Friday, 15 June 2012

CRIS2012 Conference in Prague: Consolidating CRIS Infrastructure in Europe and the way beyond

  A very successful 11th International Conference on Current Research Information Systems (CRIS2012) was recently held in Prague (June 6-9th, 2012) under the motto “e-Infrastructures for Research and Innovation: Linking Information Systems to Improve Scientific Knowledge Production”. A record 154 representatives from 26 countries attended the most crowded euroCRIS biennial conference ever, and the number of submissions for the conference was also the highest so far (with the UK having the largest number of representatives at CRIS2012 and Norway the best rate of submission acceptance). The usual mix of very different professional profiles (researchers, funders, research managers, research office representatives, institutional repository managers, IT managers, developers...) that makes CRIS conferences so special was even further enriched at CRIS2012 by the large number of colleagues who were attending a CRIS conference for the first time.

This event has indeed meant the maturity milestone for euroCRIS, the European Organisation for International Research Information that holds the CRIS conferences every two years (see report for CRIS2010 conference in Aalborg, Denmark at the SONEX blog). euroCRIS has just turned 10 years old as custodian of the Common European Research Information Format (CERIF) standard and as a key stakeholder in the promotion of CRIS Systems for an efficient Research Information Management in Europe and beyond.

If the UK is known to be the most advanced European country in terms of CERIF-based CRIS implementation in HEIs (see recent report from Rosemary Russell, UKOLN), holding the CRIS2012 conference in an Eastern European contry offered the opportunity to realize how the highest momentum in National CRIS System development in Europe is shifting eastwards, with running or completed projects in Slovakia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic itself *.

Official support to the CRIS2012 conference from the Research, Development and Innovation Council of the Czech Republic was in fact one of the key factors for the event being so successful, including a welcome address by the Czech Prime Minister (and President of the Research Council) at the euroCRIS membership meeting reception at Liechstenstein Palace in Prague. Last but not least, a real key contribution to a successful CRIS2012 was the brilliant event organisation provided by Jan Dvořák (InfoScience Praha s.r.o.) and his team.

One of the main outcomes of the 4-day conference was in fact the announcement of the ongoing development of a DRIS or Directory of Research Information Systems which will collect information on running or in-progress CERIF-based CRIS Systems all around the world along with their features and best practices at their implementation and management. This DRIS should serve starting projects to check out for the best solutions and find institutions they may be interested in contacting for the purpose of developing and implementing their own CRIS. CRIS implementation time is a particularly interesting area, since there are large differences among institutions where CRISs are set up, and best practices and guidelines on institutional data collection could be very useful for those universities starting up with the process.

A brief summary of the talks held along the week-long event should include (at least) three main strands as well as a reference to the evolving CERIF data model, currently at version 1.3 with in-progress work at 1.4 as presented by euroCRIS CERIF Task Group leader Brigitte Jörg. These three main strands are (i) added-value services on CRIS Systems, (ii) CRIS functionality extension to research data management and Linked Open Data and (iii) persistent identifier definition and implementation into the CERIF data model.

1. Added-value services on CRISs
As the number of both national and institutional CERIF-based CRIS steadily grows accross Europe, vendors and institutional IT services team up in order to identify new services the system could provide to researchers and institutions. Some of the proposals for enhanced CRIS interoperability and coverage were presented at CRIS2012, such as the JISC-funded CERIFy project for enabling a two-way CERIF-based data exchange between CRISs and Thomson Reuters InCites service or the 'Next-Generation CRIS' currently being developed at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). This project aims to extend CRIS functionality by providing Social Media features, access via mobile devices and advanced Business Intelligence tools for "making numbers talk" to research managers. Finally, semantics was often mentioned too as a relevant enhancement to CRIS systems at several CRIS2012 presentations.

2. CRIS coverage extension to research data and LOD
Research Data Management (RDM) is one of the areas where CRISs could be most useful to the international research community by enabling a systematic management of institutional research data outputs. In order to do so, the CERIF data model must however be previously extended so it's able to cover research data description and management. The CERIF for Datasets (C4D) Project funded by the JISC MRD Programme and led by the University of Sunderland in the UK is working to CERIFy research data and to enable its subsequent codification into CRISs, using marine sciences datasets and an enhanced version of the MEDIN metadata standard as a basis. Required metadata for data description were also analysed at the "Towards the integration of datasets in the CRIS environment" presentation by Italian IRPPS-CNR, which provided an overview of data archives featured in OpenDOAR that offer information about projects. The ENGAGE Project and its CERIF-based metadata approach for a Public Sector Information data infrastructure were introduced by Nikos Houssos, while CRIS enhancement through Linked Open Data features has been recently acknowledged as a relevant workline by euroCRIS through the creation of a specific LOD Task Group.

3. Persistent identifier implementation into CERIF data model
"The need for identifiers beyond systems is a global requirement but also relevant within organization boundaries spanning multiple systems. Various identifier initiatives and systems have started in the scientific domain and beyond. However, they have not yet achieved the required interoperability".
This quotation from the presentation "Entities and Identities in Research Information Systems" delivered by Brigitte Jörg summarizes the much discussed need to integrate author, organisation and project persistent identifiers into CERIF in order to enable LOD-based approaches to succeed. After a first attempt at UUID-based persistent identifier codification was performed last February at the euroCRIS Task Group meeting in Bath, CRIS2012 featured a specific 'IDs, Disambiguation, Interoperation' session where ID implementation requirements were further discussed.

Recently appointed ORCID Executive Director Laurel L. Haak was attending CRIS2012 and had the chance to describe the road ahead for ORCID implementation along the event. Once ORCID released its API earlier this year, its service will be launched along the 4th Quarter of 2012. Researchers will be able to create, manage and share their ORCID record for free at launch time, and ORCID is currently working with interested universities and research centres for signing agreements for early implementation at institutional level.

An updated presentation of the ORCID initiative -as well as an insight on CERIF enhancement for integrating persistent identifiers- will be featured at the 'Topic session' devoted to Identifiers along the forthcoming Autumn 2012 euroCRIS membership meeting to be held in Madrid next November. A preliminary programme for the event is already available and free registration will soon be opened once CRIS2012 is over.

CRIS2012 Prague closed with an outstanding social programme - including a boat cruise along the Vltava and the chance to attend various events at Museum Night Prague. Before that, IRPPS-CNR in Rome had been announced as the next host to the CRIS conference in 2014 and euroCRIS President Keith Jeffery delivered an inspired closing speech on the future of CRISs, CERIF and Research Information Management.

Links to the slides of all presentations mentioned in this post will be offered as soon as they are made available online.

* as well as northwards, with Sweden also implementing a National CRIS and Norway already operating CRIStin, while in Southern Europe, Italy has already used widely implemented institutional CRISs to collect the national research output earlier this year.

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