Supporting organizational strategy at Virginia Tech Libraries

The following post is part of a series  related to the provision of bibliometrics and research impact services at OCLC Research Library Partnership institutions.

Over the last several years, the Virginia Tech Libraries has built a robust Research Impact and Intelligence team comprised of three–and soon to be four–librarians:

  • Rachel Miles, Research Impact Librarian
  • Sarah Over, Engineering Collections & Research Analyst
  • Connie Stovall, Director of Research Impact and Intelligence

These librarians work together to help Virginia Tech understand and grow its global impact and reputation by providing an array of consulting, analysis, and reports for institutional decision support. This includes:

  • Grant support through reporting, visualizations, and impact analysis
  • Competitive intelligence, such as through landscape scans and benchmarking reports
  • Collaborative intelligence, examining past collaborations and using data to identify possible new partners
  • Research impact reports, assessing and analyzing publication data, research metrics, collaboration networks for departments, colleges, and groups
  • Reputational support for both researchers and the institution
  • Guidance on responsible research assessment practices

The Virginia Tech team has worked hard to build a campus-wide reputation as a trusted and effective department that delivers data-driven metrics and reports, in addition to helping users understand and use metrics responsibly. They serve individual researchers as well as university administrators and their units, and today their main customer is academic colleges, followed by faculty affairs and the office of the president.

Connie, Sarah, and Rachel shared about their work in a recent Works in Progress webinar for the OCLC Research Library Partnership. I urge you to watch the video recording, but I’ll provide a short summary here as well. I also encourage you to review their handy LibGuide.

Grant support

The team has established a strong reputation on campus for developing insightful reports to support grants, evidenced by the fact that in the last semester, they’ve been invited to provide support for three NSF grants, in both pre-award and post-award stages. For all of these projects, Connie Stovall uses data from sources like SciVal, Dimensions, and USASpending, with analysis and visualization in tools like Excel, VOSViewer, and Tableau.

Active grant support engagement by Virginia Tech Libraries

For example, the $160 million NSF Regional Engine Grant proposal requires partnerships from underrepresented minorities in both higher education and industry, but which organizations should the campus connect with? To answer this question, Connie has conducted research on the research strengths of HBCUs to ensure alignment of research strengths. She has also identified minority-owned business for community partnerships.

Competitive intelligence

In the area of competitive intelligence, Connie has gathered evidence of grant support, collaboration, and publication metrics in domains like quantum computing, where Virginia Tech would like to increase its impact. This helps Virginia Tech understand its competitive position in this landscape and provides information that universities leaders can use to make more strategic decisions about possible collaborations or investments, including recruitment and hiring.

Collaboration intelligence

Sarah Over described how she has been able to demonstrate insights about existing collaborations between Virginia Tech researchers and other universities and industry. This in turn can provide evidence that can help the institution strategically prioritize for high impact collaborations in the future. In particular, she can help answer questions about the research alignment between Virginia Tech and a potential partner, the amount of grant support other institutions have received, previous collaborations, and identify top researchers for future efforts.

She provided a rich example of how university leaders came to their unit re: a goal for greater collaboration with HBCUs. Through collaborative analysis, Sarah was able to identify strength areas at Virginia Tech like traffic control and transportation that were also strengths at Texas Southern University, and a new collaboration is beginning as a result.

Research impact reports

In her role as Research Impact Librarian, Rachel Miles shared how she works directly with individual researchers to prepare reports that demonstrate the impact and reach of publications and to provide benchmarking against similar scholars. She also supports group reports for academic colleges and departments, answering questions they may have about topical areas of strength, unit publication productivity, and peer benchmarks.

Reputational support

Rachel and others across campus support the institutional RIM system, Symplectic Elements, which is used to support faculty activity reporting and as well as the curation of the institutional scholarly record. Since autumn 2021, it has also populated Virginia Tech Experts, which provides searchable public profiles for Virginia Tech researchers. Rachel also advises researchers on how to increase their visibility through use of researcher profiles and persistent identifiers like ORCID. (Note that Virginia Tech’s Elements RIM system was also one of the five case studies we explored in the recent OCLC Research report, Research Information Management in the United States).

Responsible research assessment

While research intelligence can provide new insights to researchers and institutional leaders, the data must be used responsibly, acknowledging that data is neither unbiased nor infallible. Connie, Sarah, and Rachel each emphasized the need to contextualize data and to provide users with information and guidance on how to interpret metrics and use them responsibly.

The Virginia Tech Research Impact and Intelligence team is well regarded on campus, receiving requests and referrals for work from many units, including the Provost’s Office, Office of Research, and the Office of Strategic Research Alliances. They are a great example of how libraries can align their services to support organizational goals and further demonstrate their significant value to campus.