In press! @hazelh @spartakan @gunillawiden

With grateful acknowledgements to Hazel Hall and Peter Cruickshank for quite a few of the following words.

I’m very happy to report that Peter Cruickshank and I have recently contributed to a new paper on methods for studying workplace information literacy. Entitled Workplace information literacy: measures and methodological challenges, the paper is currently in press, but the manuscript is now available as a pdf download from the Edinburgh Napier repository. It will be published later this year in Volume 15 issue 2 of the Journal of Information Literacy.

The work on this paper was led by Professor Gunilla Widén of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Business and Economics,Information Studies at Åbo Akademi University. The other co-authors are Gunilla’s former colleague Dr Farhan Ahmad (now at the University of Turku) and Dr Shahrokh Nikou, who works alongside Gunilla at Åbo.

Peter’s and my contribution to Workplace… comes from the workstream also covered by Cruickshank & Hall (2020) and Cruickshank, Hall & Ryan (2020). There is more about these papers in my post on the Centre for Social Informaticsbumper day in December 2020.

Peter’s and my contribution centres on unsuccessful statistical attempts to examine data from a questionnaire on community councillors’ information literacy that Peter and I ran in 2017. (The non-statistical findings are presented Cruickshank, Hall & Ryan (2020). That side of the research was successful!)

Hazel explains more about contents of Workplace… in her blog-post. Here, I concentrate on the experiential lessons from this piece of work. Peter’s tweet sets the theme:

It’s not often it’s possible to publish about an interesting failure, but here’s an example: an attempt with @Bruce_Research to measure the impact of the #informationliteracy of community councillors in Scotland (paper includes examples of success too)

For me, there have been two main lessons. Firstly, don’t assume you’ve failed – don’t let pessimism get to you!I thought this work had failed, and that we had spent some hard-obtained research resources gaining nothing. But I was wrong: firstly we gained an opportunity to learn from the experience. (Of course we also gained some knowledge of statistical methods.) Another gain – for the scientific community – is that, by considering why our methods were unsuccessful in this case, we have potentially saved others from this particular pain and have pointed to methods that are more likely to succeed.

Now I think back, I am reminded of a PhD colleague at the Chemistry department of the University of St Andrews. (For those who don’t know, my PhD is in organic chemistry.) Her thesis was subtitled (when she spoke about it informally)1001 ways not to make [my target substances]. She still got her doctorate, by adding to the sum of human knowledge, even if it was ‘here’s what doesn’t work!’

Also, with thanks to Gunilla, Farhan and Shahrokh, we have gained an opportunity to publish in a well-known journal. So we have gained a bit more ‘reputation’.

The other main lesson, as my Leith-based friends might say, is perseverance. It took a couple of years but there eventually wasa way to make use of this work. Also I got a reminder that nothing in life is guaranteed. Especially in science, we are always trying new things in new contexts – so there is always a chance that we won’t succeed. But that doesn’t make it not worth trying.


Peter and I are very grateful to our former colleague Lyndsey Middleton (now a Scottish Government statistician) for advice on statistical methods. Failures in this work were not due to her in any way. They almost certainly arise from Peter and me trying to retro-apply statistical methods on data that was not gathered for this purpose.


Cruickshank, P., & Hall, H. (2020). Talking to imagined citizens? Information sharing practices and proxies for e-participation in hyperlocal democratic settings. Information Research25(4).

Cruickshank, P., Hall, H., & Ryan, B. M. (2020). Information literacy as a joint competence shaped by everyday life and workplace roles amongst Scottish community councillors. Information Research25(4).

Widén, G., Ahmad, F., Nikou, S., Ryan, B., & Cruickshank, P. (in press). Workplace information literacy: Measures and methodological challenges. Journal of Information Literacy15(2).

What has Bruce been up to in the second half of 2020?

