This paper aims at understanding the current situation of research support services offered by academic libraries in world-leading universities and providing useful implications and insights for other academic libraries.
Of the top 100 universities listed in the QS World University Rankings in 2017, 76 libraries were selected as samples and a website investigation was conducted to explore the research support services. The statistical method and visualization software was used to generalize the key services, and the text analysis and case analysis were applied to reveal the corresponding implementation.
Research support service has become one of the significant services of academic libraries in the context of e-research and data-intensive research. The research support services can be generally divided into seven aspects, as follows: research data management (62, 81.58 per cent), open access (64, 84.21 per cent), scholarly publishing (59, 77.63 per cent), research impact measurement (32, 42.11 per cent), research guides (47, 61.84 per cent), research consultation (59, 77.63 per cent) and research tools recommendation (38, 50.00 per cent).
This paper makes a comprehensive investigation of research support services in academic libraries of top-ranking universities worldwide. The findings will help academic libraries improve research support services; thus, advancing the work of researchers and promoting scientific discovery.
Si, L., Zeng, Y., Guo, S. and Zhuang, X. (2019), "Investigation and analysis of research support services in academic libraries", The Electronic Library, Vol. 37 No. 2, pp. 281-301. https://doi.org/10.1108/EL-06-2018-0125Download as .RIS
Emerald Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited
Research strength is one of the main metrics by which universities are measured, and universities usually have a keen interest in improving their research output and impact. In the twenty-first century, the merging of information and communication technologies (ICTs) with traditional research practices has created a new movement called e-research (Thomas, 2011), defined as research activities that use a spectrum of advanced ICTs and that embrace new research methodologies emerging from increasing access to advanced networks, services and tools (Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, 2006). Moreover, with the advent of data-intensive research, the activity of re-contextualizing and re-interpreting research data leads to new and ground-breaking discoveries across all disciplines (McRostie, 2016). The transformation of research has brought forth an enormous impact on researchers’ information needs and behaviors.
As part of universities, academic libraries assume significant responsibility of supplying scholarly resources and services to researchers. In general, research support refers to anything a library does to support the activity of scholarship and research at its parent institution (Hoffman, 2016). Confronted with a shifting research paradigm, more and more academic libraries across the world have taken steps to reform themselves and are shifting to broader forms of research support. Academic libraries in countries such as the USA (Jia et al., 2017) and Australia (Huang et al., 2017) are now pursuing research support strategies, which aim to provide researchers with innovative information services throughout the research process. Therefore, it is necessary to investigate the current development of research support service of academic libraries, in view of its importance and transformative nature.
This study explores the current situation of research support services of academic libraries in world-leading universities and provides useful implications and insights for other academic libraries. Specifically, this research intends to answer the following questions:
What kinds of research support services are currently offered by academic libraries of world-class universities?
How are these research support services implemented by academic libraries?
What strategies can be articulated to transform the existing research support services in academic libraries?
Types of research support services
In the context of e-research and data-intensive research, research support services offered by academic libraries encompass numerous activities, some of which have been studied.
As more and more research funding agencies and periodical publishers encourage or require researchers to submit data management plans (DMPs), research data management (RDM) has been an inevitable challenge for researchers and research institutions, and thus, been an area to which academic libraries are contributing (Brown et al., 2015). An increasing number of academic libraries are currently involved in developing new institutional RDM policies and services, and see this as an important part of their future role (Cox and Pinfield, 2014). Priorities such as the provision of RDM advisory and training services are emerging (Cox and Pinfield, 2014). According to a worldwide survey, the main RDM services include research data introduction, data management guideline, data curation and storage, data management training, data management reference and resource recommendation (Si et al., 2015).
One of the major barriers for scholars and researchers in universities is the lack of access to literature (Krishnamurthy, 2008), however, this problem has gradually been addressed with the impact of the open access (OA) movement. OA means scholarly journal literature can be freely accessible on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search or link to the full texts of these articles (BOAI, 2002). The concentrated efforts toward OA in the academic community have contributed to a constant growth of the number of repositories and of the works deposited in them (Santillan-Aldana, 2009). Gosh and Das (2007) stated that OA institutional repositories of academic libraries facilitated the free availability and distribution of scholarly research globally.
Researchers are experiencing intense pressures to publish and increase research outputs (Zhao, 2014). ACRL (2015) proposed that academic libraries are playing significant roles as publishers in scholarly communication. Institutional repositories and OA are areas being dealt with in particular (Hansson and Johannesson, 2013). Library faculty will assume roles, such as digital publishing librarian and publishing systems coordinator (Chadwell and Sutton, 2014). In addition, scholarly publishing literacy is also necessary for researchers, and academic libraries and librarians are well-positioned to play a key role in supporting researchers on the topic of scholarly publishing literacy (Zhao, 2014).
As a part of an emerging “culture of evaluation” with regard to the funding of universities and research sectors, some government policies in countries, such as the UK and Australia, underpin research outcomes (Geuna and Martin, 2003). Therefore, the need to develop appropriate methodologies to assess the impact of citations is of enduring and paramount significance (Robyn and Richard, 2009). Academic libraries have been forced to reassess their support to researchers and parent institutions, especially research impact measurement. Bibliometrics, which contributes to forming a well-informed approach to research assessment (Bladek, 2014), has gathered increasing international attention over the past decade. Corrall et al. (2013) pointed out that bibliometrics are the most prevalent services, including bibliometrics literacy/training, research impact calculations, citation reports, disciplinary research trend reports, h-index calculations and grant application support. Furthermore, the interest in altmetrics has accelerated as researchers increasingly use social media to disseminate their research (Haddow and Mamtora, 2017).
Implementation modes of research support services
However, with the changes of the research environment and the diversification of researchers’ needs, more and more new types of services appear, such as research consultation, research guides, research tools recommendation, etc., which makes research support services more diverse and needs to be well-organized.
Ideally, research support services should address researchers’ information needs to be embedded in the research lifecycle. Research lifecycle is a term that describes the cyclical research process – from idea to implementation to dissemination and back to the idea (Gessner et al., 2017). Barga et al. (2007) demonstrated that researchers use, create, exchange and manage various types of information extensively during the entire research process. Xiao and Zhang (2016) believed that academic libraries should tailor their services to each phase of different stages of the research process, including the formation of new research ideas, research plans, research implementation, the publication of research findings and project evaluation. Lijun and Lijing (2015) surveyed 10 American academic libraries and eventually proposed two categories of research support services: services aimed at the entire research process (e.g. research consultation, technological services and literature access) and services targeted at different research stages (e.g. fund application, RDM, thesis writing and dissemination of research results). Based on a survey of research support services of six academic libraries, Xue et al. (2016) described a research support model based on the research lifecycle, consisting of the following steps:
conception (research consultations, research guides, workshops, etc.);
data processing and analysis (RDM, research tools, data analysis, writing help, etc.);
publication and sharing (scholarly publications, OA, citation management, copyright services, etc.); and
preservation and curation (institutional repository).
In addition, academic libraries had also tailored their services to particular groups or fields. Hensley et al. (2013) conducted a questionnaire survey on the support of undergraduate research programs by academic libraries in the USA, which indicated that their libraries had some form of support of undergraduate research, of which the most frequent services were formal faculty mentoring (87.0 per cent), undergraduate research symposia (81.6 per cent) and travel funding for national and international conferences (61.9 per cent). McMurry and Holdsworth (2017) studied research support services for the field of agriculture. Through in-depth interviews with agriculture scholars, they observed that to support specific research areas, academic libraries need to strengthen the construction of databases, provide online access to journal articles, offer professional instruction programs, and give guidance on data management. Winston (2010) noted that crime-related research has been conducted by academics in disciplines including sociology, psychology, law, criminal justice, forensics, public health and urban studies. Therefore, specialized research support should be provided by general libraries of social and natural sciences and law libraries, and services including census and GIS data provision offer an appropriate added value for faculty research. To meet emerging needs of e-science research in health science, Johnson et al. (2012) deemed it imperative for health science librarians to develop a basic knowledge of medical terminologies, ontologies and bioinformatics to support the full spectrum of clinical and translational sciences.
All these studies indicate research support service has been a priority of academic libraries. However, there are some limitations to the existing researches. First, most of the services were studied as separate activities and cannot fully reflect the systemic and diverse nature of the services. Second, most of the surveys and case studies were limited to specific colleges, universities or countries, and the number of samples fail to reflect the overview of the services worldwide and provide best practices. Third, some emerging services, such as research guides and research tools recommendation, have not been studied in-depth. To address these issues, this study conducts an international and comprehensive investigation, trying to grasp the latest developments and systematically present the implementation of research support services, which will be of interest and value to all academic libraries.
