August 14th, 2008 by John

The description of our newly launched Workflows in Research Assessment Program (WRAP) is now up on our website. WRAP fits within our Supporting New Modes of Scholarship theme. We will be looking at new and changing workflows for libraries in support of research assessment by institutions. In countries with strong research assessment programmes, such as the UK (whose Research Excellence Framework is developing) and Australia, where research assessment is done nationally as a way of dividing up large sums of government funding, libraries have been involved for some years in providing the bibliographic data upon which assessment is partly based. With the arrival of digital repositories, their role has become potentially stronger, but also in some ways more difficult. The Open Access agenda, for example, can conflict with institutional requirements for selective showcasing of their research output, and for rigorous identification of institutional affiliation (in the UK, as Lorcan Dempsey pointed out recently, even senior university managers have become interested in authority control and identifiers). In territories where national research funding is less of a driver, there are nonetheless pressures growing on institutions to manage the information about their own research production more effectively and efficiently, in support of improvements to assessment at individual level (tenure decision-making), and in other competitive contexts, such as public relations and knowledge commercialisation.

Constance attended the ARL Library Assessment Conference in Seattle last week. She drew our attention to a very relevant presentation by Patricia Brennan of Thomson Reuters which considers the library’s role in the assessment of research in universities. It looks at the drivers for research assessment, including reputation management, funding and tenure review. It touches also upon institutional rankings and league tables, and it attempts to identify roles for the library in this increasingly important activity.

One of her slides revealed the fascinating diversity in international approaches to research assessment:

I was reminded of a slide I’d seen a couple of years ago by the late Professor Sir Gareth Roberts, President of Wolfson College, Oxford, on the future shape of the UK’s Research Assessment Exercise. Professor Roberts had been involved in advising the (then) Australian Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST) on the introduction of its assessment framework, and he produced this sparser slide to show international approaches, with the horizontal axis here measuring ‘Influence on Funding Decision’ rather than ‘Adoption of Metrics’.

It is interesting to see how attention to this issue has extended to include the many countries which now feature in Patricia Brennan’s more recent chart, and also how Australia has moved into the upper right quadrant, suggesting that research assessment has intensified there in recent years. The Netherlands is also in a different quadrant, though due to the different horizontal measure: it is a world leader in research metrics and its universities are intensively reviewed, but there is as yet no strong correlation between these features and research funding decisions, though there is some evidence that this is under review.

Work on library workflows in research development and publishing has been undertaken in several places in recent years. We are particularly interested in the Mellon-funded Multi-Dimensional Framework study undertaken by the University of Minnesota Libraries in 2006, which identified ‘primitives’ in research behaviours around which new support services could be built by libraries. With the focus on research assessment intensifying for universities in many countries, what new behaviours are evident, and are the associated workflows yet optimised? If the library is becoming a research publisher, what workflows follow from that? How does the library’s control of information on research outputs integrate with other institutional research information held in university data marts and data warehouses in business intelligence contexts? We are currently assembling the expertise from within our Partnership and beyond to help us analyse these workflows – as they are currently, and as they may become over time.

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One Response to “WRAP up”

  1. hangingtogether.org » Blog Archive » Virtual Research Environments with Gravity Says:

    [...] discussed Minnesota’s Mellon-funded 2006 Multi-Dimensional Framework study , which I mentioned in an earlier post, and which we are using as a reference point in our RIM work. One of its blossomings has been the [...]