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Supporting research innovation and collaboration through library initiatives

Stellenbosch University Library and Information Service expands its role

By Renee Reagon, Stellenbosch University | Mar 13, 2012

The Research Commons at Stellenbosch University

Stellenbosch University Library and Information Service has completed several key initiatives focused on supporting the strategic plan of the Vice Rector of Research. In this plan, the university is positioning itself as the leading research-intensive higher education institution in Africa by:

  • Pursuing excellence and remaining at the forefront of its chosen focal areas
  • Gaining national and international standing for its research outputs, and for producing graduates who are sought after for their creative, critical thinking
  • Being relevant to the needs of the community, taking into consideration the needs of South Africa in particular and Africa in general
  • Being enterprising, innovative and self-renewing

Underpinning this vision is the university’s intent to foster research collaboration, build international research networks, and offer state-of-the-art, high-level research support and infrastructure to its students and faculty. Library and Information Service programs in support of these goals include:

Research performance management
The library has been instrumental in implementing research and evaluation performance tools to strategically manage research within the institution. With SciVal® Spotlight, which uses co-citation analysis data and visualization techniques, the library can identify:

  • Research strengths and niche areas
  • How the university’s researchers are collaborating across disciplines, institutions and geographical areas
  • Key competitors in research output
  • Potential areas for collaboration
  • How and where to allocate resources to optimize research within the institution

The library has organized workshops to help university management understand data presented by SciVal Spotlight, within the context of managing institutional performance and identifying opportunities for facilitating research partnerships. Later in 2012 the library, together with Elsevier, will convene a Research Collaboration workshop to examine how the university collaborates and to identify potential research partners for future collaboration.

In addition, the library recently implemented SciVal Experts and SciVal Strata to showcase the university’s researchers and further manage benchmarking of research performance.

Research Commons
In March 2011, the library opened the Research Commons, an innovative space for postgraduates and researchers to engage in collaborative research and academic discussion or to find space for self-study or reflection. The Research Commons provides facilities and rooms that encourage collaborative research and networking and offers enhanced services so students can engage with mentors and trainers or facilitators for in-depth assistance with research and proposal writing.

Research skills development
The library develops and offers programs that support the skills development and success of researchers, postgraduates and undergraduates. Skills development training and workshops encourage an enhanced research experience and ensure that the university increases its research output and quality of graduates. Topics include authoring, search strategy, grant proposal writing, bibliographic data management, and thesis proposal writing. Training aimed at postgraduates includes general information literacy, writing and career management, search strategy, and bibliometric analysis.

Stellenbosch University Library and Information Service has provided state-of-the-art services, space and resources to support the institutional vision of becoming the top research institution on the African continent. It has intently focused on providing high-level, in-depth support to its postgraduates and researchers to ensure the highest quality graduate and research output.

The library has also moved into new roles by assisting the institution in implementing performance measurement tools such as SciVal Spotlight and SciVal Strata. Ultimately these kinds of tools could provide valuable insight into how the institute allocates research funding and resources.