AGORA communications and dissemination plan
Rosemary Russell, AGORA Communications Coordinator, UKOLN
It is recognised that effective communication is a key to achieving successful project outcomes (as opposed to outputs). The development of knowledge, acquisition of new skills, and raising wider awareness of issues and opportunities, are more important than producing a working demonstrator. At the same time the AGORA hybrid library management system will be a key tool for demonstrating potential service scenarios to a range of library and information communities.
AGORA’s communications aims
AGORA’s central communications aims are firstly to support effective dialogue amongst project participants, thereby enabling a shared understanding of the hybrid library management system being developed by the project; and secondly to adopt an appropriate dissemination programme in order to share learning experiences with the relevant communities.
The following document identifies communications needs and outlines methods of achieving a successful internal working environment, together with effective dissemination to identified stakeholders.
Web-based communications environment
One of the objectives of the project is to develop an integrated communications environment for both internal and external communications, using state-of-the-art web technologies. This software is particularly suitable for supporting wide-area group collaboration. At the same time, it should be ensured that the project team and associates are comfortable with using the facilities. Similarly, public users should find the web site inviting to explore; it should also encourage public interaction and feedback. It is hoped that AGORA will demonstrate a state-of-the-art project communications environment.
The UK Web Focus at UKOLN is advising on suitable existing technologies which would be appropriate for the project’s communications needs. Freeware will be used if possible; however some low-level funding may be necessary.
UKOLN is therefore currently examining products which would provide support for distributed working amongst AGORA partners as well as dissemination support. An example of one useful facility is the provision of forms enabling users to easily feedback information on the prototype.
The following facilities have been identified as effective for meeting AGORA’s needs:
One of the products being reviewed is BSCW, which has been developed in the context of the EU Telematics Applications Programme, to support collaborative working. This is freely available from GMD, the German National Research Centre for Information Technology. Continuing software maintenance and support issues will be considered.
The web software selected must be intuitive and easy to use. No training should be necessary although the Communications Coordinator will provide introductory information and suggestions of applications. It is recognised that project members may need some initial encouragement to use the facilities; the Communications Coordinator will be responsible for encouraging use and ensuring that its potential is exploited.
The AGORA technical post at UKOLN will be responsible for installing, maintaining and upgrading the software although technical support from other UKOLN staff may be needed initially, until the new post is filled. This post will work with the Communications Coordinator to contribute to meeting AGORA’s communications objectives.
It is planned to hold one online ‘workshop’ at the end of each year of the project, where reports of developments and demonstrators will be available for discussion.
External web pages
An internal news bulletin will be produced during the second week of every month; it will be made available on the internal web pages, but also posted to the agora-associates email list. Material from this can be used as the basis for compiling external news articles.
The Communications Coordinator and the Library Coordinator will maintain close contact with the Project Manager, communicating at least weekly via email or telephone. Each will produce a short monthly text showing progress against deliverables, which will feed into the Project Manager’s monthly report to the board.
Document templates will be provided for Word by the Communications Coordinator and made available on the internal web site. This is to ensure that all AGORA documents have a similar format. It has already been agreed amongst project members that Word version 6 is the common format for documents. In time, more draft documents may be created as html, depending on how use of the web environment develops within the project.
Mailbase discussion lists
The following mailbase lists have already been set up to support communications between various groups:
Communication with related projects and activities
Members of the AGORA team maintain close contacts with a wide range of related projects and activities. This is particularly useful for sharing experience, as well as dissemination. The following are some examples of related activities with which the Communications Coordinator is closely involved:
AGORA will seek to contribute to relevant technical standards activities.
A logo needs to be developed which becomes identified with AGORA. Clearly, it should have a simple design which is suitable for use in electronic form and in print. It should be capable of effective reproduction both in colour and black and white.
Dissemination activities may range from simply mentioning a project issue in context at a departmental meeting, to presenting a conference paper. It is desirable for all project participants, including associates, to undertake AGORA dissemination activities. However it is recognised that some will be more closely involved in the wider level of dissemination than others (particularly UKOLN, UEA and CERLIM).
