The Research Support Fund (RSF) plays a critical role in offsetting indirect costs of research across campus, including at Western Libraries, which received more than $1 million in 2017-18. With this funding, libraries are able to hire highly qualified personnel, purchase the most up-to-date content databases for researchers, and maintain physical and digital library infrastructure.
Associate Chief Librarian Robert Glushko explains the important, and changing, role of Western Libraries: "We are still very much in the business of providing physical spaces and content, but increasingly, we provide expertise, knowledge and access to resources that our faculty members and graduate students could not get on their own," he says.
He points to several key areas where RSF supports his colleagues' efforts to advance research:
This funding helps support the salaries of librarians, who are highly qualified personnel essential to Western's success. As an example, they provide deep expertise in applying the right kind of search strategies to access much-needed content. This is important for complicated studies like systematic reviews, which provide a complete up-to-date summary of a research field by searching for, and summarizing, literature from numerous sources - like journals, books and conferences - in multiple physical and digital platforms.
Librarians also teach techniques, including how to determine easily searchable keywords to make their content more discoverable by search engines. If a paper is poorly named, it will not be easily searchable and may, therefore, be poorly cited.
"When you are writing an academic paper, you are not only writing for an audience, you are also writing for a search engine," Glushko says.
He also encourages researchers to consider publishing their academic work in alternative, non-academic platforms, such as blogs, and to leverage social media platforms like Twitter. Increasingly, one of the primary ways for academics to connect to a wider audience is through online media, Glushko says.
He and his team also help researchers start their own academic journals from scratch - from graphic design to making them open access to managing the peer-review process. One of the biggest challenges he faces is finding, and hiring, librarians with computer coding skills.
"We need to be able to meet the needs of modern researchers who are using increasingly sophisticated ways to search and analyze vast amounts of written and visual data - archival texts, and paintings, for example," he says.
When we think of libraries, we often think of books, maps, journals and other forms of literature. Western Libraries uses RSF funding to buy journal subscriptions and access to online databases to provide faculty, students and postdoctoral scholars with the latest research at their fingertips. Providing access anywhere, without physical pages, is a key feature of the modern university library.
"We have been privileged to help keep our collections where they need to be to support an institution of this quality," Glushko says.
But the cost of content is keeps increasing. To keep costs down, he regularly monitors the types of content being read and how often are they accessed, which helps him decide which subscriptions to keep and which to get rid of.
Research Data Management
The Tri-Councils are encouraging universities to implement research data management (RDM) strategies - the storage, access and preservation of data produced from research work. Glushko and his team provide faculty members with video guides and consultations to help them get started on RDM. RSF helps his team offset the costs of preparing these assets.
"You don't notice infrastructure until it's broken," Glushko says.
He and his team also spend a sizeable amount of time and money maintaining library infrastructure - preventing books, journals and archival texts from degrading, and servicing and updating digital infrastructure like servers and computers that house all of Western Libraries' digital content, research papers, theses and online databases.
"Things are changing, and we are entering a new era," Glushko says. "Yet, our mission remains the same - provide information and make knowledge available to meet needs of student faulty and society."
The Research Support Fund assists Canadian postsecondary institutions with the costs associated with managing their research enterprise, helping them to maintain a world-class research environment. Grants can be used to: maintain modern labs and equipment; provide access to up-to-date knowledge resources; provide research management and administrative support; meet regulatory and ethical standards; or transfer knowledge from academia to the private, public and not-for-profit sectors. All of this helps make Canada a world leader in research and development.