Consulting Summit take-aways and high-level summary

A “summit” on consultation services offered to the UC Berkeley community took place on 26 Jan 2015 at BIDS (190 Doe Library). The purpose of the meeting, co-organized by BIDS, D-Lab, and Research IT, was to share ideas and experience across a range of organizations that serve campus faculty, staff, and student researchers; and to collaborate on improving service access and referral across the range of front-line providers of research support.

More than forty participants represented Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences (BITSS), Business Process Analysis Working Group (BPAWG), the California Digital Library (CDL), Digital Humanities at Berkeley, College of Natural Resources, Educational Technology Services (ETS), the Geospatial Innovation Facility (GIF), the Hacker Within, the Haas School of Business, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, the Library, the Department of Linguistics, the National Energy Research Science Computing Center (NERSC), the School of Information, the School of Social Welfare, Software Carpentry, and the Statistical Consulting Facility (SCF), in addition to the hosts.

Attendees support a broad range of clients in both general and domain-centric consultations. Consultation is usually provided at no direct cost to researchers, but the amount or depth of free consultation is generally limited except where the consulting organization is funded by and for a defined set of researchers (e.g., the SCF for Statistics and Economics researchers). Consultation topics range from research design and methods; to data access and acquisition; to training in specific tools, such as programming languages and analytical software packages. Consulting modalities include 1:1 sessions on a walk-in or appointment basis; seminar-style trainings; peer groups; and online materials. Tracking of engagements, referrals, and/or the questions or problems addressed varies widely among summit participants; and current tracking records data in a range of systems, from spreadsheets to formal ticketing systems.

Several issues that demand attention were identified in the course of the summit:

  1. Doing a better job of referring researchers to available campus services or consultation resources that meet their specific needs.

  2. Coordinating publication of event listings (particularly trainings and workshops) to improve visibility of these resources and opportunities for scholars and the staff who support them.

  3. Tracking consultations across multiple organizations to develop metrics on populations served, to identify sets of services and resources required, and to measure effectiveness.

Next steps:

  • The Library, in consultation with CDL, ETS, and Research IT, is moving forward with a pilot directory of consultation resources and services for campus researchers. Research IT is exploring ways that event listings could be aggregated from the multiple web sites and systems through which they are currently announced.Participants expressed broad interest in reconvening in three to six months to review anticipated progress towards addressing issues identified above, and to further explore improvements in the coordination of consultation services offered in support of campus research.