Clearly the prototype itself will function as the central and highly visible basis for dissemination. However there will also be a substantial body of related library management information to disseminate, particularly resulting from the work coordinated by UEA. Therefore activities will not merely focus on technical aspects of the project. Practical hands-on experience from the working libraries is an important deliverable.
Library associates in particular should undertake dissemination to library and other staff within their local institution via staff meetings, newsletters etc.
UKOLN will play a coordinating dissemination role. This will ensure that activities are timely and focused. It is also necessary to ensure that any individual dissemination activity does not overlap with other plans and to check if any other input would be useful. Project participants should notify the Communications Coordinator at UKOLN when planning any separate activity.
There is ample scope for joint writing of articles and other materials between project participants. This will be encouraged since it makes full-length articles less onerous and therefore less daunting, although more planning and coordination is required.
External dissemination activities will be aimed particularly at the following groups:
The audiences above are not restricted to the UK – although the UK will be served first, many activities have an international relevance. In addition, the library audience is also not restricted to higher education although again, the HE community is of most immediate concern to the project.
The stakeholders will form an ‘invisible project team’ – people who are not directly linked to the project, but who have a real interest in what AGORA is trying to achieve (perhaps because they want to use AGORA results in developing their own services). It is desirable to encourage and promote the creation of this group; it is likely to grow and change during the lifetime of the project. Effective dissemination is the most obvious method of ensuring wider involvement. One of the most important vehicles for this is the agora-project mailbase list, which will be promoted to the above stakeholders.
They are themselves likely to promote AGORA informally, by introducing the project’s work into relevant discussions (eg meetings, emails).
eLib phase 3 collaborative activities involving AGORA
Activities addressing MODELS/AGORA issues
Since the MODELS project and AGORA are concerned with the same area of distributed services development they necessarily also involve many of the same people. Some of the planned MODELS events therefore address common issues to both projects (and indeed to several other eLib phase 3 projects)
Planned activities linked to MODELS workshop recommendations:
AGORA activities within project stages
Most presentations are expected to be as a result of invitations to speak at relevant professional meetings in the UK; however calls for papers on email lists will be monitored and proposals to appropriate international events will be considered.
AGORA will make full use of opportunities to publish articles in electronic journals such as Ariadne and Dlib. The choice of journal for publication will depend partly on their publication schedules and how these fit with project timings. The ‘top 20’ library and information science titles are listed in Appendix A; publication in these journals will be sought where possible.
The following represents a minimum planned level of dissemination activity within the remaining three project stages, which is achievable by the core staff, until the likely participation of other project members is known. Specific named activities which have already been organised for the early stages are listed, together with planned later activities.
Lead responsibility for coordinating AGORA’s input will rest with the Communications Coordinator, in consultation with the Project Manager.
Stage 2: Aug 1998 – Aug 1999
Stage 3: Aug 1999 – Aug 2000
Stage 4: Aug – Oct 2000
Press releases will be distributed at relevant points, such as each time a new version of AGORA is launched. See Appendix 2 for a list of appropriate journals/magazines/newspapers to consider for submission.
CERLIM will evaluate the effectiveness of AGORA’s dissemination programme.
Appendix A: Top 20 most important library and information science journals
Rankings are based on their impact factors (which are based on the number of times articles which have appeared in the journal have been cited elsewhere).
1. College and Research Libraries
2. Journal of the American Society of Information Scientists
3. Journal of Documentation
4. Annual Review of Information Science
5. Library Quarterly
6. Bulletin of the Medical Library Association
7. Journal of Academic Librarianship
8. Information Management
9. International Journal of Geographical Information Systems
10. Information Process Management
15. Library and Information Science
16. Library and Information Science Research
17. Canadian Library Journal
18. Reference and User Services Quarterly
19. Online and CD-ROM Review
20. The Electronic Library
Appendix B: Suitable journals/magazines for submission of press releases
The following list of library and Internet journals/magazines/newspapers were identified by the eLib EEVL project as relevant for submitting press releases. The information was posted (together with contact information) to lis-elib-managers on 31 May 1998.