INVITATION TO TENDER: Scoping study: The role of academic and research libraries as active participants and leaders in the production of scholarly research
Commissioned by Research Libraries UK in partnership with Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Introduction and context
Academic and research libraries have long occupied a prominent place within the research and scholarly landscape. Whether they belong to universities or national institutions, they are custodians of vast collections of international importance, spanning thousands of years and multiple formats, from ancient manuscripts to contemporary research data. Their collections stretch beyond what are commonly conceived as belonging to libraries. Many academic and research libraries include large museum, gallery, and archival collections within their structures, and offer spaces for experimentation, both physical and digital, to increasingly large and diverse audiences. The staff working within these institutions are highly-skilled, have vast curatorial, conservation, and collection-based knowledge, and considerable technical expertise in the application of increasingly sophisticated processes and techniques relating to digital scholarship, data management and curation, and pedagogy.
This is a period of transition for libraries in their relationship with researchers and the research process. Many libraries are moving from being ‘service providers’, to take more of an active role as meaningful ‘research partners’ in the production of scholarly research, and in conducting academic research in their own right. In doing so, they are bringing a multitude of skills, knowledge and expertise to the scholarly research process, crossing disciplinary boundaries, and enabling the involvement, communication, and dissemination of research with diverse audiences, and supporting the ‘real world’ applicability of research outputs. Staff working within research and academic libraries are well placed to bring advanced and multidisciplinary expertise to scholarly research and are looking for ways of furthering the role of the library as research partner through continued investment in the skills and competencies of their staff, the flexibility of their spaces, and the discoverability and availability of collections, both onsite and virtually, to be used in an increasing variety of ways.
This transition, however, is not without its challenges. A number of barriers exist which can prevent research and academic library colleagues acting as full and embedded partners within scholarly research projects. These barriers can be internal within the library, be rooted within its parent organisation, be associated with academic perceptions of the library, and the terms and conditions of research funding. This research will undertake a holistic examination of the role of academic and research libraries as partners in, and leaders of, scholarly research, and the barriers and challenges which might prevent or hamper this.
This research will make a series of recommendations regarding how these challenges might be overcome. These recommendations will form the foundation of a subsequent piece of work, namely the creation of an implementation roadmap. This subsequent phase will be commissioned separately from this scoping study during 2021.
About Research Libraries UK
Research Libraries UK is a consortium of 37 of the UK and Ireland’s leading research libraries whose purpose is to shape the research library agenda and contribute to the wider knowledge economy through innovative projects and services.
RLUK is here to convene its 37 members around the issues that affect them, to represent their collective voice, to support them as they face shared challenges, and to be an effective advocate on their behalf. It is these four roles that define RLUK’s work and around which its membership offer is shaped. They enable RLUK to promote the research library community as a vibrant and integral element of the scholarly landscape.
RLUK wishes to actively support its members, and the wider library community, transition from service providers to active and meaningful partners in, and pioneers of, academic and scholarly research. Although RLUK members will form a key community involved in this research, it will be essential that its focus stretches beyond RLUK’s 37 members and involves a significant cross-section of the wider academic library community.
This scoping study, commissioned by RLUK in partnership with the AHRC, will investigate the role of library staff as partners and leaders in the initiation, production, and dissemination of academic and scholarly research. The research will explore the role of academic and research libraries as places of scholarship and experimentation, for a wide variety of disciplines, and the role, and potential, of library staff in envisaging, initiating, and leading high-quality scholarly research. It will explore the expertise held within libraries to lead and partner in multi-disciplinary research projects, and will establish the opportunities and barriers of them doing so. The latter will include an examination of issues such as the terms of funding, institutional policies, and working cultures. This research will also make recommendations to the AHRC and the wider research community in terms of enabling library staff to be active partners in academic and scholarly research, and will identify the potential for collective action between research and academic libraries to enable this.
These recommendations will inform a further piece of work to identify the tangible steps to be taken in order to achieve and implement these recommendations.
