Still DREaMing? - opportunities and challenges for LIS research

The second DREaM workshop, held in London, covered a range of topics including webometrics and user involvement in research.

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Gathering at the British Library

On a cold January Monday library and information practitioners and researchers from across the UK gathered at the British Library for the second workshop of the 'Developing Research Excellence and Methodology' (DREaM) project.

Most delegates already know each other from the first workshop in Edinburgh and during the day continued to build the sustainable support network of LIS researchers that the DREaM project has set out to deliver.

The workshop provided a programme of talks by experts in the fields of user involvement in research, historical research approaches, webometrics and researching and influencing information policy.  Over 400 informative tweets tagged #lis_dream3 and delegates' blogs vouch for the popularity of the day with both on-site and remote followers.

Professor Hazel Hall's introduction immediately grabbed attention with the announcement #lis_dream5 news that Dr Ben Goldacre, The Guardian's 'Bad Science' columnist, will be delivering the closing keynote at the 9th of July Conference. Goldacre will conclude the final DREaM project event with a presentation on evidence-based research, decision making and policy, and will present the practitioner research excellence award sponsored by the LIS Research Coalition.

Professor Charles Oppenheim chaired the morning workshop sessions which covered a broad research approach and a specific qualitative research methodology.

User involvement in research

Professor Peter Beresford speaking from experience as both service user and researcher (which in itself raises interesting questions about identity in research), introduced the topic of user involvement in research. This approach has its origins in the involvement in research of disadvantaged groups, such as disabled users, and constitutes an integral part of health and social service research (eg. NIHR Involve website). The big challenge for users of this approach is to find a balance between the traditional research values and concerns about bias that user participation raises. Thus, while ‘action research' could be a useful collaborative method of investigation, it is in need of a more systematic and critical evaluation.

Integrating history in information science research

In an intellectually stimulating presentation Dr Thomas Haigh discussed how his combined disciplinary identities of computer scientist and historian facilitated his research in the history and development of information technology. Having briefly introduced the scope, perspectives and approaches of historical research, he considered the challenges and opportunities for integrating history into information science research. Delegates took part in a workshop task whereby they were asked to apply one of the historical techniques introduced to a specific LIS research question. Later Haigh reviewed the submissions concluding that historical questions tend to be more narrowly defined and researchers tend to adopt either an ‘internalist' or ‘externalist' approach to their topic.

In the afternoon sessions delegates were introduced to a specific quantitative methodology and a research ‘practicality'.

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