Research tools: Why Institutions Should Care

Mr Malcolm Wolski1, Ms Louise Howard1

1Griffith University, Brisbane/Gold Coast, Australia



Tools are critical to undertake successful research. Researchers are increasingly utilising software tools as an integral part of the research lifecycle to manage, process, analyse and integrate data from multiple sources.

This increasing use of tools has implications for not only researchers but also the institutions where the researchers are located. Support for research tools by institutions has high-level impacts, ranging from financial, strategic, and compliance through to capacity, capability, and connectivity.

This presentation outlines the ramifications for institutions, particularly universities, in supporting the increasingly complex tools which are used in the research lifecycle. It also explores the use of a trust framework to address this challenge.



The eResearch environment in Australia has changed significantly over the last decade. The first investment wave saw substantial resources channelled into developing research infrastructure, e.g. servers, storage, and high performance computing (HPC). However, there has been growing recognition that “Research outputs, whether data, software, methods or publications, are critical inputs to future research and underpin innovation” (O’Brien, 2016).

In more recent times much attention has been given to supporting researchers with their data management requirements. Less attention has been given to the tools that researchers use that are critical to successful research. And yet support for research tools by institutions has high-level implications, ranging from financial, strategic, and compliance through to capacity, capability, and connectivity. The current wave of cybersecurity incidents has also highlighted institutional exposure to the development and use of such tools.

Kramer and Bosman have extensively researched the use of tools by researchers. Of the more than twenty thousand responses to their 2016 online survey, researchers accounted for seventy-two percent and librarians for just seven percent. The average number of tools reported per person was twenty-two. The current list of tools exceeds six hundred.

How, therefore, do researchers determine which tools they should use? When they do find them, how can they assess the risks and determine the credentials for use of the tools?

This presentation will discuss reasons why institutions should take an interest in tools their researchers are using and also explore the application of a trust framework to assess tools. This framework can be used as a guide by support and outreach staff to provide advice to the research community.


Louise Howard is is an information professional with over 20 years’ experience in information management and governance in the public sector, including local and state government and higher education. She is currently part of the senior leadership team providing library, information and IT services at Griffith University to staff, students and researchers, with particular responsibility for a comprehensive range of  information technology infrastructure services. Her current focus is on continuing to evolve Griffith’s IT services and practices to ensure agility and flexibility in service design and delivery.

Malcolm Wolski is the Director, eResearch Services, at Griffith University. In his role, he is responsible for the development, management and delivery of eResearch services to support the University’s research community, which includes the associated information management systems, infrastructure provision, data management services, and media production. Malcolm is a part of the senior leadership team providing library, information and IT services at the University, and he works closely with these groups to provide service desk, infrastructure and outreach services to the research community.

Recent Comments