Notes on the Scholarly Communication Conference, University of Kent (Day 1, pm)

A few rather haphazard notes from the amazing Scholarly Communications Conference held at the University of Kent, 2nd-3rd May, 2019.

“Mind boggling” – Karen Cox.
The conference was introduced by Karen Cox, the University of Kent’s Vice Chancellor. Yes, she’s a woman! Is it bad that I was surprised? Anyway, the point is, she described the scholarly communications landscape as being “mind boggling” – and she is right. So, of course, if she thinks it’s mind boggling and she is a university vice chancellor then what hope does the humble academic (or student) have?

Accessible communication of research.
Yes, we (or I) think a lot about the communication of research, but it occured to me during the conference that I’d never thought much about accessible communication of research – as in inclusively accessible. For example, how accessible are our repository designs, our promotional material, our workshops, our meetings, our conferences?

Feedback about how to make more accessible for neuro-diverse people.
So then I started thinking about this particular conference, that I was currently in, and how, as a neuro-diverse person, I was feeling (a lot) out of my comfort zone, even though it was obvious that the conference team had tried hard to be inclusive. For example, there was a quiet room on hand (although this was locked first thing when I could have done with it) and there was a space on our conference badges where we could write in our preferred pronouns. But for me as an autistic person (and I suspect I wasn’t the only one there) it was still the thing of ‘now you will be in a massive noisy room in an unfamiliar place [although I did know it as I’d been there before, but you get the idea] with lots of people you don’t know and expected to talk to them’. I don’t know how to make this sort of situation better for autistic people – apart from having a quiet room – but then if you’re in the quiet room you might miss things you might not want to miss. Perhaps a printed/online version of networking, where people can sit in a room and talk via text message/online messaging, or there’s a book with information about all the contact attendees in, or a table where everyone puts a photo of themselves and their business cards (or equivalent) so people can take them (the cards) away…or something. I will give it more thought. Something like these stickers handed out at the Autism Arts Festival the previous week could also be useful:


Make a cross department research working group for collaboration.
We sort of have this with the Open Access Working Group, but it would be good to collaborate more on other things, or just meet regularly to catch up about what we’re all doing.

Cassie Bowman – ask the people who use the systems what they want.
Cassie Bowman gave a presentation on “Humanising Open Access: Taking A Personal Approach”. Her job sounds a lot like mine (but without the Salomons and Education bits), so I wrote some things down:

  • 1 to 1 sessions are better than group sessions. Find out how much they already know. Make action points and follow up.
  • There is a lot of anxiety among academics.
  • Send “new joiner” emails to new staff. Explain the REF and the institution’s open access policies.
  • Monthly drop in sessions – group or one to one. Biscuits. Cassie does these in conjunction with the Research Office.
  • Visibility – very important. Need to make more posters, fly posting, outside offices, in corridors etc. Monthly OA compliance infographics. Send to heads of research and a general one to the wider university, including top downloads, etc.
  • Finding an in – relationships. Target all kinds of people, not just academic staff.
  • Need to do a case study of the Education Faculty to try to find out why  they’re not engaging with open access.
  • Cassie offers an ‘open access health check’ for academic staff – perhaps this is something we/I could do?

The Game of Open Access.
After the presentations, it was games time! I chose to play The Game of Open Access. It was fun, but didn’t take very long – although this was probably because it was being played by a load of research support/library staff who (thankfully) knew their stuff! 

The Open Access Escape Room.
This was created by the lovely Katrine Sundsbø, from the University of Essex.  It was the first time I’d ‘done’ an escape room and I didn’t really like it – but everyone else did! It was really clever and fiendish, but I didn’t find it easy working with other people I didn’t know and the “villain” kept making me jump! I guess escape rooms are just not my thing, but I can see how they could be useful in teaching.  I would use it, because I think students would like it (Katrine has had good feedback), but I might ask other people to run it.

Thanks to Sarah, Josie and the team for all their hard work and thoughtful organisation.

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