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Establishing the library as a valued research support partner

September 30, 2021 | 7 min read

By Linda Willems, Marie-Aimée Berthelot, Julia Trémolières

Jacques Latrille campus esplanade at Université de Bordeaux

Two data specialists at France’s University of Bordeaux on how they leverage SciVal to address their communities’ research goals

Back in 2016, University of Bordeaux’s library launched a research support service team to advise and support researchers on topics as diverse as open access, bibliometrics, dissertations and research data.

According to Bordeaux bibliometrics analyst and team member Marie-Aimée Berthelot1, at that stage, their work was largely reactive, rather than proactive. She recalls: “Typically, we were responding to requests from the university governors for partnership assessments, reports on international research – that kind of thing. And there was just one person working on bibliometrics and exports from SciVal.”

Bordeaux’s three steps to research success

With the university’s research needs evolving, Marie-Aimée and her fellow team member, data librarian Julia Trémolières1, were keen to enhance their support services. They soon realized that one avenue they had yet to fully explore was the opportunities offered by SciVal. So, 2017 saw them embark on an ambitious, multi-year initiative to optimize their use of the research performance assessment tool.

In the intervening years, the ways in which the group leverages SciVal have grown rapidly, along with the size of the team itself. Here they describe the three phases of their project.

Step 1: Building the team

Julia says: “Our first step was to build an international scientific steering group; a co-working team comprised of three areas of expertise. It’s a very new model in France, but our strategy and project management teams agreed to try it.”

The three expertise areas are highlighted in the graphic below and comprise:

  • Via Inno: the university’s technology intelligence laboratory

  • The research support service team – including Julia and Marie-Aimée, who draw on insights from SciVal and Scopus

  • The university’s project office

Bordeaux steering

University of Bordeaux's unique international steering group is designed to drive research innovation

The three-party expertise model has been used in several projects and Julia believes it has brought many benefits. For example, when asked by the head of the university for information on Africa – including the scientific and innovative forces, current partnerships with Bordeaux, and future opportunities – the three teams worked together to produce a detailed report containing information on collaborations, patents, scientific publications, student mobility and international rankings. They were also able to add qualitative data, such as interviews with experts in African studies. Julia adds: “The final results allowed our international relations office to identify priority areas and make recommendations to the university’s management.”

Their findings and the process they followed are captured in this poster.

Step 2: Picking up best practice tips from peers

The team was curious to learn how other organizations use SciVal, so at the suggestion of their Elsevier consultant, they organized a SciVal knowledge sharing day in France in 2018.

Julia recalls: “We learned that although the ways in which we use SciVal vary, we all share the same goals and challenges.” Shared priorities include:

  • Accuracy of metadata

  • University rankings and self assessment

  • Identifying institutional researchers

  • Representing data effectively in bibliometrics reports

Step 3: Moving away from a central approach

Following the knowledge sharing day, the library’s research support service team decided that a shift in focus was required. Rather than only concentrating on central strategic support, it began to build and promote specific services targeting the university’s 80 research units. The goal was to create a solid bond between the library and researchers and PhDs.

However, the University of Bordeaux’s library doesn’t have dedicated discipline experts. According to Julia: “When it comes to analyzing scientific activities through data, whether bibliometrics or altmetrics, there’s just Marie-Aimée and me. This meant we had to learn the specifics of every discipline's publication practices, journals and metrics of choice, etc.”

They began by conducting some ‘fieldwork’, spending time in the individual labs and units to understand how they could best help each one. Then, to promote the potential of SciVal to the teams, they offered to support each laboratory with their reporting for Hcéres, the French national assessment held every five years. Julia says: “We told them we could deliver a list of their publications from 2015 to 2020. And we offered to train them on SciVal and/or deliver the bibliometric reports.”

She adds: “Some labs at Bordeaux didn’t have access to a database from which they could easily extract publication lists with metrics, so SciVal was a great help to them.” Some lab members have gone on to become expert SciVal users. Others prefer to continue drawing on the skills of Julia and Marie-Aimée.

Understanding collaboration between research units

SciVal has also proved invaluable in helping Julia and Marie-Aimée report on the relationships between departments; a key objective for the team, as Marie-Aimée explains: “In 2019, the university established 11 discipline-specific research departments, and each laboratory was assigned to one of these. The aim is to encourage collaborative action between units and promote collaborative works, so the university governance wanted to observe the links between laboratories inside and outside of the departments.”

Julia and Marie-Aimée developed bibliometrics studies using Scopus and SciVal. Marie-Aimée says: “We began by creating research departments in SciVal based on the laboratory organization profiles in Scopus. We then exported data from Scopus, such as co-publication sets, before conducting analysis in SciVal. We used a general overview, journals, internationalization, specification, topics and collaboration within the department.” The end result was a powerful data visualization which clearly mapped the relationships.

Bordeaux research

Monitoring the 11 research departments – an example of network collaboration. Circles indicate research departments and links indicate collaborations.

Marie-Aimée adds: “The only issue is that the collaboration links are based on co-publication. We are now working to refine our analyses to consider partnerships that don’t result in co-publications.”

University of Bordeaux and SciVal - next steps

For Julia and Marie-Aimée, future plans include increasing promotion of the research support services and helping the university’s communities understand the power of bibliometrics and SciVal. Julia explains: “That will probably involve organizing various SciVal trainings – some people have never heard of SciVal, some have heard of it but don’t use it, and then there are those who use it but probably not to its full potential.”

Curation of data remains an important task; for example, increasing author awareness of the importance of writing affiliations in a consistent way, and of adding their ORCID ID to their Scopus profile. They also plan to continue expanding their services, including providing data for the European Research Council and helping researchers build resumes.

Julia adds: “Open science will also be important. The French government has new plans for university libraries, so we have new challenges to come. Citizen science is something we will need to support, and we are already thinking about how SciVal can help us. I’m sure there are plenty more evolutions to come regarding how and where we use SciVal - there’s always scope for development, that’s for sure.”

A quick guide to University of Bordeaux

  • 56,000 students (12% international)

  • 250 master programs and 150 bachelor programs

  • 8 doctoral schools with 2,000 PhD students

  • 80 research laboratories with 4,000 researchers

  • 1 university hospital institute

  • 150 EU collaborative projects

  • 43 European Research Council grants for the Bordeaux campus site

Université de Bordeaux - AnaelB

© Université de Bordeaux - AnaelB


Portrait photo of Linda Willems


Image of Marie-Aimée Berthelot


Marie-Aimée Berthelot

Bibliometrics analyst

University of Bordeaux

Image of ulia Trémolières


Julia Trémolières

Data librarian (persistent identifiers & researcher digital strategy)

tifiers & researcher digital strategy),