Archive for the 'Research Information Management' Category

Conversations about “Starting the Conversation”

Friday, December 6th, 2013 by Ricky

One of the best parts of my job is working with OCLC Research Library Partner staff on working groups. In this case we never got together face-to-face, but managed to put together a pretty good report, Starting the Conversation: University-wide Research Data Management Policy. Though we started out with a conference call, all the work took place via email and shared documents. The working group consisted of:
Dan Tsang, chair — University of California, Irvine
Anna Clements — University of St. Andrews
Joy Davidson — DCC, University of Glasgow
Mike Furlough — Pennsylvania State University
Amy Nurnberger — Columbia University
Sally Rumsey — University of Oxford
Anna Shadbolt — University of Melbourne
Claire Stewart — Northwestern University
Beth Warner — Ohio State University
Perry Willett — California Digital Library
I supplied the bones, they filled in some of the sections, and I polished it up.
Working in OCLC Research, we try to stay on top of the literature and we hear a lot about application, but there’s nothing like being in the thick of it, so it’s really great to have the expert input of those actually working in research libraries.

User studies and risks for research libraries?

Monday, July 8th, 2013 by Jennifer

This is the first in a series of posts that synthesize conclusions of published user studies about desires and needs for research support. I’ve collected quite a stack of them. For the past three years I’ve been reading up on what academics themselves say about all this. Along the way, I’ve also gathered studies that include administrators and librarians. When the latest Ithaka US and UK faculty surveys came out this spring[1], I integrated their findings into my growing pile of evidence.

The cumulative effect is rather foreboding. Academic libraries appear to be somewhat out of touch with the needs of researchers. This shouldn’t be a surprise. The typical library often does not provide the support that researchers need to do their research. As a result, researchers report not being as well-served as they should be, and in their eyes academic libraries are losing relevance.

Today’s synthesis introduces user studies about risks for research libraries, especially the risk of doing nothing. In separate future posts I’ll focus on what researchers themselves say. If I get ambitious, I may delve into to user studies with university administrators and – last but not least – librarians.

Why user studies?

Many leaders of research libraries are concerned that their institutions have become less relevant to faculty members and academics, whether due to advances in technology, success in licensing journals, or over-investment in teaching services for undergraduates at the expense of research. In the current context of disintermediation of libraries – combined with constraints on funding – administrators at research-intensive universities perceive that libraries are presently at risk. Internationally, significant attention has been given to demonstrating the value and ‘business’ of libraries to universities and funding agencies. Managing research information – whether research data, articles, or administrative information about researchers and their work – has recently become a strategy for libraries to weave themselves into the fabric of the research lifecycle, in order to demonstrate their value and mitigate risk of losing relevance and funding.

To re-establish the research libraries’ alignment with research needs, the community has called for investment in developing new services that support research workflows and university administrations. Considerable thought has been given to the nature and function of such new services. National and institutional initiatives have enabled a handful of research libraries to spend significant resources planning and developing up-to-date research services.

For years, librarians have called for studies that articulate what researchers desire by way of support for their research.[2] These blog posts are my meta-analysis of the results of some 30+ years of studies – including recent reports from RIN, Ithaka, OCLC Research, and the DCC – in order to gather together evidence of system-wide needs for research services, both within and outside libraries. Of course, methodologies used to generate the numerous studies vary, such as interviews, surveys, and focus groups. Also, the objectives of the various projects are different, so exact or parallel comparisons are difficult and the conclusions are not necessarily overlapping or consistent.

Nevertheless, clear trends and distinct patterns emerge from the body of work as a whole. Recent research on scholarly behavior converges on conclusions about all manner of information-related services in universities and across academic disciplines. Qualitative and quantitative studies of scholars and academic administrators provide a mountain of evidence about the nature of services and infrastructure required to span the entire lifecycle of the fruits of research. While we have witnessed simultaneous evolution of discipline-based and institution-based services, diverse international reports have identified gaps in digital infrastructure and provision of services to manage research information, both by libraries and by university administrations.

