The development team at Cottage Labs have made some interesting updates to the Highlight Collaboration report, including the ability to define collaboration yourself depending on what you would like to see, and view both all time and current collaborations. This screencast takes you through the changes and how to make use of them to generate your report.
We would love to know what you think, let us know in the comments or by contacting bex at cottagelabs dot com.
Much of the Jisc-led G4HE project has been work to develop tools to provide management reports for universities, based on data from the Research Councils’ Gateway to Research (GtR). This has been an illuminating experience in many ways, and that experience might be of interest to others looking to build services over open data.
Once we had an agreed set of requirements for the reports, in March 2013, the development team at Cottage Labs started creating initial, alpha versions of the reports to share with a group of research managers, our testers group. This was part of the agile development methodology we used, and implied that we needed regularly to have iterations of the tools to show testers. At the same time, however, we were working closely with the Research Councils to understand the GtR data. These data are collated from seven Research Councils, from a number of source systems within those Councils, and the GtR project has put considerable effort into normalising these data to present to GtR users. Nevertheless, because of its provenance, it has been challenging to understand the data sufficiently to develop iterations of the tools for our testers to explore, and we have often had to put caveats on those tools to the effect that our testers should focus on the functionality rather than the outputs of the tools, as we were not confident that those outputs were “accurate”. The word “accurate” needs some explanation, however. The data from GtR are “reliable”, in the sense that they do accurately reflect the activities recorded by the Research Councils during the process of awarding grants and recording the outcomes from those grants. However, from a user’s perspective, those data could be misinterpreted, in the sense that they do not represent the phenomena that users think they do. A key example for us has been the concept of “collaboration”, which has both precise and vague definitions for users and Research Councils (both individually and collectively), and that has made it quite hard to develop tools that report to research managers on the research collaborations in which their university is involved. The GtR project is refining its data dictionary to minimise misinterpretations, by users, of the data going forward.
The experiences have made us much more aware of the importance of understanding data provenance, and the need often for not only documentation on this, but also the need to speak with the source data architect who knows many of the nuances of the data being made available. It has also made us aware of the challenges in making public data that were originally collected mainly for internal purposes. While some of the data on GtR has been openly available before, through other Research Council systems, it has been collected mainly to help the Councils monitor and report on the research they fund, and to inform their planning. Now that these data are intended to be used externally, for example by SMEs interested in working with academic researchers, their limitations with respect to the needs of other external users, such as research managers in universities, have become increasingly apparent. Exposing the data does, however, make it possible for it to be supplemented by other data in services by and for third parties. This is only possible where widely adopted keys and vocabularies are used to ensure semantic interoperability. ORCID is one such key, for researcher names, and the Research Councils are looking at how to exploit the ORCID initiative in GtR. This is part of a wider acceptance across data providers and users wherever possible to use commonly accepted definitions and protocols for exchanging information; allowing organisations to structure their data internally, to meet their specific needs, while presenting that data to the “outside” world using a common structure and standards so the data can be correctly interpreted and consumed by “external” users. While there is a wider acceptance that adopting common standards is desirable, data providers do need well-evidenced business cases to enable them to persuade their parent organisations to commit to this approach.
On the 22nd of October the project team hosted a webinar where we provided a tour of the tools we have built so far from an institutional perspective, and held a question and answer session. The purpose of the webinar was to encourage people to engage with G4HE and try the tools for themselves, as well as to discover whether the research management community feel that the tools will be useful to them.
If watching this webinar makes you think you might want to try the tools for yourself, please feel free to have a go and let us know your feedback in the comments on this blog or by contacting Bex at cottagelabs dot com.
Are you a research manager, administrator, or researcher? Interested in finding out who you could be collaborating with?
The G4HE project (Gateway for Higher Education) is a Jisc-funded project which is building tools to help research managers and those working in the research information community by improving access to the data held in RCUK’s Gateway to Research.
The G4HE tools have been developed to help Higher Education institutions (HEIs) answer questions such as:
- Which other HEIs did my institution collaborate with last year and how much funding was awarded to those collaborations?
- Are there other HEIs working in a similar area that we could collaborate with in future?
- How does the value of our research compare with other institutions or research groups?
G4HE is hosting a free webinar to introduce you to the tools being developed and consider how these could be used in your institution. The webinar is on 22nd October 2013 from 1pm until 2pm – book your place now at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/event/8548036407.
Many research managers, particularly in smaller institutions, currently rely on a variety of different information sources such as spreadsheets and internal databases to access and report information on grant funding and awards. While it is possible to find out information on other institutions’ grant funding via services such as Grants on the Web, this can prove time-consuming for those working in already busy research offices.
In a recent post from the team at Brunel University, Alicen Nickson discussed the various issues facing research managers when it comes to managing their institution’s research portfolio and reporting this information to internal and external stakeholders:
Being able to identify with whom we should collaborate to maximise our chances of research funding success
G4HE allows you to see who you are already collaborating with, and how much funding each project was awarded. This information can help you identify which existing collaborations are generating the most funding and should be cultivated. In addition, you can see how much funding was awarded to your projects compared with other institutions across the same time period. Based on this report, you can identify who you should be building relationships with that you may not work with currently. You can also get recommendations for potential collaborations based on project, people and keyword searches to help you find collaborators in subject areas of interest to your institution.
