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A pragmatic approach to metadata and compliance with funder policies

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The UK’s research community punches well above its weight in terms of the quality and quantity of research outputs but these are not systematically recorded, so it can be hard to demonstrate their impact, says Balviar Notay, of Jisc.

Researchers still want to find new ideas, new collaborators and fresh connections – in many cases their expectations that they’ll be able to do so have increased. At the same time, funders must be able to demonstrate that the research they have supported is compliant with their requirements on open access (OA).
 
Robust metadata and agreed vocabularies
 
Good metadata and common vocabularies to describe research outputs are still the keys to making UK research more visible and easy to track. In January 2015 the RIOXX metadata application profile version 2.0 was launched, along with guidance and plug-ins to work with repository software, enabling institutions to implement consistency across key metadata fields.
 
RIOXX version 2.0 is the result of two years of collaborative development between Jisc, Research Councils UK (RCUK) and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). By implementing it, universities and repositories will be able to ensure that their outputs are discoverable while demonstrating their compliance with RCUK’s OA policy. What’s more, certain criteria for the metadata elements will take them some way towards demonstrating that they comply with HEFCE’s policies on research. It won’t cover everything but it will ensure that there is consistency for some of the most important fields and so help with reporting to the next Research Excellence Framework (REF) submission.
 
Both RCUK and HEFCE endorse the RIOXX application profile and are encouraging research institutions to implement it now in order that they are can provide the required metadata described within it by April 2016; making a start sooner rather than later will bring early benefits in the improved ability of researchers and research managers to track research effectively over time.
 
How we got here
 
The proliferation of metadata schemas and the patchy take-up of these in the past have mitigated against efficient reporting. The initial version of RIOXX (1.0) was designed to be both practical in terms of the information it required users to capture and also relatively straightforward to implement.
 
RIOXX 2.0 remains a determinedly pragmatic approach to the issue of metadata. Some institutions will already be gathering some of the information needed although perhaps not in the necessary way. For example, RIOXX 2.0 requires funder names and project identifiers to be recorded in a specific format. Other metadata that is new to the profile is to record the date on which a publisher accepted a research output for publication. Also added to the profile are the recommendations from the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) Access and licence indicators working group, which have become the ‘free_to_read’ tag and ‘license_ref’ fields.
 
It is also worth noting that RIOXX recommends use of the ORCID person identifier. Jisc has been working with ORCID and the sector to identify possible options for a consortium membership of ORCID. We will be issuing a formal consultation soon for UK organisations. The ubiquitous use of ORCID identifiers within the bibliographic record will start to provide further consistency across scholarly systems.
 
Support with implementation
 
In all, there are 21 metadata elements in the RIOXX profile. While detailed guidelines give context and support accurate recording of information, Jisc is committed to providing ongoing support for institutions as they implement the profile; and of course, we will revise and expand the guidelines to give greater clarity as needed when institutions implement the profile and give us their feedback.
 
The first priority in getting RIOXX 2.0 off the ground was to develop plug-ins for EPrints and DSpace because these are the two most commonly used open source repository platforms in the UK. A version for EPrints (3.3 +) was made available earlier this year, enabling institutions to capture metadata needed for OA compliance and to expose RIOXX 2.0 compliant XML records via OAI-PMH, for consumption by funders and governing bodies.  DSpace development for an add-on for version 5.0 is underway with back-port compatibility to versions 3.0 and 4.0. The DSpace work is due to complete in May 2015.
 
Other activity includes the RIOXX terms being added to the Consortia Advancing Standards Administration Information (CASRAI) data dictionary via the Jisc CASRAI-UK Pilot: OA Reporting Group. This is aiming to capture the wider OA reporting metadata terms in one central place. This should make it easier for institutions to see the agreed requirements and definitions for particular OA entities within their systems and provide the ability for input into technical specifications for vendors.
 
We are also talking with vendors of other commercially available systems such as Current Research Information Systems (CRIS) about the RIOXX metadata terms so they can prepare for conversations with institutions that use their systems and interoperability with repositories.
 
Next steps
 
As we’ve seen, the demand from funding bodies for robust reporting is building, and the groundwork work has now been done to develop the initial RIOXX metadata application profile to ensure that research institutions can meet the challenge. As Ben Ryan, senior manager (research outcomes) at the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) says: 'If an institution or repository uses the RIOXX application profile to define the metadata it stores in connection with publicly funded research it will be able to identify confidently which articles do – and which do not – comply with the RCUK policy on open access and to clarify the terms (where known) under which they have been made open access.'
 
That is something that all research institutions are keen to be able to do but we know the implementation phase will not be straightforward in every case. We are watching carefully as institutions start to engage and implement the profile. To help, Jisc is committed to funding technical support for 12 months for those who want help with installation of the EPrints plugin and there will be support planned for those institutions using the DSpace add-on.  We are also planning a set of workshops in the summer to support institutions with a range of interoperability and technical implementation issues to meet OA policy requirements and integration with national OA services.

The RIOXX application profile has been developed by Jisc, Paul Walk (EDINA) and Sheridan Brown (Key Perspectives).

Balviar Notay is repository services senior manager at Jisc.