The role of academic and research libraries as active participants and leaders in the production of scholarly research

Research Libraries UK is delighted to publish the results of a major research project exploring the role, and potential role, of research and academic libraries as partners in, and leaders of, research.

Commissioned by RLUK, in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), and delivered by research consultancy Evidence Base, the report takes an inclusive definition of libraries, which includes archives, special collections, museums and galleries. The report provides a detailed overview of the current role of academic and research libraries as partners and leaders of research, their potential to enhance these roles, and the barriers they might face in doing so. The report has 10 headline findings and makes 13 far-reaching recommendations for libraries, members of the academic community, parent organisations, RLUK, and the AHRC.

The full report can be downloaded as a PDF.

The report is accompanied by detailed case studies charting the experiences of libraries as partners and leaders of research, drawn from across the UK and internationally. Combined, the report and case studies offer one of the most comprehensive accounts of the role of libraries as research partners and leaders, and are the result of an extensive series of consultations with libraries, academics, research managers, university leaders and funders.

The project underpinning this research has already generated valuable discussion through its events, workshops, and a long table discussion at the DCDC21 Conference. This report acts as an invitation to colleagues working across the library, information, and academic communities to work with RLUK and the AHRC to further enhance the role and ability of academic and research library colleagues to act as participants and leaders of scholarly research.

Jess Gardner’s reflections on the scoping study report, shared at a special long table session at the DCDC21 Conference.

RLUK is delighted to have worked so closely with the AHRC and Evidence Base in the production of this report. This research has engaged with a broad cross-section of the library, information and research communities and the findings provide a comprehensive overview of the essential contributions that research libraries, and other collection-holding institutions, make to the scholarly landscape, as genuine research partners and pioneers. 

The report openly highlights the challenges faced by colleagues and institutions when developing innovative and cross-disciplinary research collaborations. It also showcases the emerging strengths of library and information colleagues in leading research and the many opportunities we can seize to further shape this role with the goal of outstanding research outcomes. The report concludes with an ambitious series of recommendations which act as a call to action to RLUK, the AHRC, libraries, and their parent institutions to seize the collective opportunities this report identifies to maximise research excellence.’ – Jess Gardner, RLUK Chair

I am delighted that AHRC was able to support RLUK and Evidence Base in the production of this report. This study has highlighted not only the contributions that colleagues in academic libraries and other collection-holding institutions already make to research excellence but also how their knowledge and expertise enriches and enlivens scholarly debate.

As Ottoline Leyser noted in a recent think piece, the research and innovation system cannot function, let alone flourish without a diverse community of technicians, administrators, project managers, librarians, archivists, IT specialists and others, to drive progress. AHRC is looking forward to working with RLUK to progress the recommendations in the report and we are pleased to announce that we will immediately invest £100k in Professional Fellowships to take forward the critical work of engagement and sharing best practice.– Christopher Smith, Executive Chair, AHRC

Christopher Smith discussing the scoping study report at a special long table session at the DCDC21 Conference.