Supporting the Changing Research Practices of Civil and Environmental Engineering Scholars
Ithaka S+R’s Research Support Services Program investigates how the research support needs of scholars vary by discipline. In 2017 and 2018 Ithaka S+R examined the changing research methods and practices of civil and environmental engineering scholars in the United States with the goal of identifying services to better support them. The goal of this report is to provide actionable findings for the organizations, institutions, and professionals who support the research processes of civil and environmental engineering scholars.
The project was undertaken collaboratively with research teams at 11 academic libraries in the United States and Canada. We are delighted to have the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) as project partner and sponsor. Angela Cochran, Associate Publisher at ASCE, served as a project advisor. The project also relied on scholars who are leaders in the field to engage in an advisory capacity. We thank Franz-Joseph Ulm (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Antonio Nanni (University of Miami), Anand Puppala (University of Texas at Arlington), and Roger Ghanem (University of Southern California) for their thoughtful contributions.
Many of the challenges civil and environmental engineering researchers face are shared with other STEM disciplines – a competitive funding landscape, a fraught peer review system, complex data management requirements. Yet this applied field presents unique opportunities for academic support service providers. Fundamentally focused on finding practicable solutions to real-world problems, civil and environmental engineering is highly collaborative, interdisciplinary, and close to relevant industries. Yet these synergies are largely built on old-fashioned research infrastructures. Inefficient systems for sharing data impede innovation, tools for discovering data and gray literature are inadequate, and career incentives discourage investment in the industry partnerships that shape the field’s future directions. Successful interventions will need to recognize and leverage the field’s strength in building personal, targeted, collaborative relationships, both within academia and between academia and industry. This report describes the distinctive ways in which civil and environmental engineering scholars conduct their research and draws out broad implications for academic libraries, universities, publishers, research technology developers, and others.