The OCLC Research Library Partnership: the challenges of developing scholarly services in a decentralized landscape (European edition)

“Scott Monument” by This is Edinburgh is licensed under CC BY 2.0

On 19 February, European librarians from eight OCLC Research Library Partnership institutions came together at the University of Edinburgh to discuss scholarly communications challenges, including research data management (RDM), research information management (RIM), and persistent identifiers (PIDs), using three recent OCLC Research projects to focus our discussions:

This half-day workshop was hosted in conjunction with the two-day OCLC EMEA Regional Council meeting and followed a format similar to a November 2017 North American event held for RLP partners in Baltimore. While research libraries on both sides of the Atlantic are responding to needs to steward the evolving scholarly record through the development of RDM services, the collection of research metadata to better understand institutional scholarship, and support for persistent identifiers, our European partner institutions are responding to much stronger external drivers requiring action, particularly the UK’s Research Excellence Framework (REF).

This translates into near-universal adoption of research information management among European institutions as well as greater engagement with persistent identifiers, especially ORCID. While there was no doubt among European participants that the library is a valued stakeholder in scholarly communications workflows, there was also palpable frustration with the clumsy workflows, time-intensive manual metadata validation, and difficulties of scaling metadata collection.

Systems and processes have developed in an uncoordinated fashion, in response to evolving policies, and local institutional systems are incompatible with systems like the Research Councils UK’s research impact assessment platform, requiring researchers to repeatedly rekey the same information. While libraries understand that researchers should be expected to enter the data once, and then reuse it in multiple platforms, this is far from reality. Libraries find themselves in the unenviable—and unsustainable—position of trying to collect, validate, and make available publications information to support institutional reporting for the REF, and librarians shared concerns about researchers beginning to view the library as an instrument of institutional compliance. And libraries herculean efforts to manually validate and enter metadata on behalf of researchers may actually be removing some of the pressures that could be helping PIDs and other scalable solutions to mature. We half-jokingly discussed how (maybe?) the scholarly communications landscape has reached a state of “peak messiness.”

When asked what they would change about their processes if they could, one university librarian responded by saying, “We would start over.”

Even though we all shared concerns for the unintended consequences of external mandates, the lack of coordination between services and systems, and the workflow challenges for libraries, we could also articulate some hopes for the future.

  • Librarians were sanguine about the potential of persistent identifiers to improve workflows and metadata.
    • As ORCID adoption grows, and it becomes more widely embedded in publication—and especially, funder—workflows, it is seen as a way to help ensure quality metadata—both from external harvesting sources like Web of Science and Scopus, but also, hopefully, from the ORCID registry itself. Future research at St Andrews, supported by an OCLC/ALISE grant, will examine researcher perspectives and provide the community with insights into the direct benefits of ORCID use by researchers.
    • While external funders usually encourage use of ORCID identifiers by researchers, most are not yet requiring ORCIDs. Librarians hope that funders will soon recognize that it is in their best interest to require ORCIDs, to help ensure quality reports.
    • Adoption and integration of organizational identifiers in scholarly communications will also help improve and scale the harvesting of institutional outputs by ensuring accurate affiliation information. The librarians in our discussion were following the organizational identifier working group efforts with interest.
  • Some participants suggested that international library alliances like the International Alliance of Research Library Associations (IARLA), might help libraries to better represent library concerns to funders. These types of internal alliances might also help to forge strategic relationships with learned societies that are also seeking to improve workflows for researchers.

As with all OCLC Research Library Partnership events, this discussion provides OCLC Research with direct input from partner libraries, helping us to better understand their challenges, and to incorporate these into future research.

Special thanks to the University of Edinburgh libraries and particularly to Dominic Tate for hosting this event.

Rebecca Bryant is Senior Program Officer at OCLC where she leads research and initiatives related to research information management in research universities.

2 Comments on “The OCLC Research Library Partnership: the challenges of developing scholarly services in a decentralized landscape (European edition)”

  1. Hi Rebecca. I certainly agree with the number of concerns raised in the workshop regarding metadata quality and frustration with having to re-enter data. My discussions with funders indicate they are not willing to make ORCIDs mandatory yet, due to their systems not being ready for that, as well as concerns that they don’t want this to be a barrier to submission of good research grant applications. My discussions with publishers are along a similar line in that they don’t want to force authors to use ORCIDs yet, but many are starting to come on board. I spoke to a publisher recently who said this should be mandated “further up the chain” to go back to funders – however not all research publications are funded through grants. This ORCID blog post gives more insights about SpringerNature and their efforts in this regard – which look very promising:

    Also, I’ve heard from researchers that when ORCID integration is within manuscript submission systems at publisher sites, it works really well and saves them a lot of time, as their own details are auto-populated from ORCID and make the submission so much easier. It would be good if this happened in all RIM related systems. I’m sure it will one day. In my experience, the harvesting of publication data from various sources works best when working with that system’s own identifier system. For example, harvesting from Scopus works best when using Scopus IDs to match authors to publications. ORCIDs can help with this, but not yet unless publishers/aggregators use ORCID in all of their metadata. I’m sure that is coming too…

    1. Thanks, Simon, for your additional, well-informed thoughts on this. I agree that making anything mandatory (whether it’s an annual review process, persistent identifier, or perhaps a mammoth reporting effort like the REF) can have unintended consequences, so it’s not something to be taken lightly. Our discussion group in Edinburgh also spent a lot of time talking about this (especially as it relates to the REF in the UK). Like you, I am hopeful that in the future the parts will interoperate much more smoothly, and provide greater convenience and time savings to researchers.

      I’m looking forward to having a version of this conversation with RLP institutions in Australia, too. Stay tuned.


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