, with 17 events planned across the globe in 2017 – that’s over 200 women who’ll take to the streets to share their research. Over the years, Soapbox has hosted prominent scientists such as Dame Georgina Mace, Dame Athene Donald and Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock alongside early-career scientists. The events attract 1000s of people – some come back every year to meet new scientists; others are new-comers or just passers-by who just happen upon the event. The event welcomes applications from PhD researchers to Professors who work in all aspects of science and technology.


Milton Keynes Soapbox Science event details:

  • Date: Saturday 29 July 2017
  • Time: 12-3pm
  • Location: Middleton Hall, centre:mk (by the indoor beach), Milton Keynes.

Deadline for applications: Friday 24 February. Please apply here.


Any questions about Soapbox Science feel free to email the event lead Jacqueline Hannam


You can also follow on Twitter @SoapboxSci_MK

Social media for scholarly communications and networking

Social media for scholarly communications and networking-January 2017

David, Dan and I recently ran a training session on Social media for scholarly communications and networking for first year PhD students.

Our aim was to give an introduction to the kinds of social media tools and techniques available, look at what can be achieved with them, and how you can tailor your approach to get the most out of them while avoiding potential pitfalls. We also wanted to give attendees a chance to reflect on their current use of social media, and to think about how they might use it in future, using a couple of UX activities.

The session was informed by Mark Carrigan’s Social Media for Academics and talked about how factors such as how much time you have, whether you want to collaborate or work individually, and whether a task is intrinsically or extrinsically motivated, will contribute to how you use social media.

We then went on to talk about several sites and tools as examples of what’s out there, some key features of them, and how others are using them.  Promoting your own work and actively encouraging interaction and networking can require different ways of presentation and engagement.  If one of the aims of using social media is to grow your network, or audience, then it’s good to find out more about people you want to be part of that network – this may take some fine-tuning.  It’s also important to consider how a new audience might want, or be able, to understand you and your work – are there barriers of understanding and access that you can mitigate by providing different versions or summaries of your work?  Can you make sure your work is understandable and accessible to those without the background knowledge and or subscriptions to academic publications?  Open Access and social media seem natural bedfellows.

Pulling all of this together we saw some examples from ORO where promotion and interaction with social media, using methods like featuring links and images, can lead to increased impact and reach of work.

Lastly, we talked about the risks of using social media, and the potential down-sides in terms of reputation, potential for plagiarism, and sometimes just making sure you are not misunderstood in a medium where nuanced expression and debate can be hard to achieve!

UX activities: Visitors and Residents & Card Sort

Our first UX activity kicked off the session and served as a really good ice-breaker.  David started by introducing the concept of Visitors and Residents, as described by David S. White and Alison Le Cornu.  It asks us to think about how we use and engage with aspects of the online world in different ways, depending on what we want to achieve, and whether – and how much – we wish to interact with others and/or leave a digital trace.  The idea is to place our activities on a scale of engagement for each tool or task, so there is no absolute status as a Visitor or Resident (or right or wrong way to engage). We asked attendees to draw their own their own activity maps on the Visitors/Residents scale, and also on a scale of personal or institutional use.

Here’s mine (Chris)



My map was influenced by some online activities I had done over the previous couple of days – so felt it was a bit skewed – but I took some delight in relegating Facebook to the furthest corner!  Moreover, there were aspects (e.g. banking & shopping) that I completely overlooked – so I think some bits of online life are so ingrained I’m not consciously aware of them being online!

And here’s Dan’s


“Having recently joined the OU from another university I found myself thinking about tools that were relevant in one environment but perhaps not in another, or that I might use differently in a new context.  I guess this goes to show that behaviour can change and we can adapt usage to new situations.  On reflection, I also think I miss-mapped a few things, which all suggests I should probably do it again in a couple of months and compare the two maps” – Dan.

After the session we collated the results of the visitors/residents exercise in a wordle to find the most popular services.


Unsurprisingly, Google looms large, as does email, Facebook and Twitter. But there were a couple of things that stood out.  One is identifying tools that we can develop training and support for, such as Linked-in, which many of the group were using. Another is that YouTube is also very popular, for both institutional and personal use, so we might do more to provide support material in video format on that platform?

The relative popularity of general social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc) over more academic-focused systems (ResearchGate, and ORCiD) wasn’t surprising, given that the attendees are relatively new to their research careers, but it was interesting to see that in our group ResearchGate was noticeably more popular than

It was also evident that people tended towards the visitor side of the spectrum rather than the resident side.  Maybe that’s accurate or maybe the attendees were a bit modest.

We concluded the session with a second UX exercise, a card sort.  Groups discussed and ordered a set of cards featuring types of information we might be comfortable sharing on social media, from our thoughts on the current political situation to fully-formed academic outputs.


