(English) Report from WHELF Research support events

Sorry, this entry is only available in Saesneg Prydain. For the sake of viewer convenience, the content is shown below in the alternative language. You may click the link to switch the active language.

Thank you to Beth Hall, Research Support Librarian & Academic Support Librarian at Bangor University for summarising the findings of the 3 regional events held 8th, 9th, and 10th May and  organized by the WHELF Research Group. Thank you also to Susan Glen, Research Librarian and Subject Librarian at Swansea University, and Nick Roberts, Research Librarian at University of South Wales and Beth again for their reports from each event which are included in the blog post below. These events were supported by funding from the WHELF Staff Development Fund and Bangor’s event was supported by the CILIP Information Literacy Group.


Tran Mau Tri Tam at Unsplash

In May 2017, we organised three parallel events in Cardiff, Swansea and Bangor in order to reach out to library staff interested in the area of supporting researchers.

Our aims for these events were:

  • to bring us closer to researchers
  • to understand pressures on researchers
  • to gain a better understanding of the researcher lifecycle
  • to learn more about how other departments in the institutions support researchers
  • to explore more effective ways to promote our value to researchers
  • and to examine more effective ways to communicate to researchers what we have on offer

There was some flexibility in the way the three separate events were organised, with different speakers at each event bringing different emphasis to the discussions.

We have received positive feedback from attendees. We conducted a post-event survey and got 30 responses across the three sites; 66% of respondents agreed they would rate the event good or very good (data below).  With attendee’s comments such as:

It is reassuring for me that I am operating along the right lines. Thank you for organising this

It was interesting to hear the researchers’ side of the story, great idea to get them in

Overall, how would you rate this event?
Cardiff Bangor Swansea Total Percentage
Excellent 0 3 1 14 13%
Very good 6 5 5 16 53%
Good 4 1 2 7 23%
Fair 2 0 1 3 10%
Poor 0 0 0 0 0%


However, attendees also commented that they wanted more time for discussion and more time to catch-up with library staff who are in “new roles” supporting researchers.  They would like to know more about what their roles involve, and share lessons-learned amongst colleagues – what has worked well and what has not.

Three separate blog posts have been written about the events, which give further valuable insight into what we have learnt from these events, as follows:

Report from Susan Glen on Swansea University’s event here

Report from Nick Roberts on Cardiff University’s event here

Report from Beth Hall on Bangor University’s event here

Here follows a summary of the main learning points from the invited speaker presentations, a list of current library services that the invited researchers mentioned as being valuable to them, and a list of actions that were coming out of the group discussions.

Learning points from invited speakers presentations:

  • Defining researchers is difficult, they are a diverse population, they will have different levels of engagement (Josie Grindulis, Cardiff and Dr Penny Dowdney, Bangor)
  • It is difficult to engage with more senior staff who may not have realised that regulations/requirements/services/available support have changed (Professor Rob Evans, Cardiff)
  • Communication needs to be targeted and translated into different disciplines (Claire Davis, Bangor)
  • Informal links with staff in other support roles in the institution allows you to understand how the University works, catch up on relevant changes and ask those “daft questions”, and helps make sure everyone in the institution is singing from the same hymn sheet (Claire Davis, Bangor)
  • Huge number of new pieces of advice and policies coming out from research funders all the time, difficult for support staff to understand never mind researchers themselves; we can have a role in identifying these policies and if possible summarising their contents (Dr Cornelia Thomas, Bangor)
  • Researchers respond at the point of need – don’t know what they need until they need it (Dr Penny Dowdney, Bangor)
  • Challenge: Hard to support researchers if you are not connect with them – need to build networks BUT to really get embedded and be directly involved in supporting a research project – requires immersion – but too much specialisation risks transforming a library role into a research role (Professor Rob Evans, Cardiff)
  • Researchers are trained to be independent, “persistent confidence in their self-sufficiency” – do not feel they need direct support from library staff (Professor Rob Evans, Cardiff)
  • Researchers don’t just need the black and white of identifying the published literature in their field, but also use tacit knowledge of what’s happening in their sector, differences in opinion, a wider range of evidence (Professor Rob Evans, Cardiff)
  • Importance to researchers of external funders policies but some researchers not fully aware of all external requirements (came up at all 3 events)
  • Vitae materials and Concordat on career development for researchers are useful, also look at other sources such as PIRUS (came up at all three events)
  • It is highly valuable to build up a good relationship with, and work with, other sections of the organisation that support researchers (came up at all 3 events)
  • Make sure staff are aware of all library services at induction (came up at Swansea event)

Support that is valued:

  • Literature searching, not across the board, but where researchers are moving into new fields, or where researchers are also practitioners and therefore less embedded in a research culture (e.g. medical) (Professor Rob Evans, Cardiff)
  • Training for postgraduate students (Professor Rob Evans, Cardiff)
  • Training for early career researchers (ECRs) if they have not already picked up these skills (came up at Bangor)
  • Support for Research Data Management (came up at all 3 events)
  • Copyright and publishers permissions for OA publishing (came up at all 3 events)
  • Help with metrics (Professor Rob Evans, Cardiff)
  • Providing interlibrary loans, and contacting archives and finding hard to reach materials (Helen Williams-Elis, Bangor)
  • Digitising and making available rare books and documents (Helen Williams-Elis, Bangor)
  • Support for systematic reviews and realist reviews (Dr Siân Davies)
  • Support for rapid reviews or policy briefings, these require the most up-to-date current good quality information, and there is always a short time-line for delivery (Dr Kirstin Williams, Bangor)
  • Managing information where you are scanning a large body of evidence (Dr Siân Davies, Bangor)
  • A nice space to work in, work collaboratively with others, if meeting rooms are available (came up at Bangor)

Some ideas coming out of the discussions:

  • Targeted promotion is key, personal touch is important
  • We should update guides for researchers

We should map our training, information guides and webpages to the Researcher Development Framework (RDF)

  • We should produce targeted information – nothing too generic
  • We should produce more online materials, video guides, lecture capture and look at delivering webinars in the future
  • We should pitch training at different levels
  • Ensure that University leaders are aware of the contributions we make to supporting researchers
  • Building networks and forming relationships with researchers at your institution is important, friendly connections, rubbing shoulders, oral cultures works
  • Possible potential to offer “writing retreats” or writing groups in the library to support researchers with academic writing? (Dr Kath Maude)
  • Continue to work collaboratively with the research office
  • Use social media to communicate and promote, but emails are important too
  • Make time to visit academic departments
  • Infiltrate departmental meetings
  • We should be aware of funders policies
  • We had an idea that we would have liked to spend more time with researchers asking them what they think of the services we currently provide, and perhaps presenting them with some our marketing messages and training guides to get their feedback. Unfortunately, researchers are so busy they did not have time to do this extra work. I wonder whether future work planned in WHELF using UX and customer-journey-mapping may help us answer this question?