Making Research Accessible with the Downtown Eastside Research Access Portal

By Nick Ubels
Community Engagement Librarian
UBC Learning Exchange and UBC Library

I’d like to tell you about a resource you can use to help students and other AskAway patrons access research relevant to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES).

For years, staff at the UBC Learning Exchange have heard from DTES community members that their neighbourhood hosts a lot of research, but the results aren’t often easy to access or use. In partnership with UBC Library, SFU Library, Vancouver Public Library, and community collaborators, we have created the Downtown Eastside Research Access Portal (RAP) to help change this.

The RAP is an easy-to-use resource that makes research relevant to the DTES more accessible and easier to discover. We provide access to academic materials such as scholarly articles and theses, as well as community materials such as reports, historical newsletters, and other, more accessible forms of scholarship such as clear language research summaries, podcasts, and more. We have been working with researchers to help make more than 70 per cent of these items freely available to anyone. That means that most of this material does not require a subscription or institutional log-in to access.

The portal supports keyword searches, advanced Boolean queries, and filters for metadata such as creator, genres, and categories. Items are also organized using asset-based topic tags to help with discovery. We have created a help section with step-by-step search tutorials and information about how to book a reference appointment.

The RAP also includes a number of other useful features:

  • directory of researchers to facilitate connections with researchers who are doing work in and about the DTES;
  • A list of some research projects that are happening or have happened in the DTES;
  • And resources about engaging in collaborative research partnerships, using research for the public good, and making research accessible.

People use this portal for:

  • Accessing research and community-generated materials about the DTES;
  • Writing grants and reports;
  • Connecting with researchers who are doing or have done work in the DTES;
  • Supporting work with donors, students, new staff, volunteers, and people who want an introduction to research happening in the neighborhood;
  • Identifying trends and gaps in research priorities in the DTES over time;
  • Getting familiar with the language and style of research articles and reports;
  • Answering questions about community-engaged research;
  • Finding resources to make their research more accessible;
  • And learning about ethical research practices and how research can create a positive change in communities.

If researchers have questions related to the RAP, they are welcome to contact me by email. I would be more than happy to lend a hand.

If you’d like to learn more about the development of the RAP, check out our article in the most recent issue of BCLA Perspectives. I can also offer demos and workshops to library staff and classes by request. If you have any feedback about this new resource, let us know!