Open Access Good Practice at Northumbria

We’ve just published an update on our Open Access Good Practice blog about our work over the past 6 months on our Jisc-funded Pathfinder project. The update includes details of case studies of OA in three UK HEIs, a cost modelling tool, and a decision-making tool for academic staff:

mapreading by wockerjabby CC BY-NC-SA 2
mapreading by wockerjabby CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Since the last update in March, we’ve had a significant policy announcement from HEFCE on Open Access in the next REF, as well as RCUK’s response to the Burgess review of Open Access implementation. HEFCE’s announcement in particular has shifted the goalposts for OA compliance in the next REF, by deferring the deposit upon acceptance requirement by a year to 1st April 2017. Response from the sector has been mixed, with some welcoming the chance to further embed OA systems and processes, while others bemoan confusing and mixed messages.

RCUK’s response to the Burgess review was less controversial, confirming that they accept and will implement all recommendations, including the formation of a Practitioner Group, making ORCID a requirement, and a review of the algorithm to apportion OA block grant. More recently, RCUK have also set out their arrangements for monitoring of the 2014/15 OA block grant, the deadline for which is 30th October which suggests a busy autumn ahead for research and library staff! Northumbria’s implementation of ORCID has advanced considerably over the past year, and our work on the Jisc-ARMA funded ORCID pilot project has allowed the University to embed ORCID sign up into the postgraduate research student workflow on project approval and at annual progression.

Our Pathfinder has continued to be active over Spring and Summer 2015. Both Northumbria and Sunderland have been further developing their own internal processes, procedures and awareness raising work, but we have also made significant progress in three areas of our workplan. In summary:

  1. Case studies: we have published case studies of good practice and challenges at three UK HEIs
  2. Cost modelling: we have developed and released an early version of our OA cost modelling tool
  3. Decision making: we have developed and released an early version of an OA decision-making tool for academic staff

We’ve also been continuing to engage with the wider Pathfinder programme to disseminate our work (at the June ARMA conference and an upcoming Jisc-ARMA webinar) and developing ideas for a touring OA workshop which we’re planning on rolling out over the autumn this year.

You can read the full update on our blog.

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The European Science Foundation invites proposals, for European training in astronomy programme, for exchange visits…

Proposals are invited that involve exchange visits between countries that contribute to the GREAT programme. Though this projects involving this set of countries is preferred, outlines involving other non-contributing countries will be considered.

Exchange grants are given up to €1,600 per month, €400 per week and €57 per day, plus travel costs worth up to €500 over a period of 15 days to 4 months.

No deadline.

Applications must be made at least two months prior to the exchange.

For more information, please click here.

 

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RMAS Launch: What it is and how it can support research management

I recently attended the RMAS (Research Management and Administration System) launch event in London where I learned about the outcomes of the recent HEFCE-funded project and how RMAS can help people like me (research managers and administrators) better understand, track and integrate the vast and diverse array of research-related data in Higher Education.

Universities need this data for a number of reasons, including:

  • to analyse and interpret success rates of research bids so we can see where more support is needed;
  • to keep track of and audit research expenditure to ensure externally-funded projects are spending to budget;
  • to feed into important external research-related returns, such as HESA, HEBCIS and REF;
  • to ensure research projects are accurately costed;
  • to make sure the research bidding and management process flows as smoothly as possible, minimizing the amount of data re-entry and hand-offs where possible;
  • as the open access agenda becomes more important, to ensure all outputs from funded projects are published in open access journals or are available as full text on the institutional repository

What is RMAS?

RMAS started out as a HEFCE-funded project, led by the University of Exeter and also involving Kent and Sunderland, to scope and produce a business case for a pre-award to post-award (“cradle to grave”) research management and administration system for HEIs. Phase one of the project confirmed there was a need for this among HEIs and that no such system was currently available on the open market. Phase two, which has just been completed, sought to develop a solution and estimate potential savings across the sector if this were adopted.

So what’s the outcome? In short RMAS consists of three related elements:

  1. RMAS includes a procurement framework containing “best of breed” systems which provide solutions for the full research management process: pre-award to post-award. This will substantially reduce the costs of procuring research management and administration software by effectively allowing HEIs to pick from a “catalogue” of options for each stage in the process. It also ensures RMAS is “modular”, allowing HEIs to start from different places and pick what they need. Suppliers in the framework include: UNIT4 (Agresso), Atira (Pure), SmartSimple (RMS360).
  2. RMAS is a set of integration tools and methodologies based on a centrally hosted Enterprise Service Bus which allows existing and newly procured corporate and research management systems to be integrated and communicate with each other.
  3. The above elements are built around a standard format for research data, CERIF (Common European Research Information Format), which is an open, internationally recognised standard. This means that research data can be integrated and different systems can communicate more easily. In essence, it ensures that all the different elements of the RMAS system “speak the same language”.

What’s the problem?

Research carried out by the RMAS pathfinders across the sector confirmed that different HEIs used a variety of different products for different stages of the process (e.g. project costing, academic expertise, post award management, outcomes and outputs) and that there was often very little, if any, integration between the systems used. This means that data relating to research awards, for example, frequently needs to be re-keyed at various stages to ensure it is correctly imported into the relevant system.

This situation is compounded by the fact that the various HR and finance systems which also feed information into (and out of) the research management process are similarly diverse and lack integration with the various research management software solutions on the market. Moreover, different institutions have different processes and procedures – for example, approvals and submission.

In short, HEIs are all starting from a different place and no two institutions use the same set of systems and processes for research management and administration. In addition, institutions have in many cases invested heavily in their existing systems and tools and would be reluctant to throw this away. The RMAS team therefore determined that what was needed was a methodology of integrating these existing tools, rather than developing and introducing an entirely new system from scratch.

What are the benefits?

Potentially, these are huge. The RMAS pathfinder institutions (Exeter, Kent and Sunderland) have made the following estimates in terms of savings as well as associated data quality and planning improvements:

You could expect the following chain benefits from implementing RMAS modules:

  • Procurement savings of around £35,000 for each OJEU tender
  • Procurement savings of around £14,000 for each sub-OJEU tender
  • Savings for a medium sized university of £75,000 per annum for each ofthe RMAS modules that they use.

The operational savings equate to:

  • £60 per application for proposal management systems
  • £140 per academic or £70 per project for post-award management systems
  • £70 per academic for outputs management systems.

Ripple benefits that the pathfinder institutions have experienced include:

  • Improvements in data quality in corporate systems such as HR, Finance and Project systems
  • Improved accuracy of Business Intelligence and planning
  • Value added through redirection of valuable resource
  • A flexible platform that can be readily adapted to any future requirements
  • A positive user experience facilitating future developments and new system deployments.
These benefits should be understood in terms of the wider policy drive in UK HE to share services and become more efficient. HEFCE are clear that RMAS can contribute towards this goal.

What next?

There was a strong steer from HEFCE representatives on the day that the RMAS approach should be adopted across the sector. To this end, HEFCE have provided further transitional funding to retain the project coordinator for a year and to develop resources on the RMAS website, which includes an RMAS connector demo so you can see some of the principles in action.

However, it became clear on the day that for institutions to actually adopt an end-to-end RMAS-compliant system would require not only financial investment, in terms of procuring relevant software to plug gaps in the research management process, but also in terms of IT development time to build a “connector” to join up the various elements of research admin systems and HR, finance, etc. There will be resources available on the RMAS website to provide guidance and support for this, or alternatively JISC Nexus has been set up as a subscription service to do the same job.

In the question time following the event, one delegate made the very sensible point that they wouldn’t be doing anything further on this until after the REF, for fear of introducing new processes and jeopardising data quality. Whatever the timescales, it seems clear that RMAS is going to play a role in the future of research management in UK HE.

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Project Monitoring for Principal Investigators at Northumbria

Research and Business Services has recently made a number of improvements to the pre- and post-award support available to colleagues in the University. One significant feature introduced in the last month is the online Project Monitoring Reports which allow Principal Investigators to keep track of spend to date and funds remaining on all externally funded projects. Reports are available via the Post-Award section of the RBS website and require a Northumbria username and password.

Once logged in you can choose to view reports using either the University or RCUK financial models. Simply choose a School, a PI name and then select the project number and title you would like to view using the drop-down menus.

The report shows a straightforward breakdown of planned spend, spend to date and any committed expenditure so PIs can see at a glance how much money is left under any particular budget heading.You can also drill down to view additional details for different categories of travel expenditure, for example.

If you have any questions about the Project Monitoring Reports, please direct them to Wendy Anderson in the RBS Post-Award team.

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