research

The Big Hairy Deal: Research Ethics , Roles of IRBs, and Responsibilities of Chairs/Coauthors in Light of Lacour and Green,

You don’t even have to have your finger on the pulse of academic news to have heard about the Lacour and Green research debacle. It’s been bouncing around in my brain since it’s related to the way we maneuver in a world of information, and it is relevant to my work as a librarian and as a researcher. In a drama-filled nerdly nutshell (with links to further reading for the details), the situation:

Brief Unofficial Timeline of the Study, and Discovery of Possible Misconduct

Whew. So, in an even smaller nutshell, a UCLA grad student and a Columbia U. Famous Faculty Dude coauthored an influential article on gay marriage that turned out to be based on data that it appears the grad student COMPLETELY MADE UP.

Why This is a Big, Hairy, Hulking Deal

First, the “so what?” question. There are many reasons why this is such a big deal, and I’m only going to articulate a few of them:

  • First, this is the sort of political behavior research that changes how people actually approach issues, and how agencies distribute grant funding.
    • Talking to people changes their minds in the long run? Then political organizations will send out canvassers to speak to people instead of spending their money on television ads and paper mailings.
    • Grant organizations start shifting their funding away from projects not using that methodology, since the published research makes them think that Lacour’s way – exposing people to people holding different political views – is more persuasive. This means research projects based on other research, namely that it is perennially difficult to get people to change their minds, and to keep their minds changed, see less funding.
  • It puts a dent in the trust we have in institutions of higher education, and in our peer-reviewed published research.
    • Our whole scientific structure rests on trust. Some scientific journals are more rigorous than others and ask authors to share their data so that statistics can be verified. But who guards the realm against complete fakery?
    • Will UCLA actually grant Lacour the PhD now that the cat is out of the bag that his research design was a lie? If they do, what does this say about our expectations for the highest research credential you can earn?
  • This event has implications for how higher education hires new faculty.
    • Lacour was hired as a new tenure-track professor at Princeton University, a plum gig for someone straight out of graduate school. Will Princeton keep his contract live now that they know about his research ethics failure? Or will they let him come in and see what he does to earn reappointment into a second year?
    • Lacour claimed he had brought in over $700,000 in grant money. If he was working as a tenure-track professor, there is all sorts of documentation that would have been required for him to include that in the portfolio reviewed each year for his reappointment. But because he was just a graduate student, and the grant information was on his CV, no one bothered to double-check his claims against the foundations themselves. What mechanisms do we have in place to catch such shameless CV-padding?
  • Broockman, one of the graduate students who discovered the foul play, was repeatedly advised against publishing or discussing his concerns. There’s a lurking shadow in academia that whistleblowers are not to be trusted, or supported. How does this play out with the purported search for Truth? What does this say about our willingness to critique and do thorough peer-review on our scholars’ work?
  • There are other issues, related to research integrity, data documentation, co-authorship, and academic job-seeking; expect more blog posts.

The Role of IRB, and the Problem of Data

The role of an Institutional Review Board or IRB, is to review proposed research to determine that it will have no ill effects on the people/animals/phenomenon studied. For those not familiar with the process, usually if you are going to do research it has to be approved by an institution’s IRB. This involves lengthy amounts of paperwork, articulation of the research project in great detail, and detailed explanation of how subjects and data will be protected. (You can see my university’s IRB page and paperwork here, if interested, to get some idea. You can also see an example of an IRB application I myself submitted here.) I filled out IRB paperwork for my dissertation research back at UT-Chattanooga, and have filled out IRB paperwork here at CSUCI for new research projects. it’s generally considered a necessary evil, a dotting-of-the-is.

The Data Problem 

One of lacour’s defenses appears to be that he destroyed the raw data file, and so he cannot provide that to back up his research. I don’t know if all IRBs have this issue, but I’ll note that my own institution’s IRB paperwork contains no option for permanent storage of anonymized data – I had to write it in on one of my IRB applications, and then re-explain it in detail because it didn’t fit within the antiquated practice of destroying all data so many months after the project was complete. We live in the future. Sharing our data with other researchers can add to the amount of information available to study. In fact, this reminds me to ask data guru and librarian Abigail Goben about this, since I want to bring it up – with an elegantly worded solution – to my university’s IRB committee for their forms, since I think we *should* be encouraging researchers to share data.

