Industry Report Reveals Challenges among Researchers and Research Office Leaders during COVID-19

An Ex Libris-commissioned report uncovers lower levels of support from the research office and library versus 2019, increased pressure on research funding, and opportunities for greater collaboration between research offices and libraries.

Libris, a ProQuest company, is pleased to announce the publication of its annual study on the challenges that academic researchers face, the priorities of research office leaders, and key opportunities for research offices and libraries to support scholarship at institutions of higher education.

The study was commissioned by Ex Libris and conducted by Alterline, an independent research agency. The report presents findings from a survey of 314 researchers across a range of disciplines and 101 senior members of research offices in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

The key findings of the study include the following:


  • Funding remains a top priority, but a lack of time and resources is a major challenge for researchers and research office members in trying to secure funding. Finding relevant funding opportunities (rated difficult or very difficult by 62% of the researchers participating in the study) and applying for grants (difficult or very difficult for 83% of the researchers) continue to be the most demanding part of the research life cycle. 
  • The assessment of research impact via citation-based metrics is popular and used by 90% of researchers and 63% of research office staff. However, researchers report increased frustration with such metrics and aspire for more nuanced measures that are suitable across non-STEM disciplines and reflect long-term social impact. 
  • Improving the university’s ranking and prestige is the second highest priority for the research office, after obtaining funding; however, 40% of research offices report that their institution does not have a portal to showcase their scholars’ work. 
  • Researchers are mostly positive about the support provided by their research office and library, but satisfaction rates are significantly lower than in 2019. COVID-19 may be a contributing factor, with the shift in research priorities, the decrease in resources, and the heightened focus on operational needs, such as facilitating online work. 
  • Senior members of research offices want to strengthen relationships with the library. The top areas of collaboration between the research office and the library consist of open-access compliance (noted by 64% of respondents), the tracking of publications by the institution’s researchers (46%), and the updating of researcher profiles (32%). 
  • Researchers’ support for open access is growing. Before COVID-19, 72% of researchers viewed open access favorably, and 18% now report that they view open access more positively since the onset of COVID-19. 
  • The administrative burden on researchers is still a major challenge, and COVID-19 might be aggravating the situation. According to 21% of researchers participating in the study, more than half their time is dedicated to administrative research tasks.

Ex Libris Corporate Vice President of Learning and Research Solutions Shlomi Kringel commented, “This year’s study highlights some of the unique challenges that COVID-19 has imposed on researchers and institutions of higher education. The report sheds light on ways in which research offices and libraries can use their expertise and further collaborate to address a variety of institutional needs, such as securing research funding, improving the visibility of research work, and relieving scholars of research-related administrative burdens.”

Zara Lawson, Research Manager at Alterline, said: “This year, we saw existing challenges intensified by COVID-19, with both members of research offices and researchers facing pressure to continue delivering excellent research, bring in funding, and manage workloads in the face of new restrictions and limited time to perform these activities. There is clear need for the improvement of technological systems to support these activities, and greater pressure to work collaboratively to meet these shared goals.”

Read the report (freely accessible) here


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