Digital scholarship blog

30 November 2022

Skills and Training Needs to Open Heritage Research Through Repositories: Scoping report and Repository Training Programme for cultural heritage professionals

Do you think the repository landscape is mature enough in the heritage sector? Are the policies, infrastructure and skills in place to open up heritage research through digital repositories? Our brief analysis shows that research activity in GLAMs needs better acknowledgement, established digital repositories for dissemination of outputs and empowered staff to make use of repository services. At the British Library, we published a report called Scoping Skills and Developing Training Programme for Managing Repository Services in Cultural Heritage Organisations. We looked at the roles and people involved in the research workflow in GLAMs, and their skills needs to share heritage research openly through digital repositories in order to develop a training program for cultural heritage professionals.

 

Making heritage research openly available

Making research openly available to everyone increases the reach and impact of the work, driving increased value for money in research investment, and helps to make research reusable for everyone. ‘Open’ in this context is not only about making research freely accessible but also about ensuring the research is shared with rich metadata, licensed for reuse, including persistent identifiers, and is discoverable. Communicating research in GLAM contexts goes beyond journal articles. Digital scholarship, practice-based and computational research approaches generate a wide range of complex objects that need to be shared, reused to inform practice, policy and future research, and cannot necessarily be assessed with common metrics and rankings of academia.

The array of research activity in GLAMs needs to be addressed in the context of research repositories. If you look at OpenDOAR and Re3data, the global directories of open repositories, the number of repositories in the cultural heritage sector is still small compared to academic institutions. There is an increasing need to establish repositories for heritage research and to empower cultural heritage professionals to make use of repository services. Staff who are involved in supporting research activities, managing digital collections, and providing research infrastructure in GLAM organisations must be supported with capacity development programmes to establish open scholarship activities and share their research outputs through research repositories.

 

Who is involved in the research activities and repository services?

This question is important considering that staff may not be explicitly research-active, yet research is regularly conducted in addition to day-to-day jobs in GLAMs. In addition, organisations are not primarily driven by a research agenda in the heritage sector. The study we undertook as part of an AHRC funded repository infrastructure project showed us that cultural heritage professionals are challenged by the invisibility of forms of research conducted in their day-to-day jobs as well as lack of dedicated time and staff to work around open scholarship.

In order to bring clarity to the personas involved in research activities and link them to competencies and training needs later on for the purpose of this work, we defined five profiles that carry out and contribute to research in cultural heritage organisations. These five profiles illustrate the researcher as a core player, alongside four other profiles involved in making research happen, and ensuring it can be published, shared, communicated and preserved.

 

A 5 column chart showing 'researchers', 'curators and content creators', 'infomediaries', 'infrastructure architects', and 'policy makers' as the key personas identified.
Figure 1. Profiles identified in the cultural heritage institutions to conduct, facilitate, and support research workflow.

 

 

Consultation on training needs for repository services

We explored the skill gaps and training needs of GLAM professionals from curation to rights management, and open scholarship to management of repository services. In addition to scanning the training landscape for competency frameworks, existing programmes and resources, we conducted interviews to explore training requirements relevant to repository services. Finally, we validated initial findings in a consultative workshop with cultural heritage professionals, to hear their experience and get input to a competency framework and training curriculum.

Interviews highlighted that there is a lack of knowledge and support in cultural heritage organisations, where institutional support and training is not guaranteed for research communication or open scholarship. In terms of types of research activities, the workshop brought interesting discussions about what constitutes ‘research’ in the cultural heritage context and what makes it different to research in a university context. The event underlined the fact that cultural heritage staff profiles for producing, supporting, and communicating the research are different to the higher education landscape at many levels.

 

Discussion board showing virtual post its stuck to a canvas with a river in the background, identifying three key areas: 'What skills and knowledge do we already have?', 'What training elements are required?', and 'What skills and knowledge do we need?' (with the second question acting as a metaphorical bridge over the river).
Figure 2: Discussion board from the Skills and Training Breakout Session in virtual Consultative Workshop held on 28/04/2022.

 

The interviews and the consultative workshop highlighted that the ways of research conducted and communicated in the cultural heritage sector (as opposed to academia) should be taken into account in identifying skills needed and developing training programmes in the areas of open scholarship.

 

Competency framework and curriculum for repository training programme

There is a wealth of information, valuable project outputs, and a number of good analytical works available to identify gaps and gain new skills, particularly in the areas of open science, scholarly communications and research data management. However, adjusting and adopting these works to the context of cultural heritage organisations and relevant professionals will increase their relevance and uptake. Derived from our desk research and workshop analysis, we developed a competency framework that sets out the knowledge and skills required to support open scholarship for the personas present in GLAM organisations. Topic clusters used in the framework are as follows:

  1. Repository Service management
  2. Curation & data stewardship
  3. Metadata management
  4. Preservation
  5. Scholarly publishing
  6. Assessment and impact
  7. Advocacy and communication
  8. Capacity development

The proposed curriculum was designed by considering the pathways to develop, accelerate and manage a repository service. It contains only the areas that we identify as a priority to deliver the most value to cultural heritage organisations. Five teaching modules are considered in this preliminary work: 

  1. Opening up heritage research
  2. Getting started with GLAM repositories
  3. Realising and expanding the benefits
  4. Exploring the scholarly communications ecosystem
  5. Topics for future development

A complete version of the competency framework and the curriculum can be found in the report and is also available as a Google spreadsheet. They will drive increased uptake and use of repositories across AHRC’s investments, increasing value for money from both research funding and infrastructure funding.

 

What is next?

From January to July2023, we, at the British Library, will prepare a core set of materials based on this curriculum and deliver training events in a combination of online and in-person workshops. Training events are being planned to take place in Scotland, North England, Wales in person in addition to several online sessions. Both the framework and the training curriculum will be refined as we receive feedback and input from the participants of these events throughout next year. Event details will be announced in collaboration with host institutions in this blog as well as on our social media channels. Watch this space for more information.

If you have any feedback or questions, please contact us at openaccess@bl.uk.

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