I should note here that I am describing keeping anonymized data, where all identifying characteristics and variables have been removed. For instance, when I submit my dataset to my institutional repository so others can use it, I will remove columns with names of individuals, email addresses, and their institution, as well as comb through the open-ended responses to remove identifying information that may have ended up there. then each respondent will be given a randomly generated unique number. Nothing identifiable from the respondent remains, but now I can share the data with others interested in the phenomenon, so that they can try to replicate my work, or use the data to answer their own research questions, if the data is what they need.

This practice of anonymizing data is common (and usually required). It is also standard practice. I say this as someone who was an Economics major in undergrad and then did doctoral level study in political science: for someone with a background in statistics and doing doctoral work in political science, I would expect Lacour to know this. That Lacour deleted all his original data files and kept nothing is beyond suspicious, and claiming he had a responsibility to keep certain data points confidential doesn’t excuse him from the responsibility of maintaining the data. This is not just data used to publish in Science, lest we think this a one-off–this is his dissertation data. Which he claims he does not have and cannot share. How, then, to discuss the merits of his dissertation? (Yes, I still do have my dissertation data. Anonymized. Which I am happy to share with any interested parties.)

The IRB & Outside Researcher Problem

One of the big gaffes in this whole Lacour and Green research scandal is that Green, the senior researcher and statistician, claims he did not have access to the raw data, nor did he want that access, since gaining IRB approval from his institution to work on the research project our of UCLA would have been a huge hassle. I won’t recreate this entire argument, since Scatterplot has a great post on this very issue. What I will say is that IRB should have very much been involved, and that faculty efforts to avoid IRB at all costs (due to delays, hindrances, and paperwork) does nobody, including our institutions of higher education, any good. Still, the argument exists that the Lacour and Green issue could have happened even if Green had gotten proper IRB approvals to look at the data–it still would have been Lacour’s fake data in the file he would have shared with Green. Would Green have recognized it as fake, the way broockman, Kalla, and Aronow did when they really dug into the statistics? We’ll never know, but he surely would have been concerned at there being no sourcefiles in Qualtrics.

The Role of the Chair and Co-Author

Very little has been made, to date, of Green’s role in this whole debacle, or of Lacour’s dissertation advisor and what her responsibilities might have been.

The Chair

First, let’s discuss the dissertation chair. Professor Lynn Vavreck at UCLA served as Lacour’s dissertation advisor, and the data for the retracted study is purported to have come from Lacour’s dissertation, which puts Vavreck in the hot seat. My dissertation advisor was all up in my data booch while I was doing my dissertation–he had access to my Qualtrics instance (the software doing the data collection), though I don’t know if he ever used that access to track progress. For instance, I could log in on any day and see how many respondents had answered my survey to date. My chair also had me run and re-run numbers to his satisfaction, and had me address any oddities in the findings. Anything that went against decades of established research would have been something he would have raised an eyebrow at, and picked away at. I don’t know if the chair has much of a defense against straight up data fabrication; the assumption during the dissertation phase is that the student is spending their time doing the collecting and analyzing. Something should have smelled fishy about his crazily positive results, but Vavreck didn’t catch it. Should she have? Should she have checked his data against existing sets and discovered he had co-opted the CCAP data, as Lacour’s detractors did? If a graduate student can figure it out, I’d expect the dissertation chair to have at least as much invested. *Spock eyebrow*

The Co-Author

I’ll admit that I have some pretty serious misgivings about Green’s involvement in this whole affair. Green is a professor of political science at Columbia University, and formerly taught at Yale. He’s a known big name in the field. (Having a big, famous name on your article makes it much more likely that the universe – especially the academic universe in one’s discipline – will pay attention and talk about your research.) It appears that Green was approached by Lacour to serve as coauthor of the Science article. Green claims he helped with the writeup, but never looked at the original data. When Green saw the data skewed opposite of other research in the area, he asked Lacour to replicate the experiment, and depended on Lacour’s confirmation that he did. Green applied his statistical expertise and found the same results in the data Lacour did. Green wrote of his disappointment in various statements, he requested the retraction from Science, and reflected in a statement to Retraction Watch:

“Convinced that the results were robust, I helped Michael LaCour write up the findings, especially the parts that had to do with the statistical interpretation of the experimental design. Given that I did not have IRB approval for the study from my home institution, I took care not to analyze any primary data — the datafiles that I analyzed were the same replication datasets that Michael LaCour posted to his website.  Looking back, the failure to verify the original Qualtrics data was a serious mistake.”

I would posit that it’s a serious mistake on a number of levels, and that Green’s statement is a declaration of absentee-co-authorship in that he didn’t expect to have to do much work, just to put his name on the article. The Famous Guy gets an article for his CV, and the Up-And-Comer gets a great article in an important journal plus the halo-effect and credibility boost of coauthoring with Famous Guy. With this sort of relationship, then, Green overtrusted Lacour, and likely figured that lacour was just using Green’s name as leverage. Green may have re-run the statistics to be sure his results were the same as Lacour’s, but the issue isn’t the statistics that were run, it’s the data itself. Had the co-author been more intimately involved in the data collection process, he might have noticed Lacour’s vague explanations. As the LA Times stated,

“if close collaborators aren’t going to catch the problem, it’s no surprise that outside reviewers dragooned into critiquing the research for a journal won’t catch it either. A modern science article rests on a foundation of trust.”

How much do you trust your co-authors? Enough to not have the same access to the data that they do? I’ve actually struggled with this, and let a great research project idea die because a prospective co-author would not share the necessary instrument and data analysis. I’m not famous. I’m not even on the job hunt. But I’d never put my credibility on the line for research that I can’t vouch for from cradle to grave. Is that because I’m a librarian with an overactive imagination? is it because my default mode is transparency? Maybe a little bit of both. And if things get squirmy at that beginning stage of discussion and IRB paperwork, one should be on alert moving forward with that project and co-author.

The Role of Replication

Broockman was repeatedly warned against discussing or publishing his findings that Lacour and Green’s study had serious problems. It appears academic is no kinder to whistleblowers in research than it is to whistleblowers in academic administration. Broockman was warned off because Green is Famous and Lacour was an Up-And-Comer. He was warned off because folks thought he might get a reputation for ‘merely replicating’ instead of developing his own research agenda. I’d like to point out that replication is crucial for research. It might not get you a PhD, but it will definitely bring out nuances in the data, and let you know if findings are a fluke,a product of research design, or an actual phenomenon. Interestingly, I’m involved in replicating my dissertation study in slightly different populations to see if the findings hold. Replication is worthwhile, especially if done conscientiously. It is just that conscientiousness, and how Broockman tried to determine why his study wasn’t bringing back the results found in Lacour’s study, that led to the discovery of fraud in the first place.

What it Means for Academic Job Seekers

The best way to go on the market as a newly-minted PhD is with a published article in hand, and the more of those the better, especially if you want to land at a research institution. Lacour was on his way to Princeton this July, though there’s been no word on whether or not that has changed in light of this scandal. Was the job market a stressor inducing Lacour to cheat his way to astounding, news-making results? Why don’t other new PhDs fake their data? Or DO THEY, and we just don’t know it? Who is getting advantaged in this situation? It seems that Lacour put much time and effort into creating his fictions; in my experience, it might have been less effort to actually do the research properly and avoid this whole clustersuck. I’ll be interested to see how (and whether) this shakes out into any changes in the hiring process or publication in general, such as requiring publication of datasets. Repository librarians, be ye ready! Maybe this is our inroads to discuss data storage and publication with our faculty.