Being able to report on our research funding activity to a range of internal and external audiences
G4HE allows you to generate reports that illustrate collaborations that your institution was involved in during a given time period, and the funding awarded to projects that started within that time. In addition to an at-a-glance view detailing top collaborations in both tabular and graph format, you can see detailed tables showing key information on that collaboration (collaborator, funding awarded, principal investigator etc.) The detailed reports are downloadable as .csv files which can be imported into Excel, allowing you to use the data for your own reporting.
Understanding our research funding performance in context; how are we doing compared to others?
G4HE’s benchmarking report allows you to select other institutions with whom to compare yourself, and report on the number of projects started by your own and your competitors institutions during a selected time period. You can also view the amount of funding awarded to projects started by your institution within a given time period in comparison to the amount awarded to other institutions. This may help with planning in terms of knowing which projects and subject areas are performing better and which are not generating as much funding, and also in terms of possible future collaborations.
The principal way in which the tools developed by the G4HE project could be beneficial to HEIs is by helping to save time and resource; providing access to the data held within GtR and presenting it in a way that is easy to view at-a-glance and that can be quickly interpreted and included in an institution’s internal reports.
GtR and G4HE
Over the course of the G4HE project, feedback from the community has shown that there is some confusion between G4HE and Gateway to Research. The two projects are distinct, although they are working together. RCUK’s GtR contains data on who, what and where the Councils fund, as well as details about the outcomes, outputs and impact held on ROS and ResearchFish. Data from additional funders, such as TSB, will also shortly be available on GtR. The current aim of GtR is to enable the public to access and understand this information, with a particular focus on innovation-centered SMEs.
The information held in GtR has a number of potential advantages to Research Managers, particularly when it comes to the issues raised in Alicen’s post around identifying current and potential collaborators and benchmarking research funding performance. However, it is not currently aimed at this audience. The purpose of the Jisc-funded G4HE project is to build tools that will take this information from GtR and make it available to research managers in a way that meets their specific needs. In addition, G4HE is working with RCUK to provide recommendations on how the data could be improved.
The G4HE tools are being developed in consultation with volunteers from ARMA and the research information community. If you would like to have a go with the tools and give us some feedback, please feel free to do so via the comments or by contacting bex at cottagelabs dot com.
Interested in finding out more about G4HE? Why not attend our Webinar on October 22nd – sign up via EventBrite: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/event/8548036407
In this latest screencast, we show you the most recent updates to the G4HE user interface and demonstrate how to use the newest development – the new potential report. Based on project, person, keyword and URL searches, this report generates matches for potential new collaborations in areas that are of interest to your institution.
As always, your feedback is much appreciated – let us know what you think of this latest feature via the comments or by contacting bex at cottagelabs dot com.
In this post, Alicen Nickson (Deputy Director, Research Support and Development) at Brunel University describes the challenges faced by Research Managers when it comes to managing an institution’s funding portfolio, and how the work being done by the G4HE project could be useful:
The University Research Manager engages in a wide range of activities to facilitate their institution’s research. This includes supporting the generation of external research funding. Being effective in this role requires us to understand and manage our funding portfolio. This entails a number of challenges such as:
How do we address such challenges? My team collates a range of information on our portfolio of research funding. We put this into an internal database from which we generate reports for numerous internal and external stakeholders. Like any other Research Office, we maintain fairly comprehensive records on all our grant proposals and awards. However, this does not tell us how our performance compares to others. Perceptions of success, and the consequent targeting of resources, might alter when we better understand relative performance.
It also does not tell us where research funding is actually going, (assuming we are not winning it, of course!) For example, which researchers and groups are receiving most funding under a particular funding scheme or theme? Such intelligence can help us to identify opportunities for developing mutually beneficial collaborations.
If reviewing Research Council funding, it is possible to find out more about others’ funding successes through systems such as ‘grants on the web’. That is fine in theory but, in practice, for many of us there is limited time and resource to actually do this. With the advent of the Research Council’s ‘Gateway to Research’, there is the opportunity to access information on all their funded grants. However, as it stands, the system has not been designed to meet a Research Manager’s needs, with its current target audience being SMEs. The simple availability of information does not necessarily mean it will be used, or add value to what we already have available.
As busy Research Managers with numerous (often last minute) deadlines, what we need are simple tools that sort and analyse the available data on a timely basis. In addition, we need to be confident in the provenance and accuracy of the data, and be able to download data sets for incorporation with internal databases. As time and resource are increasingly at a premium, the availability of such tools to provide management information will be increasingly essential. The more efficient and effective such tools are in enabling access, to and use of, available data, the better we can do our jobs.
The G4HE project is focused on doing just that. By building a number of tools that make use of publically available Research Council data, this should provide additional resource for Research Managers. These tools have been developed on the basis of consultation with volunteers from the Association of Research Managers and Administrators network, so are targeted towards our specified needs. It will be interesting to try these out and see what can be gleaned from the new intelligence available to us.