In order to get an overarching picture of the potential of academic and research libraries as partners in, and leaders of, scholarly research, and the extent of any barriers currently preventing them from being so, this scoping study will have several key audiences, with which the appointed contractors will need to engage:
LIBRARIES: Colleagues working within academic and research libraries, from a variety of professional backgrounds, and with varying experience of partnering and leading academic research. This can also include colleagues working within information or cultural organisations which are integral to, or closely associated with, an academic or research library such as a university museum, gallery, archive or special collection.
ACADEMICS: Academics and scholars working within the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (known collectively as SHAPE) disciplines who have and have not worked in partnership with an academic or research library.
RESEARCH FACILITATORS: colleagues responsible for facilitating the research process, including colleagues working within research offices, finance departments, or other research facilitation units.
UNIVERSITY LEADERS: University senior decision makers, such as vice chancellors, pro-vice chancellors for research, and registrars, responsible for setting overarching institutional direction and strategy.
FUNDERS: Colleagues within academic funding and grant giving bodies responsible for awarding research funding.
This is a highly ambitious research project within a tight timescale. Members of the RLUK Executive will actively work with the contractor appointed to support and enable the research process through providing access to key networks, groups of colleagues, and contacts. The contractor will be provided with a list of key contacts, groups, and existing research on their appointment. Due to the ambitious chronology and scope of this work, a series of key deliverables are given below.
Foundation: an overview of existing research in relation to the role of the academic and research libraries as partners in, and leaders of, academic and scholarly research.
Key deliverable 1: quantitative cross-sector survey to establish:
- The extent to which academic and research libraries are active partners in the conception, creation, and delivery of scholarly academic research, their experiences of this, and the opportunities for this role to grow.
- The extent to which academic and research libraries are leading the conception, creation, and delivery of scholarly academic research, their experiences of this, and the opportunities for this role to grow.
- The experience of academics and scholars in the partnership process.
- The extent to which barriers exist in preventing academic and research library colleagues from being partners in, and leaders of, academic research, what these are, and how they might be overcome.
Key deliverable 2: targeted qualitative research with members of key stakeholder groups (listed in section 4, above) and communities of practice.
- To establish the perceptions and opinions of the key research audiences regarding the current and potential role for academic and research libraries to act as partners in, and leaders of, academic and scholarly research.
- To further contextualise the perceived opportunities and barriers associated with academic and research libraries taking a greater role as partners in, and leaders of, academic and scholarly research.
- To identify the potential ways in which barriers might be overcome and opportunities seized.
- To engage with a small number of representatives of the international academic and research library community regarding their experience of academic partnership and for examples of how barriers have been mitigated.
Key deliverable 3: project report providing detailed analysis of key findings of the quantitative and qualitative research.
Key deliverable 4: recommendations based on the report’s findings for the key project audiences. These recommendations will provide the basis for a second strand of work. This will establish the necessary activities required to implement the report recommendations in the form of a implementation roadmap and will be commissioned over the course of 2021.
Dissemination: that the contractors present their results at various stages during the project including at RLUK member networks, the RLUK21 Conference 2021 (March), and DCDC21 (June).
Below is a draft timetable of the potential project milestones for the scoping study.
- Invitation to tender published 15 December 2020
- Deadline for responses 11 January 2021 (midday)
- Supplier interviews 20 and 21 January 2021
- Contract Award w/c 25 January 2021
- Project Completion 30 June 2021
The maximum available budget for the delivery of this project is £75,000 (exc. VAT)
Tender submissions will be evaluated on a combination of price (30%), familiarity with HE sector (20%), familiarity and experience of working with libraries (20%), and quality of response (30%).
Please respond to this opportunity by:
Project specification: Describe how you would meet the requirements described in the Project Specification including any additional approaches or methodologies you might utilise in order to attract a large number of respondents from a variety of backgrounds and institutions.
Experience: Provide relevant evidence of your research experience and expertise, including details of relevant projects successfully completed in the past 2 years. This should include your experience of working with the key project audiences.
Key deliverables: Provide an outline of how you will deliver the project within the ambitious timeframe of the project.
Working practice and communication: Provide an outline of how you would ensure good communication and close working with RLUK throughout the project.
Cost: Providing a total price for you to deliver the project.
Key dates and contacts
Proposals should be submitted to email@example.com by Midday on 11 January 2021
Please submit any clarification questions to firstname.lastname@example.org