Current Research Information Systems
The International Organisation for Research Information

Notes on the Spring 2019 euroCRIS membership meeting at CSC in Espoo-Helsinki

Thu, 06/06/2019 - 12:15 -- euroCRIS Secret...
Pablo de Castro, University of Strathclyde and euroCRIS Secretary
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The recently held May 27-29 meeting was definitely one of the best euroCRIS membership meetings one has ever witnessed. It was not just the perfect organisation by the local hosts (Hanna-Mari Puuska and Minna Ala-Mantila as the leads for a wider team at CSC) but the well-attended presentations and panel discussions, the conversations in the venue corridors between sessions and the sheer variety of the topics addressed in the event programme.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        CRIS systems as data providers for OpenAIRE                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         The OpenAIRE workflow for harvesting CRIS systems following their previous validation against the CERIF-XML Guidelines for CRIS Managers via the minimally sufficient validator developed by Jan Dvorak within the OpenAIRE-funded METIS2OpenAIRE project was one of the main areas addressed in the event programme.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         This included a 3-hr pre-event workshop for developers to discuss this process for exposing the CRIS metadata feed via a specifically enabled OAI-PMH endpoint and the validation of such feed against the CRIS Guidelines jointly issued by OpenAIRE and euroCRIS. There was also a "CRIS in OpenAIRE - we take you onboard" presentation from the University of Bielefeld OpenAIRE Advance team themselves – Andreas Czerniak and Aenne Löhden, led by Jochen Schirrwagen who could not make it to the event – to discuss how the OpenAIRE team is engaging with CRIS systems. Finally, several CRIS presentations highlighted their ongoing work towards being harvested by OpenAIRE (Wilko Steinhoff's lightning talk on NARCIS was for instance specifically devoted to this topic). Undepinning these developments was the just-signed Memorandum of Understanding between euroCRIS and OpenAIRE that was announced on May 27th during the Developers' Workshop.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Aenne Löhden reported during the OpenAIRE presentation that the number of CRIS systems that have already been test harvested by OpenAIRE has reached six (or rather 'five plus one' as she put it, since for the moment Pure has just been test harvested for a test instance without real data). The countries where these CRIS systems are located are the Netherlands, Finland, Serbia and Poland, which is not an evident geographic distribution in view of the availability of such systems across Europe.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         New ones are expected to soon join the queue anyway. Susanna Mornati announced that OpenAIRE have awarded funding to her company 4Science to implement the CERIF-XML Guidelines for CRIS Managers on DSpace-CRIS. Institutional Pure implementations are also expected to soon join once the release 5.13 made available earlier this year already includes the data model mapping to the CERIF-XML Guidelines put together by a Short-Life Working Group led by Anna Clements within the UK Pure User Group and also the possibility to enable an OAI-PMH endpoint for exposing the CRIS metadata feed.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         The euroCRIS Directory of Research Information Systems (DRIS), whose recent expansion to approx 250 mostly European entries was discussed during an Interest Group meeting on Mon May 27th, is another piece of the puzzle that should support the harvesting of CRIS systems by OpenAIRE. By providing a persistent ID to CRIS systems registered in the DRIS, the DRIS will allow CRIS harvesters like OpenAIRE to uniquely identify the provenance of the data collected from them. This is a work-in-progress development though, and the snapshot presently offered by the directory is still far from comprehensive -- one of the goals of the May 27th meeting was in fact to explore the feasibility of reaching agreements with specific national contact points at institutions and with vendors for a more effective and comprehensive data collection on such systems.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         International CRIS systems: challenges and opportunities                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         The main theme for the event was not system interoperability though, but the (closely related) opportunities potentially offered by international CRIS systems and the challenges the CRIS community needs to address on the way to getting there. A specific panel discussion was held on the topic following a number of presentations exploring such opportunities and challenges. Chaired by the euroCRIS President Ed Simons, the panel was formed by Gunnar Sivertsen (ENRESSH/NIFU, Norway), Sadia Vancauwenbergh (U Hasselt, Belgium), Hanna-Mari Puuska (CSC/VIRTA, Finland), Linda Sïle (ENRESSH/U Antwerp, Belgium) and Andreas Czerniak (OpenAIRE/U Bielefeld, Germany). The panel discussion addressed among others the need to agree on areas like research classifications and on the wider associated semantics (vocabularies, etc) for an effective information exchange, the need for persistent identifiers to be comprehensively adopted and the governance for the information exchange workflows to be defined. In his previous presentation "Towards an integrated research information infrastructure at the Nordic level", Gunnar Sivertsen had pointed out that the main challenge he sees is not technical, not even the adoption of CERIF, but for CRIS systems to be able to produce comparable content useful for studies of research. Gunnar will further elaborate on this topic in his forthcoming book "Developing Current Research Information Systems (CRIS) as Data Sources for Studies of Research" due next August.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         While at the moment OpenAIRE may be the clearest available example for an international CRIS, other initiatives are exploring the technical and cultural barriers that need to be overcome for organisations across countries to build a common e-infrastructure for research information management. The Nordic countries are particularly well placed to pioneer this path with national- and international-level initiatives like the Nordic List, VIRTA,, or the Finnish Research Information Hub /, all of which were presented at the event. A proposal for an international NordRIS has in fact already been raised, and even if it has not been granted funding yet, this is already setting the trend.