Sunday, 19 May 2013

Supporting Researchers: how librarians can support the REF, bibliometrics and data management

On Wednesday 8th May, I left work early to help set up and attend the Academic and Research Libraries Group (ARLG) London and South East event entitled Supporting Researchers: how librarians can support the REF, bibliometrics and data management. 

There was a good turnout to hear the two speakers talk about their experience of supporting researchers. First up was Andria McGrath, a Research Information Specialist at King's College London. She focused on internal library partnerships and discussed the importance of  working with IT and Research management as well as academics.

Andria's slides are available so I don't want to regurgitate everything she said, however, a couple of the main points that resonated for me were:

  • The relationship between the Graduate School and the Research Librarian is key. Andria mentioned that training is very important for supporting researchers but they only want to turn up to sessions on how to use referencing software. This is why it is so important that academic librarians, and especially research librarians, have a strong relationship with the Graduate School in order that researchers don't miss out on very useful and relevant workshops. This is definitely the case where I work and it was also remarked upon via Twitter that this was the same at other institutions.
  • Staff development is vital. Andria mentioned that she spent a week on a Centre for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS) training course in Leiden and this helped her to fulfil her duties enormously. While not all institutions value or support continual professional development, I think it is important that we take control of what we are able to  -  engaging in what we can and then taking the time to share it with others. Not only will it help consolidate thoughts but by 'paying it back' you are helping others to learn and grow too improving the situation for us all.
The second speaker of the evening was Monique Ritchie, a colleague and Research Librarian at Brunel University. She spoke about her new post supporting researchers, the Research Data Management Project and UKRISS. Monique helpfully listed 6 key skills needed to do her role; a useful list for anyone trying to decide if this could be for them, although I felt they could easily apply to my job too. The key skills were:

  • adaptability & flexibility
  • ability to prioritise
  • diplomacy and tact
  • a sense of adventure
  • ability to think strategically
  • networking - externally as well as internally 

Monique's slides are also available but a couple of items she mentioned stuck with me:

  • Always be ready to justify what you're doing. I've found that as budgets and time are both tighter and we are regularly expected to do more with less, justifying oneself is becoming a regular obstacle to overcome. If we always carry in the back of our minds the reasons behind what we are doing then it should make it that little bit easier to explain it to others.
  • Relationship building is a key part of the role. Research librarians need to work closely with subject librarians to embed support in departments, with the schools in the university, with research institutes and with other stakeholders. In all my various roles, librarian and otherwise, building relationships not only makes getting things done a lot easier but it helps make life more enjoyable too.

Unintentionally, this event on supporting researchers raised the theme of collaboration and partnerships. This topic is very prevalent this year; it was the theme for the ARLG Members' Day and features as a theme at the CILIP Umbrella conference. It has been recognised that in a recession or global downturn people become increasingly anxious about personal identity and therefore more protective and less willing to share (you've only to look round an office when supplies are limited - people become very protective of their staplers!)  I'm hoping that as this theme keeps cropping up throughout the library, information, education and research sectors that perhaps we are bucking the trend, which is certainly an optimistic thought.

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