This week’s Camtasia training marked the final stage of my participation in the University of Cambridge’s ‘Research Ambassador’ pilot project. The project, run by the Office of Scholarly Communication, was intended to bring together library staff from across the University to develop and teach material on issues relating to research support. The team of Ambassadors – of which I was one – was drawn from college and faculty libraries, as well as the main University Library. As we were the first cohort, there was a lot of trial and error involved, as we worked out exactly what the project would entail, and what its scope would be. However, I found it to be a thoroughly enjoyable process, and hope to be part of similarly interdisciplinary, collaborative work again in the future.
Part of the Ambassador project involved teaching existing material on issues surrounding research data management. This was an interactive workshop that was taken to various research teams and departments; content incorporated everything from file-naming conventions and backup plans to open access publication of research data in repositories and the creation of data management plans. The idea was to get participants thinking about managing their data at every stage of the research process, and to make sure they were doing so in line with funders’ requirements (and were aware of what those requirements were).
This teaching was probably my favourite part of the Ambassador project. I really enjoy teaching, particularly in a group setting, and it was great to be able to step out of my comfort zone of the courses I offer in my own library and teach new material in lots of different university departments. It was also great to teach collaboratively and learn from other people’s teaching styles, and I’m sure my own teaching has improved as a result. I’ve also been able to incorporate aspects of the research data management content into other courses, which I’m sure has been beneficial to my students.
The other aspect of the project involved working in small groups to develop content with the aim of it ultimately being made available for teaching purposes. My group focused on the research lifecycle, and we felt that the nature of the topic was much more suited to a website (with links to relevant resources), rather than a lecture or workshop. We ultimately ended up joining forces with another group working on developing a directory of research support services offered by the University, as there was so much overlap in our content that it would have resulted in unnecessary duplication of work and materials.
I did enjoy this content-creation segment of the Research Ambassador project, but I felt it suffered from being the work of a pilot project where participants were very much feeling their way around something new. The small groups might have benefitted more from being comprised of people with a broader range of skills and from different grades of seniority. Too many senior staff meant that a group had less spare time to work on their resource, as more senior staff had more pressing demands on their time. Similarly, a group with no or limited web-design skills would have difficulty producing a web-based resource. Given that the project is going to be repeated with a fresh batch of Ambassadors, I’m confident that they will learn from our mistakes and build on the nevertheless solid foundation laid by the first group of participants.
All in all, I’m very pleased to have had the opportunity to be a Research Ambassador. It was great to get out and about in other parts of the University and work with people I ordinarily would never have met. I learnt a lot from my fellow Ambassadors, and from the project itself, and look forward to seeing how it develops as new Ambassadors join and bring their own skills and experiences to the table. I strongly encourage any Cambridge library staff considering taking part to do so.