Katherine Stephen introduces her PhD on metaskills maturity for future workplaces

Katherine Stephen SDS presentation 2020Amongst the doctoral studies undertaken within the Centre for Social Informatics are a number that are co-funded by the ESRC and Skills Development Scotland (SDS). To date, we have:

We have also just admitted a sixth ESRC-SDS funded student. She successfully applied for our recently-advertised studentship on natural languages interfaces to support the career decision-making of young people, and will start the +1 part of her programme in the autumn.

Over the course of their studies these doctoral candidates have several opportunities to present their work to SDS. Last week, on 24th June 2020, Katherine Stephen gave an overview of her research at an online event attended by SDS staff, and by fellow students from across Scotland who are working towards completion of ESRC-SDS collaborative PhDs. The abstract for Katherine’s presentation is given below, and the slides are available on SlideShare.


Metaskills are variously described as “timeless, higher order skills” (SDS, 2018), “faculties linked to communications, critical thinking, interpersonal communications, and leadership” (Finch et al, 2013) or “higher-order skills that enable effective use of pre-existing skills” (Grace et al, 2016). In some literature examples without providing a broader definition.

In the newest predictions for the workplace pre-CoVID-19, metaskills were seen as an important part of a jobseeker’s toolkit (Demos Helsinki, 2017; ILO, 2018) despite this lack of agreed definition. This may be due to (1) the increasing speed and efficiency in machines, intelligent or otherwise, taking on tasks previously assigned to humans, and (2) the rapid senescence of in-use technologies and processes, which continually renders specific technical skills obsolete (Hirschi, 2018).

In a post-pandemic world where workplace guidelines and their implications shift underneath our feet (Alon et al, 2020), these capabilities of adaptation and self-understanding become not just desirable but essential.

Through the lens of information science, this PhD explores how to define, assess and develop these skills in workplace environments, so that workers can remain prepared for new iterations of the labour market and so that workplaces can ensure their employees are capable of pivoting to new tasks and roles. The presentation has a focus on research methods, paying particular attention to how these might be adjusted to work within a physically distant society.


Alon, T. M., Doepke, M., Olmstead-Rumsey, J., & Tertilt, M. (2020). The impact of COVID-19 on gender equality (No. w26947). National Bureau of Economic Research.

Demos Helsinki (2017). Work 2040 – Scenarios for the Future of Work – Demos Helsinki. [online] Demos Helsinki. Available at: https://www.demoshelsinki.fi/en/julkaisut/work-2040-scenarios-for-the-future-of-work/

Finch, D., Nadeau, J. and O’Reilly, N. (2013). The future of marketing education: a practitioner’s perspective. Journal of Marketing Education, [online] 35(1), pp.54–67. Available at: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ997475

Grace, S., Orrock, P., Vaughan, B., Blaich, R. and Coutts, R. (2016). Understanding clinical reasoning in osteopathy: a qualitative research approach. Chiropractic & Manual Therapies, 24(1).

Hirschi, A. (2018). The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Issues and Implications for Career Research and Practice. The Career Development Quarterly, [online] 66(3), pp.192–204. Available at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/cdq.12142

International Labour Office Geneva (2018). Global skills trends, training needs and lifelong learning strategies for the future of work. Report prepared by the ILO and OECD for the G20 Employment Working Group 2nd Meeting of the Employment Working Group. [online] Available at: http://www.g20.utoronto.ca/2018/g20_global_skills_trends_and_lll_oecd-ilo.pdf

Skills Development Scotland (2018). Skills 4.0. [online] Skills Development Scotland. Available at: https://www.skillsdevelopmentscotland.co.uk/what-we-do/skills-planning/skills4-0/

Using social media during job search: paper now available as PDF from Sage

Mowbray Hall 2020 Journal of Information ScienceThe article ‘Using social media during job search: the case of 16-24 year olds in Scotland‘, which I co-authored with Dr John Mowbray (University of Glasgow), is now available as a PDF from the Journal of Information Science. Continue reading

