Back in the Spring of 2014, Jisc and RCUK colleagues sat down to discuss the challenges around achieving greater interoperability of research systems and how standards could help. Following that discussion we all felt that moving forward in this area would need a clear oversight of a complex and rapidly developing field, and hence the RCUK-JISC (OSIP) Overview of systems interoperability project was born.
The main focus of the work was to provide a report to RCUK on the key issues relating to Research Council systems – in particular, Je-S, Researchfish and Gateway to Research, and to consider afresh how they could best interoperate with those used within universities and other organisations. The other key focus for the work was the role that standards (for example, ORCID, ISNI and CERIF) could play to address interoperability in the here and now as well, as considering the longer term benefits. Broadly the project was looking at how enhanced interoperability could help reduce the administrative burden on researchers and their institutions, as well as maximising the value of the information collected and held by the Research Councils.
The thrust of this work from a Jisc perspective was to help with the challenges (in particular the time involved) that Researchers and Research managers face when dealing with research information, whether creating and adding it to other systems or accessing it. In order to address this problem space in a systematic way, a series of “provocations” (mini-essays) were drawn up by a range of colleagues nominated by ARMA, RCUK and Jisc. These focused on the following key areas where it was felt that interoperability could improve – Interface between Je-S Grant; Application System and HEI systems; Interface between Researchfish and HEI systems; Gateway to Research – and Third Party systems; Standardising Non-HEI organisational names in RC systems and Je-S Student Details and RO Student Information Systems
The other provocations took the tack of explaining which standards were key to improving the interoperability of RCUK and other research systems and why. Essentially these provocations were short analyses of the benefits of standards implementation recognising the challenges and related costs. The areas looked at here were : ORCID; Syntax initiatives; Organisational Name standards and Open Access metadata standards.
Following the production of these provocations a workshop was held with all those responsible for producing this material and a few others. All of this background work and discussion was then boiled down into a series of recommendations in the form of a Report which was presented this June to RCUK senior staff. A key element of this work for RCUK was also to raise awareness of this important agenda within the Councils at a senior level, and to propose that standards and interoperability work within RCUK be lead by a senior champion in future.
The Report also underlined the importance of continuing co-ordination of activity in this area with key stakeholders. For example, the work that Jisc has undertaken with partners to support the development and implementation of standards for research information and scholarly communications and open access was noted and welcomed. The final Report from this work, detailing the series of recommendations that were made is now available on the RCUK website and Jisc is now working with RCUK colleagues to discuss how best to make these recommendations a reality.