Keeping Up With... Research Information Management Systems

This edition of Keeping Up With… was written by Marlee Givens.

Marlee Givens is Strategic Initiatives Manager at the Georgia Tech Library, email: marlee.givens@library.gatech.edu.

What are Research Information Management Systems?

In a 2014 blog post, Lorcan Dempsey (OCLC Vice President, Membership and Research, Chief Strategist) wrote about Research Information Management Systems (RIMS) as a potential new service category for libraries. RIMS collect and store structured data about faculty research and scholarly activities for one institution, with the intention of repurposing the information in a variety of ways. Academic institutions in the U.S. and Canada are implementing systems such as Activity Insight, Pure, Converis, and Symplectic Elements, which track publications and scholarly activities of faculty. These systems give an overall picture of the research and scholarly enterprise of an institution, and they offer faculty tools for collaborating, publicizing their work, complying with policies (such as open access policies), and creating reports for faculty annual review or promotion and tenure.

It is important to note that RIMS is not the only name by which these systems are known. In Europe, where these systems were first developed and used, a more common term is Current Research Information Systems (CRIS). Other terms include “profile system” or “networking tool” and variations thereof.

Platforms and Standards

Several RIMS platforms are available and offer varying options. Many tools have particular strengths in one aspect of research information management, such as publication and grants management, faculty activity reporting, or collaboration and networking for research and scholarship. A useful Wikipedia article compares systems and provides information on their data sources and formats, interoperability and integration, functionality, controlled vocabulary or ontologies, and bibliometrics.

These systems are distinguished from other web-based networking sites such as LinkedIn or Google Scholar in terms of their authority (RIMS ingest data from authoritative sources) and metrics tools (such as Journal Impact Factor or Altmetrics). They also employ standards or common data formats for interoperability, enabling importation of external data and reuse of system data, such as for CV’s and biosketches, or to populate the institutional repository.

Below are some of the more well-known RIMS in the U.S. and Canada. Many platforms offer more functionality than the descriptions below imply, and providers are regularly adding new features and modules. Some institutions choose to use one platform, while others use a combination of platforms for different purposes. Interoperability standards allow for multiple systems to communicate or export data to other systems.

Commercial Platforms

Converis, Pure, and Symplectic Elements offer robust functionality for publication and grant award management, and they are increasingly being used for faculty activity reporting.

Digital Measures and Data180 offer platforms for faculty activity reporting and CV creation.

Open Source Platforms

Profiles and VIVO are designed for research networking and collaboration, providing a web-based snapshot of faculty scholarship in an online profile and tools for finding expertise within research areas.

Standards and Metrics

Standards for RIMS are evolving. The CRIS community in Europe uses a common standard, CERIF (Common European Research Information Format), to support exchange of data between RIMS. The Consortia Advancing Standards in Research Administration Information (CASRAI) has developed a dictionary of common terms used in research administration information. In addition, RIMS can provide metrics from providers like Thomson Reuters (Research Analytics) and Elsevier (Snowball Metrics), or emerging alternatives (such as Altmetric). RIMS can also use ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor ID) identifiers for author disambiguation.

Benefits and Challenges

RIMS benefit academic institutions through both their efficiency and their effectiveness. Providing a central repository of information about faculty scholarship and research activities, from which multiple outputs may be exported, allows for efficient capture and reuse of faculty data. RIMS can help increase the visibility of scholarship on campus, show trends in funding or research areas, and identify expertise for grant applications, interdisciplinary research collaboration, or campus communications. By capturing data from authoritative sources and offering tools for analytics and metrics, RIMS also address a strategic need on many campuses to show the effectiveness of academic programs.

However, adopting RIMS can be a slow process. Outside of grants and publications, much of the information an institution may want to capture about their faculty does not have a source and requires manual entry (for example, honors and awards, students mentored, journal editorships, or society memberships). Non-federal grant data is difficult to capture automatically. In the area of publications, coverage for many disciplines (especially humanities and social sciences) or for particular publication types (especially grey literature such as lectures, technical reports, or white papers) is not complete in the available automated data sources. There may also be organizational or political roadblocks: resistance from faculty, a lack of resources for data entry, or funding issues.

What Librarians Need To Know About RIMS

Libraries implement these systems in a number of ways, from tracking publications, to creating links to institutional repositories, to leadership, training and funding. In some cases, the library’s work with RIMS is an extension of the scholarly output assessment services already provided. For example, the library may already be involved in research data management, operating a repository, or supporting institutional review and accreditation. Library involvement in RIMS implementation is a natural extension of all of these roles, and offers an opportunity for the library to advocate for positive changes in scholarly communication, such as open access or alternative measures of research impact. However, the library may also easily fall into a purely administrative role with RIMS implementation. The earlier the library can establish a place at the table, the better the chance it has in adopting a leadership and advocacy role.

References and Further Reading

Börner, Katy, Michael Conlon, Jon Corson-Rikert, and Ying Ding. 2012. VIVO: A semantic approach to scholarly networking and discovery. Morgan & Claypool Publishers.http://www.morganclaypool.com/doi/abs/10.2200/S00428ED1V01Y201207WBE002.

Bryant, Rebecca, Ruth Allee, Kate McCready, and Julie Speer. 2015. "Facilitating researcher discovery across all disciplines : challenges and strategies for implementing campus researcher profiles for humanists and social scientists." Digital Library Federation (DLF), October 26. http://hdl.handle.net/2429/55689.

Chin Roemer, Robin, and Rachel Borchardt. 2014. "Keeping up with... Altmetrics." Accessed February 29, 2016. http://www.ala.org/acrl/publications/keeping_up_with/altmetrics.

Dempsey, Lorcan. 2014. "Research information management systems – a new service category?" Lorcan Dempsey's Weblog. October 26. Accessed February 29, 2016. http://orweblog.oclc.org/research-information-management-systems-a-new-service-category/.

Jacobs, Neil. 2015. "Research information management." In Digital Information Strategies: From Applications and Content to Libraries and People, by David Baker and Wendy Evans, 57-69. Chandos Publishing.

Kennan, Mary Anne, Sheila Corrall, and Waseem Afzal. 2014. "“Making space” in practice and education: research support services in academic libraries." Library Management 35 (8/9): 666-683. Accessed March 2, 2016. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/LM-03-2014-0037.

MacColl, John, and Michael Jubb. 2011. "Supporting Research: Environments, Administration and Libraries." OCLC Research. Accessed March 2, 2016. http://www.oclc.org/content/dam/research/publications/library/2011/2011-10.pdf.

Ribeiro, Ligia, Pablo de Castro, and Michele Mennielli. 2016. "Final report: EUNIS – EUROCRIS joint survey on CRIS and IR." euroCRIS. Accessed March 7, 2016. http://www.eurocris.org/sites/default/files/files/cris-report-ED(1).pdf.

Russell, Rosemary. 2012. "Adoption of CERIF in Higher Education Institutions in the UK: A Landscape Study." UKOLN. March 22. Accessed March 2, 2016. http://opus.bath.ac.uk/30979/3/CERIF_UK_landscape_report_v1.1.pdf.

Wikipedia. n.d. "Comparison of research networking tools and research profiling systems." Wikipedia. Accessed February 29, 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_research_networking_tools_and_research_profiling_systems.