As with most of my weeknotes these days, these weeknotes are structured around the 8 Pillars of User Research — I use these to help me keep the scope of my role knowable, to me, and others. I use the Pace Layers Matrix to structure my research operations strategy in my everyday work.
What did you do?
This week, I got to do something I really love doing, which was facilitating our fortnightly showcase that takes in the entire program. Each team presents a snippet of their current work, sprint goals, sprint takeaways etc. The breadth of the work is astounding, interesting, important. Even at 5 minutes for each team, it takes a while to get through it all. Is it worth it? Absolutely. As each team presents, there is always someone who wants to follow up a point, sees a connection, has an idea. It is in coming together that we retain our ability to move easily forward, together. As we scale, this time together will become more and more important.
This week, I attended the Export Registrations and Approvals Sprint Review, and had my regular meetups with researchers from across the program. We are starting to focus on research as a team sport, and how we can both scale our support and also provide particular support to those new to research. To that end, Bill (also in our little ReOps team of two!) and I supported Research Lead in the Taking Farmers to Markets program Ruth Ellison to do some user research on the Service Delivery Handbook. Eventually, our Research + Operations Handbook will be found here, so we’re excited to be making this step with the ‘top layer’. Having access to information about how to do user research, and how it fits within the context of service delivery helps to support people with lots of different levels of experience, including those new to working in multi-disciplinary service delivery teams.
The pillar of organisational context is all about making sure researchers have spaces for research (somewhat redundant in these working from home times, though I tend to cover digital spaces in the ‘tools’ pillar), enough time for research (always a challenge, and one on the radar of several researchers across the department — so my current challenge is how to support them), sufficient resources to do their work, and proving the return on investment of user research.
Alongside trying to move the needle on our library, I’ve been needing to work on how we track user research across the department. I set up a register for anyone doing user research when I first started some months back, but we quickly outgrew it. It’s on next week’s list.
This week, Ruth and I did some induction training on research and operations, which was really nice because some of the people were new to the department, and one was someone who’d been doing user research in the department a long time, who wanted to understand how research operations could help her and her team. Yay for expanding ReOps across the department!
Research operations people need training too, and as Bill and I get started on both our library taxonomy, and our research data taxonomy (the former being smaller than the latter), we both needed a refresher in the what, why and how of taxonomies. I promised I’d pull together a list of resources for us to use in our L&D next week, and so I’ve listed some below (in the ‘Anything else’ section) so you can have a look too if that floats your boat! There are loads of resources and training all over the internet, please do let me know your favs too!
Recruitment and admin
This week I sent a couple of requests to our lovely legal team to make some overarching decisions regarding our research participant recruitment approach. They came back with some questions, which I always enjoy picking through with them, and we’ll have some answers next week. After Bill did so much work last week on our research participant coordination, I was able to make quick work this week in verifying where some of our participants were at, and who they were already doing research with. I also had a quick catch up with someone in a cross government capacity where we considered how we might better manage participant experience across government. More questions than answers at this stage, but it was good to think about the challenges and opportunities to do things better.
Data and knowledge management
This week, after breaking the space/time continuum between MS Teams and Sharepoint, I decided it was time to bite the bullet, and just ask for a separate document store for the interim library. That was granted in short order, so one sprint sized task is going to be re-creating the metadata structures we’d already made, and then transferring files over and communicating about that. It creates a silo I wasn’t keen to make, but while we are tinkering away with metadata and making collections, it is a necessary step.
As noted above, this week, I had a few queries with our legal team, and one I need to circle back on. These queries are all are about helping us make program wide governance processes, and so they are worth spending time over to get them right and give us something to stand on. Looks like quite the governance kind of week coming up!
Tools and infrastructure
Working in government means working within constraints, and working really hard on making sure the boundaries of those constraints are where they should be. Sometimes, that is very difficult indeed!
We received a lot of help from across the department this week, and I’m so grateful for that. I also reflect that where we received help, the teams were quick to point out the value they saw in having a research operations function, so it was really lovely to know that the work we are doing is having impact across the organisation, not just within our immediate field of vision.
What are you thinking about?
Change. I’ve nearly, nearly finished a blog post that’s a precursor to some actual proper academic work that, in a galaxy far far away, may actually be published, on the conceptual framework of my thesis. I’ve been using my framework for change to help me understand the change work research operations requires of me, and of all of us taking on that role, and I figured it was about time I published something on that, in case it is useful for anyone else. Watch this space!
Here are a few articles I mentioned above in the section on ‘People’ that I pulled together for myself and Bill as we start on our taxonomies:
- May as well start at the beginning, Bloom’s taxonomy (thanks Mark McElhaw for teaching me about the importance of this one, especially to research, which is all about learning).
- Taxonomy 101 — Knowledge Management World’s intro to taxonomies.
- An Introduction to Metadata and Taxonomies by Brain Traffic
- Information Organization and Classification: Taxonomies and Metadata by Barb Blackburn
- A personal fav on metadata (the motivation for our making taxonomies): University of Pittsburgh, Describing data, Metadata for Research Data Management, Creating Quality Metadata
- Random bit of fun: taxonomy (the science of classifying living things). The narrator is just so into taxonomies, it is lovely to watch.
- A video on creating a basic taxonomy