Risks: disintermediation, funding, value

Martin Feijen, in a literature review from the Dutch SURFfoundation titled What researchers want, gleans the crux of the matter: “There is one very concise statement about risk: ‘The biggest risk is to do nothing.’”[3]

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Trust in Digital Repositories – best IDCC conference paper

Thursday, January 17th, 2013 by Jim

I am delighted that a paper titled “Trust in Digital Repositories” co-authored by my OCLC Research colleague, Ixchel Faniel, was given the best conference paper award at the just-concluded International Data Curation Conference in Amsterdam. Okay, she had help. Co-authors are Elizabeth Yakel (University of Michigan School of Information) with Adam Kriesberg (UMSI) and Ayoung Yoon (University of North Carolina School of Information and Library Science).

We can’t link to the paper because it hasn’t been published yet. However you will find the presentation slides embedded in the conference program that I linked to above.

The work described in the presentation looked at whether the actions stipulated as key to the audit and certification of trustworthy digital repositories were actually instrumental in creating trust in the designated community of users. Plain language – we said do these things and you should be trusted. Are those really the things that influence the repository users’ judgement about trustworthiness? And does that judgement differ by disciplinary affiliation?

I’m not going to spoil it. What do you think?

This work was based on the Trustworthy Repositories Audit and Certification checklist that OCLC Research published about five years ago. The Digital Curation Center itself has a nice page on the development of the certification checklist which goes back quite a long way. The Research Libraries Group had a lot to do with its origins thanks to my former colleague, Robin Dale.

It pleases me that this work has bridged organizations and colleagues. Shout out to Robin. Congratulations to Ixchel.

Elusive Quality

Thursday, October 25th, 2012 by Ricky

We talk a lot about data curation, but rarely about data quality. How do researchers determine if a dataset is appropriate for their intended purposes? They may need to know how the data was gathered (sometimes including the sensor equipment used and how it was calibrated), the degree of accuracy of the data, what null elements mean, what subsequent changes have been made to the data, and all sorts of provenance information.

The University of North Carolina invited about 20 people from a variety of communities to an NSF-funded workshop, titled, Curating for Quality: Ensuring Data Quality to Enable New Science. The final report has just been published. In its appendices are the white papers that were prepared in advance of the workshop, including one that Brian Lavoie and I wrote, titled, The Economics of Data Integrity, which is on page 53 of the report.

The most useful outcomes of the workshop came from the group’s brainstorming of projects that would advance the discussion. We settled on eight that seemed actionable and fleshed them out a bit. We were encouraged to pursue the projects that moved us, either by working informally with like-minded individuals or by making a proposal to NSF. There’s no reason, however, that anyone couldn’t take up any of these ideas.

For those of you in a hurry, the Conclusion and Call to Action on page 17 and 18 of the report sum up the issues quite nicely.

Coming to terms with disciplinary repositories

Friday, May 11th, 2012 by Ricky

Academic librarians are coming to terms with the likelihood that institutional repositories and disciplinary repositories will coexist into the future. In order to provide good support to researchers, librarians should be able to assess the reliability of disciplinary repositories as part of their role in furthering scholarly discourse. [And even more important if the library is involved in operating a disciplinary repository!]

In the report Lasting Impact: Sustainability of Disciplinary Repositories, OCLC Research provides an overview of disciplinary repositories, profiles seven with different business models, and offers ways to assess or improve the sustainability of disciplinary repositories.

Libraries rebound

Monday, April 9th, 2012 by Merrilee

I’d like to put in a plug for the next event for those who are in the OCLC Research Libraries Partnership, which is
Libraries Rebound: Embracing Mission, Maximizing Impact (June 5-6, Philadelphia). We are still confirming speakers but so far we’ve got a great line up of speakers — we’re also adding reactor panels, so check out the program now and in a week or two to see how it’s shaping up.

The meeting will focus on how libraries can more closely tie services and collections to the university’s (or parent institution’s) mission. In the midst of static or decreasing budgets, being able to demonstrate impact in the pursuit of the institution’s research and teaching goals is paramount.

