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Social Informatics Reseach Unit

Interactions … between academic researchers and library and information and archive practitioners.

14.03.2006

Overview:

What is the role of research in the working practices of library and information professionals and archivists?  How do practitioners access and implement research findings?  To what extent do practitioners see themselves as researchers, and what types of networks do, and should exist, between academic and practitioner communities?

These are the key questions being addressed in a study funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), due to be completed in May 2006.  The project is being carried out by Juliet Eve, from the Social Informatics Research Unit (SIRU) at the University of Brighton and Noeleen Schenk of ikmconsult.

Background:

The link between research and practice in the library and information world has long been a part of the way research in the sector has functioned.  Collaboration between researchers in academic departments and practitioners has been common practice for many years; projects funded by the British Library’s Research and Development Department, and later the Library and Information Commission (LIC) during the 1990s drew on and promoted such collaboration, and the LIC identified transferring research into practice as a key part of its agenda.  Since the merger of LIC and the Museums and Galleries Commission into what is now MLA, The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, this kind of ‘practitioner-focused’ research has fallen into the gap left between the policy-driven research agenda and the more ‘academic’ nature of higher education funding councils.  The archives domain did not benefit from an LIC-equivalent champion and has been seen by archivists as something of a poor relation to libraries in terms of resource allocation and visibility.  Most of the funding for archives research has come from the higher education sector, where the focus has been on practical projects such as digitisation and preservation.

Issues:

Previous research suggests that, although research is indeed carried out by practitioners as part of everyday working practices, it is not always seen as such; moreover, different agendas for practitioners and academics (as regards publishing, for example) often inhibit the best ‘translation’ of research results and tools.  The current and growing interest in best practice and evidence-based practice suggests that dissemination of research is a key issue for all those working in the library, information and archives sectors.

The study:

The research will use focus groups and interviews with professionals from across the sectors to map the current landscape, and to identify issues and their potential solutions.

If you would like further information, and/or would like to be involved in the study, please contact: Juliet Eve at the University of Brighton (j.eve@brighton.ac.uk; 01273 643506)