I write these pieces every 6 months, usually for the Centre for Social Informatics’ all-centre meetings. (I’m usually incapable of speech by the time it’s my turn to report.[1]) Really miffed that we can’t get together in person this time. Click this link to see all the pieces in this series. Continue reading

From despair to where? Some lessons from lockdown

This was originally written as a ‘reserve’ presentation for RIVAL event 3‘s ‘sharing our skills’ section. Fortunately enough people who are good at presenting volunteered, so Hazel Hall suggested I turn it into a blog-post. 

So here it is. The first part is a whistle-stop tour through my current ‘life under lockdown’; the second part is some lessons from recent online conferences I’ve attended, and from many community council online meetings. It’s meant to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but with some genuine lessons and realisations.

I should admit that the title of this post is a deliberate misnomer. I’ve despaired over many things, but turning RIVAL events virtual is not one of them. (It has been a lot of work though.) 

Click any image to see it full-size in a new tab or window.

Thanks to Marina Milosheva for advice on an early draft. Continue reading

What has Bruce been up to during lockdown?

It appears I’ve been relatively quiet during the past 5 months, at least on this blog. There have been personal reasons for this, as covered in my personal blog. Continue reading

Digital exclusion in Scotland: tweets by @operanomad and @OliverEscobar

NB @operanomad and @OliverEscobar gave retrospective permission to copy their tweets. 

Cat Macaulay (Chief design officer at the Scottish Government, @operanomad) talks about the ~800,000 digitally excluded people in Scotland. She states in another thread: [it] benefits no one to have so many digitally excluded/inactive and no or low basic digitally skilled in Scotland. (I’d add that this argument applies worldwide. This is not a criticism of the focus on Scotland in the following.) Continue reading

PhD studentship available at Edinburgh Napier University

(adapted from an email from Professor Hazel Hall)

Edinburgh Napier University is keen to receive applications from Computer Science or Software Engineering Bachelors or Masters graduates (or final year/Masters students due to graduate) with (or on target for) a first class or 2.1 degree, and who have some experience of studying Artificial Intelligence, Natural Language Processing, or Machine Learning (e.g. as part of a module, or in a project). Continue reading

What has Bruce been up to in the last 6 months?


  • The RIVAL network: I’m PA to the ∏, administrator, map-creator, videographer, data-analyst and much more
  • IL measures paper: Peter and I are contributing a section to a paper by Gunilla Widen. This will report on the survey of community councillors, and how (not to) measure workplace information literacy.
  • marking: some marking of students’ placement reports.
  • information avoidance in diabetes: because I don’t want to know about my diabetes, but because I do want to know why this is. And I want to to help others with this bad combination, and to maybe generate some theory!
  • SFC GCRF map. This is to create a web map of SFC-funded GCRF projects. Draft version is here: <insert moan about administrivia>
  • Failure: REDACTED


  • Still minutes secretary and web-weaver for 3 Edinburgh community councils
    • But I’ve worked out how to cut down on the hours while still doing what they want.
  • £eithChooses PB event: publishing, IT, web, admin…
  • Community Councils Together on Trams: minutes and asking important impertinent questions
  • Failure: I didn’t cease smoking. Instead Varenicline made me vomit.

Global Challenges Research Fund: sector meeting 29 October 2019 #GCRF

The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) ‘is a £1.5 billion fund announced by the UK Government in late 2015 to support cutting-edge research that addresses the challenges faced by developing countries’. Its delivery partners include the Scottish Funding Council (SFC). Earlier this year, I was commissioned by the SFC to produce a web-map of the GCRF projects it funds.

I was invited to present about the map at the SFC’s GCRF sector meeting at the sector meeting on 29 October.

Hence a major part of this post is to record what Isaid about the map. The other major part is slightly edited versions of my live-tweets from the meeting. The rest of the post is Bruce-thoughts tweeted at the time, in (round brackets), and Bruce-thoughts that occurred while writing this post, in [square brackets].

My work was very well received, so I am very happy to have boosted my reputation (and that of Edinburgh Napier University), with representatives of the other Scottish universities, and with a significant research-funder.

All photos and information reported below are © the presenters and their relevant colleagues. Click the images to see the full-size versions. Continue reading