#Throwback Thursday: Open Durham

Inviting academics to speak about their research at the library

Working in an academic library is a great privilege; a big part of any library role is providing a service which ensures students and academics have access to the resources they need to study and produce their research.  The open access team at Durham get to see the final product of our researchers’ hard work when they send manuscripts that have been accepted to journals to be deposited into our repository. Open Access Week 2019 – ‘Open for Whom?’ was the perfect opportunity to share the incredible research that we help to support in the library with our colleagues.

We were delighted to welcome Beng Huat See and Nadia Siddiqui from the School of Education; Dorothy Cowie from the Department of Psychology and Cecilia Tomori from the Department of Anthropology to the library to talk to staff.

Beng Huat and Nadia from Education did a ‘double act’, telling us about their research into why there aren’t enough teachers It is much more complicated than the initial response of “there’s too much marking” and there are lots of factors to consider – for example, Beng Huat pointed out that every year there are many potential teachers who apply to train and are not accepted.

Beng Huat See

Nadia spoke about her research in schools and the positive impact the open access has had on her research with researchers directly contacting her to start conversations about research they found in DRO.  Nadia writes passionately about education issues in Pakistan; however, it is frustrating that people in Pakistan can’t read it when it is stuck behind a paywall! Durham Research Online provides the opportunity for everyone, anywhere in the world, to read their research.

Dorothy captivated us with all of the research she has been involved with in Psychology, and explained it in an easy to understand way.  The Psychology Department often asks for volunteers for research, and some of us here in the library have taken our children to take part in some of the research that Dorothy discussed.  For example,  the ‘virtual bodies’ study which found that children are more aware of their body changing size.  It was fantastic to see the final outcome of the research we took part in to understand what we had contributed to.  You can follow the Durham Developmental Group on Facebook or sign up here to find out about volunteer opportunities for your children to become mini scientists.

Dorothy also explained to us her study about ‘limb differences’.  A huge part of our brain is dedicated to our hands, so what happens when people are missing their hands? Dorothy showed us an incredible little boy who has been born with his arm missing from elbow down – he very quickly completed a task that involved unscrewing a wooden screw from a block.  Dorothy explained that compensatory motor strategies develop – so the part of our brains dedicated to our hands will actually be filled by something else if we are missing a limb.


The team are working with a charity called Reach: ‘helping children with upper limb differences live life without limits’.  Dorothy’s enthusiasm to use her research to help others really shone through and there are plans to raise money and awareness of this charity in a ‘Café Culture’ event in the library café soon – follow the library’s Twitter & Facebook pages for announcements.

Finally, Cecilia Tomori discussed her work with the Sleep Lab and, speaking to the other mums from the library who attended, her words really resonated.  She discussed the fact that due to Western norms many new mothers hide the fact that they might breastfeed or co-sleep with their babies – when in fact, it is biologically normal!  Cecilia was such an engaging public speaker and it was clear to see why her 2019 article co-authored with colleagues Helen Ball & James McKenna, ‘Toward an integrated anthropology of infant sleep’ has been so popular in Durham Research Online!

The Sleep Lab has won awards, such as The Queen’s Anniversary Prize, and it is an invaluable source to parents – which is why it is so heartening to see so much of their research open access.  Find out about current studies and how to participate here.

baby holding human finger
Photo by Wayne Evans on Pexels.com

All four of our researchers demonstrated how participation from the public, whether through schools, being a junior scientist or Psychology or by observation of yours and your baby’s sleep habits, is absolutely vital! It is therefore wonderful to be able to make these research projects freely available to everyone.

Overall, we’d really recommend organising an event for library staff to get to know researchers and what they do – it really helps to make you feel like you are contributing to something worthwhile!  The event was also really popular with library staff with staff describing it as ‘inspiring’ and commenting how motivating it is to hear from the wider university community.

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