Place-based approached to knowledge exchange: The Downtown Eastside Research Access Portal

In 2020, members of the STOREE project joined others from the Making Research Accessible Initiative (MRAi) to present at the Digital Humanities Conference about the Downtown Eastside Research Access Portal (DTES RAP). Presenters provided context on the history of over-research in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighbourhood. Community members’ advocacy for more reciprocal research practices led to the creation of the Research Access Portal, i.e, the RAP, as a unified space for community members to access published research hosted by the UBC Library and led by the MRAi, a team formed to address this need. The RAP contains not only research done about the DTES, but also research done by community members themselves and other reports relevant to the community.

This presentation focused on three main challenges of the RAP: opening access, improving discovery, and going beyond physical access to materials.

Opening access
The RAP employs a few strategies to ensure access to materials, including partnering with UBC’s digital repository (cIRcle). While cIRcle maintains the scholarly materials of the university community, the RAP functions as a repository for storing and preserving community authored documents, increasing access to research.

Improving discovery
The MRAi team wanted to make it as easy as possible to discover relevant materials. They achieved this through using topics and subject headings for searchability (including custom ones relevant to the collection). They also added a “related materials” section that recommends further reading similar to the item a user is viewing. Additionally, they work with instructors to create assignments that can contribute further to the RAP, such as having students create clear language summaries and infographics to increase understanding and use of research materials.

Going beyond physical access to materials
Access is not just about being able to physically acquire research – context is also key for improving accessibility. The DTES RAP inherently provides context because it is limited to documents related to the geographical area of the DTES. The work involved in curating this collection includes selecting relevant scholarly articles and community generated materials, selecting useful and appropriate metadata, providing a directory of researchers, and featuring blog posts/news. Relationship building is also critical – the portal was built with community consultation through interviews, focus groups, and user experience testing. The presenters invited the audience to join in discussing challenges, such as how discoverability can be broadened, negotiating the balance between using standard vs. custom metadata, and the role of the RAP in addressing epistemic justice.

Panel presentation: Fata, A., Leischner, E.J., De Forest, H., Holroyd, H., McDavid, K., O’Brien, H.L., & Ubels, N. (October 2020)Place-based approaches to knowledge exchange: The Downtown Eastside Research Access Portal. Digital Humanities Conference, UBC Public Humanities Hub, Vancouver, BC.

To see other STOREE work related to the DTES RAP, click here.