The CRIS Revolution & How It Affects Academic Publishing
Over the last decade there has been a quiet revolution in the way academic institutions track and manage their research activity. “Universities have moved from having multiple systems for single purposes, to also having a single system for multiple purposes”, explains Bo Alroe, director, sales enablement for Elsevier’s Pure software. Now used by over 200 institutions worldwide, Pure is just one of many “current research information systems” (CRIS) which aim to consolidate research information in one platform. The value of a CRIS is that data is homogeneous, inter-related, and uniquely identified, allowing institutions to report across all aspects of their research activity, at multiple levels.
The goal for institutions is not simply to connect disparate internal systems, but to bring in data from external sources, like academic publishers, to provide a far richer picture of their research performance. Of course, commercial indexing services like Elsevier’s Scopus and Thomson Reuters’ Web of Science have long catered to institutional demand for information on publication volumes and citations. The difference now is that institutions are demanding more information, from a wider range of sources -- everything from datasets and patents to press articles and equipment usage. Meanwhile, in part due to the rise of open access publishing (OA), institutions need metadata on peer-reviewed publications to be much richer than before, and be made available earlier in the publishing cycle -- even prior to the point of publication.
Funders see availability of this metadata as crucial to improving compliance with OA mandates, and are increasingly prepared to use their financial muscle to ensure it is delivered. For example, the UK’s Wellcome Trust stated last year: “We will encourage all researchers and institutions to actively consider whether the APC [article processing charge] they are being charged by a particular journal is justified in light of the quality of service they receive.”
A Crucial Juncture
What does all this mean for publishers, and how does metadata on their articles find its way into institutional systems? CRIS systems typically allow imports from indexing services like Scopus or PubMed, from repositories such as ArXiv, and from reference management tools like Mendeley. At the moment, though, these services rarely hold all of the information that institutions require. As a result, details on vast numbers of publications are being manually keyed into university systems, either by researchers themselves, or institutional administrators -- an approach that is becoming increasingly unsustainable.
There are a number of reasons for this, according to Josh Brown, regional director, Europe at ORCID, the non-profit organization that maintains a registry of unique digital identifiers for researchers. One is the need for institutions to monitor the impact of their research at a more granular level. This is driving interest in article level metrics, increasing the amount of metadata that is being collected and analyzed. Another is the move to open access, with its associated compliance issues, and particularly the complexity associated with hybrid publications. “If something is OA, institutions expect the metadata to be open. And if they are paying for it, they expect to see the rights information and to be able to check if this is reflected in the article”, he explains. For institutions producing tens of thousands of publications per year, the ability to harvest this metadata at scale and capture it within their own systems thus becomes indispensable.
Fortunately, more sophisticated approaches to the management of publications data are already on the horizon. One of the most promising sources of metadata for institutions is Crossref. Most publishers already deposit good quality metadata for their content into the service, and it offers the facility for publishers to register content at multiple stages in the publishing process. Once in Crossref, this metadata can then be used to feed other services. One example is CHORUS, which provides public access to content reporting on U.S. federally-funded research. Another is ORCID's new auto-update function, which can be used to automatically populate institutional CRIS and other systems, as well as a researcher's own ORCID record. This offers the prospect of publication metadata passing all the way from a publisher’s systems right through to an institution’s without the need for manual intervention.
These developments hold huge promise, but there are still kinks to be ironed out. One of the biggest is the need for researchers to give permission for their ORCID record to be updated automatically. Both publishers and institutions are still working out the right point in the process at which to prompt authors to do this. Other challenges include the need for better management of transactional data on APCs, a lack of robust affiliation data for researchers, and the limited information typically captured by publishers on co-authors. This means that, even where Crossref holds a record of a paper, institutions may not be able to identify that it belongs to one of their researchers, or to establish whether an APC has been paid.
A Waiting Game?
So do institutions simply need to wait for researchers worldwide to sign-up for an ORCID and grant the necessary permissions? Not according to Steve Byford, scholarly communications manager at Jisc, which provides digital solutions for education and research in the UK. “I think the Crossref-ORCID auto-update has enormous potential”, he acknowledges “but there are questions about how quickly publishers will be able to capture and expose ORCIDs for all co-authors, not just the corresponding author.”
As a result, Byford encourages publishers to be proactive in surfacing whatever metadata they can on authors and their affiliations, with or without ORCIDs. Even a simple text-string can be enough to allow services like Jisc's Publications Router to match the right articles to the right institutions. Another item high on universities’ wish-lists is the registration of digital object identifiers (DOIs), serial codes that identify unique digital documents like journal articles, upon article acceptance.
All Part of the Service
For publishers struggling with aging systems that can struggle to talk to each other, let alone the rest of the world, this can all seem like a tall order. Lars Bjørnshauge, managing director of the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), acknowledges the difficulties involved, but sees little room for publishers to put their heads in the sand. He expects the DOAJ to move from recommending DOIs to requiring them within the next couple of years -- “and the same will probably apply to ORCID and the Open Funder Registry in the future.” He stresses that the adoption of standards and sharing of metadata is simply part of good publishing practice, in line with good peer review, concluding “we are increasing the demands and tightening the standards, because these things are an integral part of a good publisher service.”
Furthermore, the benefits of data exchange between publishers and institutions flow in both directions. Better data-sharing will make it easier for authors and institutions to identify and adhere to publishers’ licensing terms, including policies on deposit to institutional repositories, and can help point readers to content on publishers’ sites. Meanwhile, as more information is exposed, article-level rights should become more visible, potentially opening up new revenue sources. For example, where licensing terms do not permit commercial re-use, it should become much easier for commercial organisations to identify this fact and make contact with the rights holder, even where they are not viewing the version of record.
Help Is at Hand
The quiet revolution in institutional systems continues to gather pace, and universities are already reaping the benefits of high quality, inter-related data on research. The eyes of the institutional community have now turned to publishers, in the hopes that they will deliver a similar step-change in data quality and transferability. The good news is that much of the hard work has already been done on publishers’ behalf. “Vendors and information brokers have real power to propagate best practice in this area,” stresses ORCID’s Josh Brown. Manuscript submission suppliers like Aries and ScholarOne, publishing platforms such as HighWire and eJournalPress, and providers of open access services like CCC’s RightsLink have grasped this opportunity with both hands. These vendors, among others, already have in place the integrations needed to help publishers make full use of identifiers, adopt industry standards, and make their data harvestable.
Here are 5 tips publishers can implement to meet the research tracking demands of institutions:
1. Encourage (or even require) your authors to sign up for an ORCID, and to authorise the auto-update functionality
2. Capture authors’ affiliation data using an ISNI or Ringgold unique identifier
3. Capture funding information using the Open Funder Registry
4. Register content with Crossref prior to online availability
5. Adopt NISO’s recommended practice on access and license indicators
This is an exciting time for all of us working in the field of scholarly communications, but sometimes the pace of change and the sheer number of new initiatives can make it difficult to know what to do next. The key point for publishers right now is that a few changes to their workflows and data capture processes can deliver huge downstream benefits to their authors, readers and institutional customers. As these developments reach critical mass, they open up the prospect of a fully inter-connected research information landscape, where information flows freely between all of the stakeholders. That would be truly revolutionary.
Rob Johnson (@rschconsulting) is the founder and director of Research Consulting, which serves organizations involved in the delivery, dissemination and commercialization of research. Since founding Research Consulting in early 2013, he has worked on a range of projects in the field of open access for clients including Jisc, Knowledge Exchange, and SPARC Europe, as well as publishers, vendors and software suppliers