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McMaster’s Evolving Digital Research Support Landscape

Executive Summary

This report presents findings from the Digital Research Commons Pilot’s (DRCP) Context evaluation of digital research support (i.e., access to systems, services, software, and the necessary expertise to use them effectively) at McMaster, which comprised three activities: synthesizing past assessments, identifying stakeholders and service providers, and analyzing digital research needs, gaps, and opportunities. The findings highlight the complexity of the support environment where various service providers cater to diverse researcher needs, but also reveal a lack of coordination, resulting in challenges associated with service discovery, access, and alignment with researchers’ expectations.

The lack of coordination presents various challenges across McMaster’s research community:

  • Researchers face difficulties navigating the digital research support ecosystem to discover and access relevant services and resources.
  • Service providers operate with varied and often incomplete understanding of researcher needs and the services and resources available elsewhere.
  • Administrators have difficulty assessing the efficacy and efficiency of the distributed and uncoordinated support environment.

Input from research stakeholders identified the following opportunities to tackle existing challenges and gaps in digital research support, along with broader prospects for enhancing support across the institution:

  • Opportunity #1: Ongoing engagement and information collection: Establish a process for continuous engagement with and feedback from researchers related to needs, gaps, and opportunities. 
  • Opportunity #2: Enhancing communications within the research community: Establish multi-faceted and consistent mechanisms for communication with and between researchers and service providers.
  • Opportunity #3: Realigning service priorities and operations: Align service providers’ focus, function, and service offerings with researcher expectations.
  • Opportunity #4: Coordinating service delivery: Integrate systems and workflows used by service providers to streamline the support experience for researchers.
  • Opportunity #5: Improving awareness of digital research supports: Establish a user-friendly “one-stop shop”, a centralized platform that connects researchers to a variety of support services and resources from different service providers.
  • Opportunity #6: Engaging researchers at career milestones: Focus on providing resources and support to researchers at specific career or research stages (e.g., graduate students, new faculty members, grant and ethics applications).

Over the coming year, the DRCP will engage with the McMaster research community to validate the findings of this report and co-develop a vision for the DRCP’s role in realizing the opportunities that have been identified to improve digital research support at the institution.

This report will be updated periodically as we gather new insights and continue to engage with members of McMaster’s research community.