RSP Readiness for REF (R4R) workshop, 5th September 2011

In the first of two guest posts, Neil Stewart reflects on the RSP Readiness for REF workshop.

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My name is Neil Stewart, and I’m the repository manager for the newly minted City Research Online repository, at City University London. I normally blog at City Open Access, if you want to keep an eye on developments of a repository which is still on a project footing, rather than a fully-fledged service.

The reason you find me writing here is because I was recently the recipient of two invitations: to present at the RSP Readiness for REF (R4R) workshop, held on Monday 5th September in London, and to blog about that event here at UKCORR’s blog. I was happy to take up both invitations. What follows summarises some thoughts about the workshop, and on the Research Excellence Framework (REF) as it relates to repositories in general. It should be noted that the opinions below are my own, and do not necessarily reflect those of UKCORR. I’ll be writing another post soon, which outlines the R4R workshop presentation which I delivered with my former LSE colleague Dave Puplett.
The event’s emphasis (apart from the presentation which Dave & I delivered) can fairly be characterised as macro-level, since it discussed REF data submission in very general terms, and with specific reference to the CERIF metadata standard. CERIF is a flexible, extensible model for metadata about research-producing institutions, including (but not limited to) publications data. It is possible, using the CERIF schema, to model an institution’s structure, then show how researchers and research outputs relate to that structure. This has obvious benefits for an exercise like the REF, which will (amongst other things) require submission of data on “REF-able” (i.e. high quality) publications at a department (or at least department-like “unit of assessment”) level.
The morning sessions dealt with laying out the details of how CERIF and CERIF-compliant repositories could assist with REF submissions. The first session was an overview of the JISC-sponsored Readiness4REF (R4R) Project, and was delivered by Richard Gartner of Kings College London. R4R, just in the process of closing, has looked at the way in which repositories and other data management tools can provide CERIF-compliant data for REF submission purposes. Second was Keith Jeffery from euroCRIS, who gave the bigger picture as to how CERIF was developed and what it can do. This was followed by a panel discussion on the Measuring Impact Under CERIF (MICE) project, which is attempting to build in research impact data into the CERIF schema, and hence make it readily submissible for REF.
After Dave & my presentation and lunch, there were demonstrations of R4R plug-ins for the three major repository software types (Fedora, DSpace and ePrints). As an ePrints user, I was interested to see a demonstration of ePrints v. 3.3, which is to be released in the next few weeks, and contains some “CRIS-like” functionality. This is a kind of CERIF-lite approach, by which it is easy to create associations between researchers, research grants, research centres etc. to express CERIF-like linkages between them. These linkages can then be exposed in useful ways using ePrints web pages, but also exported as CERIF data to be re-used in other systems, or for a REF submission. This seems to me an interesting development, and one we may have to look at here at City.
The final session featured the obligatory break-out groups. I was assigned to a group which discussed the question: “Do you think CERIF is now a more viable option for your institution to use for its REF submission?” A variety of subjects were covered, as ever with these type of discussions. The two main points I took from it were the fact that CERIF provides the opportunity to provide an “open” citation model by modelling linkages (including positive and negative citations) between publications, outside of the “walled gardens” provided by Scopus and Web of Science; and that, for CERIF to work within my institution, there is the somewhat intractable problem of knowing to whom to speak to find out if, for example, the HR database can be plugged into the repository to transfer CERIF-formatted data between the two systems.
All in all, an interesting and timely event. Keep an eye out for my post on LSE Library’s experiences of conducting a mini-REF, coming soon!
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