Research Commons – Report by joint Library/UITS Committee 15 March 2004
1. Executive Summary
Indiana University strives to be a leader statewide, nationally, and internationally in research and creative activity. The implementation of a Research Commons will help the University maintain existing areas of leadership while facilitating the development of new areas of excellence, building on opportunities for synergy within the University and particularly between the Libraries and UITS.
This report represents the first steps in envisioning the Research Commons within the Main Library, an effort that was not without challenges, compromise, and re-thinking of priorities by all members of the Research Commons Committee. Presenting a broad conceptualization model, the report outlines details of the content or programmatic aspects of the Research Commons by describing contributions of individual potential partners, provides a framework for both onsite and ancillary space needs, projects the number and type of new staff that may be required to offer the expanded and new services described for the Research Commons, and lastly, includes a preliminary overview of equipment needs and their estimated costs.
Another important action taken by the Committee was to begin planning for graduate and faculty focus groups. These groups will take place in early April and will provide invaluable feedback and guidance on the planning process and the final suite of services to be included in the Research Commons.
While the Committee has made good progress on parts of its original charge, we also recognize that there are areas that need to be revisited and refined. We acknowledge the need for more in-depth review of space and staffing needs, pragmatic ways in which synergies might be realized, and the incorporation of feedback from the focus groups and are prepared to continue our work if requested.
Suzanne Thorin (Dean of Libraries and Associate Vice President of Information Technology) and Bradley Wheeler (Dean of Information Technology and Associate Vice President of Research and Academic Computing) charged a joint Library/UITS task force to investigate the creation of a “Research Commons” in the Main Library of the IU/Bloomington campus.
The initial vision for this idea was presented in the charge to the committee, as follows:
“To complement the Information Commons, which is focused primarily on undergraduate teaching and learning, we propose to build and test the concept of a research commons devoted to faculty needs. To be located in the Main Library on the east side of the first floor across from the Information Commons in its test phase,1 this facility will be a joint UITS/Libraries endeavor that will offer integrated research services to faculty and graduate students.
“We envision a physical environment where faculty and graduate students can consult with Libraries’ and UITS’ staff about substantive aspects of their research, both print and digital. They would gain knowledge about new and traditional research tools and digital content as well as learn how to use, create, manipulate, and preserve research data. Services would be available through walk-in consultation and via the Web and telephone. These services will support the University’s mission in scholarly and artistic creativity, and would serve the University’s diverse array of scholars, artists, and clinicians.”
This report is phase one of the Research Commons Committee's response, based on the committee's deliberations and initial fact finding. The committee plans further information gathering and plans to submit a refined set of priorities and services by April 15. Additionally, we hope to be asked to continue work on physical layout options and to develop more refined cost estimates.
3. Description of the Research Commons
The Research Commons (RC) will become the one-stop destination for research support on the IU Bloomington campus – encompassing services from the IUB Libraries, University Information Technology Services (UITS), Advanced Research and Technology Institute (ARTI), Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR), statistical consulting, and research services offered by other interested units within IU. We envision a physical facility that will aid researchers at Indiana University in becoming more productive and creative. Achievement of this vision will be facilitated by making required parts of the research process (such as grant submission) simpler, by making important parts of the research process (such as accessing reference materials – on paper or in electronic form) faster and better, and by creating new possibilities for researchers at IU through increased access to cutting-edge research and collaboration tools (such as advanced visualization facilities). The Research Commons will be located on the first floor of the East Tower of the Main Library directly across from the Information Commons. As a central physical point for assistance to researchers will obviate the need for researchers to understand and negotiate the complex organizational structures that currently make these services more difficult than they should be to find and use. This central physical presence will have a virtual equivalent – a page (“tab”) within the OneStart portal that will provide access to the electronic front door of IU’s research services. Both a physical and a virtual “collecting point” for these services are needed, and the combination of the two, implemented together, will enhance IU’s research accomplishments.
