ITHAKA 2012 Faculty Survey–Research Dissemination Findings

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The ITHAKA S&R Faculty Survey 2012 is out, and with it are some interesting findings relevant to our study of scholarly workflow and personal archiving.

In the survey, faculty from institutions across the US were asked about their opinions and practices, with regard to the following areas:  Materials used for research and teaching; Discovery; Provisioning Materials to faculty members:  formats and sources; Research topics and practices; Undergraduate education; Research dissemination; The role of the library and The role of the scholarly society.  Of particular relevance to our study were some of the findings focused on the research dissemination and research topics and practices.

Participating faculty were asked, “In the course of your research, you may build collections of scientific, qualitative, quantitative, or primary source research data.  If these collections of research data are preserved following the conclusion of the projects, what methods are used to preserve them?  Faculty indicated that overwhelmingly (80% in the Sciences; and nearly 80% in the Humanities and Social Sciences) they preserve the materials themselves, using commercially or freely available software or services.    Less frequent was the use of an institutional or other type of repository (highest in the Humanities–just over 20%), not preserving the materials at all (less than 20% in general), or preserved by publisher or university (less than 10% in general).

This articulated prevalence of self-preservation, while working well in the short-term, is worrisome as a long-term preservation strategy.  A majority of faculty note that their data is worth preserving, yet the data itself is only preserved in a manner entirely dependent on the individual researcher to care for and migrate the data as software, services, or technologies retire.  This highly distributed practice of individualized preservation will likely result in significant data loss in the long term.  The ITHAKA report notes of these findings, “If long-term data preservation is to become an important priority for the scholarly community, new solutions–or greater uptake of existing solutions– will be required to ensure that materials are preserved responsibly.” (p. 63)

Related to this issue, faculty were asked, “How valuable do you find support from your college or university library, scholarly society, university press, or another service provider for the following aspects of the publication process (or how valuable would you find it if this support was offered to you?”  The following options were offered:

  1. Managing a public webpage for me that lists links to my recent scholarly outputs, provides information on my areas of research and teaching, and provides contact information for me. (Highest positive response in the Humanities—just over 40%, with the Social Sciences and Sciences in the 30-35% positive range).
  2. Helping me to assess the impact of my work following its publication (Highest positive response in the Social Sciences (nearly 40%); less so in the Humanities (just over 30%) or the Sciences (just over 20%).
  3. Helping me determine where to publish a given work to maximize its impact. (30% or less across the disciplines favorable response–less than 20% favorable in the Sciences)
  4. Making a version of my research outputs freely available online in addition to the formally published version. (Around 30% favorable across the disciplines)
  5. Helping me understand and negotiate favorable publishing contracts. (Highest positive response in the Humanities (just over 30%).

If you put these two questions together–who is preserving your research, and how can we provide research support, there is a path illuminated for libraries in these responses.  While the overall responses for types of research support were generally lukewarm, most popular was the automatic creation of a faculty web page for research and contact information.  This reminds me of the UR (Rochester) Research IR, but perhaps something that did this sort of automatic population and archiving, while also connected to the scholar’s existing workflow, would be more heavily used.  I am thinking of a service that ties together (and auto creates) Google’s My Citations page with a service like Mendeley or Zotero (and the whole package is also linked into the IR).

In my next post (because this one is long enough already!) I’ll share some of the findings relevant to workflow and learning new digital research activities and methodologies.

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