Complementing RIN

November 24th, 2008 by John

The UK’s Research Information Network (RIN) has just published a document aimed at UK university Vice Chancellors, Presidents and Principals, Ensuring a bright future for research libraries. Jim Michalko, Lorcan Dempsey and I met with representatives of RIN, along with other European library and research organisations, after our recent European Partner meeting in Paris, and it seems clear – as Lorcan remarks in his blog – that our work agenda for the RLG Partnership coincides in various ways with the work being undertaken by RIN. Here are a few examples.

In Linking library content and collections to research strategies they state:

No single institution can provide all the publications and other information resources – digital and non-digital – that their researchers need to consult in the course of their research… HEIs therefore should … seek to exploit the potential for collaboration with other libraries, including the national libraries and the five designated major research libraries in England.

In our Shared Print Collections programme, we say that

A new business model is needed that will enable research libraries to establish partnerships capable of sustaining the long-term future of print collections, distributing the costs and benefits of acquiring and preserving content in tangible formats, and allowing aggregate holdings to be “right sized” in view of aggregate demand.

They also recommend that universities

should … develop and implement policies and procedures to determine which information resources should be managed and preserved over the long term and how; which can be disposed of within a shorter time, and how such disposals should be managed … establish polices for managing their holdings of low-use printed material where the content is available in digital form; and participate in the UK Research Reserve and other collaborative initiatives to ensure that they adopt a planned and coherent approach to disposal

Our project to Deaccession Materials held in Print and Electronic Form, which we are running with the help of Ithaka and JSTOR, takes as its starting point

There is clearly a need for aggregated information about costs associated with storing, preserving and delivering material from print back runs of e-journals, as well as data on the costs of discarding titles before and after they have been placed in storage. A comprehensive roster of print archives and access agreements would also be a worthy contribution to efforts in this area, particularly a title-by-title registry of which instituions are committed to retaining which materials, and providing access to them.

Under the same heading, they request that universities Explicitly relate the development and acquisition of special collections of rare material to the research strengths of the institution. Our new theme Mobilizing Unique Materials includes a project to Define the State of Holdings and Description for Archives. This will use datamining methods to provide data which should help with that explicit identification of rare materials and research priorities within institutions.

Providing institutions with a system-wide view of archival collection descriptions would provide a new input into these prioritization decisions and could help inform funding agency support.

Under the theme of Cataloguing, navigation, discovery, delivery and access they ask universities to

encourage their libraries to share catalogue records with other libraries; to make them available through collaborative catalogues and online discovery services, both national and international; and to ensure that they are exposed and made available to users through Google and other search engines

In our Share Best Practices for Metadata Creation Workflows Project (within the Knowledge Structure theme) we say

Information professions are eager to know what workflows work best in different environments that could be applied to their own and that would facilitate metadata flow in and among libraries, archives and museums.

Our Infrastructure theme, meanwhile, has a range of work going on within the Web Enablement programme.

RIN advises universities to encourage their libraries to work with others in developing innovative services that integrate into researchers’ workflows. In our new programme, Support for the Research Process, we are just starting on an Academic Research Landscape Project

As a foundational stage of the program, we are carrying out an analysis of research workflows and research information management practices, to ‘anatomize’ the area into its various components.

RIN has a strong focus on scholarly communication, patchily tied in to research evaluation in the UK via the national Research Assessment Exercise and its developing successor.

HEIs … should …develop clear policies and procedures as to the roles that institutional and/or subject-based repositories should play in promoting access to institutional research outputs, as well as in facilitating the creation of registers of these outputs for research evaluation

They go on to address the library’s potential role in the contentious area of bibliometric approaches to research assessment. Institutions should

draw on the expertise and advice of library and information professionals in making use of bibliometric and cybermetric tools, which are likely to play an increasing role in the assessment and evaluation of research outputs and impact at international, national and institutional levels.

Our new Workflows in Research Assessment programme is in the process of commissioning a Survey of Current Practice which will

survey the research information management landscape across its various dimensions – cultural (what are the research assessment drivers?), geographic (which countries have well-developed infrastructures and systems?), technological (what systems are being employed or developed?) and institutional (how are libraries embedded into research information systems?).

The scope document for that survey makes explicit reference to analysing bibliometric approaches in use in a range of countries.

Finally, we have recently categorised our outputs into four main areas: Change and community (challenging editorials, Partner events, workshops, etc); Best practice architecture & standards; Beta development & tools; and Evidence – business intelligence and user observation. Business intelligence in one form is represented by reports and other outputs based on datamining. RIN urges UK universities to

seek to benchmark their library and information services for the support of research against comparable institutions both in the UK and overseas; and participate in collaborative work that seeks to identify and where possible to quantify the benefits and returns from investments that they make in their library and information services

This emphasis on return on investment is also a key theme for RLUK, as stated in its Strategic Plan 2008-2011 (as Demonstrating Value). Our programmes and projects provide many opportunities for assembling data which support the demonstration of value both institutionally and at various levels of collaboration.

The RIN report boldly asks Vice Chancellors, Presidents and Principals to invest more in their libraries – and points to libraries as sources of leadership on campus in new areas where establishing that authority will take strong and concerted effort:

The services that librarians and information professionals provide have … changed fundamentally over the past decade. They can now do much more to provide leadership that brings improvements in research performance and effectiveness … Librarians and information services need the resources and the continuing top-level support within their institutions to ensure that they can fulfil their potential and meet these challenges.

Let’s hope they listen! We are keen that the work which we are undertaking within OCLC Research in so many similar areas can add breadth to RIN’s work, and can gain some depth of understanding of the UK context from it. In conclusion, they come down to earth with a well-understood library case for the cooperative approach:

recognise that there is scope for cost savings through the sharing of information resources and expertise, and through the development of collaborative services

We couldn’t have put it any better.

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