The Research Commons will complement the already successful Information Commons, which serves primarily undergraduates and supports instructional activities. The Information Commons has already demonstrated the ways in which partnerships between the IU Libraries and UITS can change the intellectual environment of the University in the area of undergraduate instruction. So, too, will the Research Commons, as a new partnership between the IU Libraries and University Information Technology Services, change the research and creative environment at Indiana University for faculty, graduate students, staff researchers, clinicians, and artists.
The Research Commons will feature a confluence of skills and services offered by librarians, technologists, consultants, designers, and developers working together to assist researchers in building, using, and managing information tools. The existing staff that we propose to locate within the Research Commons have training and experience in areas such as the use and development of electronic texts and multimedia projects; consultation on statistics and mathematics services and software; in-depth searching of print and digital resources; managing large personal bibliographies; support for self-archiving of research materials; consultation on use of mass data storage and high performance computing; and advanced electronic visualization research. Staff will also provide a comprehensive referencing service to other appropriate IU liaisons. Consulting and training opportunities will be available onsite (for drop-ins or by appointment), by phone, by e-mail, and on the Web.
Synergies resulting from the co-location of these multiple entities serving the University's research and academic missions will facilitate the enhancement of existing research efforts as well as the creation of new scholarly and artistic endeavors. The primary goals of the Research Commons are to assist researchers in the selection and application of information tools in their research process, and out of these encounters build an awareness of how the effective use of information resources can impact both the methods and outcomes of research. Offering information resources and technologies in a heterogeneous environment will encourage experimentation, understanding, and appropriate use of these tools and will create an awareness of what new options might be devised. In particular, the IU Bloomington Library and Digital Library Program will benefit from greatly enhanced availability of advanced information technology equipment and software, as well as support from and increased opportunities for collaboration with UITS’ information technology experts. The library of the future must have the very best in technology available in order to successfully manage the explosion of information resources becoming available in all forms. Likewise, UITS will benefit from increased opportunity to collaborate with librarians and learn from their expertise in information organization and access. The computing center of the future must have reliable content and the very best tools available for management of data now so easily collected or created with computers.
There have been both significant successes and dramatic failures in attempts to unite library and computing activities. The development of partnerships between UITS (and its predecessors) and the Libraries has progressed successfully – starting with the 10+ year success of the Library Electronic Text Resources , the multi-organizational collaboration behind the Digital Library Program , and the $3M Variations2 grant funding new innovation in online music libraries . There are also many examples of failures in joint library/computing center initiatives. The proposed Research Commons, however, builds on a history of local success in collaboration, and to the extent that successes and failures have been systematically examined, the strategies identified here are consistent with identified formulas for success . Envisioned as a flexible space that will allow for a seamless integration of services that can evolve over time, the Research Commons is a logical next step based on previous partnership successes. Because the nature of the research endeavor will become more dynamic and will change more rapidly, the design of the Research Commons must permit flexibility in both form and function over time.
4. Detailed Service Description – Existing and Proposed
The following list identifies in somewhat greater detail some of the services that we propose to include in the Research Commons, as well as new services that we believe should exist and be represented in the Research Commons. We look forward to comments from the graduate students and faculty focus groups to help put out projections into a more realistic set of expectations.
One of the critical challenges for a researcher new to Indiana University is to understand what questions to ask and what resources are available. (This problem also plagues established researchers to a greater or lesser extent.) The Research Commons will be a “first point of entry” that will serve a routing function for those people who already know what type of resources and assistance they need and, for others, a venue for discovering what resources and services are available. At the first point of entry, expert staff information mediators will serve as guides linking researchers’ questions with library information resources and other services offered in the Research Commons and elsewhere on campus. Through initial contacts with Research Commons staff, researchers will be advised on the range of options available as well as the appropriate selection and application of research tools that fit their particular research question. Services will also be available by phone, by e-mail, and online. This type of general information service can be best offered by expanding the services already available from the Library Reference Desk. We propose, then, that the Reference Desk serve as the initial point of contact in the Research Commons. (This may require relocation of the Reference Desk to a point at the front of the natural traffic flow into the Research Commons).
