Supporting Researchers at Your University event

In November, I travelled up to York for a ‘Supporting Researchers at Your University’ event.  It was held in the beautiful King’s Manor part of the University of York campus.

As the event offered some very interesting presentations for Research Librarians, it wasn’t surprising to find that attendees had come from all over the country in order to learn new ideas and exchange experiences.

The programme consisted of presentations on: library research support team structures; research into researcher needs; the skills needed by Research Librarians and how you can build your career; Northumbria University’s successful researcher training programme; and information on the important topic of Research Data Management.

I have summarised below the key points that I took away from the presentations:

‘Developing a dedicated Research Support Team’

In this presentation, Janette Colclough of the University of York discussed the different models of research support that can exist within libraries, e.g. subject-based staffing models, function-based models and hybrid models.

At York University, they have a team of four staff: a Research Support Manager and three Research Support Librarians.  Each Research Support Librarian has a speciality, i.e. Open Access, Research Data Management and Copyright.  They also provide information skills training and enquiry support.  Janette’s discussion of the pros (e.g. opportunities to develop expertise) and cons (e.g. difficulty in covering staff absence) of this approach was very interesting.

When I was speaking to delegates during the break-time afterwards, I realised just how differently each university library structures its research support.  It led to some interesting debates about the merits of different structures!

‘Research support at the University of Bradford: investigating the needs of our researchers’

Jennifer Rowland explained how a recent research project they have carried out has thrown light on researchers’ needs at the University of Bradford.  Over summer 2015, a student intern conducted focus groups and circulated questionnaires to researchers (academic staff and research students).  Some of the results were quite surprising: for example, 61% of those surveyed said they had constraints on their time because of caring responsibilities.  Knowing more about some of the time pressures that students face is very useful: the example Bradford gave is that it might be more useful for library staff to run half hour bite size sessions for researchers, rather than 2 hour workshops.

‘Transferrable thrills? Taking the Research Librarian out of the Library’

Elizabeth Gadd of Loughborough University gave an inspiring talk.  In particular, I was interested in her tips for building a career, even when you are constrained by part-time working hours, or have limitations on the amount of travel you can do because of your home life circumstances.  So for example: developing a specialism, by seeing a gap in expertise and filling it; and/or creating online forums to discuss up-and-coming librarianship issues.

Elizabeth also recommended Sheryl Sandberg’s book ‘Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead’ (which is available to borrow from the Cass Learning Resource Centre and Northampton Square Library) as being an empowering read.

‘Skills, skills, skills: how Northumbria supports researchers’

I was very interested to see this presentation from Michelle Walker. She works as Research Support Librarian at Northumbria University, and Northumbria have developed an enviable – and highly attended – training programme for researchers.  Their Researcher Development Week, which they run twice a year, offers a comprehensive programme of events for researchers.

In addition, they have many resources online for researchers through their Skills Plus portal.

One final thing that I particularly like is their Research Compass (which you can see on the Northumbria University Information for Researchers webpage). It provides a nice visual representation of all the ways that the Library can assist researchers throughout the research lifecycle.

‘Rising to the challenge: supporting researchers with data management’

The final session of the day was from Dr Eddie Verbaan, the Research Data Manager at Sheffield Hallam University.  He started by explaining the importance of preserving the resources or data underlying research outputs: this is for good reasons such as research integrity, funder requirements, and the reputational benefits accruing from increased visibility of data.  He also explained some of the roadblocks to preserving data (e.g. the lack of data re-use culture in certain disciplines; the legal, ethical and commercial concerns; and the work involved in processing datasets).

Dr Verbaan then went on to share his experiences of how to create and implement a Research Data Management policy.  Sheffield Hallam have published many resources on their website about Research Data Management, and I would recommend looking at their Research Data Management webpages if you would like to learn more about this area.

If you are interested in finding out more about any of the presentations, please let me know, or you can view the slides on the ARLG Yorkshire & Humberside SlideShare collection (you can find the slides from the first four presentations in this collection).

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