Following a recent blog posting explaining the potential benefits of UKRISS for Institutions, we would like to expand on this and provide a little more detail on how this may be achieved.
The 3 UKRISS partner Institutions of Kings, Brunel and Exeter all have different organisational structures, methods of data processing and system architectures. Such differences are common across the sector; in fact no two institutions will be the same in this regard. However, it is also very apparent that we all share the same common issues:
- Many manual processes to support all forms of information flow between the Institution and funders, particularly in support of research reporting.
- Responsibility for completion of many reporting streams is split between PI’s and central research support administrative staff, with little visibility of data entered.
- Much of the required data resides across a range of internal systems, each storing the data in different database structures and with different naming conventions for data fields.
- All institutions recognise that improving information flow processes would yield benefits, yet competing institutional priorities which mean only limited resources can be invested in this at the moment.
The UKRISS project will show how all of these issues can be addressed.
An Open-Source Connector
At Exeter, we are working with an experienced specialist software supplier, Certus Technology Associates, to develop a connector to join information systems together. Following UKRISS project demonstrations, the connector could be made available to the sector free of charge. The connector will demonstrate how it is possible to extract the required data for research reporting from any existing information system, convert it to a standard data format, and send it on securely to a destination outside of the Institution.
In the first instance, just by way of example, we are focusing on showing how the reports for ROS and Research Fish could be automated. This will be demonstrated at our respective institutions to show how it works on any infrastructure.
This work has shown the importance of a robust common data model. For example, Brunel and Exeter both use Symplectic for management of research publications, but analysis of the data shows that even the though the system is the same, each configuration is different, as are the processes driving use of the system, and so at a data level there are many differences.
A key feature of the connector is a low barrier to entry: detailed IT knowledge is not required to install it, and configuring it to extract data from existing systems is done through a graphical user interface – no programming required. It also works in conjunction with the data validation tools under development by Cottage Labs, so underlying data quality can be improved as part of the process.