4b. Reference and Research Collections
By combining subject expertise and traditional library skills with emerging network and digitizing technologies, the Research Commons creates mechanisms for expanding knowledge and transforming research. As part of this process, librarians will offer specialized reference, consulting, and instruction services across a broad spectrum of subjects and languages. Based on expert knowledge of historical and current resources, they will help create a cohesive research environment embracing all mediums of publication – print, microform, diskettes, CD-ROMs, DVDs, and online.
Librarians will advise on and assist with the access and use of complex information produced by government agencies (federal, state, local, and international, including international governmental organizations) and will provide expertise in international and global research sources.
Research Commons staff will work with faculty and graduate students in exploring options for developing, maintaining, and archiving research projects. Scanning and display technologies will be available in the Commons to convert physical media to digital formats, and staff will be available to offer advice on the conversion process and to assist with the development of electronic text and multimedia projects. Consultation services will be available on the storage and delivery of digital collections as well as the use of XML, metadata, digital library standards, and to advise on best practices. Likewise, technical support will be provided for individuals, departments, centers, and institutes interested in self-archiving their research output in an Institutional Repository.
The development of the Research Commons creates opportunities to update and realign services as they change with the times. This is particularly relevant in the area of Digital Media Production. Services that we propose to be expanded include self-serve availability of scanning and Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software, including OCR for foreign languages and non-Roman character sets. In addition, existing services in online text delivery will be expanded to encompass consulting services in many new areas of application of XML and markup languages in the sciences.
Indiana University is actively working to become an increasingly vital and important driver of the Indiana economy. At the same time, regulatory changes impose new requirements upon researchers conducting research. As a result there is ever-increasing need for researchers to have contact with the Office of the Vice President for Research regarding grant and compliance issues, and with the Advance Research and Technology Institute regarding compliance with IU’s Intellectual Property policy and assistance for researchers in technology transfer. The staff present in the Research Commons will be able to provide information and referral services regarding the services offered by these offices. In addition, both offices have indicated a willingness to have staff available in the Research Commons for appointments and walk-in consulting, initially on a limited basis (perhaps one half-day per week).
4e. Data Analysis and Advanced Computation
Data analysis embraces a broad range of research interests and computational complexities. The Research Commons will provide support for geographic information systems or technologies (commonly referred to as GIS), statistical and mathematical services and software, and database support.
Statistical analyses are an integral part of the research process for scientists in many disciplines, particularly the social sciences. UITS experts will provide extensive availability of consulting on use of statistical and mathematical software. Delivery of statistical consulting services to the university community generally is in flux at present. However, we expect that such services will be refreshed and reinvigorated. As this happens, the Research Commons will provide a logical point of presence for expert statisticians who provide consulting on statistical techniques. This will complement the other services planned for the Research Commons, especially UITS-delivered consulting on use of statistical software.
Database support will include information about access to publicly accessible data sets (ranging from government census data to online gene sequence repositories) as well as consulting on software for management of personal databases. UITS staff in the Research Commons will provide in-person consulting on high performance computing and advanced database technology. The breadth and diversity of researchers at IU who use such technology is already a point of competitive advantage for the University, and expanding the ease of in-person consulting for such services will accelerate the University’s leadership in adopting the most powerful and advanced computational and data analysis tools as a routine part of the research process.
4f .Collaboration and Visualization
Globalization has changed the research endeavor as dramatically as it has the world economy. Indiana University operates the United States’ fastest research network, as well as many high speed international network links. As a result, the University is poised to dramatically enhance the ability of IU researchers to collaborate with others on a nationwide or worldwide basis. Collaborative technologies that allow people separated by hundreds or thousands of miles to interact as naturally as if they were together in a meeting room are now of genuine value to scholars in any discipline. We propose the installation of two types of collaboration technology in the Research Commons to support collaboration: Polycom units in support of video-conferencing and an Access Grid node. Both will have important and far reaching impact on the research endeavor, facilitating collaborations within Indiana University and between Indiana University and other institutions worldwide. Because telecollaboration technology is still relatively new, and many people may not be familiar with its capabilities, devices proposed for inclusion in the Research Commons are described in detail in Appendix 1.