Academic libraries of 101 universities ranked in the top 100 (with four universities tied for the 98th place) of the QS World University Rankings (www.topuniversities.com) in 2017 were selected as samples. The QS World University Rankings is published by Quacquarelli Symonds, a British education organization. It has been recognized by Academic Ranking and Excellence of UNESCO since 2010, which are credible and representative in the world. Among six metrics of the ranking, academic reputation accounts for the largest proportion (40 per cent), which reveals the above universities are excellent in research culture and academic reputation and their libraries have more opportunities to offer innovative research support services to meet researcher’s needs.
Data collecting and processing
Through an extensive literature review, the authors gained an overview of research support services and adopted website investigation as the main research method. The survey was designed in two phases. The initial investigation was conducted from May 3 to June 4, 2017, and the data were reviewed and supplemented in the second phase from January 10 to 17, 2018. Among the 101 libraries, 22 libraries were excluded because of language barriers (18) and website inaccessibility (4). As a result, 79 academic libraries were resulted as preliminary samples. Then the sites of the 79 libraries were browsed to determine whether research support services are offered. As three libraries sites did not provide relevant service information, 76 libraries, therefore, were listed as the final samples.
Coding and visualization.
The authors, respectively, accessed the sites of the selected libraries, and comprehensively browsed the sections related to research support services, such as research support, research, services, etc. Then the valid names of the services and the corresponding content were collected and imported into Excel, which obtained a total of 434 records. Considering the length of the article, the records of the MIT Libraries were taken as an example, which are shown in Table I. To be specific, the service names from the research support section were all selected, and the coding process was divided into two phases. Firstly, the keywords of the original service names were extracted, respectively, so as to make the indirect concepts or terms concise, clear and understandable. Secondly, the same categories of services that used different names were further generalized into one category. For example, consult with an expert librarian was summarized into consultation in Step 1 and then grouped into research consultation in Step 2. For the convenience of statistics, similar service names from different libraries were standardized and unified. For example, data management, research data and RDM were unified to research data management. The controlled names were imported into WordItOut (https://worditout.com/), a word cloud generator that transforms the text into word clouds and provides control with many custom settings. According to the word frequency and tag cloud, seven types of research support services were summarized.
Statistics and analysis.
The authors drew a two-dimensional form based on the previous coding results. The horizontal item presents the names of the seven major services, and the vertical is the names of the library. Every library was checked if they conducted the above seven services and then the number of every service was counted. After conducting the statistics, the content analysis were carefully conducted, including the similarity and difference between libraries, and typical cases were selected for an explanation.
Overview of research support services in academic libraries
Of the 79 library sites, 76 (96.2 per cent) included research support services. This indicates the world’s top academic libraries had generally attached importance to services promoting research. These libraries are distributed in the following countries, as shown in Figure 1. The numbers are quite different from each other. The top three countries are the USA (39.47 per cent), the UK (21.05 per cent) and China (9.21 per cent).
Generally, academic libraries set up sections and navigation systems to integrate research support services. However, they are different in section names and resource organization levels. Among the 76 sites, the three most frequently used section names are “research support” (35.5 per cent), “research” (18.4 per cent) and “services” (17.1 per cent). The overall situation is shown in Figure 2.
Though research support services provided in different libraries vary to some extent, some common features do exist. The names of all service programs were sorted, removing less meaningful words, such as librarian, library, office and researchers. The tag cloud (Figure 3) was created by WordItOut. The size of each tag indicates its word frequency.
Based on the survey and the tag cloud, the services were divided into seven categories as follows: research data management, OA, scholarly publishing, research impact, research guides, research consultation and research tools recommendation. The services provided by each academic library are shown in Table II. The libraries are ordered by the corresponding universities’ QS ranking.
According to statistics, the main types of research support services and the number of libraries offering them can be seen from Figure 4.
