In 2011/12 I was Principal Investigator (PI) on the AHRC-funded DREaM project. The aim of this work was to develop a formal UK-wide network of Library and Information Science (LIS) researchers. The project ran from January 2011 to August 2012, and was supported by the Library and Information Science Research Coalition. We reported the initial successes of the DREaM project in a paper that I co-authored with Alison Brettle and Charles Oppenheim and presented at QQML 2012. Three years later, we are interested in any further lasting impacts of the project.
To this end I am working with my colleague Dr Bruce Ryan on a follow-up study that investigates any longer-term impact of DREaM, and the forms that such impact (if it exists) has taken. I mentioned these plans earlier in the month in a presentation at the Third International Seminar on LIS Education and Research, and then during my recent opening keynote paper at the 2015 EAHIL conference (the format of which was inspired by the DREaM project, and the event masterminded by Marshall Dozier, who was a member of the DREaM cadre).
Our current research includes an online survey of the those who attended the three DREaM research methods workshops. This focuses on LIS work undertaken since the last DREaM workshop in April 2012. We invite respondents to report on the use of the methods presented at the DREaM workshops; any new DREaM-inspired LIS research and publications, and their impacts; and the influence of DREaM on individuals’ career paths.
We are also running a focus group in Edinburgh in early July, and intend to interview other people who took part in DREaM project. In the longer term we hope to bring the network together again, possibly by holding a one-day conference next summer to which the wider LIS research community would be invited.
We are particularly interested in on-going working relationships between members of the DREaM workshop cadre. This will allow us to update the social network analysis that Louise Cooke and I published in our paper for the Journal of Documentation in 2013: Facets of DREaM: A social network analysis exploring network development in the UK LIS research community. This analysis showed that links between cadre members were initially heavily centralised around a small number of actors. However, at the conclusion of the three DREaM workshops, the network was more evenly linked, with less dependence on two or three very densely networked actors. It was evident that by April 2012 that the participants had gained a greater knowledge of ‘who knows what’ and to whom to turn for discussion of particular research ideas or dilemmas. This is an important result for a discipline that tends towards fragmentation across sectors, and suffers from a gap between researchers and practitioners.
We are looking forward to analysing the data to be collected over the next few weeks, and reporting our findings to the wider community. Perhaps the former PhD students in the workshop cadre have continued their academic careers and have created new research networks of their own? Perhaps the practitioner members have begun research work in collaboration with one other, and with the academic-focused DREaM workshop cadre members? We don’t know yet, but we are keen to find this out. If you participated in the three DREaM project workshops as a member of the cadre, watch out this week for an email which will provide you with the link to our survey.
We are also currently working on a couple of papers about the impact of LIS research, and how this can be mediated by closer relations between academics and practitioners. In line with our findings and recommendations, we will publish in both practitioner- and academic-oriented publications. Please watch this space for further updates.