Supporting researchers in HE – champions and collaborators with a common goal

Catherine Parker of the University of Huddersfield, UK, set out to discover who is responsible for research support across 50 HE institutions.

In 2018 I posted requests on two mailing lists (UKCORR and ARMA) asking which departments in HE organisations are responsible for research support administration, compliancy checking and open access queries in general.

Here at University of Huddersfield, this support is split between the Library (there’s me, a research support librarian and a small subscriptions’ team) and Research & Enterprise (the ‘Research Office’). I had an overwhelming response to my little survey. 50 institutions in total answered my questions, 16 of which were Russell Group universities.

Few of the respondents’ answers were clear cut or simple, but they were mostly illuminating. We all have different ways of structuring this support and service. Not everyone divulged their staffing set-up, (admittedly that was an additional question I asked at a later stage). And yes, where that information was provided, most Russell Group institutions have A LOT more staff compared to the less research-intensive universities that replied.

Here’s what I asked, and what I was told:

Who manages Open Access issues?

  • Library = 36
  • Managed jointly between Library & Research Office = 9
  • Research Office = 5

In 72% of cases the Library was the key provider of advice on and management of Open Access. Many respondents said they also benefited from good oversight and intervention from the Research Office when needed.

Who administers and pays for APCs?

  • Library = 29
  • Jointly between Library & Research Office = 8
  • Research Office = 9
  • Schools = 3
  • No-one = 1

This process seems to be managed mainly by the Library and where joint management existed it was often the Library that physically paid for the APC whilst the Research Office held the budget.

Who validates research outputs - checks metadata for REF compliance in your CRIS or Institutional Repository etc?

  • Library = 37
  • Library and Research Office = 8
  • Research Office = 5

In many cases the library team manages not only the repository but also the institutional Current Research Information System (CRIS). Where my team once checked metadata, compliance and embargo periods on our Eprints repository, those tasks have since moved to the Research Office now that the recently acquired Pure is firmly embedded at the University. Wherever this validation takes place, close collaboration is really important in order to comply with the next REF’s OA compliancy mandates.                                               

What about Research Data Management (RDM)?

  • Library = 26
  • Jointly between Library and Research Office = 6
  • Research Office = 12
  • Academics = 1
  • No-one = 5

Many library and research services provide specialist support, advice and training. A real growth area but still not business as usual in some places.

Who reports to JISC /UKRI?

  • Library = 22
  • Jointly between Library and Research Office = 8       
  • Research Office = 19
  • No-one = 1

There was a real split on this one, perhaps because one department holds the budget and the other collates the figures?

Who is responsible for outreach and training for researchers?    

  • Jointly between Library and Research Office = 31
  • Library = 1
  • Research Office = 8

Over 60% of respondents share this role which shows how colleagues are willing to collaborate to spread the word on OA, RDM and best practice on depositing their research.

At Huddersfield we created the Game of Open Access in 2017 to engage researchers with the key concepts and tools required to meet Open Access mandates. We take it to PGR events and roadshows and create conversations with researchers on a variety of OA related issues.                      

To conclude

Our academics and researchers are time poor and focused on their research journey. They have little time to wonder which department should pay for their APC or where and how they need to be storing their data as long as someone can guide them with their queries at their point of need. If their preferred contact for straightforward answers is their research engagement librarian or the research innovation officer, then those people need to know who or where to refer on to if they can’t answer the query.

One of the things that struck me most in the additional comments that people provided, was that collaboration and communication between all stakeholders is vital, and in the majority of cases very good. We need to share our expertise and champion our strengths to our researchers because the ultimate goal is to support them, however we can, in the constantly shifting research landscape.

Catherine Parker is Collections & Scholarly Communications Librarian at the University of Huddersfield, UK.