Since I’m teaching a course on information in the fall, I’m intrigued by all levels in this case and hope to use parts of it for my students’ reading. I wish I were teaching a methodology course, we would have so much fun with this. As a librarian and researcher, it just makes me angry and sad. Why the lie? Why the continued defense of the lie? And how on earth did it pass before so many sets of eyes and only come out because Broockman couldn’t let it slide, even if it meant his professional reputation?

Meditations on Tackling a Large Research Agenda as a Tenure-Track Faculty Member

I’ve been thinking more about research agendas and large-scale research projects lately. I’ll readily admit (as will my CV) that most of my research before the dissertation consisted of one-off sorts of things. A lit review here, a best practices there, presentations on bits and pieces of my work that all together paint a decent picture of the sorts of things I was working on as a professional academic librarian. But they were never coherently planned as something to present as a set, or to build upon each other. My dissertation is truly the first time I’ve articulated a large, multi-stage, likely multi-publication research agenda for a particular phenomenon.

My dissertation project itself can, I think, be carved neatly into three separate articles to articulate the research succinctly. The first part, on the relationship between academic library department experience and perceived leadership skill development, was published in The Journal of Academic Librarianship. Another, on how different positions within the library are related to leadership skill development (at staff, librarian, department head, and director level), is in draft form. The third, which discusses the leadership skills academic librarians have the least chance to develop, and the positions that offer the most development opportunities in those rarely-hit areas, is currently undergoing peer review.

In thinking about my research, I find that I would likely do it anyway, because I find the entire process of research interesting and engaging. As a tenure-track faculty member, my colleagues (and my institution) have expectations that I will pursue, and more importantly publish, my research. (If you are new to the tenure-track and its requirements, you should follow Abigail Goben’s Open Access Tenure posts, which are richly detailed and–in my experience over the span of a few academic institutions–a fair description of the process.)

But there is a larger research agenda at work. I wrestle both with (i) turning the dissertation into journal articles that I hope the profession will find useful, and (ii) to articulate and implement next steps of the research in terms of how I want to publish it, present it, and leverage it in various ways (for instance, to  apply my expertise to consulting work). Some thoughts now that I have had the time to process completing the dissertation and reworking it into journal article form:

  • Re-using data tables. I can get (and have received) publisher permission to re-use data tables from my own articles. This was easy enough to get from Elsevier for some tables in my article in TJAL. I filled out the requisite online form, and since I’m the author and it’s my own data tables, I’m allowed to reproduce them at no cost with a footnote noting first publication with and permission from Elsevier. This was important, since things like the demographics for my data are information I’ll need to re-use in each article, and I am likely to publish in other journals. It is a good idea to keep track of what parts of your text, tables, and figures you may want for concomitant or future publications, and to work on getting those permissions as soon as you realize you’ll need them. It is bound to save you stress later.
  • Methodology. The data analysis part for each article is unique, and so hasn’t been reproduced in either of the other yet-unpublished articles from the dissertation, but I’m surprised at what a challenge it is to not self-plagiarize the methodology part of the write-up for each article, since that is effectively the same for the whole research project. Citing myself and the already-published article feels like self-aggrandization, but I can’t really see any real way around this (however, ideas are welcome – please send them in the comments!). I’m adding this to Things I Didn’t Learn in Various Grad Schools, and Things That Are Relevant To Large Research Projects so I an be sure to share this with my students.
  • Literature reviews. Ditto the self-plagiarization challenge mentioned in the methodology section above. Here I find it slightly easier to avoid completely and exclusively self-referencing with a bit of elbow grease and meticulous research, since instead of just stealing the literature review straight from the dissertation, the smaller write-ups of pieces of the project can really have a more nuanced (and much more brief) review of the literature relevant to just those research questions explored in the article. This (as most everything else), takes far more time than I initially budgeted. Turning your dissertation into articles isn’t an easy chop-it-into-pieces job. It really does require re-crafting things.
  • Pacing of research and publication. Honestly, I didn’t really give this too much thought, since I usually have more than one project in the hopper at once, but publication pacing is probably a good idea for someone on the tenure track who needs to demonstrate a pattern of activity (instead of blowing one’s scholarly wad all at once, having three articles published in Year 3, and then nothing for the other years). I don’t worry overmuch about this since I figure both the drafting of each article and then the turnaround for per-review and revisions will end up doing the pacing for me. In the case of the expected three pieces from my dissertation, the first was published in May 2015, and I imagine the other two will span 2015 and into 2016 depending on revisions and such. I also have a book contract with ALA for a more applied look at these leadership development issues, and I figure with a May 2016 manuscript delivery deadline, that book will come out in late 2016 or early 2017. Also, because I am now working on researching the same phenomenon in a slightly different population to see if conclusions hold, I imagine further publication will happen once I get that data collected and analyzed. That moves planned publications into 2016, 2017, and 2018, depending on how fast all of that data collection and analysis goes (you wouldn’t believe how long it takes to collect 800 email addresses). And that’s not considering the other populations I plan to research for this phenomenon. Factor in some conference presentations based on the research, its methodology and funky statistics (Holm-Bonferroni stepdown pairwise comparison, anyone?), and thinking about how MLS students, academic librarians, new library directors, and those dealing with succession planning can apply the findings to their own purposes…I’m set for the research requirements of tenure review even without considering the other publications likely to result from my work in library instruction and my new research foray into mythological studies. However, I know this is not necessarily the norm. Folks are usually best served by choosing one or two things to focus on so that they can articulate their research agenda, and doing them well.

