Two AHRC Town Hall events hosted by RLUK were held on 26 February and 3 March 2021 to discuss shaping the future funding landscape to enable collaboration between researchers and academic and research libraries. The events were well attended (some 300 participants in all) with a low attrition rate. The mix of presentation, survey, panel discussion and question and answer sessions worked well. Much valuable information was gathered that will be useful for the scoping study on the role of academic and research libraries as active participants and leaders in the production of scholarly research. A number of key themes are emerging, and this material will complement the survey, interview, and focus group work now being carried out.
The event was led by David Baker, of Evidence Base (the consultancy undertaking the study) and Jane Winters, of the School of Advanced Study, University of London (academic adviser to Evidence Base), with contributions from Tao-Tao Chang, Head of Academic Infrastructure at AHRC and Matt Greenhall, of RLUK. These four speakers formed the panel for the question-and-answer elements of the hour. A recorded message from Christopher Smith, Executive Chair of AHRC was played at the beginning of the event. There was a lively discussion throughout the events via the chat function in Zoom.
Live Mentimeter surveys were at the events (see below): firstly, questions which aimed to find out more about the participants; secondly, opportunities to respond to the study and comment on the major themes covered by the scoping study.
The responses to the ‘demographic’ questions (Q1) showed that the majority of attendees were from a library background (with a small number of archivist, heritage, and curator professionals), but there was also a good representation of academics, and especially those already established in their careers, and a few senior leaders were present at both town halls.
It was interesting to note that almost a third (the second event – where more librarians were present) to a half (the first event – with more academics in attendance) of the participants had been involved in projects (both successful and unsuccessful) where the library was a lead or named partner. A number were planning or considering such a project.
A wordle summary [Q6] shows what participants felt were the key qualities of research and academic libraries that make them good research partners. Skills, expertise, knowledge, and experience are obviously much valued attributes, along with the rich special collections and related resources that libraries bring to research partnerships.
The second group of questions has given Evidence Base much useful material to complement the survey, interview and focus group work that is now being undertaken. [Q7]. There was a broad consensus concerning the main barriers to greater library involvement in research, and notably: capacity and time issues; attitudes to library involvement in research; lack of appropriate funding opportunities; institution reward and recognition structures; lack of confidence or research support.