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Heather Dawson with news of the recently merged Social Science Librarians Group.

Social Science Librarians Update

1999 was a momentous year for the ASLIB Social Science Librarians Special Interest Group. In April 1999 it was decided to merge with ALISS (Academic Librarians in the Social Sciences), a professional grouping of information workers based in UK university libraries, in order to create one national body. The past year has seen a great deal of negotiation behind the scenes with ASLIB and the interim committee members in order to establish a firm foundation for the group and a renewed programme of activities. The preparation period has culminated in the relaunch of the group under the new name ASSIGN (ASLIB Social Science Information Group and Network). This reflects its aim to be a group for all Social Science information workers, regardless of their geographical location or sector of work. Indeed the new committee is composed of members from academic libraries, government libraries and charitable foundations. They also include individuals from Wales, Warwick, Surrey and London and we are committed to promoting further regional events and membership.

The final step towards the creation of the new group was made at our AGM at the beginning of May when it was decided to merge the financial accounts of the two groups. We also recruited new regional committee members to reflect the new national focus. The full committee list now includes:

Richard Cheffins (British Library Social Policy Information Unit) Chair
Heather Dawson (British Library of Political and Economic Science, the LSE Library) Secretary
Yasmin Adeeb/ John Naylor (University of Warwick) Treasurers
Nicola Hilliard (National Childrens Bureau)
Jennifer Treherne (University of Surrey)
Angela Upton (National Institute of Social Work)
Melanie Pfeffer (Department of Health)
Helen Mackin (Barnados)
Thelma May (Anglia Polytechnic University)
Angela Sabin (SOAS)
Michele Davies (University of Wales, Swansea)
Eileen Tilley(University of Bangor)
Tony Holbrook (University of Bath)

Under the new programme events which have taken place include:

  • Visits – These are regularly organised to important social science collections. Recent trips include the Wellcome Institute, where we were able to learn about the range of electronic databases offered free of charge to the public, and a visit to the British Library Inter-Library Loan operation at Boston Spa. Also notable was a trip behind the scenes at the Social Policy Unit of the British Library. This proved particularly popular as we were able to observe a working reading room in action and view the massive book storage area in the basement!
  • Talks- The recent AGM included an interesting presentation from Hazel Woodward, Librarian of Cranfield University, on the issues facing librarians when managing electronic journals. The powerpoint slides for this can now be viewed on the ALISS home site at http://www.blpes.lse.ac.uk/other_sites/aliss/ .
  • Training Events – In December 1999 we organised a Social Science Resource Guide Workshop which enabled ASSIGN members to learn more about and sample a wide range of publicly funded electronic services for Social Scientists, including electronic journals, data archives, information gateways and teaching and learning resources. A listing of the services can be seen on the Social Science Resource Guide web site at http://www.jisc.ac.uk/subject/socsci/
  • Study Conferences- ASSIGN is also committed to organising annual study conferences with speakers and demonstrations where members can exchange ideas over a longer period of 2-3 days. In June 1999 the University of Bangor hosted a successful event on issues relating to library support for distance learners. We are currently arranging a conference on information access in Northern Ireland for June 2000.

As financial and time restraints will necessarily limit the extent to which ASSIGN members are able to travel to events, regular communication between group members will take place via lis-social science where events and mailings will be posted. Archived messages and instructions for signing up can be viewed at: http://www.mailbase.ac.uk/lists/lis-socialscience/. ASSIGN also has its own website where details of events, contact names and important documents can be found. http://www.blpes.lse.ac.uk/other_sites/aliss/. However, ultimately a special interest group only exists to serve its members . 

FUTURE SOCIAL SCIENCE RESEARCH: Support, Strategy and Direction

A one-day conference on September 14th 2000 hosted by REGARD at the University of Bristol

  • Will good research ever be at the heart of policy?
  • What price peer credibility versus political agendas?
  • How can research help build new information landscapes?
  • How will technology transform research?

It is generally agreed that, at the turn of the century, the UK social science community is more healthy and optimistic than it has been for some time. At the same time the development of the Internet and other technologies is allowing unprecedented public access to research - to the researchers and to the results of that research. Technologies are also changing the landscape for researchers - new working methods and tools will influence their work alongside the challenges that closer links with policymakers imply.

Beneath a superficial feeling of having "come in from the cold" some difficult and provocative questions remain. Was it easier to retain peer credibility in a hostile environment? Does the fact that the current government is prepared to listen to social scientists mean that the social science agenda has been expanded or restricted? How acceptable is social science enquiry and endeavour which produces unpopular and unwelcome results? Does the current emphasis on evidence based practice mean an overdue shift to providing a solid foundation for nebulous theory - or does it mean selecting the evidence you like and ignoring anything that doesn't fit in?

How will social science be supported in the early years of the twenty first century? Successive administrations have used phrases like "exit strategies" and "seedcorn funding" to avoid committing to long term support facilities. Is it a myth that any support service worth funding should be able to earn its own keep?

This conference will identify strategies and support mechanisms to answer these new challenges. The programme will attract anyone who is interested or involved in the production or application of social

science research, from the academic, government, voluntary and business sectors.

The conference will be opened by Dr Gordon Marshall, Chief Executive of the ESRC, who will unveil the new, re-designed and enhanced REGARD service.

Speakers will include:

Professor Roger Jowell, Director, National Centre for Social Research.
Helen Roberts, Head of Research and Development, Barnardo's
Sally Wyatt, ESRC Virtual Society? Programme
Roger Sykes, Head of Research, Local Government Association
Melanie Wright, Director of User Services, The Data Archive

An optional hands-on workshop will also be available throughout the day. Delegates will be able to investigate a wide range of online social science resources, including REGARD.

Discounted booking until the end of July.

For further information please visit :
http://www.regard.ac.uk/conference/
 
Email: regard-conf@bristol.ac.uk
Tel: (0117) 928 7194

 

Author Details

 
Heather Dawson, ASSIGN Secretary.
h.dawson@lse.ac.uk
British Library of Political and Economic Science
Information Services.
25 Southampton Buildings
London
WC2A 1PH

 

Date published: 
23 June 2000

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How to cite this article

Heather Dawson. "Planet SOSIG". June 2000, Ariadne Issue 24 http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue24/planet-sosig/


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