Doctoral Forum 2012 – Quantitative Research in Information Science

endorsed by the ASIS&T European Chapter, SIGIII and SIGMETRICS
12-13 April 2012, University of Wolverhampton, UK
organised by Dr Jonathan Levitt and Prof Mike Thelwall

From April 12th to April 13th 2012 Dr Jonathan Levitt and Prof Mike Thelwall invited doctoral students to their doctoral forum at the University of Wolverhampton,England. The topical focus was set on quantitative research in Information Science. All student applicants should use or plan to use quantitative methods in at least part of their doctoral research. 13 participants from England, Germany, Sweden and Denmark came to the forum and contributed to a lively meeting with exciting and varied research topics.

Besides the organisers Jonathan Levitt and Mike Thelwall, Prof Diane H. Sonnenwald, Head of the School of Information & Library Studies in Dublin and current President of ASIS&T, attended the forum. She was also present during the student presentations and at the end of the forum shortly introduced the ASIS&T and the European Chapter.

After the registration and welcome, Mike Thelwall, Professor at the University of Wolverhampton and Head of the Statistical Cybermetrics Research Group, gave an introduction to Webometrics. He talked about the different methods and data which can be used for quantitative metrics the Web and the applications he developed together with his colleagues from the research group. The introduction gave a great overview of the overall topic of the forum and showed the diverse possibilities of quantitative research.

The main emphasis of the forum was on the presentations of the students and the discussion within the group. The participants were divided into two groups. On the second day the groups were rearranged so that everyone was enabled to meet the participants who were not in his or her group the day before. So you had the chance to get feedback from all students and the three advisors. One group was led by Mike Thelwall, the other by Jonathan Levitt and Diane Sonnenwald.

The organisers used two different concepts to start lively discussions. On the first day everyone had to give a 30 minute presentation about his or her person and the doctoral research. After the presentation 15 minutes were given for discussion and questions.

The second day began with a presentation about quantitative research evaluation by Dr. Jonathan Levitt from the University of Loughborough, and also member of the Statistical Cybermetrics Research Group. The first part of the talk was about citation analysis and metrics used to measure a researcher’s scientific output. The second part focused on the Research Excellence Framework (REF), a system which assesses the quality of research in the UK. Levitt presented the methods used for the REF, the limitations and also the pitfalls when trying to evaluate quantitative research.

After the talk and the rearranging of the groups there was an “elevator pitch” and brainstorming. The participants had only five minutes to focus on one or two special problems they were concerned with during their doctoral research. Then the other students had to brainstorm about possible solutions. The elevator pitch was a great experience: While the longer presentations of the students mostly gave an overview about the whole doctoral research topics, the five minute talks focused only on the main aspects and problems. Everyone had to formulate his or her research aims and problems in a short and understandable way to the other group members. This helped to become aware of his or her main research focus which was a good benefit. Furthermore the other participants could propose solutions directly after the focused problem which led to more answers and possibly valuable solutions than after a longer talk. The combination of long presentations and short pitches was a valuable concept.

Besides the “working” part of the forum Jonathan Levitt and Mike Thelwall organised an amazing social programme were all the participants could meet and talk, and get to know each other in a better way. Even before the official start of the forum they invited the students to an evening dinner. As almost all participants took part and got to know each other before the welcoming session the next day, the atmosphere at the beginning of the workshop was relaxed and pleasant. It was very kind of Jonathan Levitt that he fetched us from our accommodation every morning so that we didn’t get lost in the city of Wolverhampton. On the second day in the afternoon we also visited the Black Country Living Museum in Wolverhampton, an open-air museum, were we made a canal boat trip and tried the famous fish and
chips. A Chinese farewell dinner in the evening finished the doctoral forum.

Overall it was an instructive and beneficial doctoral forum, which was organised very well. There were only 13 participants, but the discussions in the small groups were lively and everybody had enough time to present his or her topic. For future engagements of the ASIS&T European Chapter I would like to propose to organise more such doctoral forums. I think it would be better to have meetings for doctoral candidates which focus on one topic like quantitative research, information retrieval research, digital libraries and library technologies or knowledge management. My opinion is that in smaller groups the topics can be discussed more intensively. At last I would like to thank the Jonathan Levitt and Mike Thelwall for the organisation and their advice and also Diane Sonnenwald and the other participants for the active discussions and their help.

Report by Tamara Heck