Monday, 16 February 2009

What is Research Management Data?

BRII's aim is to develop an infrastructure that captures research management information from different sources, which are published or which are classified as appropriate for open publication, and allow their sharing or dissemination in different contexts. As I mentioned in my previous post, I am planning a stakeholder analysis (which I hope to start soon!) to identify stakeholders and their needs in relation to research management data. Some stakeholders will also be sources of information. For example, BRII could use information in departmental websites, databases, or other kinds of documentation.

How do I know what information is relevant? BRII needs every sort of information that comes under the umbrella title of research management data.
So, then, what is research management data? In general terms, Research Management data could be defined as the metadata about research. This is not the data collected, processed or generated by the research process itself. It is the data that identifies each research activity, its components, elements, members and relationships. It tells you the who, what, when, where (and why?) of research in an institution.
Developing this definition more gets difficult in Oxford due to its organisational complexity. Different divisions, departments, units would have different perspectives which could depend on the aspects of research and/or the research fields they are involved with. These differences are also intensified by their autonomy, having independent business processes each. Also each unit will own different kinds of information, which are hosted in different sources and in different formats. Some could be written on yellow post-its stuck on somebody's whiteboard!

Anyway, the uses of research management data could be enormous. Two examples: external funding entities could use these data to assess research proposals and funded research. The data could also be used to produce reports for the Research Assessment Exercise (R.A.E.) or the future Research Excellence Framework (R.E.F.).

Besides my work at identifying potential stakeholder names, I also need to identify the kinds of information that I will need from them which equals to: the kinds of information that are relevant and available and that would be useful for our potential users. I am sketching a sort of map of research management data, from what I know about research and from what I have read so far since I took this post. What I have so far is the following list:

Research activity data: purpose or research, research field, research outcomes, website, institutional links, connections/collaborations with other research activities, Bids/Proposals, plans, research progress reports, project evaluation reports, other research proposals generated, people&roles, facilities, resources, technology, etc.

Social Data: people based (researchers, postsdocs, admin, etc) CVs, Bios, Publications, Interests, websites, etc.

Financial data: information about funding bodies, grants, budgets, time scales, extensions, overheads, etc.

Spatial/Geographical data*: where are people, projects located, laboratories, facilities, etc who works near who, who has access to facilities, etc.

Research Logs - things that happen in a project, issues, rules, changes in strategy --> don't think this would be classified as appropriate for open publication though

So one of my objectives will be to ask for these kinds of content in whatever format they are, and also, of course, I will need to ask stakeholders if they think there is something I should add to this list.

* Spatial/geographical data is a potential area for collaboration with the EREWHON project

Note: since I wrote this post the BRII team decided to use the term Research Activity data to describe data that will be harvested. Data from interviews from the stakeholder analysis and feedback from other sources shows that Research Activity data represents the kind of information which is usually made available online and which is of interest for most of our stakeholders. Print this post

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