ESRC brief for Research Information Environment Study

The ESRC's Research Resources Board (RRB) and Communication and Information Committee (CIC) have commissioned Nicky Ferguson (Clax Ltd) and Seb Schmoller to undertake a 'Review of the Information Environment for the Social Sciences'. The main aim of the review is to establish the current state of the broad social science information environment and how it is reflecting the emerging needs of the UK social science research community. The second aim is to identify where the ESRC currently sits within this environment and its future role within it. The Review will therefore inform the development of a set of initiatives by the ESRC, in possible collaboration with other funders and providers, in order to enhance future access to and the provision of information resources. In particular, the review will be used to inform the future development of the new online service ESRC Society Today and other information resources.

The Review will consist of two phases. Firstly, the consultant is expected to review what existing information resources exist for the social sciences and the extent to which they are being used. This phase of the review will also ascertain the level of knowledge about these resources amongst potential users groups and the ways in which these users wish to interact with such resources. It should be noted that within this context users of information resources are defined as active social and economic researchers whether academic or non-academic (e.g. government social researchers). An important element of this part of the review will be talking to key stakeholders, in particular providers of social science information resources, about the value they place on current resources and their future strategies for supporting the information environment.

Secondly, the review will conduct a forward look analysis of where the information environment for the social sciences needs to be in 5-10 years time, to support the big social science research questions of the future. This section will draw on phase one of the review in terms of mapping the extent to which existing resources will address future research needs and how they should be developed in order that they will be fully exploited by social science researchers. It will also recommend what new resources need to be accessed or developed to fill any gaps in existing resource provision.

Information Resources for this review are defined as: full text resources including on-line journals (e.g. JSTOR), e-books and grey literature, metadata resources, including bibliographic databases (e.g. IBSS - International Bibliography for the Social Sciences) and catalogues of print and electronic materials (e.g. COPAC and SOSIG - Social Science Information Gateway.

Definitions for our purposes


The Research Resources funded by the ESRC

About the ESRC

E-resources for research in the humanities and social sciences - A British Academy Review

JISC reports on open access publishing

Google Scholar



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