Tuesday, July 19, 2011

PL 29/11: A British research coalition

Filed under: research — plinius @ 7:45 am

In Great Britain, the “major stakeholders in library, archive and information science (LAIS) research” have just established a coalition to do something about the fragmented state of the field.  As Elkin (2007) says:

  • …there is research going on, much of it ICT focussed, but it is piecemeal, of varying quality, with no co-ordination or coherence and poorly disseminated
  • there are no real think pieces being produced or encouraged
  • we have lost the locus / the space for research, within a co-ordinating framework
  • we have lost the continuity and the context, as well as the culture and the capacity

I hope we can learn from this initiative.

The quote above comes from an overview of a British workshop about research agendas for library and information science. It applies, in my view, equally well to LIS research in Norway and the other Nordic countries.

A few years ago, I participated in an effort to coordinate research on public libraries in the Nordic countries. This was initiated by the library schools. A few meetings and seminars were held, but the lack of a common strategic framework and truly shared interests caused the process to collapse. At the moment, fragmentation prevails. The British process, it seems, had a stronger basis. Therefore I quote some representative sections from Kenna (2008):

The aims

– [In] March 2008, a small group representing major stakeholders in library, archive and information science (LAIS) research met to address this situation and begin the process of establishing an LAIS research coalition for the UK. The aim of the coalition is to:

  • Articulate a strategic and planned approach to research across the sectors;
  • Identify appropriate research content;
  • Encourage the development of research capacity;
  • Ensure the inclusion of each sector.

This meeting was the culmination of a lengthy process… . Its origins lie in a workshop entitled Looking Back to the Future, which was held at the British Library (BL) on 27 November 2006 in memory of Brian Perry, Director of the British Library’s Research and Development Department (BLR&DD), 1984-1995.

The proceedings were published as a special edition of Library and Information Research, Volume 31 (97) 2007.

The structure

Delegates  agreed that there was a need for a real or virtual structure to enable the organisation, co-ordination and implementation of strategic LIS research. Such a structure would also enable access to information about research by the LIS profession which, in turn, would engender more confidence that any research activity associated with their profession would be available in an understandable and useable way.

In particular, there should be a focus on practitioner research and bringing research results into practice.

Delegates at the 2006 workshop suggested a number of possible models for a collaborative approach:

  • A coalition of stakeholder organisations;
  • Communities of researchers practitioners and funders co-ordinated by a stakeholder champion;
  • The British Library acting as a broker, at least initially;
  • A library development agency.

The coalition approach was … the option most strongly favoured, not least because it would not be another new organisation. The recommended model was … a membership-based organisation similar to the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC). This seemed to offer the most appropriate mix of financial and practical commitment from key players, together with a wide spectrum of membership and mechanisms for consultation and dissemination.

The stakeholders

The next critical stage in the establishment of a coalition, was achieving buy-in from stakeholders. Over the summer and autumn of 2007, therefore, members of the working group, usually in pairs, visited and consulted a range of key stakeholders, both large and small, including:

  • Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
  • British Association for Information and Library Education and Research (Bailer)
  • British Library
  • Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP)
  • Cymal [Museums Archives and Libraries Wales]
  • Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
  • Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC)
  • Library and Information Services Council, Northern Ireland
  • Museums Libraries and Archives Council (MLA)
  • National Council on Archives (NCA)
  • National Health Service
  • National Library of Scotland
  • National Library of Wales
  • Research Information Network (RIN)
  • Research Libraries UK (formerly CURL)
  • Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC)
  • Society of Chief Librarians (SCL)
  • Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL)
  • The National Archives (TNA)
  • UK Office for Library Networking (UKOLN)

Action plans

The outcome was a unanimous endorsement of the recommendation from the 2006 workshop that an initiative should be undertaken to improve the infrastructure for library, archive and information research. The coalition would:

  • Provide a locus of and for LAIS research;
  • Define the LAIS research landscape;
  • Develop a national research strategy, respecting differences across the UK;
  • Co-ordinate and disseminate information about research;
  • Exploit existing and leverage new funding;
  • Promote practitioner research and research into practice;
  • Broker research and funding partnerships;
  • Promote best practice and the development of skills and competencies.

See Proposed Coalition for Research in Library, Archive and Information Science,

The roadmap proposed eleven action lines:

  • Strategy
  • Manifesto*
  • Services
  • Dissemination
  • Encouraging quality
  • Advocacy
  • Conference and showcase**
  • Organisation
  • Personnel
  • Finance and administration
  • Review and evaluation.

*A Manifesto setting out aspirations, objectives which should demonstrate links between existing research, strategic and government agendas but also set out its own agenda;
**A ‘Cream of Information Science’ showcase of best practice and the facilitation of existing research information exchange


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  1. […] som et stort problem. Deres svar har vært å satse på et strategisk samarbeid.  Jeg har skrevet mer om dette på den engelske utgaven av […]

    Pingback by P 118/11: Fragmentert forskning « Plinius — Tuesday, July 19, 2011 @ 9:43 am

  2. Fribit har søkt om støtte til forskningsprosjektet InWeave utan å lukkast. Biblioteka har framleis mulegheita til å vere med, men det er ikkje vilje til det. Det er “iterativ action research” og burde vere midt i blinken for biblioteksforskning, og noko samfunnet ville sett eit poeng med når tenestene vert lanserte. Men det er tungt når ein ikkje eingong vil ta opp problemstillingen om korleis internett kan ha endra føresetnadane på for korleis maksimere produksjon og konsum av intellektuelle goder av beste kvalitet. Det verkar på meg som om at ein for all del aldri må ta tak i den problemstillinga, og ein må handle under dei rammene som me har arva frå det analoge samfunnet og som ein fortsatt styrar etter. Eg har prøvd å få folk i tale på Nasjonalbibliotekets blogg men der er det stille som graven. På Bok og Bibliotek er det såvidt interesse men problemstillinga vert ignorert fullstendig av leiarane i norsk bibliotekssektor. Det er litt interessant at det vert oppfordra til debatt, men ingen har lov til å nemne elefanten i rommet med ord.

    Comment by Pål M. Lykkja — Tuesday, July 19, 2011 @ 3:12 pm

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