Mind the skills gap: Information-handling training for researchers

Added by Sarah on 30 July 2008 19:00

Training on information seeking and information management is uncoordinated and generally not based on any systematic assessment of needs, according to a new report from the RIN.

News release - 30 June 2008

Although developing the personal, professional and career management skills of researchers is currently high on the agenda in the UK?s higher education sector, evidence suggests that the information skills and competencies of researchers have not kept pace with the rapidly changing research information landscape. Library and information specialists perceive that even those researchers who regard themselves as competent often show alarming deficits in their information skills, but there is little evidence of systematic assessment of researchers? training needs.

The overlap between information-related training and more generic skills training invites joint approaches to developing the personal, professional and career management skills of researchers, but in practice opportunities for collaboration and partnership within and across institutions are often missed.

All this raises important questions about how researchers acquire the appropriate skills in discovering and handling research information resources and services, the training opportunities provided for them by universities and other higher education institutions for researchers, and the take-up of those opportunities. Mind the Skills Gap: information-handling training for researchers addresses these issues, concentrating particularly on the role that librarians and other information specialists play, and how the training that they provide aligns with the wider provision of training for researchers in generic skills.

The report finds that:

  • The lack of coordination and strategic management of information training provision, both at UK and at institutional levels, results from: uncertainties as to the part that information-related training could play in wider generic skills training; the absence of a language shared between academics, librarians and information specialists, and those responsible for generic skills training; and difficulties in communication between different training providers, and between them and the academic community.
  • Funds allocated to universities following the Roberts Report of 2002 play a critical role in supporting and encouraging training in generic skills, but relatively few libraries are receiving any ?Roberts money.? There is a need for clarification on the kinds of information-related training that are eligible for support from these funds.
  • Libraries continue to provide individual and small group subject-specific training which is often highly valued, but which may not be sustainable on a large scale. While the content tends to focus on information seeking and related issues, there is interest from librarians in broadening that scope to issues relating to information management and systematic reviews.
  • Evidence suggests that training on information skills should be developed in contexts that take full account of researchers? different subject domains and experience, and build on their expertise as information specialists in their own fields. An over-emphasis on generic training may not be effective.
  • There is a trend towards the greater use of e-learning and blended learning approaches to training, which may be particularly valuable in meeting the needs of specific groups.
  • The role of subject and liaison librarians has changed significantly in recent years, and some lack the confidence to provide intensive support to researchers. Libraries need to ensure that they have the capability and capacity to offer high-quality training for researchers.
  • Both libraries and central training units are aware that they need to develop better mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating the take-up and effectiveness of the training they provide.

The report is available at www.rin.ac.uk/our-work/researcher-development-and-skills/mind-skills-gap-information-handling-training-researchers



Michael Jubb ? Director, Research Information Network

email: michael.jubb@rin.ac.uk ? telephone: 020 7412 7285

Notes to editors:

The Research Information Network (www.rin.ac.uk) was set up in 2005 and is funded by a consortium made up of the four UK Funding Councils, the seven Research Councils and the three National Libraries. Its fundamental role is to undertake evidence-based research into information and data issues that relate to professional researchers ? and particularly academic researchers ? and to develop policy, guidance and advocacy on that basis.

The domain across which the RIN operates covers all disciplines and subjects, from the physical and life sciences to the social sciences, the arts and humanities. The RIN?s remit covers a similarly wide range of information sources, providers and types. It includes published books and serials; manuscripts; museum collections; grey literature; sounds and images; and datasets produced and held in a wide range of formats.

© Research Information Network 2005–2009