JISC and Research Councils UK work to reduce reporting burden on universities

Matt Jukes, MRC Digital Communication Manager –

JISC have just published a blogpost outlining joint activity between them and us here at the Research Councils that is of particular interest to anyone following the Gateway to Research project. Rather than reproduce it here I recommend you check it out over on the JISC blog. There is a great of interesting work being undertaken in this area.

The GTR technical approach

Paul Chitson, BBSRC Head of Information Services –

The GtR technical team have started the process of pulling together data from various Research Council funded projects and building a technology platform through which to make it available to a wide variety of audiences.

The project is being managed and delivered within an Agile framework, perhaps the first cross council project in the Research Councils to adopt this approach.  This means we will not only be trying to hit key milestones but also aiming to release as much information and as many early previews as we can.  This blog post is the first from the technical team and hopefully sets a precedent for the way we wish to continue.

The process began with the gathering of user stories from potential audiences which have since enabled us to understand the content that is of interest, the ways in which people may want to interface with the data and, of equal importance, what people do not want.

The requirements gathering phase has informed our initial thoughts on the solution architecture and how the data will be stored.

The data will be extracted from various sources, transformed and then stored in two forms. The first will be in a relational database using the CERIF data model.  Initially, the intention was to provide an interface that would output data in a CERIF format but following a workshop with Keith Jeffery (President of euroCRIS) we felt that we could use it as the internal storage model.  However, we also have a commitment to provide data in a linked data format (RDF) via a SPARQL interface, so have chosen to store the data in two forms (rather than a RDF wrapper) and benefit from a SPARQL interface out of the box.  We will, wherever possible use existing open source technologies and integrate rather than build from scratch. Any code or customisations we make will be made freely available.

GtR technology at a glance:

  • Data storage model will be CERIF. This ensures compliance with many universities, research organisations and consumers of research data;
  • A user portal with full text and facetted search (SOLR);
  • REST based interface providing rich information in both human and machine readable forms;
  • SPARQL interface for querying a triple store (initially using the JENA Software stack);
  • Web services providing data in OAI-PMH and CERIF formats.

 

We are at the start of an exciting journey and invite you to add your input along the way.

Introducing the Gateway to Research

Catherine Coates, Director of Business Innovation at EPSRC and the SRO for the Gateway to Research project, introduces the project and explains why the Gateway is important –

The UK’s Research Councils host a significant quantity of data which provides information on the research and training that they support, as well as the outcomes of that research. This is of huge potential interest and value to business and many other organisations, particularly universities that already make similar data publically available. The Research Councils together are determined to play their part in making the data we hold freely and easily available for others to use as they see fit, including seeding collaborations and helping interested parties to find out who, what and where knowledge sits to enable them to make contact with people who can help them.

With the Gateway to Research project, we envisage an integrated Research Council data set that enables data sharing across the government, private and university sectors.

For example, although currently our data is in the public domain, accessible through our websites, it isn’t easy to navigate what seven Councils hold when using seven different websites!

So we want to create a smart way to make that easy, with common data standards and interoperability, so anyone can access it and use it as they see fit. This is the Gateway to Research concept. Not a controlling gateway but an open door!

We aim to produce an integrated data depositing and harvesting experience for universities and other stakeholders.

We need your help in making this happen. We will use this blog to engage with interested parties regarding the platforms, technologies and data formats that we will be delivering. Help us to deliver the functionality and user experience that will enable you to use our data.

This blog will be updated as often as is practical when there is new information to share. Realistically this will be once a week at most. We will, however, endeavour to engage with questions on a more frequent basis.