From Ithaka S+R:
Today Ithaka S+R releases its in-depth report on the research activities of agriculture scholars as part of its ongoing program to explore the research activities of scholars by discipline.
For Supporting the Changing Research Practices of Agriculture Scholars, we explore the breadth of agriculture research activities in U.S. higher education towards fostering information services that will support those endeavors. As the report highlights, agriculture is a particularly compelling field because of its broad scope and wider societal relevance, which leads to questions about how research insights will be shared with and lead to benefits for the public-at-large.
Supporting the Changing Research Practices of Agriculture Scholars is the culmination of a collaborative project sponsored by the United States Agricultural Information Network (USAIN) and CABI (Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International) in partnership with nineteen institutions offering agricultural research services in the U.S.
From the Report’s Executive Summary
Ithaka S+R’s Research Support Services Program investigates how the research support needs of scholars vary by discipline. In 2016-2017 Ithaka S+R examined the changing research methods and practices of academic agriculture scholars in the United States, with the goal of identifying services to better support them.
Recommendations Shared in the Report
Discovering and Accessing Information
- Streamline and simplify information discovery platforms.
Agriculture scholars prefer easy-to-use discovery platforms and seek opportunities to consult as few platforms as possible; however, they continue to rely on multiple platforms because of content gaps.
- Develop and promote best practices for discovering information through automation and social media.
Agriculture scholars rely on tools and services to keep up with the literature in their field, and social media is emerging as a preferred approach.
- Focus on training students in information discovery and retrieval.
Agriculture scholars rely on their students to discover and retrieve other published content related to their research but they are also concerned about their students’ abilities to do so. Agriculture scholars perceive that they are not solely or even primarily responsible to provide this training and are receptive to that training being provided by others, including those affiliated with their institution’s library.
- Educate scholars on best practices for organizing and preserving their information.
Agriculture scholars are responsible for maintaining information collections for their present use and over the course of their careers, often in a variety of formats that evolve over time. They largely design and maintain these collections independently and idiosyncratically, for which they currently receive minimal to no oversight or training from those with expertise in information management.
- Develop digital storage services that are responsive to scholars’ needs.
Many agriculture scholars rely on a patchwork system of different storage solutions as a mechanism for ensuring they have adequate space and back-ups, however, such systems are challenging for tracking and maintaining collections in the long term. Digital storage services for agriculture scholars must provide adequate space, support for ensuring appropriate mechanisms for preservation, and reflect that scholars may not have the same institutional affiliation over the course of their careers.
- Partner with scholars and departments to improve transitions for personal information collections.
Agriculture scholars often do not have plans for their personal information collections for the long term beyond their own use. Consistent policies and programs for appraising information collections that scholars will no longer be personally maintaining, will lead to more systematic approaches to determining which information should be discarded and retained, and by whom.
Audience, Output, and Credit
- Develop and strengthen services to help faculty articulate the value of their publications.
The metrics of evaluating publications towards tenure and promotion are in flux, warranting support for effectively articulating the value of research, including through alternative metrics.
- Improve the features and functionality of society journals. Authors view current page charge schemes in society journals negatively because they do not perceive that they are receiving adequate value in return, particularly in comparison to their experiences publishing in proprietary venues. Improved functionality in the discovery and submission process and other features, such as automatic open access or waiving page charges based on frequency of reviews, may help better justify page charges.
- Advocate for and create mechanisms for recognizing and rewarding data sharing when appropriate.
In some areas of agriculture research, most notably genetics, shareable data is incredibly important to the culture and pace of field advancement. Systems of reward through grants, tenure and promotion have not yet been brought into alignment to recognize these contributions. Best practices must also be established so that data sets can be discovered across platforms and cited accordingly to promote and credit their use.
- Create best practices and infrastructures for effectively communicating agriculture research to the public.
Agriculture scholars are aware of and concerned by low public awareness of agriculture research and agriculture more broadly, however, they are not in a structural position to improve public awareness on their own. Digital media platforms and social networking have the potential to strengthen public communication channels and scholars need considerable support to translate their work through these mediums.
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Direct to Full Text Report (36 pages; PDF)