Playing the Publishing Trap at Imperial College London

Philippa Hatch, Imperial College

Philippa Hatch is Copyright and Licensing Manager at Imperial College London and part of the Library’s Scholarly Communications Team. Below she shares her experience of facilitating a Publishing Trap session when Jane and Chris weren’t there. She agreed to share some thoughts and observations with our readers. Philippa writes….

One sunny lunchtime in May I sat down with library colleagues to play the Publishing Trap. Here is a mixture of my reflections and some tips if you aren’t Jane or Chris.

The game is great fun and people enjoy it. In fact they enjoy it so much it can be hard to make them stop playing and listen to you or other players. Next time I am going to split the workbook into sections so they can’t move from one level of the game to the next without giving me the opportunity to do some teaching in between.

The board is quite complex and my colleagues suggested a longer explanation at the beginning would have been helpful. Things they missed initially were the different skills levels of the characters and the top to bottom then bottom to top nature of the answer recording boxes. You naturally think question 1 will be the top box in a column.

Jane and Chris make it look easy. I was relying on my six month old memories of playing at a SHERLOCK meeting (Ed’s note: Sherlock is the London Copyright Community of Practice) and they weren’t quite clear enough. Get recent experience and read all the skills, wildcard and impact assessment cards thoroughly. There isn’t time to read them when someone is waving it at you from the other side of the table.

Die and counters are important. I made the mistake of handing each team a dice and then realised that waiting for the dice is what makes one team listen to another and what gives the facilitator space to comment. The paper knowledge, impact and money tokens were pretty but hard to pick-up so I would advise you invest £10-15 in some plastic counters and put them in the middle of the board where teams can help themselves. If you own a game with skittle-like board pieces you might want to use these instead of the tiny green skills tokens to indicate a character’s skill level.

There is a lot going on in the impact assessment cards. They are character specific, dice score dependent and have points teams must calculated based on earlier decision in the game. Next time I play I will pre-allocate the cards, provide teams with pen and paper to add up the points and then get them to roll the dice in turn to determine the correct card and then the point determined outcome.

Why is the supervisor so dumb? Something I think PhD students will find puzzling about the game is that their fictional supervisor is the person gets it wrong and knows the least. As you will be playing with researchers who naturally respect more senior research colleagues you need an answer to this. My own solution is to explain that knowledge of open access, open data and open science is variable amongst researchers and to point out that the library has full-time specialists supporting open access and research data management.

And lastly, Organise for someone else to take the promotional photos. You will be way too busy facilitating the game to be able to take pictures of happy smiling participants and to ask for their permission to post them on your website. Think about joint facilitating with a colleague.

We’re just back from running a couple of sessions playing the Publishing Trap in Edinburgh, including at the RepoFringe conference. One of the things we did on the journey to Edinburgh was to compile a list of all the minor and major modifications we hope to make to the game. We’re also reflecting on Philippa’s comment that we make running the game look easy and some recent experience suggest that we could make our instructions clearer to reflect the fact the game host needs to act rather like a ‘games master’ in role play games. As neither of us play role play games, that analogy was less than obvious to us, but it’s been an important piece of feedback we’ve collected over the past few months of playing it around the country (and elsewhere!)

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