Furthermore, the statistics of the seven types of research support services in different countries was also conducted. From Table III, the implementation of different services in different regions can be compared. In this study, a majority of the samples are from the USA and these libraries also excel in providing most research support services, especially in RDM and research consultation, followed by OA and research guides. However, the implementation of research impact measurement is relatively insufficient. The libraries from the UK are outstanding in RDM and OA, and relatively good at research impact measurement, but weak in research guides and research tools recommendation. There are more libraries from China that conduct scholarly publishing services and research guides, but fewer in RDM and OA, which is different from that in the USA, UK and Australia. Although there are only two academic libraries (National University of Singapore Libraries and Nanyang Technological University Library) being selected as samples, both of them conduct all seven types of services.
Implementation of research support services in academic libraries
Research data management
Research-intensive universities are ensuring that their infrastructure, tools and support enables researchers to maximize the value of their research data (Hiom et al., 2015). Meanwhile, academic libraries have become the main driving force of RDM. As is shown in Table I and Figure 4, 62 libraries (81.58 per cent) offered RDM services, which is the second highest among all service types. Particularly, libraries from the USA, UK, Australia and Canada have made great achievements in RDM. The surveyed academic libraries had generally detailed a series of specific data management services. For instance, the services offered by the Stanford University Libraries include DMPs, research data sharing and preservation, data best practices, case studies, storage and backup, consulting and training, which can assist researchers with the organization, management and curation of research data. The University of Bristol Library provided services including the writing of DMPs, storing and using research data, sharing research data, dealing with sensitive data, meeting EPSRC data expectations and providing guidance on using the data.bris repository. Furthermore, the services in some libraries are developed in accordance with the data lifecycle. The MIT Libraries divides the services into three phases, as follows:
Formulating the plan: Reason for managing data, writing of the data management plan, other guides to data management and meeting funders’ requirements.
Storing data: Organizing files, data security, documentation and metadata and file formats for long-term access.
Sharing data: Finding the data repository, meeting journal requirements and learning about confidentiality and intellectual property.
There are also libraries designing services embedded in the research process. For example, the Imperial College London Library provided data management services in the light of the procedure of “understanding policies → applying for a grant → collecting/processing data → finishing a project → sharing data”, and the Australian National University Library provided data services, as follows:
Research planning: A range of workshops and online guides to help researchers find and analyze existing data.
Data management: A range of workshops and online guides to help researchers collect, organize and store data.
Research publication: Safe and persistent ways to store and share research data in any format.
Policies and procedures: Ways to maintain a research environment of intellectual honesty, integrity and scholarly and scientific rigor.
ACRL (2017) suggested that the OA of research outputs by academic libraries will be one of the leading trends. To date, many academic libraries have been involved in the process of development and promotion of OA infrastructures. Of the 76 academic libraries, 64 (84.21 per cent) offered OA services, which accounts for the largest proportion. The libraries from the USA, UK and Australia perform well in this area. To make scholarly information more accessible and affordable to researchers, libraries tend to provide systematic and detailed OA services, including OA introduction, OA gateway, OA policies, OA funding, journals checking and publications deposition. Based on the survey, there are three main approaches to OA services, as follows:
making an OA policy statement. For example, the Caltech Library notified researchers of the university’s OA policies including its intentions, scope, impact and practical methods;
providing links to OA platforms around the world. For example, the Cambridge University Library had links to platforms, such as Google Scholar, OAIster, CORE, BASE, Digital Commons Network, JURN.org and Dissem.in; and
developing their own OA platforms. A growing number of academic libraries have developed their own OA institutional repositories, such as CaltechAUTHORS, CaltechTHESIS, CaltechCampusPubs and CaltechDATA at the Caltech Library and TSpace, Journal Production Services and Local Digital Special Collections of the University of Toronto Libraries.
Scholarly publishing by academic libraries, as a new form of scholarly communication services, has steadily increased in the past few years (ACRL, 2015). It involves the organized production, dissemination, display and preservation of academic results in the form of books, periodicals, research data and institutional repositories. In the survey, 59 libraries (77.63 per cent) offered this service. Several USA libraries, such as the Cornell University Library, Columbia University Libraries, Northwestern University Library, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library, OH State University Libraries and Pennsylvania State University Libraries, are active in scholarly publishing, which is consistent with the Library Publishing Coalition (2018) report. In the UK, the University College London (UCL) Press has been a formal department of the University College London Library since 2013. Similarly, the Scholarly Publishing Division of the Purdue Libraries works with the university to extend the reach of Purdue University’s research through the development and dissemination of books, journals, digital collections, innovative electronic products, technical report series and conference proceedings. Through the integration of the Purdue University Press, Purdue Libraries has become a leader in its capacity to produce high-quality publications serving a continuum of scholarly publishing needs across the university. Its services covered all stages of the scholarly communication process, as follows:
authoring, including the provision of publishing strategies, copyright advice and publication tools;
production, including copyediting, designing and printing;
dissemination, including distribution, marketing and discoverability; and
preservation, including citability, archiving and metrics.
