Kickoff of the KNEXT Research – Summary

The Knowledge Extension research project led by Kent State University, School of Information and the University of Maryland College of Information Studies kicked off their respective research projects with partners from the surrounding libraries, local businesses, small business development centers, and economic leaders in the region. The Kickoffs occurred on January 24, 2018, in Ohio and March 9, 2018, in Maryland. Both events were well attended and may grow as the conversations began to highlight other important stakeholders in the community. 15 people attended the Kent State meeting (2 attended remotely). 18 people attended the University of Maryland kickoff. Both locations had a few partners which were unable to join and look forward to meeting and connecting with the other participants in the future.

The objective of the meetings was to bring together the various stakeholders in the communities of this research project for their first face to face and begin the process of orientation to the mission of the project and identify how to work together for success. Both meetings were a hit from the initial introductions to sparking new discussions and ideas for collaborations at both sites.

The basic format of these meetings was a one-day multi-hour session at a table getting to know each other’s needs and capabilities as well as getting to know: WHAT IS KNEXT?

Topics of the schedule included:

  • Welcome and Introductions
  • KNEXT project description and Timeline
  • Responding to questions and concerns:
    • Why KNEXT?
      •  Answer: To help Small businesses succeed and build competitiveness with access to information and tools at an affordable and sustainable level.
    • What does KNEXT intend to do?
      • Answer: See if it is possible to build a Knowledge Extension structure, software, or process (we don’t know for sure what will be the outcome as this is research and never been done before). A good analogy is thinking about KNEXT as bringing local data analytics to the communities and businesses through libraries similarly to how the Center for Disease Control has health monitoring or how the Agricultural extension exists to help with access to agricultural information.
      • This is a project over the next three years will investigate how to best implement into the existing communities repertoires new relationships and technologies that will fill data, information, skill, and connection gaps to bring data analysis to the local businesses and communities. This cannot be done without the partnership with the local community organizations.
  • Reactions and discussion of the needs and readiness across both sites:
    • The discussion emerged similar concerns over the way that data is licensed for access.
      • Answer: The KNEXT team is ready to tackle this challenge and learn from the organizations in attendance that already have figured out shared access to databases. There is interest in using existing data aggregators and building upon open data provided locally, regionally, and nationally. While there are many cases where data may need to be sourced at a managed cost and there likely will be data types that do not have databases available. There are many methods and opportunities to fill in these gaps or make the data more refined and targeted for local needs through community engagement structures.
    • Some issues raised included concern over where the data would be stored and collected if local data is added to the mix.
      • Answer: This provides an opportunity to investigate further and explore options of University partnerships of hosting and resource sharing. The KNEXT team is working to identify concerns of sustainability and practical operational needs to address as the design goes forward.
    • The question of how will this continue after the funding for this project is complete in three years.
      • Answer: The KNEXT team is well aware that grant funding is not the long-term sustainability plan. The kickoff is a great time to talk about long-term plans and is already part of the longer term discussions for KNEXT. One interest is making the technology developed open source and ensuring the partners have a continuing strategy for their KNEXT technologies and processes.  
    • Language and information literacy are two areas of concern.
      • Answer: The platforms being developed are targeted to be translatable and usability assessment and accessibility are critical parts of providing a user information system. That said, access to systems alone are not the only way people will engage or be able to understand the content. With KNEXT being part of the library as access centers the opportunity to work with and have trained persons to help in addition to leveraging other potential information displays and communities.
    • Good news is the library systems have access to various databases and so do the partnering universities. A challenge is that the access is not equal to every site and licenses are sometimes site-specific.
      • Answer: As noted above licensing is a challenge, but not unable to be overcome with creative thinking on access and organizational design already adopted by institutions.
    • Both sites had concerns about how this project might conflict with existing business models.
      • Answer: Yes, this is a risk of perception and literal, but where possible subscribing may be the best choice and learning how to balance paid models with additional information gathering and aggregation poses a strong question of is KNEXT possible. We think it is otherwise we wouldn’t be doing it and making open data accessible to the public from public funds just make sense. There are many opportunities to build skills and information access and make communities information accessible to the community for prosperity.

Demo of the possible technological capabilities:

  • Advanced social media and text analysis interfaces for exploring data.
  • Multiple other opportunities were highlighted and discussion of tailored reporting interfaces of static common questions given certain criteria.
  • Addressing the routine and the investigative individual is part of the possible scope. KNEXT intends to start by identifying a few common data needs and focus on getting those right.

Final wrap up and commitment to next steps:

The majority of the attendees agree that they are interested or very interested in continuing the partnership. The KNEXT team is excited to work with pioneering organizations and see how well this concept applies to the pilot sites.

Next Steps in  KNEXT :

The next steps for the KNEXT project are in the collection of the current capabilities and the needs of the communities. Understanding the current skills, technology, resources and identifying how different or similar sites are and what investment of training and resources could be feasibly be adopted to enhance the partners with minimal burden of time and effort. Overall the Kickoff meetings have established a strong set of partners which will provide a foundation to the understanding of how small businesses can become, remain, or enhance their competitiveness with access to more local data in formats that are accessible (financially, literally, and timely) through further work with libraries as centers for access to information, knowledge development, and community. By the end of the meeting, there were new relationships being established and new ideas on how to work better together. Ideas and information about what partner offered began and expanded network’s understanding of where the new relationship could grow.

The KNEXT team would like to again thank all the attendees for their time and look forward to the discussions with them and their organizations going forward. We are at the tip of the iceberg for this research project and are optimistic given the support and interest demonstrated by those partnering with KNEXT. We look forward to working with our partners over the next few years and will post updates along the way.

For further information on KNEXT contact: