Strategies for Funding Scholarly Authorship Services on your Campus
Many activities in the classroom, the lab, and the research group intersect with the library and the resources provided by the library budget. Students, faculty and researchers use an amazing array of online resources—e-books, journals, conference proceedings, datasets, complex databases—usually funded by the university library. But what about the scholarly tools needed to analyze, write, publish and archive the results of the research completed? Which budget supports the analytic software for social scientists, the GIS software to map data, the authoring software to format articles, the supplies for the 3D printer lab? For most institutions the answer is, it depends. As libraries become more digital and library services increasingly support the creation and integration of digital content, library budgets are being stretched to encompass more aspects of the research lifecycle including the creation, production and archiving of digital content. One solution is for university libraries to partner with other campus departments and units to fund these resources to be able to provide the services and tools needed in this digital environment.
Evolving role in the research lifecycle
The library purchases and stores the books and journals and makes them available on demand to students and faculty—full stop. That’s the way we have always done it, up until now. Libraries can and do provide much more than this. Librarians teach how to use the resources and scholarly tools, even if it is just to notify users of what is available by listing the resources and tools in the online catalog or on a research guide. In some settings, librarians have developed workshops and classes for how and why to use the resources. At a more advanced level, librarians are contributing to the Author Carpentry curriculum, modeled on the Software Carpentry classes which are designed to teach researchers the computing skills needed “to get more done in less time and with less pain.”
Author Carpentry has as its goal:
“developing a researcher-to-researcher training and outreach program in open authoring and publishing, scholarly identity and reputation, and research impact. Author Carpentry picks up with the ‘last mile’ of the research process: writing, reporting, review, dissemination and licensing, impact measurement, and establishing author identity and reputation.”
In addition, many academic libraries have added scholarly communications librarian roles to encourage alternative cost-effective publishing, to inform scholars about new publishing technologies, to support collaboration and to facilitate new methods for faculty to use and share academic research. Both a qualitatively and quantitatively different level of service than what has been done previously with the stated goal of increasing the degree of library involvement in the research process.
Below is a diagram that summarizes both the degree and type of involvement of libraries in providing information resources and tools to support the research lifecycle.
Figure 1: Continuum of library involvement in the provision of information tools and resources.
Each layer builds on the one below it. The bottom layer is fundamental to every resource acquired: first, ensure access and second, provide basic descriptions and general use information for every resource purchased by the library. The next level, in-depth training workshops, one-to-one sessions, in-class presentations is critical for researcher success and moves the library closer to meeting the higher-level needs of the users—even if they think they already know everything. At the pinnacle of the pyramid is the future next step in the relationship between the library and the scholarly process—providing the highest-level tools and expertise to enable the production, sharing and archiving of research articles and data, preprints, conference sessions and to facilitate collaboration and author identity. While these tools are not the books, journals and databases that are fundamental to the research enterprise, they are a required and necessary part of the research lifecycle.
Strategies for engaging with campus partners
With the addition of scholarly communication roles and Author Carpentry workshops, the library is a partner in the endeavor to add more scholarly communication tools to the university ecosystem. The library can advocate for the adoption of the tools needed to streamline the authorship process and encourage collaboration across campus and between institutions. Working cooperatively with other campus units to secure the funding to provide these tools can be challenging. The first step is to understand which other campus units and departments could be partners in purchasing and licensing scholarly authoring tools such as Overleaf for the entire campus. Here are some suggestions:
- Graduate Office or Dissertation Office often must help alleviate the confusion and frustration underlying the dissertation or thesis submission process. This entire process can be streamlined when a research authoring tool like Overleaf is introduced on campus. For more information, review this case study about how Overleaf helped improve the dissertation submission process at Purdue University.
- Graduate student and post-doc support departments or other units working to improve student writing and article submissions can promote the journal templates available on Overleaf. These templates are vetted by the journal publishers and include all of the information needed for correct formatting of the final article. In many cases, Overleaf provides a seamless submission process. A list of journal publishing partners is available on the Overleaf homepage. For more information, review this case study on how the use of Overleaf has improved article submissions to the F1000 Research platform.
- IT or Campus Technology departments or other units responsible for providing the software infrastructure for the entire campus by licensing email, word processing, data analysis, mathematics or CAD software for all students, faculty and staff could also help with the licensing of Overleaf as part of the campus computing infrastructure. Academic institutions wanting to provide campus-wide access to \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) might need to install and then maintain, update and support a comprehensive, enterprise-wide \(\mathrm\TeX\) system. For a more efficient approach, Overleaf provides a cloud-based \(\mathrm \LaTeX\) authorship and project collaboration tool for the entire campus—backed by powerful servers, updated continuously with a state-of-the-art \(\mathrm\TeX\) installation. A discussion of the complexities of \(\mathrm \TeX\) are covered in this article on the Overleaf blog.
- Schools of Engineering or departments of Mathematics, Physics, Economics, Biology, Statistics, or other fields requiring class assignments and projects to be completed with numerical formulae or scientific notation could benefit from the Overleaf features specific to the classroom such as protected projects and other features described in the Teaching Toolkit. Case studies based on the experiences of a Physics Professor at Hartwick College and an Assistant Mathematics & Computer Science Professor at Salisbury College provide examples of how Overleaf is used in the lab and the classroom for assignments and to improve writing.
- Institutional Research or Grant Funding units that are responsible for helping faculty, post-docs and graduate students submit research grants could benefit from the funding agency templates on Overleaf. The templates not only provide the required formatting, but also offer ease of access, support improved visibility for collaborations, and encourage consistency in the formatting and preparation of grant applications for uniform submissions.
- Campus repositories submission processes for faculty and student publications, dissertations, theses and other student projects including posters could be streamlined by using standardized locally produced templates within Overleaf. A case study based on the partnership between the Department of Computer Science and the Library at Brown University details the advantages of using Overleaf templates for submissions into the campus repository.
- University presses, library units promoting open access publishing on campus and departments sponsoring student journals could benefit by using a system that provides for the development of submission templates, secure collaboration and simplified submission links for books and journals. Review this article on the Overleaf Blog for information on how Overleaf can be used as a safe and secure platform on which to build innovative solutions for book publishing.
Value of the Overleaf Commons subscription
Some suggestions for campus departments who may find Overleaf’s authoring and collaboration solutions critical to support their success have been listed above. These units may be interested in supporting a scholarly authoring tool for the entire campus. The added value of an Overleaf Commons subscription for an institution is that it provides detailed metrics and a customized Overleaf Portal with easy sign-on for all authorized users, links to dissertation or thesis templates as well as links to campus writing guidelines and other tools. As part of the Overleaf Commons subscription, the Overleaf Administrator Hub provides in-depth metrics on usage, number of projects created, and collaboration with other institutions. The collaboration data in particular is extremely valuable and difficult to gather from other resources. For example, analysis of the first nine months of the 2016–17 trial data from the Cambridge University trial shows that:
“the number of institutions with members working with Overleaf users at Cambridge University has increased from less than 100 institutions to nearly 250.”
Additional data from the Cambridge University trial demonstrates continuous and sustained increase in usage and a five-fold increase in the number of projects during the first nine months of the trial as reported in a recent case study published on the Overleaf blog.
If students and faculty on your campus are already using individual or group accounts on Overleaf, you can contact Overleaf and request a report of local usage to determine which departments on your campus need or are already using Overleaf. Armed with this information you can make an appeal for support from these units and ask users to comment on how Overleaf is essential to their research process.
Helen B. Josephine, Solution Specialist
Helen Josephine has worked in academic and corporate libraries providing technology solutions and science information services for researchers, faculty and students. She recently retired as Head of the Terman Engineering Library at Stanford University. In this position, she was the campus champion for Overleaf successfully growing the user base from less than 400 users in 2014 to over 5000 users in 2017.