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FAQ: “Specialised Information Services” Programme

Submission of proposals

How can the content of specialised information services be aligned?

Specialised information services can follow one of two principles:

(1) The subject area principle: where the specialised information service conforms to the subject matter and interests of a specific discipline. In this case a specialised information service can align itself to the subject area’s established boundaries and research traditions. Systematic consideration can also be given to general aspects, such as subject area history, theories, methods and the subject area’s communication structure. It is equally possible for a specialised information service to pick up on the changes and differentiations within the subject area and to align itself to the needs of new research fields that arise at the interfaces between traditional disciplinary boundaries, and which may be expected in the medium term to continue to grow in importance as independent research areas where there will be a corresponding need for overarching infrastructures.

(2) The regional principle: here the services are directed at research environments that are geographically defined or understood to have coherent language and cultural borders. Definition of the region can be pragmatic, but should generally equate to the research traditions in the subject area under consideration. The information offered by a regionally aligned specialised information service should therefore not merely be relevant to only a few separate subject areas. Specialised information services should not be based on spheres that are too narrow or only of temporary relevance. There may also be practical arguments, however, for establishing a SIS along regional lines – for example if language or intercultural skills are indispensable to the procurement and indexing of information and literature. It can be particularly efficient and cost-effective in such cases to provide research-relevant information for all subject areas in a region from a single source.

Other alignments, such as restriction to individual types of material or concentration on defined research topics, are excluded.

Those specialised information services that are aligned by subject area and those by region should complement each other, above all in subject areas relating to the humanities and social sciences. This will enable consideration of the development towards more regionally aligned as well as transnational, comparative and global research approaches. The dynamics of science and the humanities and the growing significance of interdisciplinary research approaches require us to regularly review the division of responsibilities and adapt them as necessary.

How is special need defined?

Special need is defined as the need of those conducting research beyond the basic provision for the respective subject area, which is not generally met by the offering from local scientific libraries and information services.

A subject area’s special need for trans-regional provision of specialised information and subject-specific services is very heterogeneous due to the specificity and diversity of the subjects. It can for instance be served differently by a regional SIS than by one aligned towards a specific research discipline. Special need can only be defined in concrete terms in relation to the subject area and by taking account of the already existing subject-specific information services and infrastructures, research practice within the scientific community and with regard to the individual SIS.

A broad-brush definition is therefore inadequate. Special need and the added value over the basic provision can relate both to the content provided and the services offered.

How is the basic provision of information defined?

The basic provision relates to the offering from local scientific libraries and information facilities at universities and research institutions. As with special need, it is also impossible to give a single definition for basic provision. The task of a SIS regarding the subject-specific added value of its provision is to identify the situation within the basic provision and to define the additional or special needs.

What must be taken into account when acquiring journals?

An important criterion in the acquisition of journals, monographs and digital resources is the subject-related relevance and quality of the publications. The products must be demonstrably aligned with the special need in the subject area. A further criterion in the purchase of print journals or the licensing of electronic journals is either individual or singular possession, or that there should be no more than three incarnations of the journal in Germany. The same applies to the purchase of e-book packages.

How does funding under specialised information services relate to the funding priorities in other programmes in the Scientific Library Services and Information Systems (LIS) funding stream?

Proposals under the Specialised Information Services funding programme will always be reviewed to see if a proposed measure or the development of a service offer could be proposed and funded under another funding programme. Tasks and services that can stand alone and for which there are separate DFG funding opportunities – e.g. digitisation projects, establishment of publication platforms, innovative technological projects and the funding of fees for open access publications – are to be proposed separately under the respective LIS programmes.

Insofar as funds for digitisation measures are proposed under the Specialised Information Services funding programme, these should primarily be for establishing a new service, based for example on a smaller exemplary volume, and not to a larger extent solely for the successive expansion of content. The focus can also be on the coordination and collation of data for planned digitisation projects.

