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The loneliness of the long distance researcher

Pat Gannon‐Leary (Bede Research and Consultancy, Gateshead, UK)
Elsa Fontainha (Department of Economics, ISEG‐Technical University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal)
Moira Bent (Robinson Library, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK)

Library Hi Tech

ISSN: 0737-8831

Article publication date: 6 September 2011




Prior research has highlighted the isolation felt by some researchers engaged in academic writing. This article aims to examine whether such isolation might be partially overcome by membership of an online community of writers (CoW), hosted by higher education (HE) library services.


A review of the literature was followed by an innovative piece of action research based around the authors' own long distance collaborative writing task in order to explore the issues at first‐hand. Case studies of existing online writing communities known to the authors but not currently hosted by libraries were also undertaken.


Themes emerging include the importance of finding a medium for a CoW that is familiar and comfortable. Motivators to join a CoW include demands that academics be research active. Demotivators may include lack of trust and reluctance to share.

Research limitations/implications

There are still questions to be answered and decisions to be taken about the initiation of a CoW. Further research is needed into topics such as mentoring roles and trust‐building but this work should provide a springboard.

Practical implications

HE libraries might consider a CoW as a research support mechanism.


The concept of a CoW is a novel one, as is the idea that such a collaboration might be hosted by HE libraries that might consider a CoW as an innovative addition to their existing portfolio of research support services.



Gannon‐Leary, P., Fontainha, E. and Bent, M. (2011), "The loneliness of the long distance researcher", Library Hi Tech, Vol. 29 No. 3, pp. 455-469.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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