Proposed directory of RIM system implementations

This is a preliminary analysis of a proposed 'Directory of RIM System Implementations' that inventories the range of Research Information Management (RIM) systems available within UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs).  As the basis for planning harmonised repository services, RepNet is surveying the heterogenous landscape of RIM systems, including both Current Research Information System (CRIS) and Institutional Repository (IR) platforms.  The use case for this proposed 'Directory of RIM System Implementations' is based on the need for a clearer picture of how many institutions are relying on IR platforms as the main research information source, and how this relates to other RIM infrastructure. 


The UK RepositoryNet+ Project (aka RepNet) is a socio-technical infrastructure based at EDINA aiming to harmonise and deliver new services to the UK Institutional Repository (IR) network. One of RepNet’s main goals is to bring IRs back to the main picture of the Research Information Management (RIM) domain. In order to be able to design and develop new IR services without overlapping with those potentially delivered by CRIS systems, RepNet needs to have an accurate picture of the RIM systems currently running at UK HEIs (ie basically IRs and CRISs). Aware that many institutions do not run CRIS systems and are instead planning to use their IRs as the main research information source, RepNet needs to know which ones these are and how widespreaded this case is across UK HEIs. Besides this, having a directory of CRIS/IR availability will prove very useful for different tasks such as REF2014 reporting or finding out the best way to implement Open Access policy compliance.

The most evident way to carry out this overview of RIM system availability is to put out a survey for IR managers (something that  RepNet has indeed already done, see However, since the picture involves some complexity (simple cases such as IR-only or IR+CRIS are probably not the most usual ones) and collecting answers from very busy IR managers is not always straightforward, RepNet is taking an alternative path to deliver a snapshot of the current state of RIM system implementation in the UK. This will be a collection of the most frequent use cases for institutional RIM systems with attached case studies for institutions where a particular configuration is running. HEIs will later be asked to select the use case that best fits their present RIM system configuration.

In collecting this information, RepNet has received very useful support from Nick Sheppard (Leeds Metropolitan IR manager and UKCoRR) and Rosemary Russell (UKOLN).

IRs vs CRISs: a false dichotomy?

Due to the way RIM systems have developed and been institutionally implemented in recent years, there is a general perception that IRs and CRISs are mutually opposed RIM systems, and that institutions should somehow 'choose' between them (and also between Dublin Core and CERIF metadata standards) when establishing their approach to research information management, collection and reporting. This is also a consequence of the fact that both platforms are usually run by different services within HEIs, namely the Library for the IR and the Research Office for the CRIS. IRs did usually arrive first and, although their main goal was actually to expose institutional Open Access contents, they were soon perceived as well as a potential solution to the university needs in terms of collecting and reporting institutional research outputs. This did naturally create some conflicts, since due to copyright restrictions, not every institutional research output may be exposed Open Access. When CRIS systems later arrived with the specific aim of dealing with institutional research output collection and reporting, they were perceived as competitors by IRs. Later developments such as CRIS taking up IR functionality and replacing some IRs for showcasing research outputs (such as the PURE-based Edinburgh Research Explorer engulfing the previous Edinburgh Research Archive ERA IR) fitted well into this CRIS/IR dichotomy scenario.

However, this needn't be the case. A close look at RIM system availability at UK HEIs delivers a much more complex situation where, even if for some specific situations this CRIS/IR dichotomy may exist, many other cases provide alternative practices that do not involve such conflict among different systems. This note also aims to examine to what extent this perceived dichotomy is actually a fact.

RIM Systems involved in the picture

Before proceeding to examine different use cases for institutional RIM system configuration, it is advisable to provide an overview of the RIM systems involved in the picture.

Institutional Repositories. These platforms include systems based on EPrints, DSpace, Fedora and other software packages, and their main function is to provide Open Access to institutional research outputs. Their default metadata standard is usually (qualified) DC, although other metadata standards such as MODS, METS or PREMIS are also occasionally used too. Current discussions are dealing with the possibility of adopting more sophisticated, CERIF-compatible metadata standards for future versions of running IR platforms. At the same time, both EPrints and DSpace IR platforms are already offering (or planning to shortly offer) CRIS functionality by not dealing just with publications, but also with projects and people.

Current Research Information Systems. CRISs are platforms for managing institutional research information on a very wide basis, involving all research activity at an institution. For the purpose of this note we will focus on management of information related to institutional research outputs, but CRISs aim to collect the whole institutional research information well beyond publications or outputs. Although some institutions use in-house-built solutions, CRISs are more often commercial systems provided by vendors. CRISs are usually based on the CERIF metadata standard, which is much more powerful (and complex) than DC in terms of semantic relations between entities. Finally, CRISs are not only very expensive, but also hard to implement and most HEIS are currently using just a small fraction of its comprehensive datamodel. For the purpose of this note, CRISs basically include PURE (Atira) and Converis (Avedas), with some additional in-house-built systems.

Symplectic. Rather than a CERIF-based CRIS, Symplectic Elements can be considered to be a publication manager. There is a significant number of HEIs running Symplectic in the UK, and for this reason it has been featured as an independent system from both other commercial CRISs and in- house built systems. Symplectic platform, with its focus on publication management, lies much closer to IRs than the fully functional commercial CRISs and is able to automatically perform a set of tasks related to reference collection and transfer towards an IR. In this sense, Symplectic breaks this perceived CRIS/IR dichotomy.

