Penn State librarian leads exploration of scholarly research activities

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The critical aspects of academic research — storing, organizing, annotating, writing, citing, archiving, sharing and reflecting on information — are inextricably connected with the act of finding information. Since 2012, Penn State Education and Behavioral Sciences Librarian Ellysa Stern Cahoy has studied the scholarly research workflow, in collaboration with Smiljana Antonijevic Ubois, an anthropologist with a focus on digital humanities, and Penn State librarians John Meier and Eric Novotny. The research is funded with an initial $143,000 grant and a subsequent $440,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

“As researchers, we have explored how users manage their scholarly research activities online, identifying areas of challenge and opportunity for libraries and software providers,” Cahoy said.

Their exploratory project aims to bring a library’s scholarly resources into the research stream of the user without the user explicitly visiting a library website or other library-affiliated page. Through projects like this, the Penn State University Libraries continue to move forward with efforts to bring information directly to their users, wherever they conduct scholarly research online.

The singular goal of this project was to connect the self-archiving process with the researcher’s home university, automatically capturing research articles for institutional preservation. The first phase of team’s research during 2012 and 2013 found the most problematic areas of scholarly research management included discovery, the finding of new information, and archiving, the saving of important information. The results of this research were shared in “Personal Library Curation: An Ethnographic Study of Scholars' Information Practices” published in portal: Libraries and the Academy, and recipient of the journal’s best article award for 2014.  A subsequent phase of research, which began in 2014, focused on implementing software solutions to connect discovery and self-archiving within the research workflow.

Recent software developments, including Elsevier’s acquisition of both the Social Sciences Research Network (SSRN) and citation management software tool Mendeley, point toward a growing recognition that finding information is an action linked with other critical academic activities and research software.

In partnership with citation management software provider, Zotero, the research team worked to provide new options for users within the software. These options included feeds to provide discovery of new research articles from within the Zotero interface, as well as identification and storage of self-authored research articles.

The research team worked with Penn State developers Dan Coughlin, Carolyn Cole, Mike Giarlo and Patricia Hswe on a first-of-its-kind feature that allows the institutional repository software to directly connect with third-party software and automatically import published works. With this optimization, Penn State’s institutional repository, ScholarSphere, can link to users’ Zotero libraries and enable immediate preservation of self-authored work.

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Last Updated July 26, 2016