Research Sprints Help Projects Hit the Ground Running
Photo: University of Minnesota Libraries
It seems a given that conducting in-depth research should be a gradual, time-consuming task.
A program out of the University of Minnesota Libraries aims to upend that notion, helping researchers make weeks’ or even months’ worth of progress in the span of just a few days. Research Sprints pair faculty members with a team of expert librarians to collaborate either on a specific research or teaching project or one part of a broader project. The program is based on a model devised by the University of Kansas, which the U of M adopted in 2017.
“Research Sprints match faculty’s need to conduct research and plan courses with librarians’ expertise in using the resources offered by University Libraries to their greatest potential,” said Shanda Hunt, co-leader of the Research Sprints program and public health librarian and data curation specialist with the U’s Bio-Medical Library. “While the Libraries are always available to assist with research needs, this program is unique in that it sets aside the time and staff for a concentrated, collaborative research effort with no distractions.”
Projects involved in the Research Sprints can span a wide range of subjects, from managing a supply chain to mapping underground waterways. Each project focuses on achieving a specific outcome, such as writing up a grant proposal, laying out a data visualization, designing a course, or designing a website.
In addition to their more immediate benefits, Research Sprints can also help set the stage for future success by forging new connections between researchers and librarians and showing researchers how to find the materials most conducive to their work.
“In some cases, faculty may even discover new resources that they didn’t know existed, but that can support their research efforts going forward,” Hunt said.
The next round of Research Sprints, which will focus on research related to the U’s Grand Challenges Research Initiative, is planned for early January 2019. Another round—this one open to all projects—will follow in May 2019. For both rounds, applicants must be tenured, tenure-track, or clinical U of M faculty members. Faculty whose projects are accepted are welcome to invite graduate students to join during the program.
A Boost to Grand Challenges Research
In January, the Libraries held the first round of Research Sprints that focused specifically on Grand Challenges projects.
Grand Challenges aims to enhance interdisciplinary research by jumpstarting new collaborations, engaging external partners, and helping faculty compete for resources to sustain larger research efforts. These projects are part of Driving Tomorrow, the U of M Twin Cities strategic plan led by the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost to accelerate advancement of excellence in research, teaching, and outreach.
One of the projects that took part in the Research Sprints was the CREATE Initiative (Co-developing Research and Engaged Approaches to Transform our Environment), which falls within the Grand Challenges areas of “Assuring Clean Water and Sustainable Ecosystems” and “Fostering Just and Equitable Communities.” CREATE aims to develop research projects that engage the community to address issues relating to water and equity, such as how water infrastructure development affects various communities. Kate Derickson, Ph.D., assistant professor of geography, environment, and society in the College of Liberal Arts, led the project’s participation in the Research Sprint.
Another project, Wild Rice in Minnesota and the Great Lakes Region, aims to take tribal views, concerns, and treaty rights into consideration with policies that protect wild rice, a natural resource that holds cultural, agricultural, and environmental value in Minnesota. Crystal Ng, Ph.D., assistant professor of earth sciences in the College of Science and Engineering and Diana Dalbotten, Ph.D., director of diversity and broader impacts with the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory, led the project’s Research Sprint.
Learn more about these two projects: