As countries talk about climate change and ways of addressing accelerating climate instability in Paris this fortnight, it is appropriate and not only that, necessary as well, to discuss the environmental impact and sustainability of local and international library conferences. While it is very nice to travel to events (and I’ve done this numerous times, including two international trips year), it is too costly environmentally. I’ve been thinking about my travel and – well, I have to step up.
It is time now to figure out a way to have carbon neutral conferences. David Suzuki has put together a list of steps to take to ensure large events are low-carbon or carbon neutral. Some library conferences are including live-streaming and recording events so people can view later. Some library conferences include a virtual attendance registration package that allows you to attend remotely. But individuals can take steps too. Is it really necessary to attend the event, especially if it involves a long-haul flight? If it is, and it would be if you are presenting or facilitating, wouldn’t it be great if your registration included a carbon offset (compulsory!) donation that would be calculated according to how far you had to travel to attend? One conference I attended in Bilbao in Spain was held in a carbon-neutral conference centre. I was very impressed – recycling boxes everywhere, energy efficient lighting and air conditioning …
One of the joys of conference attending is the exhibition hall and the swag of bumpf to be had. This should be questionable. Wouldn’t it be better to put conference programs and promotional flyers on a carbon-neutral usb (yes, these exist)? Wouldn’t it be great if suppliers and vendors were low-carbon or carbon neutral? That would almost make conference swag guilt free!
I know that conferences are major revenue generating events for library associations, but more effort needs to be taken. This is especially important for health libraries seeing that climate change is a major health threat.
When I found out that Andrew Booth from ScHARR was going to be presenting at the IRG Advanced Searching Workshop, that was a decision maker for me. My education plan includes teaching methods for finding qualitative research and since I know Booth is an excellent teacher, I though it a brilliant opportunity. I also know from previous experience that Booth loves acronyms so I had to laugh when I saw the opening slide of his presentation (above). Systematic reviews of qualitative research is increasing, and according to Booth, there are around 12 a month hitting the databases (the search strategy used to determine this interested me: Topic=(“qualitative systematic review” OR “qualitative evidence synthesis” OR “qualitative research synthesis”) OR Topic=(metastudy OR metasynthesis OR “meta synthesis” OR “meta ethnography” OR “meta ethnographic” OR “metaethnography” OR “metaethnographic”) OR Topic=(“systematic review of qualitative”). The main difference between quantitative and qualitative SRs is that while the former seeks to pool numerical results, the latter seeks to find themes or constructs – it is an interpretive exercise which aims to gather insights. Qualitative SRs answer questions such as how and why interventions work or don’t work, what outcomes matter to patients, and what patient experiences of disease are to name a few. The hardest thing about qualitative evidence is appraisal, so I was glad to find out about a method which Booth says is similar to GRADE. CERQual‘s aims to assess how much confidence can be had in the evidence in qualitative reviews. There are four components to this: methodological limitations of the included studies; coherence of the review; relevance of the studies to the research question; and adequacy of the data. Creating a search strategy can use these components as a guide: use methodological filters to find high quality studies; use sampling to retrieve papers that provide a fair representation of the phenomenon; use question mnemonics to guide search strategy formation; and use alternate search strategies to locate similar studies. There are a few question mnemonics to choose from: SPICE, ProPheT, ECLIPSE, SPIDER. It was fun to test these tools with a qualitative research question – one of the really useful workshop activities. Now onto something tricky – searching! The next activity was assessing whether an article was qualitative research or not and if not, why it came up in the retrieval set. I really liked this activity and will copy it in my own sessions – it is one where you can learn a lot from. And of course, there was another acronym to help with identifying qualitative research! ESCAPADE asks what methods, approaches and data were used. Now for qualitative filters. Filters are search strategies that identify papers using specific study designs or publication types and subject terms/free text terms used in high quality studies. Some of them are one liners: MeSH Qualitative Research (though it has some limitations as this subject added in 2003). Many of these filters are available via the ISSG Filter Resource. Booth mentioned the health services research filter available through the PubMed Topic Specific Queries (which I have to say I haven’t looked at often) which includes a qualitative research option. The third activity was an interesting and useful exercise too and one worth reusing: what weakness can you spot in a filter and what is one instance in which a filter could be useful? Next up was the sampling search method. I have a hard time with this because one of the mantras with searching for SRs is comprehensiveness. But this is impossible to achieve in reality for many reasons. SRs address specific questions and have strict inclusion and exclusion criteria and so there are set boundaries – the key is to be exhaustive within these. In qualitative research, the boundaries are more fluid. Is sampling the answer and what is it anyway? Sampling is used to reach data saturation (until information repeats itself and nothing new is gleaned). So instead of having more of the same information, only retain information that explains a concept, confirms interconnections or assists in argument formation. Where can studies be found? Don’t rely on databases – use expansive searches to include footnotes (risk of confirmation bias), citation tracking and snowballing, theses and books and other grey literature. A concept that Booth mentioned was sibling studies – different studies in the same context (I might not have got this right). Clustering is a search strategy technique used for identifying sibling studies. This is a difficult concept for me even though I use some of the techniques in isolation. I guess it is a matter of being a little more systematic (!) in my approach. Phew – it was an intense session which could have gone on all day. Well worth attending – and I encourage you to attend any sessions run by Andrew Booth – they are really good.
And did I do the acronym challenge? I did but stopped 1/2 through the session because there were so many and I was loosing track!
Uni of Edinburgh
I’ve just read Isla Kuhn’s posts about EAHIL2015 and I have to agree with her – it was a great event and I’m glad I attended. Like Isla, it was my first EAHIL conference and perhaps it won’t be the last. I attended many great workshops. Some have already blogged about it and I feel a little tardy (I started writing this post a month ago – oopps)! However, I hope my posts will add to what has been written and not offer more of the same. It is worth reading other reports anyway because you can’t be in two places at once. There were so many great workshops offered and it was hard to choose which to attend.
The conference dinner at the National Museum of Scotland was a treat (waiters coordinated serving – almost like a dance) and the ceilidh itself was massive fun. I met some great people – some I had communicated with via email and twitter only, so it was nice meeting them face to face at last. And wouldn’t you know it, I found out who the other Australian attendee was – from Eastern Health, just a few suburbs away from the Royal Melbourne Hospital!
The plenaries were interesting and sitting in the main lecture theatre made me feel like an undergrad again. I did my Major in Sociology so the sense of deja vu was very strong (the plenary presentations also had this effect on me). Professor Hazel Hall talked about the DREaM project which aimed to create a network of researchers in the library and information field and along the way, encourage the application of research in practice. This project finished in 2012 but the resources and the networks are still available. Dr Joanna R Eckerdal talked about her dissertation subject which was around how health literacy informed contraceptive method choice in young women, and the topic of Dr Liz Grant’s talk was about the Global Health Academy Project which amongst other goals, addresses sustainability and equity issues. You can read about member activities on the Academy blog
EAHIL 2016 will be hosted in Seville, Spain and if you are considering a holiday in Europe next year (or fitting a holiday around an overseas conference like I do), I encourage you to think about attending.