The card sorting exercise led to interesting discussions about what is appropriate to share, on which platform to which audience?  There are things we would happily share for example on Facebook with our friends and family that we wouldn’t share with our peers, which added an extra dimension.  Are you interested in the music someone you follow is listening to or are you only interested in new papers in your field?  Perhaps people respond more to a three dimensional profile on social media?

We hope everyone had a good introduction to the topic and saw that traditional methods of scholarly communication and networking can be augmented, complemented and in some cases substituted by social media.  The questions and contributions to discussions throughout were very welcome, so thanks to everyone who came and took part.  If you are interested in us running the session for you and your colleagues get in touch!

Slides: Social media for scholarly communications and networking-January 2017

The Secret Life of Repository Downloads

The download data of Open Access content in ORO can tell some fascinating stories, the counts from December and January are no exception… it really is amazing what you can discover with a bit of digging!

The first one that jumped out at me from the December list is a journal item published back in 2002 by Dr Sara Haslam in FASS:

Haslam, Sara (2002). Written in blood: Family, sex and violence in Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. The English Review, 13(1) pp. 8–11.

A “steady performer” that averages between 20 to 30 downloads a month.  But December and January saw a spike in downloads with 100 in December and 124 in January which saw it reach the top 50 list (see below).  Looking at the referrals I noticed a large amount coming from, or OpenLearn to you and me.  A quick search found this page, which had a link to the ORO page for the article.


Sara was the academic consultant on the OU/BBC co-production “To Walk Invisible” and this was one of the OpenLearn pages supporting the programme – which is great connecting ORO and OpenLearn – how joined up!

Looking at Google analytics to see how many hits the ORO page got from OpenLearn tells us the ORO page was visited 251 times in the week immediately following broadcast (29th December to January 4th).  The actual PDF of the article was downloaded 115 times.  So, roughly, half the visitors coming to ORO from OpenLearn, were interested enough to download the paper!

Mapping the site visits and downloads of the paper gives us this graph. WalkInvisible










The graph shows that the greatest spike came immediately after broadcast of the programme.  But there is a tail of site visits and downloads that coincide with the availability of the programme on iPlayer.  It’s a great example of connecting Open Learning and Open Research.

The second story comes from the January downloads and relates to a paper co-authored by Dr Mathijs Lucassen in WELS:

Fleming, Theresa M.; Bavin, Lynda; Stasiak, Karolina; Hermansson-Webb, Eve; Merry, Sally N.; Cheek, Colleen; Lucassen, Mathijs; Lau, Ho Ming; Pollmuller, Britta and Hetrick, Sarah (2017). Serious Games and Gamification for Mental Health: Current Status and Promising Directions. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 7, article no. 215.

This one went through the roof, with 604 downloads in January making it the second most downloaded item in January (full top 50 below).  It was added to ORO on the 10th January and almost immediately picked up in twitter by @andi_staub.

The download pattern show a remarkable a correlation between that tweet and the number of ORO downloads for that article.


Initially I was suspicious that a single tweet could have that impact, even though it did get plenty of likes and retweets.  But Andreas Staub is apparently a Top 20 influencer in the world of FinTech.  FinTech (Wikipedia told me) “is an industry composed of companies that use new technology and innovation with available resources in order to compete in the marketplace of traditional financial institutions and intermediaries in the delivery of financial services” and got $19.1 bn funding in 2015

So why might a FinTech influencer be interested in this research?  Mathijs gave me some lowdown:

People do seem very interested in serious gaming in mental health…I wonder if it is because people are aware of the addictive potential of commercial games, so they wonder how can a game be therapy?  There are some really interesting ones out there (in addition to SPARX – I was a co-developer – Professor Sally Merry has led this work), like “Journey to the Wild Divine” a ‘freeze-framer’ game based on bio-feedback in a fantasy setting. The program is a mind and body training program, and uses biofeedback hardware (e.g. a user’s heart rate) along with highly specialised gaming software to assist in mindfulness and meditation training (e.g. a user has to learn to control their body in certain ways in order to progress through the game)…Plus programs like “Virtual Iraq” (to assist service men and women with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with their recovery).

There was one other thing about the downloads for this paper.  It was published in an Open Access journal so I’d have expected most downloads to come from the journal site. But the majority of downloads (at least in January following this tweet) were from ORO.


Which indicates to me that Institutional Repositories can be as good as any other platform, whether they are publisher platforms or commercial academic social networking sites, to disseminate your research. Full Top 5o lists for downloads are below: 2016-12-monthly_downloads 2017-01-monthly_downloads

Planning for research data management

Yesterday, Wendy Mears and I ran a workshop on research data management for doctoral students.

We used a Data Management Plan template to discuss issues around data management and sharing, which gave attendees an opportunity to start drafting their own DMP.

As promised, the slides are uploaded here: