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The Pro-Vice-Provost’s View

PaulAyris20 March 2020

An extraordinary week

Main Library stairs

I wanted to write at the end of what has been the most extraordinary and challenging week I can remember in my professional life. I am enormously proud of the way all colleagues have worked together to support our researchers, teaching staff and students. The Library’s covid-19 Working Group, chaired by Ben Meunier, has worked tirelessly to identify how the Library should best respond to the crisis which confronts us. They have been absolutely brilliant in giving their time and energy, beyond all reasonable expectations. And that goes for all members of staff in the Library, who have worked as part of the team, to deliver the best possible continuing support for the UCL community. I read and hear so many stories of contributions and effort beyond the call of duty – it makes me proud to be a member of this library community.

Now, we are beginning to settle into new patterns of working remotely and digitally. All our libraries, with the exception of the Student Centre, are closed for the foreseeable future. I have today been holding meetings and having chats with colleagues both via Microsoft Teams and via Skype. It’s a new way of working, and one that we will all get used to in the coming weeks. But I would stress the importance of physical and mental well being. The regular covid-19 updates, both from the Provost and from the Library, will give guidance and advice on this crucial matter. It is important that we still feel that we belong to a community which works and celebrates together. The crisis in our midst will pass and, together, we will emerge strong at the other end.

As we move to our new ways of working, I wanted to share one very positive piece of news which bodes well for the future.

From January this year, the Library has been undergoing an Internal Audit, performed by KPMG. The subject of the Audit is the way the Library has implemented and monitored the new Library Strategy. The UCL Library Services Report is due to go to UCL’s Audit Committee at the end of the month. I am proud and delighted to say that it gives the Library top marks for its work in Strategy development, implementation and monitoring. Its conclusion is ‘We have reviewed the processes around Library Services Strategy at University College London (“UCL”) and have reached an overall assessment of ‘significant assurance’ (green), which exceeds management’s expectation of ‘significant assurance with minor improvement opportunities’ (ambergreen)’. This is a fantastic result. The ‘management expectation’ was not mine, but senior managers’ in UCL. To have achieved full marks in this Audit is outstanding.

I take the result of the Audit as a sign of great things to come. The current covid-19 crisis is challenging, but we can and will come through it united as a team. The Audit result for the Library shows what a tremendous team we have and what great achievements we can make in the future in one of the greatest universities in the world.

Stay healthy and safe.

Paul Ayris

Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services)

 

The Pro-Vice-Provost’s view

PaulAyris14 March 2020

Coronavirus and UCL’s reponse

We are working in an environment of unprecedented challenge in the coming weeks as instances of covid-19 infections increase in number in the UK. UCL is taking its duty of care for its staff and students very seriously indeed, and the university is winning praise for its efforts in social media as a result. 

As you will have read, the Library has established a Working Group to oversee covid-19 preparations and actions, which is chaired by Ben Meunier. Ben and the team will ensure that all actions taken in the Library are aligned with UCL’s policy and practice as we tackle the enormity of the challenges which face us all in the coming weeks. Updates will be sent to all Library staff on a regular basis, as the situation is fast-changing. I have to be honest and say that things will get worse before they get better. UCL is preparing both for the short term and the long term in tackling this pandemic. For example, all UCL staff on clinical contracts have been released from academic duties so that they can devote their whole time to supporting the NHS and patients who are diagnosed with the coronavirus.

To support the efforts of the SMT Working Group, I have asked Ben to spend as much time as is necessary on tackling covid-19 issues for us, with as a principal concern the well-being of our staff. To enable this to happen, I have (with immediate effect) transferred line management responsibilities for the Library HR Team from Ben as Director of Operations to Martin Moyle as Director of Services. This arrangement will be reviewed later in the academic year, once the current emergency is past.

It only remains for me to tell everyone to read the bulletins on coronavirus being issued by UCL and from the Library and, above all, to stay safe and healthy.

Paul Ayris

Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services)

 

The Pro-Vice-Provost’s View

PaulAyris29 January 2020

The Sorbonne Declaration on Data Rights

27 January 2020 saw a number of global university networks assemble in Paris under the chairmanship of LERU (League of European Research Universities). The international Research Data Rights Summit was dedicated to a discussion of Open Data and national/regional legislative frameworks to support research data management, research data being the building blocks on which publications (such as journal articles) can be based. The meeting was called under the aegis of the Sorbonne University, the University of Amsterdam and UCL (University College London).

The Sorbonne Declaration is signed

Following intensive discussion, 8 global university networks signed the Sorbonne Declaration on research data management and research data rights. These networks are: the Association of American Universities (AAU), the Coordination of French Research-Intensive Universities (CURIF), the German U15, the Group of Eight (Go8) Australia, the League of European Research Universities (LERU), RU11 Japan, the Russell Group (UK), and the U15 Group of Canadian Research Universities. This Data Summit was unprecedented in its scale, with networks representing more than 160 of the main research-intensive universities in the world actively involved.

Research data is the new currency in the age of Open Science/Scholarship. This is an essential issue for the quality and transparency of research. It is also a crucial economic issue: funded largely by public money, research data represents tens of billions of euros worldwide. The objective is therefore to make these data accessible in order to accelerate scientific discoveries and economic development. For example, in Europe, according to a recent report produced by the European Commission, sharing and better managing research data would save 10.2 billion euros per year in Europe, with an additional potential of 16 billion euros of added value by the innovation generated. With the current global concern over the coronavirus, the sharing of research data can only help lead us faster to finding effective treatments. The Sorbonne Declaration is therefore set against the background of the growing importance of research data as a key scholarly output which can benefit society and address the global challenges which face humankind.

Zamansky Tower, Sorbonne University

The Sorbonne Declaration acknowledges a number of principles which underpin research activity in the age of Open Science/Scholarship, such as: research data should be openly shared and re-used as much as possible and it is the academic community which can identify the complex conditions for such re-use.

The university networks commit to a number of actions, such as: research data should be FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Re-usable); and changing reward schema to acknowledge FAIRness and Openness.

The Declaration calls on the global research community to build the necessary environment to encourage data sharing and makes a number of requests of funding agencies, such as to consider the full costs of research data management as eligible costs for funding; and of national jurisdictions, to ensure proper legislative frameworks to support openness and sharing, avoiding ‘lock in’ to commercial services.

Open Science/Scholarship is a force for good in the world, leading to better research methodologies and the global sharing of research publications. With the possibility to share research data, Open Science/Scholarship offers the potential to provide new routes for discovery and the creation of knowledge and understanding. This is what the Sorbonne Declaration aims to do – to create a scholarly landscape from which the whole of society can benefit.

Paul Ayris

Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services)

The Pro-Vice-Provost’s View

PaulAyris15 January 2020

Open Science and the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi

On 15-17 January, UCL Library Services is hosting a distinguished visitor, Dr Nabi Hasan, Librarian and Head, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi.

IIT Delhi is one of UCL’s key emerging partners in India – just as the visitors from Witwatersrand in South Africa, who joined us in November 2019, are for that region of the world.  As London’s Global University, UCL is developing a number of key partnerships and the Library is honoured to be asked to support UCL’s work in these endeavours.

The theme of Dr Hasan’s visit is Open Science. Although the visit is only one day old, a number of Open Science themes have emerged where possibilities for sharing and development have been identified. The first is in the UCL Press OA publishing model, which is of great interest to the IIT Delhi. The second is the response which UCL has made to delivering services which support research data management in an Open Science environment. The third is in the role of the Library as an institutional Leader to deliver Open Science practice and policies across the University.

Nabi also gave a presentation on the world of librarianship in India and on the work of his own library service in the IIT Delhi. Like UCL, IIT Delhi is a family of libraries – 20 in total. At a glance, the Central Library offers the following facilities and services which are available to 10,275 students and 685 Faculty members:

  • Reader Services Division
  • Collection Development Division
  • Technical Processing Division
  • Electronic Resources Division
  • Research Support Services and Outreach Program
  • Library App
  • Faculty Profiling System
  • Exploring International Library Collaborations
  • Exploring Semantic/AI/Query based services for Ask the Librarian, eNewsClippings, Faculty Publications, etc.
  • Exploring Robotic-based Closed Access Services
  • Interactive Website
  • Marketing of Library Resources, Services and Products
  • Text Book, Book Bank and Theses
  • Humanities and Social Science (HUSS), etc.

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable day. Many thanks to all colleagues in UCL Library Services, to UCL ISD and to RLUK (Research Libraries UK) who are contributing to the programme over the three days.

 

Paul Ayris

Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services)

 

The Pro-Vice-Provost’s view

PaulAyris11 December 2019

Library Services staff shine at UCL Professional Service Awards 2019

The UCL Professional Services December Awards took place on Tuesday 10th December at Elvin Hall in the UCL Institute of Education. Fiona Ryland, Chief Operating Officer, presented the awards at a well-attended ceremony complete with mince pies and prosecco as well as the UCL Jazz Society.

In her introductory remarks, the COO stressed that the One PS vision is for all colleagues in professional services to feel part of one community across UCL (including staff based in central Professional Services Divisions, Vice-Provosts’ Offices, Faculties and departments). As the quality of the nominated entries showed, UCL has some outstanding people working for the university. The key focus for improvement is not the people but the systems, policies and environment within which we operate.  Fiona also highlighted the Improvement Board as an example of how UCL is gathering input from all staff to identify key issues and make a difference to how things are done at UCL.

The awards were based on the UCL Ways of Working, with 7 awards presented on the day. Library Services staff were well-represented in the shortlisted entries. Out of over 170 entries from across all UCL Professional Services, there were 40 shortlisted nominations and 4 of these recognised exceptional work by Library Services staff. And as the winners were announced, it was a source of great pride that not one but two members of Library Services staff won awards!

Personal Excellence Award winner: Breege Whiten (joint winner with Caitlin Broadbent in Brain Sciences).

This award recognises a person who demonstrates integrity, outstanding service and commitment to UCL.

Breege is a librarian, who also volunteers for a number of key roles within Library Services, such as Departmental Equal Opportunity Liaison Officer (DEOLO), and Customer Service Excellence (CSE) Champion, on top of the day-to-day management of her library team.  She takes all of her roles very seriously, and actively lobbies to make Library Services fairer, more inclusive, more communicative and more reflective. She has also led on a number of the customer service initiatives, which helped in Library Services’ recent, successful application for CSE accreditation.

Community Spirit Award winner: Noel Caliste. This award recognises an individual who demonstrates an example of doing amazing things beyond the boundaries of UCL and makes a personal impact in the broader community.

Noel has organised the logistics, planning and operations of UCL’s attendance at London and Black Pride during July 2019. This attendance was the largest and most visible representation UCL has ever undertaken at both LGBTQ+ Pride events. Without this enormous effort to produce new and inclusive publicity materials (e.g. BAME LGBTQ+ staff specifically represented in logos), essential refreshments and hospitality, create important health and safety overviews and overseeing responsibility for a group of 60 staff, students and supporters on the day itself, UCL would not have been represented at this event.

As a volunteer, leading UCL’s largest and most active equality Staff Network, his efforts in this event planning, management and delivery have been included in UCL’s entry to the national benchmarking tool of LGBTQ+ employers (the Stonewall Employers Index). This voluntary work has been undertaken around his full-time role and its value stands UCL on a greater footing in LGBTQ+ equality awards and in being increasingly acknowledged as a fully inclusive employer.

I personally have conveyed my congratulations to all successful colleagues and I do so again. Special congratulations to Breege and Noel for their work which has been recognised through these awards.

Paul Ayris

Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services)

The Pro-Vice-Provost’s View

PaulAyris20 August 2019

Medieval Mysteries from UCL Special Collections

Today’s meeting of the UCL Rare Books Club took a fresh and insightful look at UCL’s medieval scientific manuscripts. An outstanding scholar, Professor Charles Burnett from the Warburg Institute, gave a masterly personal commentary on many of the items on display.

Professor Burnett is here seen describing his favourite item on show, MS. Lat. 15, described in some detail in D.K. Coveney, Descriptive catalogue of the manuscripts in the Library of University College (London, 1935). It consists of 33 leaves and 1+2 fly leaves. The MS. is a palimpsest, which means that the original text has been erased and over-written. The original text is still visible on some folios.

The contents are in handwriting thought to date from the 14th century and the text is accompanied by diagrams in red or red and black.  The MS. contains various texts, and the one most discussed by Professor Burnett was Johannis de Sacrobosco, Tractatus de Sphera. This main text constitutes one of the most famous fundamental tracts on astronomy and cosmography being circulated from the 13th to the 17th centuries. It is based on Ptolemy and discusses the terrestrial globe, the rising and setting of stars, and the orbs and movements of planets.  Johannis De Sacrobosco (otherwise John of Holywood, or Halifax), is thought to have been born in Yorkshire and he settled in Paris around 1220. He was a mathematician and astronomer. He wrote texts on arithmetic, astronomy and cosmography. He died either in 1244 or in 1256 (see the UK Archives Hub here). The manuscript was formerly in the Graves collection, no. 3496, bequeathed to the Library in 1870. John Thomas Graves (1806-1870) was a mathematician and Professor of Jurisprudence at University College London, whose collection included manuscripts dating from the 15th to the 19th centuries, relating mainly to mathematics.

My own personal favourite, being a church historian of the English church, was the Perspectiva Communis of John Peckham, formerly Archbishop of Canterbury 1279-92, being a treatise on optics. He was a prolific author of treatises on science and theology. This manuscript dates from the 15th or 16th centuries and is MS. Lat. 31, bound  (perhaps from the first) with two printed works, the Arithmetica of Jordanus Nemorarius, edited by Jacques le Fêvre (Johannes Higman and Wolfgang Hopyl, Paris, 1496), and the Geometria speculatiua of Bradwardine (Paris, 1495) (see AIM25 here). The manuscript also formed part of the library of John Thomas Graves, and was formerly Graves no. 3950.

The session today was well attended by UCL staff, students and external visitors. As Professor Burnett remarked, the medieval holdings of UCL Special Collections deserve a wide and appreciative audience.

Paul Ayris

Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services)

The Pro-Vice-Provost’s View

PaulAyris13 August 2019

R.D. Laing and UCL’s underground press material

13 August saw a public lecture from UCL Special Collections’ first Visiting Fellow, Professor Adrian Chapman. Professor Chapman is Professor at Florida State University and based in London. He has a PhD from UCL and two English degrees from the University of London. He has publications (academic articles and creative work) in the area of Literature and Psychology / Medical Humanities and a research interest in Rhetoric and Composition. His research is particularly centred on R. D. Laing (the radical Scottish psychiatrist) and his network. For the announcement of his appointment in Special Collections, see here.

Around 50 people, perhaps half of them from outside UCL, attended to hear Professor Chapman talk about the influence of R.D. Laing and his network on psychiatry, using as source material the matchless collections in UCL Special Collections from the underground press. Wikipedia says: ‘Ronald David Laing (7 October 1927 – 23 August 1989), usually cited as R. D. Laing, was a Scottish psychiatrist who wrote extensively on mental illness – in particular, the experience of psychosis. Laing’s views on the causes and treatment of psychopathological phenomena were influenced by his study of existential philosophy and ran counter to the chemical and electroshock methods that had become psychiatric orthodoxy. Taking the expressed feelings of the individual patient or client as valid descriptions of lived experience rather than simply as symptoms of mental illness, Laing regarded schizophrenia as a theory not a fact. Though associated in the public mind with anti-psychiatry, he rejected the label. Politically, he was regarded as a thinker of the New Left. Laing was portrayed in the 2017 film Mad to Be Normal.’

During his talk in UCL, alas cut short in the last few minutes by a fire practice, Professor Chapman gave a number of examples of Laing’s influence, as displayed in the collections on view, accompanied by recorded music of the period. Take, as an example, musical illustration no. 12: The Doors, ‘Break on Through (To the Other Side)’. (The Doors, Elektra, 1967). Like Dylan, Jim Morrison was, and continues to be, an icon of the ’60s. The Doors took their name from The Doors of Perception, a book about mescaline and the expansion of consciousness by Aldous Huxley, whose nephew, Francis, was a great friend of Laing. Aldous Huxley found his title in a line from William Blake, the English Romantic poet, who wrote that  ‘If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite’. According to a review in It 39, The Doors’ ‘Break on Through (To the Other Side)’ is ‘very natural, like breathing’. The need to break through convention and the ‘false self’ to a region where one can at last breathe freely – a liberated zone of playfulness, creativity and authenticity – was a desire shared by The Doors, the Laing network and the underground on both sides of the Atlantic (Programme Note from Professor Chapman).

Professor Chapman’s talk was received enthusiastically by his audience and marks a further step in the successful development of outreach and academic engagement activities by UCL Special Collections.

Paul Ayris

Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services)

 

The Pro-Vice-Provost’s View

PaulAyris29 July 2019

Library Strategy update

2019 saw the adoption of a new Library Strategy by UCL Library Services. How is the Library faring in delivering on the 6 Key Performance Areas the Strategy contains? As Pro-Vice-Provost, I have compiled an analysis which I share with the many visitors who visit UCL Library Services, as well as with UCL committees such as UCL Library Committee. On Thursday 25 July, I had the honour to share the strategy with Mohammed Jassim, who was until recently Director of Mosul University Libraries in Iraq. His library system was desecrated by ISIS and his colleagues are facing building a new library structure and organisation from scratch. It was very humbling to hear about the current state of library services in Mosul.

Of the 6 Key Performance Areas (KPAs) in the Library Strategy, the most successful to date is undoubtedly the one on Sustainable Estate, where the opening of the Student Centre has already revolutionized the way students study in UCL. With 1104 learning spaces, managed by the Library, it is a major addition to the suite of library and learning spaces which UCL can offer. Under the User Experience KPA, the Library has also seen an increase in its 2019 NSS (National Student Survey) score to 86%, up 1% on the previous year. This is another step towards the target of 90% satisfaction that the Library aims to achieve amongst all third-year undergraduates surveyed.

Main Library stairs

The Library is also the first Division/Department in UCL to achieve Customer Service Excellence accreditation, passing in all 57 criteria at the first attempt – a very notable achievement and a fantastic confirmation of our wish to put the User at the centre of the library experience. The CSE Accreditation Report made particular mention of the contribution made by Library staff: “The staff appeared ‘passionate’ in meeting and exceeding customer expectations and clearly understand what was meant by customer service excellence. All staff appeared keen to deliver an excellent service to ensure Library Services was both ‘leading the way’ and exemplar for other library services. The assessor was also very impressed by the overall staff commitment such as their attention to detail, the desire to continually improve things and the professionalism displayed by them.” This statement is a great confirmation of the Library’s commitment to developing the skills of its staff in KPA2 – Staff, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.

Every member of Library staff, through their professionalism and commitment, plays a really important role in delivering the Library Strategy and in making UCL one of the best universities anywhere in the world in which to study and do research.

Paul Ayris

Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services)

Pro-Vice-Provost’s View

PaulAyris13 June 2019

Visit of Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation

On Thursday 13 June 2019, the EU Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Carlos Moedas, visited UCL with members of his cabinet.

The purpose of the Commissioner’s presence was to re-visit those European universities to which he feels especial affinity. He leaves his position in the autumn of 2019 once the new European Commission takes office.

As Pro-Vice-Provost with a responsibility for co-ordinating Open Science across UCL, I was asked to address him in the Provost’s Office to outline the success that UCL has had in introducing Open Science practice across the institution. I also highlighted the challenges in Europe in moving to embrace Open Science principles. This is the text which I used in my talk, sitting next to the Commissioner as I spoke.

Successes

  1. UCL Press is the UK’s first fully OA University Press. We have published 106 monographs with over 2 million downloads – when conventional sales over the bookshop counter might result in 200 sales per title. Our most downloaded book is from Professor Danny Miller in Anthropology in UCL, How the World Changed Social Media, which has been downloaded over 300,000 times. This shows the transformative effect of OA monograph publishing.
  2. We have also launched a megajournal platform – with the first subject section being the Environment. This has Open Peer review and the submission is made available immediately as Green OA in a Pre-Print repository prior to peer review and final publication.
  3. We have just launched our Open UCL Research Data repository for academics to archive their research data for sharing and re-use.
  4. UCL Discovery is the institutional OA repository. We monitor OA compliance from the Faculties on a monthly basis and have compliance rates as high as 90%. UCL Discovery has just passed the 20 million download mark.
  5. From 2000-2016, Digital Science has shown that UCL is consistently the university in the Russell Group in the UK most engaged with OA.
  6. We have also launched a pilot Open Educational Resources repository to collect educational materials for sharing and re-use.
  7. We have a pan-UCL Open Science governance platform, which monitors the introduction of Open Science principles and practices across the institution; and we lead work in Open Science in LERU (League of European Research Universities).
  8. UCL is one of the first universities anywhere in Europe to include Open Access to publications, research data and software, as a core principle in our academic promotions framework. This policy was signed off and published in 2018.

Challenges and how UCL can help  

  1. Academic concerns with Plan S, not with Open Access, threaten to de-rail the advances made across Europe in Open Science practice. We would like to support Plan S by working with the Commission and others to make Alternative Publishing Platforms, on the model of UCL Press, a reality across Europe.
  2. Those who manage the European Open Science Cloud have not engaged with universities, indeed they ignore my calls for collaboration. UCL would like to work with the EOSC to determine rules of engagement for universities. We have considerable experience, running the DART-Europe portal for OA research theses, which aggregates metadata for 619 universities and provides access to over 800,000 full-text research theses in 28 countries.
  3. The Commission’s Open Science Policy Platform work on Next Generation Metrics is badly stalled and needs a kick for it to produce a set of Recommendations which can be embraced by the global academy. UCL could help as we are out to informal consultation on an institutional Bibliometrics policy, grounded in Open Science principles.
  4. UCL is attempting, with LERU and other partners, to build a pan-European community for Open Science; the Commission could help by providing opportunities for seed funding to encourage growth in community engagement. Open Science, after all, is about people not just principles and practice.

I gave the Commissioner a gift bag from UCL Press containing, amongst other things, a copy of Danny Miller’s How the World Changed Social Media, the most downloaded book from UCL Press. The Commissioner has asked me to follow up with him and his team on a number of the issues I raised. I will certainly be doing that.

Paul Ayris

Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services)

The Pro-Vice-Provost’s View

PaulAyris30 May 2019

Increased student support for UCL Library Services

UCL takes student feedback very seriously. We have a range of student surveys, and participate in national surveys, to measure the level of happiness students feel with their UCL experience.

The Student Experience Survey was conducted between 1 March and 10 April 2019 and included all penultimate year undergraduate students. 5,185 students were invited to complete the survey, and 20% responded (n=1037).

Questions are arranged under 9 main headings, one of which is Learning Resources. This general category was the best scoring category out of all 9, with 83% of respondents saying they were satisfied, an increase of 3% over 2018 and an impressive increase of 7% over 2017.

The most important question concerning library resources and services is this one – the library resources (e.g. books, online services and learning spaces) have supported my learning well:

Question 2019 2018 Difference
The library resources (e.g. books, online services and learning spaces) have supported my learning well. 85% 80% +5

This is a great result, showing an increase of 5%. Indeed the result is so good that the score to this question made it the highest scoring question in the whole of the survey. One of the reasons for the increase is, of course, the addition of the Student Centre to the library footprint, with its 1,000 new learning spaces. The Centre had just opened when the survey was held and, already, its impact is being felt in rising levels of student satisfaction.

Many congratulations to all members of UCL Library Services – all of whom have contributed to the reputation of our services and the impact they make on the student body. It’s a great performance and bodes well for the future.

Paul Ayris

Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services)