The day and a half meeting will focus on three themes:

  • How library staff are working side-by-side with researchers in specific disciplines
  • How institutions are adapting special collection-building to align with high priority teaching and research focus areas
  • How libraries are using library space to forge partnerships with other units on campus
  • We’re fortunate to have some smart people from forward-looking institutions who will share their knowledge and experiences with us. And the conversation and discussion will definitely spill into areas beyond the three themes I’ve outlined above. Which is where you come in — we need you to come and talk about what you have planned (as well as to learn from your peers). Register now! Always free for those in the partnership.

    Questions? Let us know. We always love to hear from you.

    Supporting research, and how we aren’t

    Thursday, June 23rd, 2011 by Ricky

    OCLC Research and the UK’s Research Information Network conducted complementary studies of research support services in universities in the US and UK. Hot off the press today is a report, Supporting Research: Environments, Administration and Libraries, by John MacColl and Michael Jubb that highlights the findings. While the reports attempted library-agnosticism, this synthesis takes a stand as to what it means for academic libraries. It ain’t pretty, but it’s important to face as we think about ways academic libraries can better support their universities’ research missions.

    See us at CNI next week!

    Wednesday, March 30th, 2011 by Merrilee

    A few of us will be attending the Coalition for Networked Information Membership Meeting in San Diego next Monday and Tuesday.

    Jennifer will be giving a briefing on Managing Research Information for Researchers and Universities, which I think will nicely tie together some recent work and reports (ours and others). Ricky and I will be co-presenting on Out of the Eddies and into the Mainstream: Making Special Collections Less Special and More Accessible — like Jen, we’ll be summarizing a raft of our own work, and asking, “where do we go from here.” Unfortunately, both presentations are scheduled at the same time, from 10:30-11:30 Pacific on Tuesday April 5th. Jim Michalko will also be attending the meeting, so OCLC Research will be well represented.

    If you’ll be in San Diego, I hope you’ll take some time to come to our presentations or otherwise track us down. If you aren’t able to attend in person, follow along on Twitter at #cni11s.

    “Creative destruction”

    Tuesday, November 16th, 2010 by Jennifer

    The classical research library is, in some senses, a central part of the identity of the university as a university. Around here at OCLC Research, we’ve been thinking about challenges that research libraries face to develop new services that continue to function as infrastructure and centers for co-creation of research within universities. A new report from RIN – companion to our report on A Slice of Research Life by Susan Kroll and Rick Forsman – comments that sometimes Research Support Services in UK Universities (like in US universities) can seem somewhat marginal to university researchers. Ouch.

    Both reports are short (under 20 pages) and both have one-page summaries. One conclusion shared by both reports is the crying need for expertise in data structure, management, and preservation. For example, in her recent presentation on the Slice report at DLF, Susan offered the example of researchers who report that they will repeat a prior experiment rather than try to retrieve older data. The DLF-goers just winced, knowing what Susan would say next: that the VP of Research was apoplectic when she heard that. All that research funding to duplicate research, for lack of data management? Ouch.

    Both studies report on our greatest success central to the university as a university – delivering electronic journals. In the eyes of our researchers, we have significantly transformed their work for the better. Also, both reports point to the possibility that universities and libraries may not have to spend as much time and money to develop some services that we thought we ought to. Phew.

    Our own John MacColl and RIN’s Michael Jubb are collaborating on an essay that will synthesize the results from these parallel interviews with top-notch researchers and their staff in the US and the UK. I’m looking forward to seeing what John and Michael think about similarities and differences in the views of exemplary researchers in exemplary universities on both sides of The Pond. I think there’s a lot to learn on all sides about the demand-side of information-related research support services, so watch this space.

    Steve Fuller, a British sociologist of science, distinguishes the creation of knowledge and innovation in universities from the creation of education and making knowledge available. The latter, in which the library has played a significant role (with, say, e-journals), Fuller calls “the creative destruction of social capital.” If I understand Fuller (and Joseph Schumpeter) at all,  “creative destruction” is an advantage to society. “Creative destruction” is what research and teaching do – create new knowledge and make it freely available. Is it possible that universities and research libraries can continue to play a role in “creative destruction” by creating useful research support services? What do our researchers use now, and what do they need?

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