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University of Glasgow - Research Information Management

Case study written October 2012.

 

Contents

 


Background

 

The University of Glasgow has developed an in-house system over a number of years. The system is designed principally to support the internal management of the large volume of research carried out within the university.

 

Screenshot - University of Glasgow Research System

 

Business case

 

The current system substantially predates the availability of commercial CRISs and was initially designed to support the operation of the Research & Enterprise Office (R&E) with a very limited impact on the wider university.

 

Context

 

The University has a long standing history management of  research information. The current system is bespoke predates any of the existing Research Information Management/Current Research Information systems that are currently on the market.


Glasgow has developed a business process that mandates all research applications being approved by the Research Support Office for quality assurance before they are submitted to the relevant funding body. Initially the system and processes were developed to support the R&E office function and access to the system was restricted to R&E staff but over the course of time access has been increasingly devolved. Several years ago the interface was redeveloped to support access via a web browser.


The systems are now intended to give 'cradle to grave' support for research project applications through to post-project reports and outputs. Academics can set up their own funding alerts within ‘Research Professional’ or ask the Research Support Office for support and they will do the setup for them.

 

Aims and objectives

 

Originally the aim of the system was to support the operation of the Research & Enterprise Office. However over the years the scope of the system has been extended as has the user base and the current system aims to provide the entire university with a ‘cradle to grave’ support environment for all research projects.

 

Scope

 

The system has developed over time but now provides support to the full range of activities within the research domain to a wide variety of devolved and central users.

 

Governance

 

The system is administered and developed by a team in the Research and Enterprise office (R&E) of the University.


A user group chaired by a user rather than any of the R&E office staff oversees the development of the system and considers requests for new functionality which are prioritised and, if appropriate, included in the development schedule. Development resource is assigned according to wider university demands.

If the system needs a specific budget for a specific initiative then the User Group apply for that via the Secretary of Court with support from the Vice Principal and if granted that is allocated to the task. Currently there is no non-staff development budget.

 

Technologies and standards used

 

The system is principally Microsoft based. Several years ago, in order to support greater devolved access, the interface was redeveloped to run in the university standard web browser.

 

Outcomes

 

Usage Model

 

The systems and processes have grown since they were first deployed and generally follow the internal model of the University rather than an external view. It is predicated on the concept of a project and the first step is for a project to be created. This is usually done by research administrators in an academic unit.



Screenshot - Create a new project

 
The system allows users to add other people to the project; these can be members of staff, in which case their salary details are automatically imported from the University's Human Resources (HR) system to support project costing. Non-university staff can also be added but their salary details will not be automatically known. Similarly students can be added.


Screenshot - Managing users

 
Further details such as the funding application are then added. When developing the bid, the system supports a sophisticated set of facilities for the development of multiple costing models (based on full economic costing (FEC)). The user can develop as many models as needed. Because the staff details are drawn from the HR/payroll system the staff costs are actual staff costs, rather than estimates based on grade bands etc. Staff can be assigned to a project for a proportion of their time and the costs are adjusted accordingly. Once a costing model is satisfactory it can be fixed and either the Research Support Office or Finance Office can attach it to the applications.

Once the application is complete approvals are collected from the relevant managers before the application is submitted to the funder;  in the case of a Research Council via Je-S.

The system needs to know when an award letter has been received and therefore funding agreed, but the letter may be sent to the Principal Investigator (PI) rather than the Research Support Office. Therefore the system sends an automatic email to the researcher reminding them to inform the Research Support Office when the funding letter arrives.

When notification of the success or otherwise is received by the University the status of the application is updated. If the bid has been successful the system then provides support for the duration of the project. Most specifically it links to the financial Information System to provide the relevant finance project code that the funds can be spent from.

IRIOS2 is exploring automatic receipt of data from RCUK so potentially this could in future help reduce the communications delay for awards.

Once a project has been defined, the system provides a selection of actions to support the project such as issuing automatic email reminders to the PI when key events are due. Also a user can initiate an action to one of the other users associated with the project; the system will track the actions and allow users to view which are outstanding and which have been completed.

Award details are interfaced to the repository where outputs can be linked to awards (this was the output of the Enquire project!) and the URL of linked outputs is fed back into the Research Support System so that the research lifecycle is complete – staff can look at an application (in the Research Support System) and see how it developed and what output resulted, and staff can look at the output (in the repository) and see what funding it originated from.

Screenshot - Project actions

 

Benefits

 

By actively engaging with system development in Research Information Management earlier than much of the sector, the University of Glasgow has developed an extensive application to support the management of research within the institution and avoided the development of autonomous local operations.

The development of a single system to support the internal model of application has led to significant efficiency gains, cost savings and a high level of adherence to the regulations that would have been more difficult to achieve with a manual system.

 

Looking ahead

 

Future plans

 

The University has a policy of buying packages where there is one available to suit the requirements.  There were no packages available in 1994 when the system was set up but the university is  now looking at moving the data into a commercial package.  The systems are being evaluated against the existing functionality and any new system will have to provide broadly the same functionality. The university and the users are not looking for a radically different solution; rather they are seeking to reduce the risk of relying on internal development.

 

Sustainability

 

The university is participating in several JISC funded projects in the research domain and it is hoped that some of these will lead to further functionality being added to the system. In the JISC Engage project [link] business intelligence [link] technology and techniques have been investigated to provide more robust identification of cross departmental research themes to support marketing and collaboration.