What researchers really want: and what it means for researcher-centric services

Steven Chang1, Eva Fisch2, Michele Hosking3

1La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia, s.chang@latrobe.edu.au

2La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia, e.fisch@latrobe.edu.au

3La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia



In a scholarly environment undergoing rapid cultural changes to researcher norms and expectations, a crucial factor in the development and adoption of eResearch infrastructure is an appreciation of researchers’ attitudes, habits, and needs [1]. Moreover, researchers may face varying challenges according to discipline and their career stage [2]. The increasing emphasis on designing and reconfiguring researcher-centric services requires tailoring them to the research community’s preferences. This approach leads to wider adoption of research infrastructure, as there is a closer alignment between everyday research practice, disciplinary norms, and the research toolset.


In a 2011 literature study on researcher needs, Feijen’s environmental scan identified that non-technical, soft, or social factors influencing research data management such as control and incentives were most significant for researchers. The report identified that successful researcher support services must be of immediate benefit, local, available at the point of need, easy to use, and optional rather than forced. A “cafeteria” model is favoured, where researchers can pick and choose services most relevant to them.

A study on data management practices in Australian universities found that researchers recognise the need for formal research data management plans, but do not usually have one that is more than rudimentary. Furthermore, the evidence suggested researchers are often willing to share their data, but only when there is an easy means of doing so without bureaucratic or time-consuming constraints [3].


In order to develop and transform support structures in a researcher-centric way, up-to-date data is needed to understand the user. Accordingly, this paper investigates behaviours towards eResearch at La Trobe University based on 2017 interviews with over 130 researchers at various career stages. This data was used to develop the business needs and requirements for the University’s Enterprise Research Data Management System (ERDMS) project.  A high-level summary of the business needs and requirements from the interviews was presented at eResearch Conference 2017 by Williams, Fisch, and Huggard [4].

La Trobe’s ERDMS project is now completed and the research data management systems implemented by it (figshare, LabArchives, etc.) have now transitioned into “business as usual”. In order to effectively design services and training to maximise the value of these systems, the Library Research Data support team is revisiting the original stakeholder interviews to mine them for evidence that illuminates user preferences, behaviours, knowledge, and disciplinary needs.


This presentation discusses how these factors have significant implications for the ways in which research support staff design training and, crucially, engage with researchers from the inception of the service design process to co-create effective programs. Our qualitative evidence provides insight on what researchers really want from support services. This knowledge will inform a pilot project working with researchers to co-design customised research infrastructure and support. This approach is in line with La Trobe’s orientation towards centring technology around the research community’s needs by delivering nuanced and effective services to facilitate high-quality research outcomes.

In addition, the project personnel are reflecting and acting on current literature about the benefits of co-designing services [5]. The library and information sciences scholarship on this topic tends to focus on co-designing services in the context of public libraries, academic learning and teaching for undergraduate students, developing physical library spaces, and website redesigns [6, 7, 8, 9]. It is less common for these participatory design methods to be associated with research infrastructure development. This pilot project will contribute to broadening the deployment of co-design to the research services world in order to enhance stakeholder engagement and harmonise researcher workflows with enterprise level systems.


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  1. Yoon, A., & Kim, Y. (2017). Social scientists’ data reuse behaviors: Exploring the roles of attitudinal beliefs, attitudes, norms, and data repositories. Library & Information Science Research, 39(3), 224-233.
  1. Henty, M., Weaver, B., Bradbury, S., & Porter, S. (2008). Investigating data management practices in Australian universities. Accessible at: http://hdl.handle.net/1885/47627
  1. Williams, A., Fisch, E., & Huggard, S. (2017). Leveraging projects for institution-wide benefit – expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised. eResearch Australasia Conference 2017. Accessible at: https://conference.eresearch.edu.au/2017/08/leveraging-projects-for-institution-wide-benefit-expect-the-best-plan-for-the-worst-and-prepare-to-be-surprised/
  1. Steen, M., Manschot, M., & De Koning, N. (2011). Benefits of co-design in service design projects. International Journal of Design, 5(2).
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  1. Bech-Petersen, S. (2016). Dokk1: co-creation as a new way of working in libraries. AIB STUDI, 56(3), 441-450.
  1. Foster (2014), Participatory Design in Academic Libraries New Reports and Findings https://www.clir.org/pubs/reports/pub161/
  1. Somerville, M. M., & Brar, N. (2006). Collaborative co-design: the Cal Poly digital teaching library user centric approach. Library Scholarship, 24.



Steven Chang is Research Data Outreach Officer at La Trobe University Library. He is interested in open scholarship, systematic review methodology, research data management, and health librarianship. Steven comes from a medical librarian background, and is the former editor of the publication Health Inform.


Eva Fisch is manager of the Library Research Team, who provide services relating to research information expertise, publication management, open access publishing, copyright, research impact, and research data management.


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