UKRISS Phase 2: Data Gathering

Over the last few weeks, the project team have been working on requirements and data gathering for Phase 2. At KCL, the team has been working on gathering information about the reporting information collected by the RCUK systems ROS (Research Outcomes System) and Research Fish. Research Fish is used by MRC and STFC, whilst the remaining five councils use ROS. Meetings have been held with MRC to discuss in detail the information collected by Research Fish. This has been combined with scraping questions and help information from the user interface (assisted by Cottage Labs) and an analysis of the KCL MRC dataset. A similar process has been undertaken for ROS, based on an analysis of information provided by NERC as well as technical specifications of the ROS system. Research Fish collects information from PIs (or delegated staff) only. ROS reporting is carried out by PIs (or delegated representatives), but in part can be done by bulk upload data in Excel format. The next step in the analysis will be to perform a detailed comparison of the information fields collected by the two systems and in order to define a core information profile for reporting, and to identify where there are significant conflicts in reporting requirements.

In parallel, a survey of CERIF mappings performed by related RIM projects has been carried out. This includes RIOXX, CiA, IRIOS (1 &2) Gateway to Research. This is in preparation for the next step of mapping the core information profile to CERIF, and will help us to reuse mappings already carried out by previous projects.

The team at Brunel University has been working on gathering data on institutional research information reporting. So far, we have drafted an initial set of questions, which have been refined into a two-pronged data gathering exercise, after detailed discussion with the rest of the project team on the issues around institutional reporting and the type of data we need for the project.

Some of the issues raised centre on the varied systems in use to record and report research information, what reporting they are used for, and how difficult it is for these systems to talk to one another. Underpinning all this is the fact that there may not be any person or department with a complete overview of all the research information reporting going on, and certainly no one who is familiar with all systems. It’s likely that researchers are individually responsible for reporting (or delegating this) to funders, while other departments record research outputs. Reporting to funders can therefore take place directly without any further reference to the institution; so no complete records of what’s reported may exist centrally.

To tackle these issues, we felt that the best way to capture information in the first data gathering phase is to document the research information reporting process with an active researcher for each RCUK funded project with access to relevant reporting systems, to see what information is asked for, and to harvest data fields and guidance to set the context, identify ambiguities, and compare data across funders for commonalities and differences. This data can then be used to inform the technical mapping of vocabularies to fulfil some of the project’s ultimate goals: the simplification, standardisation and efficiency of institutional research information reporting.

We are also planning a second data gathering phase: this time looking for information on time and FTE cost of reporting for researchers, targeting a broader sample of researchers to identify patterns, and areas where efficiencies can be made to make processes simpler for researchers, institutions and funding councils, while meeting reporting requirements.

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