Holistic Research Support at UC Berkeley: a Library and Research IT collaboration

July 22, 2020

Anna Sackmann co-authored this post with Amy Neeser

Libraries have historically served as a hub for access to technology by providing publicly available computers with access to the Internet and workshops ontechnology topics. Academic libraries Research IT commonly house their own internal information technology (IT) team to serve unique needs in acquisition, resource management, access, discovery, and preservation of research materials. However, these internal teams are not designed to address the technical needs of researchers, like developing data management plans and advising on storage. As a result, there is often a separation between services available through the library and services provided by central and research IT organizations. As research from across disciplines is becoming more data and computationally intense, these two campus communities have an opportunity to collaborate on comprehensive research services for students and researchers.

At the University of California, Berkeley, the Library and Research IT organization have come together to offer a holistic set of services for researchers around their data and computation needs. They co-sponsor the Research Data Management (RDM) Program and the RDM Service Lead is a shared position funded by and reporting to both organizations. They collaborate on strategic planning and direction as well as staffing and service offerings. The RDM Operations team is made up of Librarians and Research IT staff and represents a variety of disciplinary expertise. They offer individual and group consultations that address specific data workflows and trainings to students and researchers on data management topics. Further, they are part of a larger team of consultants who, in addition to data topics, consult about computation.

This diverse data and computation consulting team includes librarians, staff from Research IT and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, graduate student domain consultants, and undergraduate data peer consultants. They attend shared meetings, office hours, cross-trainings, as well as contribute to a shared consulting handbook. The consultants frequently collaborate on consultations, events, trainings, and outreach efforts. In the Fall 2019 semester, Amy Neeser (Research IT) and Anna Sackmann (Science and Engineering Library) developed targeted outreach for faculty in the Physical Sciences and Engineering departments. Rather than advertising our organizations and services, they used a topical approach and created one pagers on topics such as Data Publication and Preservation, Secure Data, and Research Computing. They sent personalized emails based on department affiliation, research interests, funder information, and publication activity. For those interested in learning more, they set up individual consultations with them. Some chose to include scientists in their labs and subject librarians were invited in order to further the connection to the library. These targeted outreach efforts were highly successful, and the team is building on them in other disciplines.

Research IT is leading an effort to improve services for researchers working with sensitive and restricted data. This involves launching new and improving existing infrastructure, training consultants, and developing policy and processes to support expanded research in strategic domains. The Library is an essential partner and stakeholder in this work, and is collaborating and contributing to the areas of consulting and community as well as policy and governance.

By taking a holistic approach to research that covers information discovery, planning, computation and analysis, publishing, and archiving, the Library and Research IT collaboration has developed a model of seamless support that leverages the expertise of both organizations. Researchers at UC Berkeley are better able to utilize computing and storage infrastructure because of the high-touch consultations that take into account the variability of research needs. Future plans include greater integration and communication between these two groups to offer researchers a comprehensive set of tools and services.