As I work on finishing the draft of the remaining article-from-dissertation and move on to the next stages of the research, this is what I’m thinking about. What are you working on? What would your recommendations for pursuing a large research project be?

Barreling Toward the End of My First CSUCI Spring Semester

In order of importance, the things going on as the semester careens to a close:

On the library front:

  • Finals are coming, finals are coming! Students are feeling the pressure, which means we at the library do, too. ALL OF THE PRINTING.  On an admittedly less-than-superior printing setup. And the last papers of the semester, so we’re seeing some hail-Marys at the reference desk;
  • This will be my first finals where I take lead on the end of semester feedback. We set up “graffiti” boards with giant post-it’s on whiteboards asking what we’re doing right, and what we can improve, and collect all that information. We also have a student survey, and a faculty survey. My colleagues all tabulate and organize the data, and we’ll see what we can do to improve for next finals season;
  • The 24-hour library. The week before and the week of finals, we stretch the library and its staff to 24 hours for our students. Thank goodness for the folks who work the overnight! I’m picking up some 6am shifts, but those are easier for me than the late evening or midnight shifts, now that I’ve apparently become an elder;
  • The Party of the Year is later this month: The Faculty Accomplishments Party. Cited by faculty as THE party of the year, and something that spurs them to get some research published or presented by the deadline, this bash is where the library celebrates our faculty here at Channel Islands. There are awards, faculty who have published or presented something in the past year get a spiffy poster of their work, and there is general merriment. And wine and beer. And laughter. This will be my first, and I’m excited, since when I was here for the interview, nearly everyone cited it as The Most Important Thing to Know About Being A Faculty Member Here.

On the personal/life front:

  • Lots of doctor appointments, since I’ve been feeling crappy. Turns out I’m gluten intolerant, and nightshade intolerant, and all-sorts-of-foodstuff-intolerant, so I’m going on the autoimmune protocol diet. A royal PITA in terms of food lists and preparation, but apparently it’s what I need, so. Hrmp. Think super-restricted Paleo-style. No grains/gluten (but corn! But rice!), legumes, dairy, eggs. nuts, seeds, sweeteners, nightshades (white potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, etc.), modern vegetable oils, refined sugars,  and processed food chemicals. Since part of my reaction is histamine-related (a bad reaction and all of my tattoos actually raise up on my skin!), that also means no lemon, lime, kiwi, mango, processed meat (ONOES BACON), bananas, and strawberries, among other things. SAD. PANDA;
  • Fabulous Husband and I have gotten into the habit of walking the dogs to the dog park. There’s nothing quite so silly as a duo of basset hounds running a few laps, and then collapsing for the rest of the hour. Except maybe the sight of Fabulous Husband and I running, trying to encourage them to get up and chase us;
  • Fabulous Husband and I are signed up to do a 5k at the end of the month, right before our 2-ear wedding anniversary. Which I have not at all begun training for (the 5k, not the anniversary), and is the result of a New Year’s Resolution when I was feeling feisty. Oh, New Year Colleen. You were so optimistic. *pats self on head*

