Week 11 – Research Support – Issues Based Reflection

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      Tracey Allen

      Research Support

      Issues based Reflection

      In a time of decreasing budgets and increasing competition for government funding, libraries are changing the focus of their services.  Government funding for universities in Australia is now based on research excellence instead of teaching performance. Therefore research support has become a strategic imperative for academic libraries. There are cultural, political and economic issues associated with adopting a strategic focus on research support in academic libraries.

      The academic culture has been influenced by the increased focus on research support. There has been an emphasis on the productivity of staff, the quantity of published research and grant applications. The advancement of technology has seen the increase in the provision of distance education and open access journals. Open access journals allow for ease of publishing however, there is also the possibility for exploitation of the researcher/author and the questionable quality of the journals.

      The restructuring of subject/liaison librarian’s role is another issue that will affect the culture of the library and the university as a whole. The librarian will be required to undertake continuing professional development in order to have up-to-date qualifications to meet researchers’ needs. This may be costly and time consuming for the librarian. The role would also involve the need for systematic reviews. This could require anything from developing a search strategy to contributing intellectually to the study. I believe this variance in needs may make researcher and librarian relationships difficult to evaluate.  The individual requirements of researchers’ could result in confusion and uncertainty for librarians’, if a formal contract/agreement isn’t in place before the research begins.

      The political and economic issues are illustrated in the 2014 Federal Budget. In a statement by Treasurer Joe Hockey, “Australia should have at least one university in the top 20 in the world”. According to the Federal Budget the government intends on achieving this by deregulating universities, whilst also decreasing funding.  The federal government believe that the deregulation would allow an increase in student fees that will cover the cost of future research funding. The competitive environment created by deregulation may affect the academic library’s aims and objectives. This could lead to research support becoming even more important in the university’s economic survival.

      In conclusion, research support is fast becoming a strategic necessity for the survival of universities in Australia. There are many issues associated with the implementation of a research support focus in the academic library. The issues identified could be avoided though, if policies and procedures are put in place to ensure the librarian and researcher needs are met.

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