Thing 5: Creation and Communication

Part A: Theory and Concepts

Learners should see themselves as being information creators as well as information users. Information creation, such as presentations, data visualization, writing, maths models etc, is a process which embraces review and change, reusing and re-purposing discovered content in different formats or for future study. Learners will understand the processes by which scholarly material in their discipline is produced, reproduced and disseminated. Learners consider how they contribute to the body of knowledge through original research work (projects and dissertations) and by joining the scholarly conversation within their discipline specific community of practice.

CILN Framework

What you are reading is not the first draft of this blog post, but the third. There was once another opening paragraph, discarded for not getting to the point fast enough. What you are reading has been proofread by someone other than the author, for spelling mistakes and overuse of commas, for convoluted language and too-long sentences. An image will have been added to the top of the blog post, chosen to complement yet not distract from the words. That image will have been one which is free to use, one which complies with the license we’ve chosen.

This blog post has gone through a process, and this is what Creation and Communication is really all about. It’s our recognition of and engagement with the processes related to the production of information, whether we are consumers or creators. It’s about how we understand the process, and how we judge its impact on the information we encounter.

At its simplest level, the process will be something like this: research, creation, revision, dissemination. Though it’s unlikely to be this simple, and it’s unlikely to be iterative. The process itself might be informal (like this blog post) or formal, simple or complex, free or costly, quick or time-consuming. What helps to determine the nature of the process is two factors: the intention of the information (its message, its purpose), and how and where it is delivered. In other words, its context.

Let’s think about our students for a minute. As consumers of information, they’ll learn how scholarly ideas and evidence are produced, communicated, and packaged. They’ll learn what is considered ‘good enough’ to be published, and how those decisions are made. In some subjects, the contribution of processes related to peer review is highly regarded, and contributes to the value of research. In some, where an article is published matters hugely, or the h-index or citation might matter. The relative value of an article and a monograph will vary from subject to subject. For our student engineers, medics, economists and lawyers, specific industry standards will need to be met, so how these are expressed in the production and delivery of information will be crucial.

Our students learn how, in their disciplines, ideas and arguments and evidence contribute to knowledge. And as they produce information themselves, they learn to follow those same processes and meet those same standards. They might learn to create the same reports and reviews, to argue in a particular way, to gather and present evidence in a particular way, to create engaging presentations and use images appropriately. This will affect how and where they search, how they draft and redraft, what software they use, whose feedback they seek and how they respond. Our students will adhere to the rules of their discipline, and to the rules of scholarship itself, such as acknowledging the contribution of others and complying with copyright. In learning how to contribute to knowledge themselves, they follow the processes in their disciplines and in scholarship itself.

As library staff, we’re unlikely to have processes quite as fixed as our students, but they still exist, and still require our attention and judgment. We may not deal with published information quite so much, but will still take into account who wrote the email or the report we’re reading, and the processes the author might have gone through – have they spoken to the right people? Have they engaged with the right department, the right information? We consistently take account of the context of the information we consume and we use that to assess and judge it. For example, if a student said ‘those special library computers’ to us, we’ll probably know they mean non-print legal deposit PCs, but if someone from Digital Services used that exact phrase, we might reach a different conclusion – we recognise the experience of Digital Services in a different way. Equally, if an academic tells us a book series is excellent, we’ll judge that information differently than if the publisher tells us so.

We also follow processes as producers of information. We might proofread our emails, and we might well proofread an email to our manager telling them we’re about to miss a deadline more carefully than others. We might ask colleagues to check a poster we’ve created to see if the text is suitably student-friendly. We may have to adhere to specific branding, or write reports or minutes in a specific style or fitting a specific structure. We might have to adhere to accessibility standards, or ensure we’re compliant with copyright or Creative Commons. And in doing so, we’re following that same process – we just might be doing it at great speed a lot of the time.

So the process that information goes through – research, creation, revision, dissemination – doesn’t always look the same. It isn’t always weighted in the same way. It doesn’t always need to be. Depending on our task, some parts will be so fleeting as to barely exist at all; sometimes, we might get so bogged down at one stage that we struggle to move onto the rest. But it’s important to think about information in terms of its process. Doing so makes us more critical of the information we consume, and it makes us more accountable for the information we produce.

Part A: Reading

Chawla, D. S. (2018). Huge peer-review study reveals lack of women and non-Westerners. Nature, 561(7723), 295–296.

This short article outlines a study on submissions to an open access journal eLife, focusing particularly on the lack of diverse voices at the peer review stage, as well as under-representation of women and researchers outside North America and Europe as editors and senior authors. This disparity may raise question about the credibility of peer review, which is a primary method by which scientific work is evaluated.

Powell, K. (2016). Does it take too long to publish research? Nature News, 530(7589), 148.

This article tells the story of a researcher, Danielle Fraser, attempting to get a paper published in scientific journals, and the difficult and complex road to publication that she encountered.

For bonus points:

Sewell, C. (2019). Disseminating Research Results. In The No-nonsense Guide to Research Support and Scholarly Communication (1st ed., pp. 63–86). Facet.

This chapter is about the publication of research, so its focus is the step after ‘Creation and Communication’. Nonetheless, it introduces the wide range of considerations that those seeking to publish research will need to address, and points to the complexity of academic publishing.

Part A: Task 

At the start of this blog post is the description of Creation and Communication given in the information literacy framework. Your task is to summarise this in no more than 40-50 words. Try to ensure that you’re capturing everything given in the fuller description. 

Part B: Practical Applications

Having read through and considered the theory and concepts behind Creation and Communication, try to identify two case-studies or stories about the processes involved in the information you have engaged with, either as consumer or creator. One should be from a personal context, and one from a professional context. In both instances, write a paragraph outlining what you did, what the processes and workflows were, how successful they were, and the end result.  

Once you’ve written your two stories, consider what themes emerge in both of them, and if and how they overlap. Do you feel more confident professionally or personally? How fixed are the processes that you had to deal with? Have there been times when you have been unaware of specific processes that you needed to engage with (e.g. making material accessible), and how did this make you feel?

Next steps…

Blog about what you have written, or submit your work using the dedicated Thing 5 form.

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