On the research front:

  • The magical and hard-working copy-editors at The Journal of Academic Librarianship have done their work, fixed my gaffes, and that article should be coming online shortly;
  • Today was the deadline for book chapter proposals from library directors discussion leadership skill lessons learned. 36 excellent proposals received (woohoo!), and now (well, likely next weekend) I have to go through them and do some selecting, and respond to the authors by May 1;
  • I’m finishing up editing the chapters for another book on contemporary women poets and mythology. These authors have been extremely patient with me as timelines were extended due to my health, the move, the new job, my health, etc. I’m looking forward to having these out of my hands, and this project out into the world;
  • I have a few articles in the works. One more coming out of the dissertation on leadership development at different levels of the organization (probably to submit to College & Research Libraries), one on using ritual theory to explore chronic illness (proposal accepted by New Directions in the Humanities), and one on intersections of myth, technology, and information literacy;
  • I’ll be presenting in mid-June at CaVraCon (California Visual Resources Association conference) on using digital images in information literacy instruction;
  • I’m waiting to hear back about my proposals to present at the internet Librarian conference in October. I think those announcements usually go out in late June or early July;
  • I have a full-length poetry manuscript out and under review at a few different small presses;
  • I have 3 manuscripts in-progress and one data-collection project that I won’t fool with until summer;
  • Oh, yeah, still working on that Ph.D. in Mythological Studies. Which reminds me to pack my reading for the first spring session.

And in teaching:

  • My last information literacy sessions are next week, early Monday morning and late Tuesday evening;
  • Which means it’s time to look back at the stats and see how we’re doing, and who we’re touching;
  • And I’m in super informal discussions with the chair of the Freedom & Justice Studies minor about the possibility of my teaching FJS 340 in the Fall semester. Titled Explorations of Freedom and Justice, it’s an opportunity to pick a wicked problem and look at it across time, cultures, and disciplines. I’d like to look at information access as the wicked problem, and am having a grand old time culling building a bibliography, structuring a syllabus, and thinking about how I can develop engaging assignments.
Possible sources for FJS 340 readings

Possible sources for FJS 340 readings (minus the 50+ journal articles under consideration). Do you have recommendations?

The Research and Writing Life: A Snapshot of March 2015

For those interested in the writing life of an academic librarian who is on the tenure track, you may be interested in what my research and writing schedule looks like. If you include all of my writing for librarianship, professional conferences, my Ed.D. work, and my Ph.D. work, it adds up to a lot. I usually don’t list it out this way, since it makes me want to hyperventilate, but it is helpful to see it in this form to (1) give myself credit for what I’ve accomplished, and (2) budget my time wisely for what remains.

Not much writing happened in January and February – largely my focus was polishing up the dissertation, and getting healthy after some wicked bouts of illness. Papers submitted for publication or a grade already this month (March 2015) include:

  • “The Relationship between Academic Library Department Experience and Perceptions of Leadership Skill Development Relevant to Academic Library Directorship” (submitted to peer-reviewed journal in academic librarianship)
  • “The Significance of the Stylistic Device of Repetition in Ritual” (Ph.D. in Mythological Studies paper)
  • “A Close Reading of Joseph Campbell’s Myths of Light: Eastern Metaphors of the Eternal” (Ph.D. in Mythological Studies paper)
  • “An exploratory study of the relationship between academic library work experience and perceptions of leadership skill development relevant to the academic library directorship” (Ed.D. in Learning & Leadership dissertation)

Papers in progress that I intend to (read: am required to) submit before a March 31st include:

