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Research information management: An emerging library role

Drew White, Elsevier | May 01, 2018

Pure RIM


Research information management (RIM) is an emerging library service area that involves the collection and curation of metadata on campus research activity. Although the term is still being fully defined, research information management generally includes data from the entire life cycle of a research project, from grant application metadata  to impact metrics for the research output.


The easiest way to maintain a comprehensive RIM program is with a research information management system (RIMS).  A RIMS is an enterprise software solution that makes it easier for an institution to manage researcher  profiles, showcase research assets, build reports, and encourage research collaboration and networking.  Many of these systems can be integrated with other databases — such as HR and finance systems, institutional repositories and  third-party citation solutions — so that all researcher-related information is on a single platform. 


A well-maintained RIMS makes reporting much easier, as all data is centrally located and interrelated, eliminating the need to spend large amounts of time searching and cleaning information for each individual report. This streamlined reporting makes monitoring policy compliance, such as whether open access requirements are met, significantly easier and more effective. It also makes the process for national assessments much less cumbersome.



Who benefits from a RIMS?


Unlike some other types of software, a RIMS isn’t used in only one way or by only one department.  It is designed to be used by anyone engaged in reporting or showcasing the research outputs of a research institution. The library, the research office, academic departments and the grant office can all benefit from a comprehensive research output database.  For example, the library can easily find out how many papers were published open access, while the office of the president can identify emerging research stars based on both grant success rates and altmetrics. 



Names around the world: RIMS, CRIS and FAR


Because the research information management field has emerged simultaniously in several world regions, there is no standard term for this type of system or even a single expectation about what such a system should do.  While RIMS is the most common term, such systems may be called a current research information system (CRIS) in Europe.  Systems for faculty activity reporting (FAR) are more common in the US and focus on professor activities, including teaching activity and research output.



RIMS: Enter data once and use it across campus


Another benefit of a RIMS is improved data stewardship. This can save time for departments across the institution by allowing data to be entered into the system once and then made reusable across campus in multiple ways.  Because this information is curated, usually by the library, it means that the entire institution is using the same validated information for reporting and decision support. 



RIMS and the library: From acquisition to data curation and maintenance


Typically, librarians would first become involved with the RIMS as stakeholders in the acquisition process, where they would help evaluate options (both commercial systems such as Pure as well as home-grown systems) vs. institutional needs.  In some cases, a RIM acquisition is completely handled by the library, but it is more common for the system to be purchased by a coalition that includes the research office, the president’s office and the IT department, with the library playing a leading role.


Once a contract for a RIMS is signed, librarians play a key role in system maintenance and management. Specifically, they can validate data in the system as well as encourage researcher buy-in and the effective use of the system across campus.  



The library as an administration information partner


RIM has also expanded the role of libraries and given librarians the opportunity to act as partners to senior administrators. “By using Pure, we can pull data together in one place much more easily and give our librarians a way to help their departments in a different way.  At the same time, it’s giving us relationships to help other campus units, not just the academic departments, but other units on campus like our Office of Institutional Research or our partners in implementing Pure, the Office of Vice President for Research,” explains Jan Fransen, Service Lead for Research Information Management and Discovery Systems for University of Minnesota Libraries.  With a RIMS, librarians don’t just manage a collection of primary sources; they develop reports and metrics by curating metadata from all departments, making the library not only the go-to spot for information on campus, but also the go-to spot for information about the campus.  



Pure, Elsevier’s RIMS


Pure is the world’s leading RIMS, with over 250 customers worldwide. Pure is supported by a robust user community that includes nine active user groups and an annual international conference. A highly versatile centralized system, Pure enables an organization to build reports, carry out performance assessments, manage researcher profiles, enable research networking and expertise discovery, and more, all while reducing administrative burden for researchers, faculty and staff.


Nils Thideman, Centre Director at Aalborg University Library, says, “Pure puts me in a position to play a central role in research infrastructure when it comes to analysis, research communication, and providing management information to all levels of management in the institution.”  


This article was written by Drew White, an intern with Research Intelligence at Elsevier. For more information about Pure, you can contact Rachel Brennesholtz.