Telecollaboration is one example of the importance of visualization in support of research in many areas of endeavor. The Research Commons will also include advanced display devices useful in various disciplines, from the fine arts to the sciences – and of particular value in the humanities. We anticipate the inclusion of high resolution display devices that will allow the examination of ancient manuscripts in a fashion nearly as useful as examining an original document itself. In addition to advanced 2D displays, virtual reality systems and advanced visualization technology are useful in a wide variety of applications in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities. Indiana University is home to faculty members and a growing cadre of students who use virtual reality systems as their artistic medium. The addition of Indiana University-designed visualization devices to the Research Commons will provide for 3D visualization of data ranging from models of ancient cities to molecular structures. Appendix 1 includes further information on advanced displays and virtual reality systems that we believe should be included in the Research Commons.
4g. Software Support and Distribution and Support for Scholarly Writing
UITS and the IU Libraries already manage licenses for many software packages used as critical components of scholarly endeavors at Indiana University, beyond the personal productivity software available in the IUware suite. The IU Libraries, supported by partnership with other campuses and UITS, manage university-wide licenses for Pro-Cite, ReferenceManager, and EndNote. UITS manages licenses for many statistical packages, mathematical packages, software for nonparametric analysis, as well as many Unix personal productivity tools. Yearly distribution of such software amounts to the distribution of tens of thousands of software packages thousands of individuals (and cost avoidance and savings to the University in the millions per year ). As part of the Research Commons activities, we will provide a consolidated distribution point for such software useful in the research endeavor.
8. The Virtual Research Commons – A OneStart Portal
The OneStart portal  is a rapidly developing Web portal to Indiana University and its services. OneStart allows for highly customized “views” of IU via the Web, based in part upon the role of an individual user. Within OneStart are a variety of pre-set pages devoted to various topics – called “tabs.” The Research Commons concept is, simply put, that a single physical point of access for the critical and widely-used services in support of research will improve IU’s productivity and creativity in scholarly and artistic achievement. That “in person” presence is essential. However, there is also a clear role for a “virtual” point of presence as part of the OneStart portal that will bring together, via the Web, the same array of research resources. Thus, UITS, the IU Libraries, OVPR, and ARTI plan to collaborate to create a Virtual Research Commons in the form of an OneStart tab. The modes of interactions and details services utilized may be different, but the Research Commons and the Web-based Virtual Research Commons will complement each other in support of IU’s scholarly missions. For example, much as a person might walk into the physical Research Commons in the Main Library to ask about IU’s intellectual property policy, one might access the intellectual property disclosure forms via the Research tab in OneStart. Important library services such as IUCAT could also be accessed easily from the proposed Virtual Research Commons. We also expect that the synergies resulting from the collaboration between the Libraries, UITS, and other organizations will create additional information that will be made available via the award-winning IU Knowledge Base , providing improved online support of research through this vehicle.
9. The Research Commons Committee
Julie Bobay Collection Development and E-Scholarship
John Samuel Center for Statistical and Mathematical Computing
Moira Smith Subject Area Librarian
Craig Stewart, co-chair Academic Computing
John Walsh Library Electronic Text Resource Service
Eric Wernert Advanced Visualization Laboratory
 LETRS: The Library Electronic Text Services. 2004. http://www.letrs.indiana.edu/ [Last accessed 3/15/2004]
 Digital Library Program. 2004. http://www.dlib.indiana.edu/ [Last accessed 3/15/2004]
 Variations2: Indiana University Digital Music Library Project. 2004. http://dml.indiana.edu/index.html [Last accessed 3/15/2004]
 Hirshon, A. 1998. Integrating computing and library services: an administrative planning and implementation guide for information resources. Cause Professional Paper #18. http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/PUB3018.pdf [Last accessed 3/15/2004]
 Research and Academic Computing Balanced Scorecard. http://about.uits.iu.edu/divisions/rac/scorecard.html [Last accessed 3/15/2004]
 OneStart. http://onestart.iu.edu/ [Last accessed 3/15/2004]
 Indiana University Knowledge Base. http://kb.iu.edu/ [Last accessed 3/15/2004]
1 When the Main Library is renovated, these services will be relocated to the second and third floors, per the approved Master Plan for the building.