Tag Archives: collaboration

Libraries as e-research partners

This post is a joint contribution from myself and my colleague Kate (@katecbyrne). We are presenting a BoF (Birds of a Feather) session at the E-Research Australasia Conference at the end of October where we hope to spark debate with our topic “E-Research and Libraries: A Perfect Partnership?”. We recognise this is at times a controversial space and the background to our approach is described in full in our abstract on the conference website & partially reproduced here:

Libraries have had long histories with many of the challenges facing e-research including interoperability, metadata creation, sustainability and ensuring that systems meet the needs of client communities. By earmarking academic and research libraries as potential collaborators for e-research projects, both researchers and libraries can maximise limited budgets and draw from the complementary expertise of both sectors. This includes capitalising on existing librarianship knowledge bases such as classification, metadata schemas, ontologies, taxonomies and thesauri. Many of the demands of data management and respository services are similar to the demands of information management, the heartland of librarianship. However,  potential benefits increase as other departments within an academic or research library are involved,  allowing libraries to capitalise on existing relationships with researchers and exploit the library’s interdisciplinary focus and knowledge of projects, policies and networks across the university.

These partnerships are not without challenges. Libraries often have limited budgets which are allocated carefully to meet a broad range of needs across the university. They often cannot offer financial support or vast amounts of server space for data storage and as such independant project funding must often be secured. Not all libraries are comfortable in the e-research space and leaders in this field are still experimenting. There are parts of the e-research space such as respositories and bibliometrics in which libraries are more established; though fields such as research data management are undergoing rapid development.

A brief literature review reveals that for many academic or research libraries,  e-research services have tended to cluster around repositories, either creating them as products or providing technical support. Several libraries also appear to be offering services exploring e-literacy for research. However,  few have been identified as wholistically linking e-research services to the strategic aims of the library.

Now here’s where you come in. We recognise that there are many different arrangements in the e-research space and we would like to hear from librarians and researchers who have been working in the e-research space and are willing to share their perspective on library/e-research partnerships. We have three questions on which we are keen to crowd source opinions as conversation starters:

  1. What are the benefits of libraries or librarians getting involved in e-research projects?
  2. What are the challenges of libraries or librarians getting involved in e-research projects?
  3. Is the library involved in e-research initiatives at your university or research institution?

Please also let us know if you are willing to be identified with your quote. If you would prefer for yourself and/or your institution to remain anonymous please let us know if you are willing for us to describe your institution (eg. a mid-sized regional university) and how you would like us to do so. Leave your answers in the comments, or contact either one of us (@newgradlib or @katecbyrne) to get email details.

Thank you for your involvement and we hope to have you join in the conversation at our session if you are attending the conference.

Kate and Clare

Participatory culture and cloud computing

Clouds by fifikins via flickr CC

At MPOW we get many requests from both academics and postgraduate students for help with referencing software such as Endnote.  One of the problems with download-able software such as Endnote is the portability of data between the devices on which it is installed. You either accept that you have different lists, or carry around USB sticks with data and never be quite sure which is the most up to date….. Enter products such as Endnote Web – storing the information in the cloud and accessing it from home, work, beside the children’s tennis lessons or while waiting in the doctor’s surgery.

This is not a post about Endnote – it’s just one example.

Access is the key – and if you are writing a paper or presentation with others, then sharing also becomes important. Web 2.0 tools enable us to show academics and students how to create a public Dropbox folder for documents, store favourite links in an online bookmarking service such as delicious or diigo, or use Google Docs to collaborate on a paper with colleagues. Kathryn Greenhill describes this process perfectly over at Librarians matter:

Zotero itself has taken the place of any social bookmarking like delicious or diigo. [We] used it to collect references for our [shared] VALA2010 paper over the last couple of months – just adding to a shared group library. We read through and tagged these references and pulled out useful quotes, so now as we write up the paper, we just click on a tag and instantly have a list of references on that topic.

Participatory culture means we need new, social skills as part of our work or study. Cloud services allow our skills in collective intelligence, judgement, transmedia navigation and networking to be utilised easily.

Cloud services carry risks that must be weighed up in making the decision to use them. Control over access to your data is largely out of your hands – behind whatever security has been set up by the company or organisation taking responsibility for the data. The security disaster faced by Sony earlier this year highlights how easily it can all go wrong.

On balance? I’m happy to take advantage of the convenience of cloud services, the way they allow access to my information and allow collaboration with colleagues.


Jenkins, H., Clinton, K., Purushotma, R., Robison, A. J., & Weigel, M. (2006). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century. Available http://digitallearning.macfound.org/atf/cf/%7B7E45C7E0-A3E0-4B89-AC9C-E807E1B0AE4E%7D/JENKINS_WHITE_PAPER.PDF

Nelson, M. R. (2009). Building an open cloud [Cloud computing as platform]. Science, 324(5935), 1656-1657. Retrieved from http://www.sciencemag.org.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/cgi/reprint/324/5935/1656.pdf