Later today I am giving a seminar on “Preparing Our Users For Digital Life Beyond The Institution” for the iSchool at Northumbria University. As was described on the iSchool web site:
For nearly 70 years we [the Information Sciences department at Northumbria University which is a member of the iSchools Organisation] have been working closely with employers and professionals to develop and deliver programmes that respond to changing needs and technologies, and draw upon experience and expertise across the University.
Our programmes, research and staff activities span a range of applications from Information and Knowledge Management, Librarianship, and Records Management, through to Communication Management, Public Relations, and Engagement.
Across this spectrum, we maintain strong links with professional bodies and employers, and our graduates have been very successful in finding employment in commercial and public organisations, at home and abroad.
In light of the department’s long-standing interests in bridging the gap between academia and other employers this seems to provide an ideal opportunity to revisit an area of interest which I first raised at the LILAC 2013 conference in a talk on When Staff and Researchers Leave Their Host Institution and was followed by a poster presentation a year later at LILAC 2014 (see the accompanying image).
In the talk I will argue that the traditional approaches taken to IT provision and support for staff and researchers is increasingly inappropriate: the institutional IT environment (such as the institutional repository and the institutional email account) can provide a siloed environment when staff and researchers leave their current host institution. This can be a significant barrier if they wish to continue to make use of their content, services and communities to further their professional career in a different institution, as a consultant or, say, citizen scientist.
Although content ownership and licence conditions may have placed barriers in the past, the moves towards open content, open source software and Cloud services which are hosted beyond the institution are nowadays providing a more flexible environment, which should enable staff and researchers to continue their professional activities more easily when they leave their current institution. It is important to remember that everyone will someday leave their current institution and so, I would argue, all institutions should ensure they have policies and procedures for when this happens.
In the talk I will invite feedback on a possible policy:
The University seeks to ensure that staff and students are able to be productive and effective in their work and study at the university and are able to continue to exploit their skills, knowledge and content when they leave provide this does not conflict with licence conditions, etc.
How will this policy be achieved? During induction staff and students are advised on how to maximise long-term access to content and services. Prior to leaving staff and students will be able to access support on how to migrate their content, communities and access from institutional services.
I appreciate that such a policy may be in conflict with institutions which seek to ensure ownership and control of content created by members of the institution. However as HEFCE pointed out in a news items published in July 2012 “Universities in the UK contributed £3.3 billion to the economy in 2010-11 through services to business, including commercialisation of new knowledge, delivery of professional training, consultancy and services“. Minimising the barriers to reuse of content, tools and services which academics helped to develop and are familiar with should ensure that they continue to contribute to the economy (if financial aspects are your main interest) and to research and learning (if you place an emphasis on these aspects of academia).
In a survey carried out in spring 2014 Jenny Evans and myself found that the majority of the respondents case felt that it was not the responsibility of the Library to provide formal training in use of Cloud services for staff and researchers who are about to leave the institution is not the responsibility: as can be seen from the histogram this, rather than lack of expertise or resources, is the most significant reason.
But if this isn’t the responsibility of librarians, then who should have responsibility? I’d be interested in your thoughts. I’d also like to hear if things have changed since I first started writing about this back in 2013.
Note that the slides for the talk are available on Slideshare and embedded below.
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