As academic technology and scholarly communication practices continue to evolve, existing copyright laws do not always reflect new paradigms. Thus, libraries in mounting numbers have been dedicated to copyright services. The Imperial College London Library offers targeted copyright services for researchers involve data and database rights, text and data mining, publishing agreements, Creative Commons licenses, social media and academic networking, conferences and PhD theses.
Research impact measurement
Providing researchers with tools, methods, guidance and training on measuring research impact by academic libraries can help researchers improve their scientific research and expand their academic impact. Table I indicates that 32 libraries (42.11 per cent) provide this service. Libraries with outstanding expertise in the area included the National University of Singapore Libraries, University of Sheffield Library, University of Alberta Libraries, University of Leeds Library, University of New South Wales Library, University of Toronto Libraries and UCL Library. Among them, the UCL Library focuses on bibliometrics services, which are divided into four categories as follows: research output metrics, author metrics, journal metrics and altmetrics. The University of Toronto Libraries listed a series of citation analysis tools, such as h-index, Web of Science, Scopus, Google Scholar and altmetrics tools, such as ImpactStory, Scholarometer and Mendeley. The University of Alberta Libraries provided name disambiguation and journal-level metrics, where the author can disambiguate an academic work by ORCID, Scopus Author Identifier and Researcher ID, and obtain journal impact factor data from the Journal Citation Reports, Scopus Journal Analyzer, Eigenfactor.org, Google Scholar Metrics, SCImago Journal Rank, etc.
A well-organized system can increase researchers’ efficiency of access to academic resources in their respective fields. The goals of research guides include promoting collections and services, providing access to tools to complete a given research task, and providing disciplinary context for in-depth research needs (Sinkinson et al., 2012). Out of the 76 libraries, 47 (61.84 per cent) provide research guide services, usually under sections, such as “research guides”, “topic guides” and “subject guides”, which indicates that it is the most common way to organize scholarly resources according to research topics and disciplines. The Stanford University Libraries, University of Chicago Library, Cornell University Library and Penn Libraries are all offering two or more ways of using research guides. The University of Chicago Library, for example, had four sub-sections under the main section “research guides”, namely, “subject guides”, “course guides”, “help guides” and “all guides”, which organize research materials and guide researchers by subject, course, resource type and alphabet. Among these guides, “help guides” is notable for dividing academic resources by types into 18 categories, which provides a variety of search options for researchers, thus improving their efficiency. In addition, the University of Pennsylvania Library set up “subject guides”, “course guides” and “how to guides” in the “research” section, where “how-to guides” provide tools, resources and tutorials for researchers, to improve their research capabilities.
Academic reference librarians contribute to the knowledge of research sources and strategies tailored with a personal touch (Butler and Byrd, 2016). Researchers who encounter problems in the course of academic activities, such as research grant application, thesis writing, scientific research methods and data management, can obtain advice by consulting librarians. In this survey, 59 (77.63 per cent) libraries provide personalized and in-depth research consultation services. The Chinese University of Hong Kong Library aims at helping researchers identify their information needs, find out resources related to their projects, and determine the most effective retrieval techniques. The Peking University Library offers useful programs, including research topics consultation, RDM consultation, patent application consultation and intellectual property consultation. Specifically, it offers consultation on data storage, sharing and management, provides consultation on legal issues related to patent applications, and intellectual property consultation on scholarly publishing and copyright. In addition, researchers are required to complete a set of processes when applying for research consultation services. Take the case of the Cornell University Library, to make an appointment for consulting, researchers should firstly fill in a form covering personal information, appropriate branch libraries, research genres, research project and information resources needed, the library would then allot subject librarians or experts to reply within two working days.
