Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence

Annex B

Research Libraries Network


  1.  The Research Libraries Network (RLN) will be set up in the academic year 2004-05 for a fixed term of three years in the first instance. The initial term will end on 31 July 2007. The RLN will be led by an executive unit, with responsibility for a baseline budget and individual project budgets of up to £5 million over the period. The executive unit will based within the British Library and will take guidance from an Advisory Board regarding the strategic direction of the Network. The RLN executive unit will be accountable to the Funders' Group.

  2.  The continuation of the Network beyond the initial three year period, and the establishment of a permanent executive board, will be dependent on the establishment of a long term sustainability framework during the implementation period, and on the outcomes of an external evaluation to be conducted in the second year of operation.


  3.  The Research Libraries Network (RLN) executive unit will lead and co-ordinate new developments in the collaborative provision of research information for the benefit of researchers in UK higher education.

  4.  The key objectives of the RLN executive unit will be:

    (a)  To give strategic leadership to the provision of research information in the UK, engaging both providers and users in the formation and delivery of a comprehensive change programme driven by the requirements of researchers in all disciplines and underpinned by increasingly close and effective collaboration.

    (b)  To lead and co-ordinate action to propose and specify solutions to researcher needs, including both developing existing forms of provision and identifying and developing new technology-enabled solutions.

    (c )  To act as a high level advocate for research information ensuring that researchers' developing needs inform policy making at the very highest levels of government in the UK and internationally giving the UK a powerful, unified voice in international debates on the development of research information technology.


  5.  The RLN executive unit will deliver an integrated programme of action on a number of fronts:

    —  Strategic leadership: to ensure that the provision of research information moves forward within a strong shared strategic framework.

    —  Discovery: to bring forward developed proposals for better arrangements for researchers to find out what information sources relevant to their work are available, where these are and how they may have access to them. It is now both possible and desirable for these arrangements to cover, seamlessly, both hard copy and electronic material.

    —  Access to hard copy materials: the aggregate UK collection of primary and printed research materials is at present among the best in the world in its coverage. Concerted action and national leadership are required to sustain this, to improve the efficiency with which the collection is managed, and to make it easier for all researchers to have effective access to all of the material that it contains.

    —  Access to electronic materials: to take early action to ensure that UK researchers get the information services that they need, and that we retain our place at the leading edge of international development in this field. Some action to manage the creation and supply of online published materials is required, but the main emphasis should be on ensuring that the full range of outputs and data that researchers will continue to produce are shared and retained in the most effective way and fully exploiting new technologies.

    —  Sustainability: to ensure that we build a national research information resource that is sustainable, and secures researchers' continuing access to materials, over the long term, and to consider how the network can be maintained after the initial three years.

    —  Meeting researchers' needs: the national research effort is an essential engine for economic growth and social cohesion. In the present context, researchers are properly treated as a distinct group with particular shared needs. The RLN executive unit will deliver a programme of action which is planned in collaboration with the research community, and tailored to their needs, but which also interacts at all points with parallel activity on a broader stage to meet the full information needs of the wider community.

    —  Scholarly communications: to support the development of new platforms and promoting debate within the academic community on the implications of electronic tools and the internet for the communication and formal publication of research outcomes and for peer review and recognition systems.

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