I love working in academia, not least because I often get to do new things. Perhaps the best example so far is the Workforce Mapping Project commissioned by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) and the Archives and Records Association (ARA). The headline results have now been published.
I got to work with Library and Information Science researchers Hazel Hall and Christine Irving, and Employment researchers Robert Raeside, Tao Chen and Matthew Dutton, giving me exposure to several new fields.
My contributions started with examining whether to build a bespoke online survey website, or to use an online tool such as SurveyMonkey. Although I was confident I could build a suitable website thanks web design learning in my MSc, I was sure that it would take a long time and that I didn’t yet know how to ensure all the security features needed to protect respondents’ anonymities, So it was far better to use an online tool. We fairly quickly settled on NoviSurvey because Napier has its own instance, so there was no need for extra spending, responses would be safely stored in the UK, and Employment Research colleagues already had experience with it.
My other contributions to the first phase of the project (this phase included reviewing the literature on workforce mapping, both within the information professions and more widely in other areas, such as health and education; and detailed analyses of UK labour force statistics) were helping to proofread and test the survey questions and the accompanying report to CILIP and ARA.
During the research phase, I monitored the numbers of responses to the online survey and contributed to its dissemination. After the survey closed, I assembled the tables, charts and their interpretations created by Robert and Tao into the full report. This involved much formatting and proofreading. As an Apple fanboi, it’s slightly saddening that (in my opinion) the current Windows version of Word has better table-formatting tools than the MacOS version.
The report eventually came to over 200 pages of text and illustrations – one of the biggest documents I’ve worked on and certainly the largest over which I didn’t have full editorial control. I’d have preferred to work in InDesign but this would have prevented Hazel and other colleagues from also working on the content.
Despite a couple of facepalm moments (which can be discounted because anything anyone does will have some of these) during the project, I enjoyed this work. In common with just about everything I’ve experienced at Napier, my colleagues were friendly, supportive and tolerant of my idiosyncrasies. My publishing project-management skills were brought back from cold storage, I learnt a lot about creating surveys and interpreting their results, I learnt more about LIS and Employment Research (and contributed to two other ERI projects), I was exposed to how contract research works, I was reminded of how to cope when software fails at the most inopportune moments, and I was paid to do interesting things!