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         The Flemish Research Information System (FRIS) was also another of the key developments discussed at the event. With two presentations focusing on FRIS, “Deploying CRIS systems in reporting on public research funding” by Sadia Vancauwenbergh and “How opening up data on publicly funded research became a driver of innovation in Flanders. The use case of FRIS” by FRIS manager Leen van Campe, the Flemish regional CRIS was perceived as the best example outside the Nordic countries for efficient information exchange workflows with institutional systems at research-performing organisations and for the application of the aggregated research information for the purpose of fostering innovation.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Data quality                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Ensuring the best possible data quality becomes a key requirement for such an advanced regional portal and the mechanisms applied by FRIS were described in detail in the first of the two above-mentioned presentation. Questions on GDPR-related issues were raised in the post-presentation Q&A, and this is a topic that should be addressed in more detail in future euroCRIS meetings.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Data quality was in fact a cross-cutting topic throughout the event, with Aenne Löhden in particular making emphasis on the shortcomings that OpenAIRE is identifying in this area after harvesting the first CRIS systems via the CRIS validator. It is not surprising that CRIS systems face data quality issues since they were not designed to be open in the first place but rather as platforms for institutions to store their internal data for business intelligence purposes. Moreover, the harvesting of CRIS systems marks the first time that OpenAIRE data quality standards originally designed for repositories are being applied to CRIS systems. Little wonder then that numerous issues around data completeness are showing up. However, this exercise should be a win-win collaboration between the aggregator and the data providers: the latter ones will be able to significantly improve their data quality standards, and the former will gather far more useful research information as a result.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Research information management workflows and research funders                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         The session specifically devoted to research funders (the Swedish Research Council and Vinnova from Sweden, the Academy of Finland and the Danish Novo Nordisk Foundation) was also a first at a euroCRIS membership meeting, and it was a very interesting area to look into from a research information management perspective. The panel discussion held right after the session included a comment from the chair in the sense that “the deeper we look into the landscape, the more challenges we find for an effective research information exchange among the different players in the domain”. This comment referred to the fact that research funders are more often than not collecting the information they need on research outputs directly from researchers instead of from institutions to which researchers have already provided the information. These workflows for direct information collection frequently become very labour-intensive for research funders and force researchers to provide the same data into different systems, an issue that institutional CRIS systems (and the whole research information management community) have been trying to tackle for a long time now. Valuable exercises in this regard like the ResearchFish pilot for information exchange with UK institutions or the Dutch P-O-PF project with the Dutch funder NWO were discussed in a well-aimed exchange that the event audience found enlightening as stated in the responses to the post-event survey.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Open Access and Open Science                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Presentations devoted to Open Access and Open Science implementation in the Nordic countries constituted also a relevant section of the meeting. Talks like Jyrki Ilva’s on Open Access monitoring in Finland, Camilla Lindelöw’s on the application of the FAIR principles to data and publications in Sweden or the various Finnish presentations on Open Access repositories and journals were testament to the relevance of the subject. Underpinning them all was the inspiring way in which well-established policies at a European level are gradually helping steer the research information landscape in a harmonised way across countries when translated into national-level guidance.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Speakers in the research funders session also mentioned Open Science as an important aspect closely connected to their emphasis on societal impact for the research they fund. The panel discussion that closed this session addressed areas like the impact of Plan S – which the Swedish Vinnova has recently joined – and the policies specific research funders are promoting to try and move away from the Journal Impact factor as the sole criteria for research assessment.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         VIVO                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         The 10th Annual VIVO Conference will be held in Podgorica (Montenegro) next September – marking the first time this event will take place in Europe – and there were several presentations devoted to VIVO during the Helsinki membership meeting. Both Anna Guillaumet on behalf of SIGMA Research and Miguel Garcia from Converis/Clarivate explained how they are implementing open source VIVO solutions on top of their respective CRIS systems. The former reported on the extension of the VIVO ontology they’ve conducted to fit the European model for research and on the early-stage CERIF2VIVO mapping project aimed to define an interface to upload research information to VIVO.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Sebastian Herwig’s presentation from WWU Münster was focused on the German Research Core Data Set (KDSF) and did not touch on their own institutional VIVO implementation on top of Converis, but this is one of the pioneering examples for VIVO solutions in Europe. Sebastian also announced that the following (Autumn 2019) euroCRIS membership meeting will be held in Münster next November and he showed the already available event website – in another first for euroCRIS.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         VIVO will surely be one of the topics then to see some follow-up on the Münster SMM programme, but areas like CRIS harvesting by OpenAIRE and the gradual emergence of international CRIS aggregations are likely to be addressed again too. Looking forward to more insightful discussions on all these subjects next Autumn!