UK wide survey examines the attitudes of practitioners within higher education and cites the growing importance of online libraries to academics

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The 2015 survey of academics, jointly commissioned by Jisc and RLUK and conducted by research organisation Ithaka S+R, was launched today and has revealed a substantial increase in the way academics use and value online libraries.

88% of researchers now see their university library’s collections and subscription as a very important source of data and information. Furthermore, 18% use this resource as a starting point in their research – a trend which has seen a 28% increase between 2012 and 2015.

Nearly 7,000 academics responded to the survey, which examines the attitudes of researchers and practitioners working within higher education.  The powerful evidence provided will help universities, policy makers, funders, and librarians to successfully plan for the future.

Other key findings of the report include:

Distribution and Access – Academics are more eager to share their research with academics outside of their discipline, undergraduates and the general public. 46% of researchers see it as important to share their findings with the general public, representing a 48% increase since 2012.

Online repositories – Since 2012, there has been a 53% increase in the amount of academics that preserve their research data in an online repository. 43% of researchers also said they prefer to save their materials on platforms made available by their institutions.

Open Access – The findings show 46% more academics have received assistance from their university library or elsewhere in making a version of their research outputs freely available online.

Paul Feldman, chief executive of Jisc, commented: “As online capabilities become an essential part of academic practice, these survey findings confirm that research practice is evolving and academics are embracing this change and using research tools differently.

“It’s encouraging to see from the findings that researchers are embracing open access methods such as making versions of their research outputs available online for free, where institutions are giving them the digital support to do so. Jisc is a passionate advocate of open access and we will continue to provide the right guidance, direction and resources academics need to exploit the growth, opportunities and rewards that open access offers. Ultimately, more access to research means that businesses, the public and fellow researchers can reap the economic and social benefits ensuing from research.”

David Prosser, Executive Director at RLUK explained: “The findings put the spotlight on how the behaviour, habits and expectations of researchers have continued to evolve. It’s clear from the report that researchers continue to see their institution’s libraries – both digital and physical –  as a trusted resource that enables them to research, share and store their projects safely. As representatives of the most significant research libraries in the UK, it’s now our role to adapt to these findings and explore how best we can help our members meet the needs of their key users.”

Roger Schonfeld, director of Ithaka S+R’s Libraries & Scholarly Communication program, added: “It’s a hugely valuable exercise to examine the research and teaching attitudes and practices of academics in the UK higher education sector. Doing so, we identify how their behaviours and practices are changing. This in turn, provides the sector with meaningful and detailed insight to make informed decisions on its future.”

About Survey Methodology

The population for this survey is academic staff at UK higher education institutions. In total, 64,259 academics were included in this population and received invitations to participate in this survey in autumn 2015. Invitations and reminder messages were sent by Jisc/RLUK and a number of universities. Jisc received a total of 6,679 completed responses, for a response rate of 10.4%.

About Jisc
Jisc is the UK higher, further education and skills sectors’ not-for-profit organisation for digital services and solutions. 

We operate:

  • shared digital infrastructure and services
  • negotiate sector-wide deals with IT vendors and commercial publishers and
  • provide trusted advice and practical assistance for universities, colleges and learning providers.

About RLUK

RLUK is a consortium of 37 of the major research libraries in the UK and Ireland, whose purpose is to shape the research library agenda and contribute to the wider knowledge economy through innovative projects and services that add value and impact to the process of research and researcher-training. RLUK’s mission is to work with its members and partners, nationally and internationally, to shape and to realise the vision of the modern research library.

About Ithaka S+R

Ithaka S+R is a not-for-profit service that helps the academic community navigate economic and technological change. We deliver strategic guidance, research, and publications through two program areas: Educational Transformation and Libraries & Scholarly Communication.

Ithaka S+R is part of ITHAKA, not-for-profit organisation that works with the global higher education community to advance and preserve knowledge and to improve teaching and learning through the use of digital technologies.


Top image courtesy of the University of Exeter Library