A new way to follow the research trail
Good quality research is in high demand, as researchers look for useful collaborators, research managers seek to develop commercial partnerships, and funders try to demonstrate that they have invested well. That should be good for the UK’s universities, whose researchers perform well on the world stage in terms of both the quality and the quantity of their outputs—so it is frustrating that research outputs remain so hard to find.
In fact, searching for research has been so tricky up until now that the UK still can’t put an accurate figure on the numbers of research outputs its universities produce, or even say (with any certainty) who has funded them.
All this means that people are struggling to access all the research that is out there and universities are severely restricted when they need to demonstrate the impact of their research outputs. Researchers, universities and funders all stand to gain if we can find a way to make it easier to track the UK’s research outputs and attribute them accurately to funding streams.
What’s needed is good, standardised metadata—information about the books, papers and articles that researchers produce. This would make tracking research easier, reduce administration and enable publishers, data archives, repositories and funders to offer a better and more efficient service.
Over the years, various metadata models have emerged, but there are marked differences of opinion about which is the best one to adopt. There is even more debate about how to make scholarly systems work reliably with other systems within universities and those used by funders. So, in April 2013 Jisc and UKOLN launched a suggested solution called RIOXX. This is a new Metadata Application Profile and Guidance that can be used to track research outputs across multiple systems.
A review of the current picture showed that repositories have many different approaches to metadata—some had opted to go down the tailor-made route, customising metadata fields to suit their own particular requirements or preferences, while at the other end of the scale others had simply adopted the default option with their software. And between those two extremes, there were many other individual solutions.
RIOXX aims to offer a solution that is easy to adopt. We started by asking what would be the essential, minimum and common fields necessary to improve the tracking of research outputs? We then applied consistency to two key sets of metadata fields—the project ID (grant number) and the funder name—which would allow us to link the two reliably together.
There has been a growth in the use of Current Research Information Systems (CRISs) within universities and funders have also been developing systems such as Research Councils UK’s Research Outcomes System (ROS). These aim to capture a richer (but inevitably more complex) picture of how projects, people and outputs connect. And as they do so, there is a growing need for effective data exchange and interoperability between systems. We have taken that into account in developing RIOXX and we have also made sure that it takes into consideration other widely used metadata schemas such as Cranfield’s Electronic Theses Online System EThOS metadata schema and Open Access Infrastructure for Research in Europe (OpenAIRE) metadata guidelines. We are also working to ensure that the RIOXX application profile can be expressed in CERIF, which is now the standard for data exchange between CRISs.
The availability of RIOXX has been timely, coinciding with the implementation of RCUK’s revised policy on open access, which makes it a requirement that publicly funded research is disseminated via OA routes. In support of this policy the UK Open Access Implementation Group is working with Jisc’s Publishers and Libraries Metadata and Interoperability Group to agree vocabularies for OA to enable a common understanding of the terms used in metadata schemas to be developed. Until that common understanding is achieved, information is not being shared effectively. The Vocabularies for Open Access (V4OA) project will try and achieve a consensus on key vocabularies related to OA. Future releases of the RIOXX profile and guidelines will also include the agreed vocabularies to track OA publications and support compliance monitoring with the research council policy.
I believe that universities should begin planning to adopt the RIOXX application profile as soon as possible to enable them to comply easily with the new RCUK policy.
At Jisc we are planning a series of events after July 2013 that will help universities to adopt and use RIOXX. For more information on these please contact Jisc’s programme manager, Balviar Notay.