CMS. General-purpose Content Management Systems (CMS) are widespread RIM tools across HEIs and often play a relevant role in research output management. Although not specifically designed to be used for collecting publications produced at a given institution, these systems often replace CRISs for the purpose and get linked to the IR in order to showcase such institutional output.

RIM System Availability: Use Cases

Use Case A: IR-only

A number of HEIs are currently relying on their IRs as the sole platform for REF reporting purposes. These HEIs do not run a CRIS and have no plans to purchase or develop one in-house, but aim instead to collect the institutional research output in the IR "as the only centralised record of research activity in the university". As a result of restrictive copyright policies that will not allow every full-text version to be offered Open Access, these IRs will often contain a high rate of metadata-only items.

Depending on the actual add-ons a given repository is running (such as CRIS add-on for EPrints), these systems could potentially provide CRIS functionality. This configuration should be tested across the network and might lead to the definition of an additional A1 (IR-as-CRIS) subcase.

Institutions relevant to this use case (as reported in RepNet survey): 

  • University of Greenwich (Nadine Edwards)
  • University of Bedfordshire (Rachel Oldridge)
  • University of Central Lancashire (Helen Cooper)
  • London School of Economics (Natalia Madjarevic)
  • University of Northampton (Miggie Pickton)

Note: These are the HEIs to which RepNet is particularly eager to provide additional repository services, since they do not have other means than the IR for collecting the institutional research output. RepNet-proposed reporting tools such as the Dashboard or the Deposit Uptake Monitor would therefore be very useful for these HEIs to keep up with general reporting features developed for the institutional network (with UKRIS being the only ‘external’ service that could potentially complement their current resources). RepNet is therefore very interested in finding out how widespread this IR-only use case actually is.

Use Case B: IR + Symplectic

This use case covers the (quite widespread) operation of Symplectic Elements as publications manager system. Symplectic will collect references for institutional publications across a set of relevant databases and systems (such as WoS, PubMed, arXiv, etc) and will deliver these as metadata-only items to the IR, where the full-text version will be attached to the item (whenever possible) by the IR manager (sometimes authors do this attachment themselves). A relevant aspect to be considered by RepNet for this use case is the fact that Symplectic may actually deliver some of the planned metadata enhancement services such as DOI (and potentially Funder/Grant info) collection.

Institutions relevant to this use case (as reported in RepNet survey):

  • Leeds Metropolitan University (Nick Sheppard)
  • City University London (Neil Stewart)

Note: RepNet should also liaise with Symplectic in order to establish the appropriate working procedures for the RJ Broker to interact with this specific system configuration (such as to check whether Symplectic might be able to link IR items from other sources back to records in its reference database).

Use Case C: IR+CRIS

This use case covers the joint operation of an in-house built or commercial CERIF-based CRIS (such as PURE or Converis) and an IR for a given HEI. These two systems are usually linked to each other so that the CRIS automatically submits all publication metadata to the IR using a basic CERIF/DC mapping. This way the CRIS acts as internal CERIF-based management system for research outputs (plus other entities such as projects, people, etc) whereas the OAI-PMH-compliant IR plays the dissemination role for such outputs, offering Open Access to the full-text contents whenever possible. For this use case the CRIS will often deliver the reporting services required for the REF exercise.

Some commercial CRIS platforms have, however, recently developed repository features, so they can act as IRs as well (meaning OAI-PMH compliance as well as some specific reporting tools). As a result of this, this use case breaks up into two subcases, namely where CRIS and IR remain independently operating platforms and where CRIS and IR become a single merged system with features to offer Open Access to the contents held in the CRIS. In this second subcase, an independent IR will usually remain in operation dealing with dissemination of other institutional research outputs beyond research papers such as dissertations and grey literature.

Use Case C1. Independent IR + CRIS

This use case sub-category covers a PURE/Converis CRIS and a DSpace/EPrints IR operating independently from each other, although linked for publication medatada transfer purposes.

Institutions relevant to this use case (as reported in RepNet survey): 

  • University of St. Andrews (Janet Aucock/Jackie Proven, PURE)
  • Royal Holloway University (Dominic Tate, PURE)
  • Lancaster University (Michael Dunne, PURE)
  • University of Bath (Katie Evans, PURE)
  • University of Hull (Chris Awre, Converis)

Use Case C2. IR embedded into CRIS (but independent entity)

This use case sub-category covers a PURE CRIS taking over the IR role for institutional research paper dissemination purposes (including item harvesting by aggregators), while the IR deals with other research outputs.

Institutions relevant to this use case (as reported in RepNet survey): 

  • University of Edinburgh (James Toon, PURE)
  • University of Dundee (Hannah Whaley, PURE)

Use Case D: CRIS-only

This use case focuses on examples where a given HEI could finally rely just on its CRIS for managing its research outputs (plus additional information related to its research activity) without actually operating an IR. For this use case, all services would be built on top of the CRIS. This use case would, however, lie beyond RepNet scope, since RepNet deals with providing services to IRs. The use case should, however, be kept in mind for REF reporting purposes.

Institutions relevant to this use case (as reported in RepNet survey):

  • University of Bristol (Hilary Browne, PURE)
  • King's College London (Andria McGrath, PURE)