Research tools recommendation
With the development of big data, researchers of not only natural sciences but also social sciences and humanities are faced with the needs of data analysis, management and presentation. According to the survey, half of the selected libraries developed research tools recommendation services. For example, the tools offered by the Harvard Library included EndNote, Zotero, RefWorks, Harvard Library Bookmarklet, Harvard LibX and DMP Tool. In general, the research tools can be divided into two main categories as follows: data analysis and management tools and citation management tools. Firstly, the recommendation of data analysis and management tools are often accompanied by data management services. For instance, the University of California, Berkeley Library developed the platform Data Lab, offering researchers abilities to use Rand Python and statistics analysis software, such as Stata, SPSS and SAS. Secondly, citation management tools collect records or citations from research databases and are also helpful in citing one’s research by generating bibliographies, citations and footnotes automatically. The University of Chicago Library divided the citation management tools into three types as follows: desktop software, such as Endnote and Papers; web-based tools, such as EndNote Web and Mendeley; and browser-based tools, such as Zotero. In addition, other tools are also provided by some university libraries, such as productivity Tools of MIT Libraries, which includes academic mobile applications, and the browser plug-in LibX web tool that can help researchers access the academic resources of the university from anywhere.
Formulating a strategic plan and updating research support service types
Nowadays, many academic libraries are pursuing a well-rounded, long-term and sustainable strategic plan of research support services. The development of a scientific strategic plan for research support services is to constantly adapt to changes in the academic and external environments. As it is shown in Toward 2015: Cornell University Library Strategic Plan, 2011-2015 by the Cornell University Library (2011), three out of seven of the strategies were related to the research issue. To fulfil these goals, especially the goal of providing support to the full cycle of research and scholarly communication, several plans have been clearly drawn up by the library, as follows:
advancing the work of Cornell researchers at every stage of the research process;
providing high-level consulting services and support for the use of specialized tools for content management, analysis and scholarly communication; and
supporting the creation, use, reuse and curation of data, visual resource collections, field notes and other forms of primary research content.
With the transformation of scientific research, research support services of academic libraries are supposed to be optimized and upgraded accordingly. The strategic plan should pay more attention to innovative, practical and significant research support services. As indicated in this study, libraries should ensure robust research data services, sustain long-term OA and preservation, improve the scholarly publishing mechanism, provide research impact measurement and research guides and offer research consultation and research tools recommendation based on researchers’ needs. In addition, most academic libraries provide other research support services, such as research grant and research integrity service provided by the Nanyang Technological University Library.
Providing support service according to research lifecycle
Research activities have their own lifecycle, every stage of which needs distinct support. As investigated, research support services have been clearly divided into some stages according to the research lifecycle in some libraries. For example, the University of British Columbia Library segmented the lifecycle into four stages as follows: research planning, finding resources, evaluating and citing sources and research publishing. While the Australian National University Library segmented it into five stages, namely, finding resources, writing and referencing, publishing and sharing, RDM and copyright. The most systematic one is drawn up by the University of Sydney Library, who defines it as five stages, as follows:
design and discover (research consultation, strategic planning and funding advice and literature review);
plan and fund (impact and esteem measure, data management planning, CVs and bibliographies, funding applications and research professional funding databases);
research and experiment (rare books and special collections, digital collections, research data storage, eNotebooks, ethics and integrity);
curate and preserve (copyright services, data publishing, open publish, social media and altmetrics); and
curate and preserve (using the Sydney eScholarship Repository and preservation and store data).
In a word, the phased division of research support services according to research lifecycle will be beneficial for libraries to provide researchers with targeted services, thus, ensuring the orderly conduct of research activities. Therefore, academic libraries should gain a comprehensive understanding of research lifecycle and design services according to their specific situation, and embed them in every aspect of scientific research.
Creating research support Web pages and research guides to integrate and navigate services
Out of the 76 academic libraries investigated, 27 have specifically set up research support, a section which integrates research support services. From the perspective of resource organization, the research support integrates all the research-related services and sets up navigation for each of them, resulting in a more targeted, normative and systematic service system. Also, LibGuides is traditionally used to organize resources in conventional subject-specific services. However, given the importance of research and the variety of researchers’ needs, research guides have gradually become a common feature of many academic library sites. The efficiency of information seeking will be greatly improved, for researchers can locate the relevant services quickly by using the research support and research guides. Therefore, academic libraries are supposed to set specialized research support sections and set a clear navigation, bringing together all the research support services to make it more standardized and scientific. The research support section provided by the King’s College London (KCL) Library could be taken as an example, which is shown in Figure 5.
