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/

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

Newly published: version 10 of the Centre for Social Informatics flyer (February 2020)

Centre for Social Informatics bannerWe have a newly updated Centre for Social Informatics flyer (version 10, no less!) Please follow the link to read about the work of our group, including details of research expertise, funders, recent PhD completions, and recent publications. The flyer includes profiles of the academic and research staff within our group: Continue reading

Centre for Social Informatics ‘all centre’ meeting December 2019

Social Informatcis staff and students all centre meeting December 2019

At the Social Informatics ‘All centre’ meeting, L to R: John, Peter, Lyndsey, Katherine, Rachel, Marina, Laura, Hazel, Leo, Ella, David H, David B, Frances, Colin, Wegene, and Bruce

Every six months the staff and research students from the Social Informatics group at Edinburgh Napier University gather for an ‘All centre’ celebration of their recent achievements. The December 2019 gathering took place on Wednesday 18th December, with 19 participants. The format of the meeting allowed for a maximum 5 minute update from each person. Continue reading

RIVAL event 2: review and resources

#lisrival bagsLast month Dr Bruce Ryan and I hosted the second of four Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) funded Research Impact Value and Library and Information Science (RIVAL) network meetings. This event took place on Thursday 7th November 2019 at St Cecilia’s Hall in central Edinburgh.

It was an excellent day that prompted great feedback on the programme content on the day: ‘exciting’, ‘fantastic’, ‘fascinating’. Continue reading

Newly published: autumn 2019 edition of the Centre for Social Informatics flyer

We have a newly updated Centre for Social Informatics flyer for autumn 2019. Please follow the link to read about the work of our group, including details of research expertise, funders, recent PhD completions, and recent publications. The flyer includes profiles of the academic and research staff within our group: Continue reading

Congratulations Dr Alicja Pawluczuk!

Alicja Pawluczuk Gemma Webster

Dr Alicja Pawluczuk and Dr Gemma Webster

Congratulations to our Centre for Social Informatics colleague Dr Alicja Pawluczuk! Alicja was one of nine School of Computing PhD graduands at the Edinburgh Napier University graduation ceremony at the Usher Hall yesterday afternoon.

Alicja’s PhD is entitled Youth digital culture co-creation: measuring social impact in Scotland. The purpose of the research was to develop knowledge of social impact evaluation of youth digital projects in Scotland. Dr Gemma Webster was Alicja’s Director of Studies, her second supervisor was Dr Colin Smith, and I was her third supervisor. For further information about the specifics of the research questions, outcomes, theoretical contributions, and recommendations from the work, please see Alicja’s #digiIMPACT page on her web site at www.alicjapawluczuk.com.

Following the graduation ceremony, several of Alicja’s colleagues and fellow PhD students joined her at Café Grande in Bruntsfield to toast her success. Continue reading

Congratulations to Katherine Stephen for an excellent Masters dissertation on metaskills

Katherine Stephen

Katherine Stephen

Congratulations to our PhD student Katherine Stephen, who last week learnt that she was awarded 80% for the Masters dissertation component of her 1+3 PhD. Katherine’s studentship is a collaborative award funded by the ESRC and Skills Development Scotland, and comprises a Masters year at the University of Edinburgh (2018/19) prior to three years of doctoral study at Edinburgh Napier University (2019/22).

Katherine’s Masters dissertation took the form of an extended PhD proposal, and thus has the same title as her doctoral study: Metaskills maturity for future workplaces. The work that she completed for the dissertation last year included a small pilot study entitled Metacognitive experiences of artificial intelligence in the workplace.

In her dissertation Continue reading

Introducing new research students Rachel Salzano and Katherine Stephen

Rachel Salzano and Katherine Stephen at the Merchiston Tower

Rachel Salzano and Katherine Stephen at Edinburgh Napier’s Merchiston campus

Welcome to Rachel Salzano and Katherine Stephen, who join us this week as new research students within the Centre for Social Informatics at Edinburgh Napier University. Continue reading

Conference contributions from the Centre for Social Informatics to #EBLIP10 and #CoLIS10

The 2019 summer conference season is now well underway!

This week is a particularly busy one for colleagues who share the research interests of those of us in the Centre for Social Informatics (CSI), with two international events running simultaneously between 16th and 19th June: Continue reading