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At Monash University, "Early Career Researcher" is a Development Continuum in Which Our Library Plays a Leading Role

Wilna Macmillan, Monash University Library | July 01, 2010

Over the last 6 years, Monash University has revitalized its research strategy to position the university to contribute to Australia and the international community through focusing on solutions for issues of local and global consequence. During that time, the university’s research funding has increased by approximately 80% and Higher Degree Research (HDR) students by more than 30%.

The university’s new Passport 2.0 approach actively introduces research thinking and practice to undergraduates, particularly through expanded honors programs that aim to transform the “Early Career Researcher” (ECR) concept into a continuum of development. We hope this continuum approach will result in more individuals choosing to continue on as ECRs with positive outcomes including increasing research investment and impact.

How does the library contribute to this development of ECRs? The library works to enable ECRs to gain maximum benefit from collections, services and infrastructure, including infrastructure for research output, as soon as they join the university community. At every stage along the ECR development continuum, whether an ECR comes from within Monash University or elsewhere, the library works with individuals to enable them to succeed in their research and career goals.

Our library collaborates across the university to support ECRs

Working closely with the university’s Research Office, the library contributed to developing the university’s Research Induction Toolkit and participates in Research Induction programs, highlighting potential differences for researchers coming from other institutions and options available for researchers coming from undergraduate levels. Copyright, research data management, the institutional repository, Monash University Publishing and learning skills for undergraduates and HDRs are some areas that ECRs may be surprised to find led by the library.

Librarians and learning-skills advisers work in teams aligned with faculties and research centers on all campuses.With a letter from the university librarian, the librarians contact each new academic staff member and introduce themselves, highlight some services and offer assistance in making the most of the library. This initial step can help build strong collaborative relationships between librarians and researchers.

At every stage along the ECR development continuum ... the library works with individuals to enable them to succeed.

Librarians advise ECRs on access to the library’s print and extensive electronic collections. This advice focuses on collections and document delivery services, EndNote, bibliometric tools and research data management planning and services, all tailored for the Monash University context. The librarians encourage ECRs to recommend items to build the collections and offer to assess them for particular research areas, by using a methodology that deliberately builds the relationship between researcher and librarian.

For HDR and honors students, librarians and learning-skills advisers develop and deliver workshops, programs and podcasts covering areas such as copyright, research data management, EndNote, academic writing and communication, thesis preparation and publishing options.

The library also partners with Monash University Research Graduate School, which oversees the university’s Higher Degree Research cohort, and provides special support services to ECRs. This partnership has resulted in the library providing ECRs with eXpert Seminars on the range of available library services, including research data management, copyright, the use of the repository for e-theses management and publishing. Currently the partnership is looking at the issue of ECRs’ access to library services during critical times, such as following enrollment but preceding arrival at the university, following completion of undergraduate study but preceding higher-degree research, or following submittal of a thesis but preceding its publication. These issues loom large for researchers trying to get started.

Additionally, Monash University Library collaborates with the university’s eResearch Centre, as well as Records and Archives and Information Technology, to promote and support eResearch and information management opportunities, including research data management and storage.

Our library and university collaborate externally to support ECRs

In our quest to develop and implement best practices regarding how to support ECRs, our library also collaborates externally. These collaborations include working with CAUL (the Council of Australian University Librarians), which improves access to information resources for Australian researchers, and with CAVAL (Cooperative Action by Victorian Academic Libraries), a cooperative organization providing reciprocal access and storage facilities for research collections.

Further, Monash University and the University of Melbourne collaborate on Asian Studies research services, research seminars and intercampus loans. And a memorandum of understanding with the Queensland University of Technology supports eResearch collaboration.

Understanding the changing landscape of scholarly communication is key

The world of scholarly communication is changing profoundly. Contributors include:

  • Changes in publishing practices and possibilities
  • Increased options for exposing research
  • Growing interest in access to and reuse of research data
  • Increased opportunities to access information
  • Research governance changes.

To work effectively with ECRs and ensure that the institution’s investment in the library provides these researchers with a competitive advantage, library staff need to understand the forces affecting the future of scholarly communication.