The “e-Research Technologies” funding programme may be more appropriate if your plans include the first-time development and testing of novel, generic tools or procedures (for instance relating to automated indexing or for retrieval services). Proposals regarding the funding of fees for open access publication of journal articles or monographs can be submitted under the “Open Access Publishing” programme; funding the development of publication platforms or infrastructures for producing enhanced publications should be proposed under the “Information Infrastructures for Research Data” programme. The programmes for general research funding are available to address research issues.

Should there be work packages for which separate programmes cannot be meaningfully delimited and their funding is therefore proposed under the Specialised Information Services programme, then uniform funding conditions will be ensured by evaluating and funding these special services based on the same criteria as under the respective LIS funding programme.

What rules apply to the digitisation of literature from international collections?

Eligible digitisation on demand makes it possible to digitise copyright-free individual titles from international collections. The systematic digitisation of collections from international libraries or archives is in principle not eligible.

What is meant by an e-preferred policy?

The digital form of a publication – if available – is always given preference in inventory build-up and media provision in the interest of faster, location-independent access and more extensive utilisation options (e-preferred policy). Deviation from this principle is possible if it does not seem sensible from a technical point of view or cannot be implemented in individual cases for practical reasons. Implementation of the e-preferred policy must be explicitly declared when submitting proposals and in particular any deviations from the principle of electronic acquisition must be substantiated.

What must be taken into account when acquiring journals?

An important criterion in the acquisition of journals, monographs and electronic resources is the subject-related relevance and quality of the publications. The products must be demonstrably aligned with the special need in the subject area. A further criterion in the purchase of print journals or the licensing of electronic journals is either singular possession or that there should be no more than three incarnations of the journal in Germany. The same applies to the purchase of electronic books.

Review session

How and by whom will the proposal be reviewed?

The proposals and reports will be reviewed both from a research and from a librarian-informational perspective.

What does a project report look like and when must it be submitted?

A detailed report on the progress and results of the project, the objectives and successes achieved so far and the funds expended is to be provided at the point of submitting a renewal proposal or at the end of funding.

This report must moreover include figures on inventory growth and use of the information services based on the Data Sheet on “Specialised Information Services for Research”, which must also be submitted. The report is to be produced according to the Guidelines for Project Reports in the Area of Scientific Library Services and Information Systems. Reporting should ideally complement the information in the proposal and data sheet and extend into greater detail.

A brief interim report is furthermore to be submitted within each of the three-year funding periods. The times for submission of these interim reports will be stipulated in the award letter.


What role does the Competence Centre for Licensing play and what collaboration is there between the specialised information services and the competence centre?

The Competence Centre for Licensing (CCfL) acts as a central body undertaking the task of procuring chargeable digital resources (licensing negotiations) and the handling of related organisational and technical processes (registration, activation, access platforms). It also develops licensing models that enable a SIS to license electronic media, which it can then make accessible to an authorised circle of users. The CCfL acts as a service provider to the SIS, assumes responsibility for the negotiation and execution of the licence agreements and ensures rights management and technical provision of the licensed products.

Technical selection of the products to be acquired is solely incumbent on the individual SIS. The competence centre does however act in an advisory capacity in the decision as to whether a product is suitable for funding in the context of DFG funding. The CCfL therefore functions in both an active and reactive capacity. On the one hand, it implements the technically justified procurement requests from each SIS. On the other hand, it actively develops business models for different material types – e-journals, e-books, databases – that it can offer to libraries for licensing.


How is monitoring conducted?

The SIS institutions are obliged to complete the Data Sheet on Specialised Information Services for Research regarding their use of services and the content provided. The CCfL moreover acts on behalf of the DFG statutory bodies to conduct a central evaluation of license and usage data relating to all SIS licenses. This considers demand, service and financial aspects and enables us to derive future funding policy decisions in the context of trans-regional licensing based on evidence.

It is mandatory to enable a central overview that all SIS notify the CCfL of all licenses that they have independently concluded and inform the CCfL about the start of independent licence negotiations. The SIS are also requested to pass on to the CCfL usage figures for resources involving independently concluded licenses to enable central evaluation of the utilisation data.