Towards interoperability

November 13, 2014

Research Councils UK welcomes the Association of Research Managers and Administrators’ help in developing better interoperability in relation to collecting information on the outcomes of research council-funded research.

We certainly wish to explore how the reporting burden on researchers can be reduced, and the original decision to adopt electronic systems for gathering information, rather than requiring the submission of final reports, had this aim in mind. Simon Kerridge is a member of the RCUK project board for the councils to harmonise on a single system, and ARMA’s involvement in the project has been invaluable.

Issues around interoperability with university systems were a concern for the project from the outset. As part of the tender process for selecting a system provider, we asked bidders to outline their plans for future interoperability. However, the development of robust interoperability is not an easy matter. There is significant variation across the sector in the information systems used, and the implementation of “bulk upload” solutions without adequate controls and data standards simply introduces duplicate and poor quality data when aggregated nationally.

Researchfish is a system used by about 90 funders and it is the funders that need to be convinced that interoperability of systems can be achieved robustly before we ask the company to develop options. It is vital that the research councils have high-quality evidence to use in making the case for investment in research, but equally we are keen to work in partnership with universities and other funders to understand how to maximise the use (and reuse) of information without introducing unacceptable risks to data quality.

Ian Lyne
Arts and Humanities Research Council and senior lead on the RCUK Research Outcomes Harmonisation Project

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