Libraries 'can support researchers more effectively'

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Ex Libris has announced the publication of its annual study on the challenges that academic researchers face, the priorities of research office leaders, and key opportunities for libraries and research offices to advance scholarship at their institution.

Commissioned by Ex Libris, the study was conducted by Alterline, an independent research agency. The report presents findings from a survey of more than 400 researchers and research office leaders across a range of disciplines in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

The survey yielded the following key findings:

  • COVID-19 has affected research funding significantly, with STEM fields seeing an increase in funding, while in the humanities, social sciences, and arts, funding is declining.
  • Funding remains a key challenge for researchers. Finding relevant funding opportunities (a task rated difficult or very difficult by 61 per cent of the surveyed researchers) and applying for grants (rated difficult or very difficult by 80 per cent of the researchers) continue to be the most demanding elements of the research life cycle. On a positive note, campus research offices have been supporting researchers’ search for funding more in 2021 than in 2020.
  • The showcasing of research and expertise is increasing in importance for research office leaders, who are paying greater attention to the value of exposing scholarship on an institutional research portal. However, researchers maintain profiles across a large number of networks, and only 43 per cent state that they keep their profiles completely up to date.
  • Research office members and researchers differ in the way in which they measure research impact. Citation-based metrics are at the top of the list, used by 94 per cent of the surveyed researchers and 68 per cent of research office staff. Measuring social impact has been significantly more important in 2021, according to 57 per cent of research offices, than it was in 2020, according to 43 per cent of research offices. In 2021, measuring social impact has been significantly more important for 28 per cent of researchers.
  • The administrative burden on researchers continues to be a major challenge. Seven out of 10 researchers spend at least 30 per cent of their time on administrative tasks. The core expertise of libraries and research offices is still underutilised, though support for a few tasks has increased since 2020.
  • Interdisciplinary collaboration is high on researchers’ agenda, with 37 per cent of researchers saying that most or all of their work involves interdisciplinary collaboration. This figure aligns somewhat with research office priorities; 25 per cent of research office leaders stated that promoting interdisciplinary collaboration is a priority.
  • Researchers expect more from their library than in 2020. Although 61 per cent of researchers expressed satisfaction with the support they receive from their institution’s library, they expect more assistance than in 2020, especially with data-related services and services such as publication depositing.
  • Collaboration between research offices and libraries has risen in 2021. Research office leaders report that their collaboration with the library increased by 6 per cent on average from 2020. Open-access compliance is the main area of collaboration, primarily for UK respondents.

Ex Libris corporate vice president of learning and research solutions, Shlomi Kringel, commented: 'Libraries and research offices are playing a key role in supporting researchers in the face of a changing research landscape, growing competition for funding, and increased administrative burdens. This year’s study highlights some of the opportunities for research offices and libraries to effectively use their core expertise and resources in supporting scholarship and advancing research excellence as a whole.'

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