Understanding researchers’ requirements and offering targeted consulting service and training
The arrival of the big data era and the formation of the e-research environment leads to the emergence of a variety of new challenges to researchers, especially to those who have difficulties in learning and mastering new techniques and tools. Therefore, consulting, education and training opportunities are important for researchers to update their knowledge systems and master new technologies and tools to improve research efficiency. Based on the survey, one of the focuses of research support services in academic libraries is to provide various new and applicable research tools, consultation and training to help researchers understand the new research process, analyze, manage and present research results more efficiently. Thus, it is crucial for academic libraries to conduct a demand survey, which takes all the stakeholders – including faculties, scholars, graduates and research managers – into account during the formulation of research support services. A majority of the surveyed libraries have conducted diverse training programs. For instance, the classes especially aimed at researchers, such as research impact and bibliometrics, support for publishing, digital object identifier, RDM, data protection and research ethics and academic poster designing, have been set up by the London School of Economics and Political Science Library.
Building a dedicated research support team and improving the capabilities of librarians
Throughout the study, one significant point could be concluded that the success of the research support services depends greatly on the comprehensive capabilities of librarians. Academic libraries are supposed to understand the context for service development, and then build dedicated organizations for research support services, and improve the capabilities of librarians so as to make overall plans and conduct systematic services around the research activities of researchers. There is an important discussion on whether research support should be provided by subject librarians or functional specialists. Keller (2015) advocated to focus activities of liaison librarians on research support and create subject-specific teams, while others suggested that a hybrid model combining elements of the roles of liaisons and a functional specialist or experts is emerging (Jaguszewski and Williams, 2013), many libraries are doing the functional-based approach by retaining subject librarians (Corrall et al., 2013; Hoodless and Pinfield, 2018). The University of Melbourne Library established the Research Information Management Group to consolidate and expand the university library’s capability and capacity to deliver cohesive and visible research support services (McRostie, 2016). Also, the Peking University Library has established a research support center and built a professional service team and task groups, and the center supports the group members to visit other academic libraries worldwide to learn their experiences, and engage in the training of software platforms, commonly used tools, and patent services, so as to continuously improve their competencies.
The paradigm of scientific research is developing towards digitization, data intensification and collaboration. Facing the transformation of knowledge innovation mode, academic libraries should promote the research support services actively and make it become the norm. According to the research findings, academic libraries in world-class universities had established research support services, as seen by 96.2 per cent of the libraries surveyed, indicating that research support services will be one of the major strategic directions of academic libraries in the future. The main service programs included RDM, OA, scholarly publishing, research impact measurement, research navigation, research consultation and research tools recommendations.
However, this study has some limitations due to the website investigation method. Firstly, the number of research support services provided by the surveyed libraries varies greatly. Seven libraries (National University of Singapore Libraries, Nanyang Technological University Library, McGill University Library, Libraries of Sydney University, New South Wales University Libraries, Carnegie Mellon University Libraries, and University of Queensland Libraries) provided all seven key services, while the Fudan University Library and University of Glasgow Library only provided one. In addition to the service development themselves, there is also the possibility that the service content is not fully presented on the website. Secondly, the surveyed websites have different organizational structures, and some service items may be scattered under different sections, which may be missing from the results. Nevertheless, the research findings can provide useful implications and insights for most academic libraries to better implement research support services. Future research will focus on generalizing successful case studies, comparing the models of research support services of libraries in different countries, surveying researchers’ needs, and measuring the effects of services empirically, so as to continuously improve the efficiency of research support services of academic libraries and promote the scientific discovery and knowledge innovation process.
