Making friends and influencing people: research support edition

Brian Lavoie

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Research support services are essential to the university’s research enterprise—enhancing researcher productivity, facilitating analysis of research activity, and making research outputs visible and accessible across the scholarly community and beyond. Research support services extend over the entire research life cycle—as well as across the entire campus.

How is research support carried out?

Here are a few examples you might encounter around campus:

  • A university researcher deposits data sets in a campus data repository jointly maintained by campus IT services and the library.
  • An administrator in the College of Arts and Sciences identifies areas of institutional research strength by analyzing data from the research information management system operated by the Research Office.
  • An initiative co-sponsored by the Office of Research Development and the library helps faculty members develop personal profiles to highlight expertise and illuminate connections for research collaboration.

A new OCLC Research project, Institutional Stakeholders in Research Support, explores the range of campus stakeholders in research support services, with the goal of identifying key lessons in building fruitful campus partnerships around research support.

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Adapted from The Evolving Scholarly Record (OCLC Research, 2014)

The university library is an important campus provider of research support services, but certainly not the only one. As the examples cited above suggest, many campus units can be involved in research support. And often, these services are provided through partnerships among multiple campus units—for example, an institutional repository managed by the library and deployed through campus computing resources. Moreover, the consumers of these services are spread out across campus, including not just researchers, but also university offices such as Communications or Faculty Affairs.

In short, research support services extend across the campus in many ways—whether through a distribution of services across multiple campus providers, multi-unit collaboration in service provision, or a wide campus network of service consumers.

Know your partners: six questions

Effective engagement in research support services may require the library to work with a wide array of campus units, some of which may be long-standing partners with deep connections to the library, while others may be only superficially familiar. Good collaboration means knowing your partners. Think about a campus partner you work with. How many of these questions can you answer?

  1. What do they do?
  2. Why is it important?
  3. How do they do it?
  4. What cross-campus relationships are vital to their mission?
  5. What unique skills or capacities do they offer?
  6. What are their “pain points”?

Robust, productive campus partnerships must be built on a solid mutual understanding of what each partner brings to the table, in terms of both needs and capacities.

Six questions librarians can ask about their research support partners. #OCLCnext Click To Tweet

The OCLC Research project Institutional Stakeholders in Research Support is intended to help fill the knowledge gap library staff may face in working with campus partners in the realm of research support services. The core of the project is a set of interviews we are conducting with individuals from a wide range of campus units at US universities, including campus computing, Graduate Studies, the Provost Office, the Research Office, Faculty Affairs, and more. Our goal is to hear their stories and learn from their experiences, finding out what their unit does, its interests in research support, and how they manage successful cross-campus relationships with stakeholders in research support.

When the interviews are complete, we will synthesize the results and distill some general “lessons learned” from the myriad experiences related by our informants. Our hope is that the project findings will better prepare libraries for engaging in successful campus partnerships around research support services.

Make friends and influence people

Self-improvement writer and speaker Dale Carnegie, in his famous book How to Win Friends and Influence People, offers this advice: You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.

We are still assembling our findings, but one key takeaway, presaged by Carnegie, seems to resonate frequently throughout the interviews we’ve conducted so far, and reinforces the premise of our study.

Productive, sustainable relationships require participants to learn about one another. Libraries can engage more effectively in the provision of research support services by learning as much as possible about their prospective campus partners. We hope our research can be a step in that direction.


OCLC colleagues Rebecca Bryant and Annette Dortmund are my co-researchers on the Institutional Stakeholders in Research Support project; thanks to both for helpful comments that improved this post!