UKRISS Feasibility Study Released

You can download the final Feasibility Study here

Throughout the first phase of this project we have conducted a feasibility and scoping study for the reporting of research information at a national level based on CERIF, with the objective of increasing efficiency, productivity and quality across the sector.

The aim of this report is to present an overview of the current research reporting landscape, and definition of the options for further work in phase two of the UKRISS project supported by stakeholder requirements, business cases and details of the tasks to be performed and their sustainability beyond the end of the project.

The reporting of research information to funders and statutory bodies is a major burden on researchers and institutions. The landscape for research reporting in the UK HE sector is fragmented. There is limited harmonisation in reporting requests made on institutions and researchers, resulting in duplication of effort and limiting the potential for reuse of the information.

The Common European Research Information Format (CERIF) is an international standard for representing research information, managed by euroCRIS, a not for profit organisation. Adoption of CERIF was recommended by the 2009 JISC-funded EXRI-UK report across the UK HE sector. Considerable progress has been made on the development and implementation CERIF-based systems, although actual exchange and reuse of information is still limited.

In order to understand more fully the current landscape around research reporting, the UKRISS team conducted a wide-ranging study, comprising over forty interviews with key stakeholders. A range of institutional staff were interviewed including senior research managers, researchers and research office staff, sampled from the various institutional groupings. Representatives of funders, including research councils and charities, umbrella organisations (UCISA, ARMA), and national bodies (HEFCE, HESA) were consulted. Technical reviews of commercial CRIS systems and existing national research information systems were carried out. The report findings are based on this dataset.

The goals of the project were strongly aligned with the aims and aspirations of the stakeholders. There was a strong desire to simplify and harmonise reporting processes to increase efficiency, support the provision high quality management information, increase reporting compliance by improving ease-of-use, and to provide cost-effective, sustainable reporting solutions.

A key requirement was the need to further harmonise the information requests made by external organisations to funders (the exact definitions of the information fields), as well as providing a consistent and unambiguous representation of this information in CERIF (aligning usage and dictionaries).

The project investigated options for a national infrastructure. Any solution should interoperate with existing systems, such as institutional CRIS systems and funder systems (Research Outcomes System, Research Fish) in which considerable investment has already been made. A national system was therefore ruled out but there was a need to simplify the exchange of information in a lightweight and cost-effective manner.

There was a strong desire for tools to support reuse of research information such as benchmarking, which would demonstrate value of harmonisation and information exchange. Data quality and data governance were identified as key issues that should be investigated further in the second phase of the project.

The project was asked to present a range of options for further development in phase 2, each supported by project plans and a business case. The options were then to be reviewed and prioritised by Jisc, with advice from the Project Steering Board and other key stakeholders. The project identified three main business goals for further investigation in phase 2 of the UKRISS study.

  • Specification, standardisation and adoption of a core CERIF profile for reporting of research information in UK HEIs.
  • Provision of benchmarking tools that enable comparison and analysis of research information generated by multiple organisations for management information purposes.
  • Implementation of a national reporting infrastructure and associated shared services to facilitate the exchange of research information between IT systems within institutions, funders and statutory bodies.

In order to provide further investigation of these goals, the project has defined six component tasks, with associated work plans. These components are combined into three options for the second phase of the project, with different emphasis, which combine to work on one or more of these goals. The components are illustrated in the diagram below.

The options to be considered, therefore, are:

Option 1: Focus on modelling. This option focuses on the development of a core information profile and serialisation in CERIF. Extensions to include CERIF modelling of organisational structures and HR data can be made to support internal collation of research information.

Option 2: Focus on benchmarking. This option involves the development of a benchmarking tool that exploits shared information to carry out cross-institutional information analysis. A subset of the modelling work in 1 will be carried out to support this.

Option 3: Focus on reporting infrastructure. This option has a focus on the development of a reporting service based on connecting funders and institutions to a single cloud-based connector (Enterprise Service Bus). Smaller CERIF modelling and benchmarking tasks are included as well as work on sustainability of such a service.

Next steps

This feasibility study has now been submitted, and shortly we will be able to confirm which of the options above we will be going ahead with, and details will follow on the plan for phase 2.

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