  • A yet-untitled because it is a yet-to-be-decided-topic paper for my Dreams, Visions, Myths class (Ph.D. in Mythological Studies)
  • “An Age of Abundance, an Absence of Control: The Intersection of Mythology, Technology, Discourses of Power, and Information Literacy” (intended for the peer-reviewed Journal of Mythological Studies)
  • “Same-Sex Marriage in America: Ritual and Claims in the Mythic, Psychological, and Social Realms” (Ph.D. in Mythological Studies)
  • “The Four Faces of Marvel’s Black Widow: A Model of Regenerative Mythmaking” – a book chapter for a collection on Black Widow
  • “‘Helen of Troy Does Countertop Dancing’: Empowering Students and Rebuilding the Freshman Literature Syllabus with a Focus on Critical Thinking, Mythology, Creative Writing and Library Research” – a paper to be presented virtually at the The Fifth Asian Conference on Literature & Librarianship
  • “Piety, Poetry, And the Pastoral Landscape: An Exploration of the Power of Place, Rhythm, And Religion in Maurice Manning’s Bucolics” – a paper to be presented virtually at the The Fifth Asian Conference on Literature & Librarianship

Projects in-progress that require my vigilance include:

  • Completing the paper “Academic Librarians Learning to Lead from the Middle? Not According to the Data” (intended for the peer-reviewed journal Academic Library Administration, probably before April 30)
  • Editing a book titled “Mythology and Contemporary Women Poets: Analysis, Teaching, and Critical Reflection” to be published by Mcfarland (full manuscript due September 1!).
  • I received a contract to edit a book for ALA Editions based on my dissertation research. The first chapters will be my research, the later chapters will be essays by library directors on their experience developing much-needed leadership skills in specific areas. I’ve already sent out the call for abstracts and have received some stellar pitches!

Not happening this month (thank goodness!) but on my to-do list for the coming months/year:

  • Redesigning the Library’s 3-credit course and co-writing that up for publication in a peer-reviewed journal
  • Shoring up plans for a research project with a colleague in the Communication department on information literacy and research skill development that we’re hoping to complete in the fall and co-write up for publication in spring 2016 for a peer-reviewed journal
  • Continuing my research on academic library leadership (collecting more data, analyzing, writing up for publication)
  • Writing on the idea of chronic illness as liminal space as it relates to ritual theory for a peer reviewed journal
  • Re-/Self- publishing my three books of poetry (both small independent presses have folded, and I’d like for the collections to still be available)
  • Finding a publisher for another completed poetry manuscript
  • Completing a half-finished poetry collection

So, that’s my writing and research life in a nutshell (or a blog post).

How does it all happen? Well, a few nights a week and one weekend day per week are dedicated to writing/research/class doings. I do literature searches in brief breaks during the workday, between instruction sessions and at the reference desk. It helps that my husband is working on his Ed.D. and understands the need for dedicated reading and writing time, since most of that work, for me, happens outside of worktime (though I do like to go into the office to do research on Saturdays, when it’s quiet.)

Next time: a brief discussion of what my reading habits look like, given my weird and interdisciplinary work. For your amusement, a selection of a few of the textbooks for my upcoming Spring quarter at the Pacifica Graduate Institute:

Just a few of the textbooks for my Spring 2015 quarter for the Ph.D. in Mythological Studies with an emphasis in Depth Psychology.

Just a few of the textbooks for my Spring 2015 quarter for the Ph.D. in Mythological Studies with an emphasis in Depth Psychology.

Doctoral Dissertation Defense: Scheduled!

I am thrilled to share with everyone that my dissertation defense is scheduled for next Thursday. I’ll be defending via Zoom (a Skype-like video conferencing software)–welcome to the future! Also, in terms of preparation for the defense, a huge shout-out to my CSUCI Broome Library colleagues who sat through my first-ever run-through of the slides, and to Fabulous Husband Jed, who sits through more than his earthly share of my practicing.

Text of email sent from the University of Tennessee Chattanooga’s Graduate School:

The UTC Graduate School is pleased to announce that Ms. Colleen Susan Harris-Keith will present her dissertation research titled, “An Exploratory Study of the Relationship Between Academic Library Work Experience and Perceptions of Leadership Skill Development Relevant to Academic Library Directorship,” on March 19 at 10:00 am in Hunter Hall #208. Everyone is invited to attend.

Candidate for Doctorate of Education: Learning and Leadership

Chairperson: Dr. Ted Miller

Abstract:

Though research into academic library director leadership has established leadership skills and qualities required for success, little research has been done to establish where in their career library directors were most likely to acquire those skills and qualities. This research project surveyed academic library directors at Carnegie-designated Master’s granting institutions about their previous library positions, and what skills and qualities they perceived to have exercised in those positions. Five research questions were assessed. RQ1: Which of the respondents’ last five positions previous to the directorship are most often represented in the path to the academic library directorship? RQ2: Which of the previous positions held by the respondents are perceived to have helped prepare directors the most for the qualities and skills required of the position? RQ3: Is the perception of library leadership skill and quality development equal across departmental experience? RQ4: What, if any position(s), appear to be the “gatekeepers” for academic librarian skill and competency development? RQ5: What are the skills most commonly perceived to be used in each department?

Findings revealed that respondents perceived there to be great opportunities to exercise leadership qualities in previous positions, but few opportunities to develop more empirically measurable leadership skills. In addition, respondents perceived those skill development opportunities to be available only once working in the position of library director or in the Administration department of academic libraries.

Ask an Expert! Or, How Statistics, Facebook and Polychoric Correlation Matrices Made Me My Own Library User

Frustrated with some data and fed up with my own inability to locate an appropriate statistical technique, I finally posted to Facebook in the hopes that a friend would commiserate with me:

“Bending my brain around ILL stats and thinking about exploratory factor analysis with categorical variables, despite the issues with it. Desperately missing [my old group of Emory PoliSci nerdbuddies and profs who were excellent at stats] and brainstorming these sorts of things.”

Five seconds later, the prof I had tagged in the post replied, “Three words: polychoric correlation matrix.” And I had four distinct reactions in rapid succession. They were as follows:

First reaction: sarcasm. Well OF COURSE polychoric correlation matrix, duh. Who WOULDN’T know that? Certainly not I. Pshaw.

Second reaction: confirmatory exploration. A quick Google search of that conglomeration of words, a quick scan of the Wikipedia description, and yep, this is much closer to what I need for what I want to do than I’ve gotten scouring statistics textbooks and incomprehensible math journal articles for two weeks. Until my eyes felt like they were bleeding, and my brain was mushy. Until all I wanted to do was curl up and cry in a corner until someone brought me a puppy. (Interestingly, my husband just got me a puppy for my birthday.)

Third reaction: gratitude. Thank you, Jeebus (and Professor Chris Zorn) that I have a direction and didn’t have to pray I’d trip over this technique on my own. I was already stretching my husband’s patience and our booze budget due to this thing.

My fourth reaction, and the one that prompted the blog post: chagrin. We beg our students and researchers to come to us as librarians for good direction before they get mired in the research process. Why didn’t I go to the experts in the first place, the way I beg my students and faculty to do? The way the lit review section on expertise in my own darn dissertation says folks should do?

I know my reasons, and they likely echo those of my researchers. First, I thought I should be able to find the answer myself. Why didn’t I ask my local methodologist professor buddies? Well, they’re all on my dissertation committee, and I haven’t touched my dissertation in forever, so I’m doing some guilt-hermiting (in which I crawl into a dark space and don’t contact folks until I have something productive and useful to show them). I didn’t want to look stupid for not knowing something, even though that something is admittedly quite far outside my wheelhouse.

Sigh. A lesson learned for myself: if even I fall into these traps, I need to make sure I continue to let me researchers know that it is okay to ask questions, if only so they’re not making their lives harder than they have to be. My new mantra: Don’t let guilt or ignorance waste your time. Ping an expert. Do it from the beginning.