Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Supporting the Changing Research Practices of Chemists.

Supporting the Changing Research Practices of Chemists.  February 25, 2013. Matthew P. Long, Roger C. Schonfeld. Ithaka S+R. February 26, 2013. [PDF]

This report, intended for those who support chemists, including librarians, is about the latest research methods, practices, and information services needs of academics chemists. Chemists need services to make their lives easier and their research groups more productive; this includes minimizing paperwork and administrative tasks. They value academic libraries primarily for the access that they provide to electronic journals and other online resources. Researchers are often frustrated by an inability to share large amounts of data with a collaborator. Few chemists visit the physical library, but they use the library digital collections heavily.

In the survey, fewer than 10% reported a research consultation with a librarian, asked for help with a data management, or asked for assistance on an issue related to publishing in the past year; they rarely reach out to the library to discuss issues or request support. The main search sites for chemists are Web of Knowledge/Web of  Science, SciFinder, and PubMed. It would be helpful to have tools to help process all of this information,  a pre-scan of announcements from journals, and organize their materials. Electronic Lab Notebooks (ELNs) make it easy to share, archive, and search through past lab notes, but are at risk in the lab. Labs generally do not have good data management infrastructure or proper external support for developing it, especially in sharing and preserving files.

It is difficult for academic chemists to coordinate the recording and preservation of data after the completion of a project. When data are saved, they are often held in unstable or at-risk formats  or in formats where no one else can access or interpret them. Sometimes a large amount of potentially useful data is not shared or preserved in any durable way. One chemist invited the library to come and speak to the department about preservation and access. Chemists have a general lack of awareness of  effective data curation and preservation. Data management and preservation is time-consuming and rarely straightforward; it requires expert advice and constant monitoring.

The findings:
  1. Chemists need better support in data management, sharing and preservation.
  2.  Many researchers remain anxious about keeping up with the newest literature.
  3. They need new tools to stay aware of new research and also serendipitous discovery.
  4. Chemists  require greater support in disseminating their research, including articles, data, and other materials.
Other areas of concern for academic chemists : laboratory management, gaining access to industrial funding, and teaching support.
We see some real potential for the academic library to stretch the definition of the services it offers to the academic chemist. The library may also have a role in working with other service providers and ensuring that academics are aware of the latest research tools. It is clear from this project that libraries must think strategically about whether and how to invest in services for chemists.

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