Coding process for the research support services of the MIT libraries
|Original service name||Step 1||Step 2|
|Consult with an expert librarian||Consultation||Research consultation|
|Not sure who to contact? Ask us||Contact|
|Research guides: specialized guides for every research interest||Research guides||Research guides|
|Writing and publishing help|
|Getting published: tools and help||Publishing help||Scholarly publishing|
|Citing sources and avoiding plagiarism||Citing source|
|Dissertations/theses: prepare and submit your MIT thesis or borrow others’||Dissertations|
|MIT thesis specifications||Thesis|
|Scholarly publishing||Scholarly publishing|
|Author identifiers: connect your name with your work||Author identifier|
|DSpace@MIT: deposit your work to MIT’s repository||DSpace@MIT||Open access|
|Organize your references and PDFs|
|Overview of citation management||Citation management||Research tools recommendation|
|Help for being more efficient|
|Streamline your library research and save time with productivity tools: mobile web tools, RSS feeds and more||Productivity tool|
|Organize your files and information|
|Personal content management tools||Content management tool|
|Data management||Data management||Research data management|
An overview of research support services in academic libraries
|Research support services Academic libraries||Research data management||Open access||Scholarly publishing||Research impact||Research guides||Research consultation||Research tools recommendation|
|Stanford University Libraries||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Cambridge University Library||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Libraries-University of Oxford||✓||✓||✓|
|University College London Library||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Imperial College London Library||✓||✓||✓|
|The University of Chicago Library||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Princeton University Library||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|National University of Singapore Libraries||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Nanyang Technological University Library||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Yale University Library||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Cornell University Library||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|The Sheridan Libraries - Johns Hopkins University||✓||✓||✓|
|Library of Edinburgh University||✓||✓|
|Columbia University Libraries||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|King's College London Library||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Australian National University Library||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|University of Michigan Library||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Tsinghua University Library||✓||✓|
|Duke University Libraries||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Northwestern University Library||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|University of Hong Kong Libraries||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|University of California, Berkeley Libraries||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|University of Manchester Library||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|McGill University Library||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|University of California, Los Angeles Library||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|University of Toronto Libraries||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|London School of Economics and Political Science Library||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Peking University Library||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|University of California, San Diego Library||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|University of Bristol Library||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|University of Melbourne Library||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Fudan University Library||✓|
|The Chinese University of Hong Kong Library||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|University of British Columbia Library||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|University of Sydney Library||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|New York University Libraries||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|University of New South Wales Library||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Brown University Library||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|University of Queensland Library||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|University of Warwick Library||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|City University of Hong Kong Library||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Library of University of Amsterdam||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Carnegie Mellon University Libraries||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|University of Washington Libraries||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Shanghai Jiao Tong University Library||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Technische Universiteit Delft Library||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|University of Glasgow Library||✓|
|Monash University Library||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Library of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Libraries of The University of Texas at Austin||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Libraries of University of Copenhagen||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Georgia Tech Library||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Lund University Libraries||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Durham University Library||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Libraries of The University of Nottingham||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Library of University of St Andrews||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|KU Leuven Libraries||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Main Library of University of Zurich||✓||✓||✓|
|Libraries of University of Auckland||✓||✓||✓|
|University of Sheffield Library||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|University of California, Davis Library||✓||✓||✓|
|Ohio State University Libraries||✓||✓||✓|
|Boston University Libraries||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Helsinki University Main Library||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|University of Leeds Library||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|University of Alberta Libraries||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Pennsylvania State University Libraries||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Uppsala University Library||✓||✓||✓|
|Trinity College Library||✓||✓|
Statistics of the seven types of research support services in different countries
|USA||UK||China||Australia||Canada||Sweden||Singapore||The Netherlands||New Zealand||Ireland||Switzerland||Denmark||Finland||Belgium|
|Research data management||28||14||2||6||4||1||2||2||0||0||1||0||1||1|
|Research tools recommendation||21||3||2||4||3||1||2||0||0||0||0||1||1||0|
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This paper is one of the research outcomes of the project supported by The National Natural Science Foundation of P.R. China (Project Name: Research on the Formation Mechanism and Service of the Federation of Institutional Research Data Repository in Big Data Environment, Project No. 71573198).
About the authors
Li Si is a Professor, PhD and Researcher of Center for the Studies of Information Resources of Wuhan University, Department of Library Science, School of Information Management, Wuhan University. Her research areas include research data management, information organization, knowledge organization and marketing library and information services. She is a member of the Identification and Description Technical Committee of National Information and Document Standardized Technical Committee (China) and member of the International Society for Knowledge Organization. She has authored and co-authored 15 books and published over 160 articles.
Yueliang Zeng is a PhD student in the School of Information Management, Wuhan University, China.
Sicheng Guo is a PhD student in the School of Information Management, Wuhan University, China.
Xiaozhe Zhuang is a librarian in the Library of Wuhan University of Technology, Wuhan, China.