Supporting researchers

I have recently attended two of the NoWAL/SCONUL Working Group on Information Literacy Workshops:  one thing about writing for publication, a workshop for library staff supporting researchers, led by Moira Bent and Pat Gannon-Leary; and developments in scholarly communication, led by Bill Hubbard.

At first glance, these workshops may not seem to have much to do with Copac:  after all, the first one even specifies that it is a ‘workshop for library staff’ and, as you may know, Copac isn’t based in a library.  (We’re based in a lovely office, with the Archives Hub team, and daffodils outside the window to distract us.)  However, Copac is all about supporting researchers, with our roots as the OPAC for the Consortium of Research Libraries (CURL), now Research Libraries UK (RLUK).  One of RLUK’s values, as set out on their website, is to ‘work with the research community to promote excellence in support of current research and anticipate future needs’.  This is what we aim to do at Copac, and I got some good ideas for how to do it from these workshops.

Moira and Pat led an interesting discussion about ‘what is research?’, before introducing us to their model of the ‘seven ages of research’ (see slides 8-11).  This was particularly interesting for me, as we’ve recently been conducting some stakeholder analysis, and while we ended up with 5 divisions of librarians with different needs/priorities, we only had one for researchers.  If we are to fully consider and meet the needs of all our users, and ensure that we are communicating with them effectively, then we need to consider the differences highlighted by this model.

Bill Hubbard’s workshop on ‘developments in scholarly communication’ concentrated mainly (and unsurprisingly, given Bill’s role as manager of SHERPA) on Open Access and repositories.  A very timely workshop, following the publication of the much-talked about Houghton report, and one that you might think would be better attended by one of my colleagues from Jorum or Intute repository search.  But it is important that Copac interacts with the OA landscape as well.  Bill returned to the theme of differences between researchers.  This time, it was differences of research methodologies between disciplines:  to crudely condense Bill’s example, economists love pre-prints and working papers, biomedical scientists won’t touch them with the proverbial bargepole.  This, of course, has implications for the types of material that will be appearing in repositories.  It also has implications for how Copac can best serve the needs of these researchers.

So, from our stakeholder analysis which had undergrads, postgrads, and academic researchers all in one nice little box, it now appears that we have to look at not only the career stage of the researcher, but their discipline as well.  Can we do this?  Well, we’re getting closer…  The new Copac Beta (open to members of UK Access Management Federation institutions) is our first step towards a personalised Copac – and the more personalisation we enable, the better able we are to meet the needs of a wide range of users.  It’s still early days, but we’re asking for feedback to find out what you think of the new features, and suggestions for further developments or improvements.