Centre for Social Informatics contributions to Information Seeking in Context 2020 #isic2020

ISIC 2020 banner logo

Hosted by the Department of Information Science at the University of Pretoria, Information Seeking in Context 2020 (#isic2020) takes place as a virtual conference between 28th September and 2nd October 2020. As has been the case in the past (e.g. 2018 in Kraków, Poland, 2016 in Zadar, Croatia), colleagues from the Centre for Social Informatics at Edinburgh Napier University are looking forward to the opportunity of presenting some of their research at the ISIC conference. Continue reading

Paper accepted for #ASIST2020 on the development of a network for LIS researchers and practitioners in Scotland

ASIST2020 logoMy Centre for Social Informatics colleague Dr Bruce Ryan and I are delighted that our short paper ‘Research Impact Value and Library and Information Science (RIVAL): development, implementation and outcomes of a Scottish network for LIS researchers and practitioners‘ has been accepted for presentation at the (virtual) 83rd Annual Meeting of the Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIST2020). We are grateful to our Centre for Social Informatics Visiting Professor Brian Detlor for providing internal peer review feedback on an early draft of our paper, especially since the acceptance rate for short papers at the conference this year was just 48% this year. Continue reading

A new role for Iris Buunk at LIBER

Iris Buunk

Iris Buunk

Congratulations to (almost Dr) Iris Buunk on her appointment as a Community Engagement and Communications Officer at the Ligue des bibliothèques Européennes de Recherche/Association of European Research Libraries (LIBER). This good news comes within days of Iris’ submission of the corrected version of her PhD thesis, which was examined at the end of March this year.

LIBER was founded in the Hague in 1971 to help university, national and special libraries support world-class research. It is a partner organisation in many European projects that promote open science. The main focus of Iris‘ new role at LIBER is responsibility for activities related to European projects and general LIBER communications. Continue reading

Activity Theory to explore transitioning to agile methods: contribution to #XP2020

The 21st International Conference on Agile Software Development XP2020 takes place this week between Monday 8th and Friday 12th June. Normally delegates would be gathering in Copenhagen to participate in the event. Like many conferences this year, however, the conference has switched to a virtual format.

Amongst the work to be presented at the conference is a paper by Centre for Social Informatics colleagues Pritam Chita, Peter Cruickshank and Dr Colin Smith, with Dr Kendall Richards of Edinburgh Napier University’s Centre for Computing Education Research. Continue reading

Bruce Ryan and Gemma Webster present on information avoidance and diabetes at Information Science Trends: Health Information Behavior

Next week on Monday 8th June Centre for Social Informatics colleagues Dr Bruce Ryan and Dr Gemma Webster are presenting a poster at Information Science Trends: Health Information Behavior. This free virtual event takes place over 3 days between 8th and 10th June in three 3-hour sessions. It has been organised by the European Chapter of the Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIST). Continue reading

Rachel Salzano contributes to the work of the Alan Turing Institute

Rachel Salzano

Rachel Salzano

The Alan Turing Institute is the UK’s national institute for data science and artificial intelligence. It was established in 2015 with headquarters at the British Library in London. The work of the Institute is achieved through collaborations between universities, businesses, and public and third sector organisations to address some of the biggest challenges in science, society and the economy.

Currently Rachel Salzano, a PhD student within the Centre for Social Informatics at Edinburgh Napier University, is contributing to the institute’s research on detecting and understanding harmful content online. She has been employed by the Institute in two roles. Continue reading

Hyperlocal democracy, tacit knowledge sharing, digital youth participation, and online reputation building and management: four more papers in JoLIS

Journal of Librarianship and Information ScienceThe last four articles of the seven that I developed with Centre for Social Informatics colleagues from the conference papers that we presented at i3 in 2017 have worked their way through the publication process, and can now be found in the print form with assigned volume, issue and page numbers in the Journal of Librarianship and Information Science. The article titles and themes are: Continue reading