August 20, 2008

Repository – Research Office relations

Filed under: Repositories — Neil Godfrey @ 5:55 pm

Thought I’d share here results of a bit of informal asking around about what has made for good working relationships between managers of institutional repositories in universities and  their research office departments.

One of the first mentioned ingredients for success in institutions that boasted of exellent IR-RO relations was that IR managers were represented on important institutional research and higher degrees working groups and committees. That representation was stressed as very important by IR managers I spoke to who had successful RO relationships.

Conversely, key RO people are found on IR management committees helping steer the repository projects.

Another common ingredient was that IR managers made very early contact with their RO people before any external pressures to do (e.g. RQF reporting) so came into effect. A cooperative working relationship to assist with sharing of resources was started early, and it was based on a willingness to mutually assist one another professionally. IR managers would ask RO for assistance in finding key contacts to approach for making IR deposits, and this matured into a mutual sharing of information for each other’s benefit. Sometimes the IR would have records, or vital metadata links, that were of benefit to and sought out by the RO.

I assume that such a relationship presupposes a respect for the contributions each has to make.

There also appears to be a mutual respect for each others data requirements, and a willingness on the part of the librarian IR managers to work with the data they receive from research departments and systems. That is, there is no conflict over data standards. RO has one set of needs, and the IR another. So IRs with successfully managed relationships with their research departments will set up their own data checks for their own purposes. They may notify RO of some discrepancies, but will leave it up to RO to do their own thing. Besides, librarians may not always have it “right” in this field. Where IRs may have freely accepted an academic’s RFCD codes, for example, it may well be the case that RO really does sometimes know better in specific instances.

One other common attribute was the high regard in which the IRs were held in these universities. For some this was relatively easy — such as when the IR was the brainchild coming from VC or deputy VC level. For others, harder work on the part of the librarians to push through the initial inertia barrier may have been necessary.

So in sum:

  1. IR managers on RO committees
  2. RO key personnel on IR committees
  3. Start early — not simply as a response to external pressure
  4. Mutual sharing of data (and mutual respect for what each other can contribute)
  5. Acceptance of each other’s unique roles and functions (avoiding criticism of the other’s data and standards)

#3 of course is an historical factor and can’t be changed. But #4 maybe is an area where there may always be potential for planned growth and improvement on the part of IR managers. Being up to date with research requirements and knowing how one’s own skills and IR functions can assist RO’s in a changing environment (e.g. ERA now being introduced), and working to build a research support strategy, — these were a couple of areas one successful IR manager suggested to me as ways repository folk can maintain a useful role in partnership with RO folk.

I thank those I spoke to for their helpful feedback. I now feel ready to make a plan for building up IR-RO relations myself, now! 🙂

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