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Researcher ID Task and Finish Group

Editorial note: This meeting of the Researcher Identifiers Task and Finish Group was held at the HEFCE offices at Centre Point, London, on 10 June 2011, chaired by Neil Jacobs of the JISC. Also in attendance were Josh Brown (JISC), Talat Chaudhri (UKOLN), Geraldine Clement-Stoneham (MRC), Simon Coles (Southampton), David Flanders (JISC), Brian Kelly (UKOLN), Simon Kerridge (ARMA UK), Gerry Lawson (NERC), Cameron Neylon (STFC), Peter Tinson (UCISA) and Andy Youell (HESA).

The first meeting of the Researcher Identifiers Task and Finish Group was highly successful and productive because it kept a tight focus on developing an achievable, clearly articulated body of work and developing a process and timescale for the series of meetings that will inform this process and the commissioning and delivery of the reports that the discussions will continue to inform, round until January 2012.

The aim of the first meeting was to agree set of recommendations and collective requirements for Researcher IDs, decide on who else should form a part of future discussions, and decide on the precise scope and limits that the discussions and commissioned work should stay within. At the end of the discussions and after the conclusions of the reports and consultations, it is intended that the JISC should be in a position to commission a number of clearly defined pieces of work to begin implementation of the recommendations of the group.

The first decision was that only researcher identifiers, not institutional identifiers as well, should be considered as part of this work. The initial discussion reached agreement that, although crucial to many or most areas of research information management, the scope had to remain tighter during the limited time frame of these meetings in order to achieve concrete results rapidly. The question of when a person becomes a researcher for the purposes of the many and varied business processes in the UK HE sector is a complex one, and there was considerable discussion around this point. It was agreed that the work needed to concentrate specifically on the UK HE research information management regime, although it needed to be informed by international developments where that was relevant and appropriate to the UK context.

Many different business processes within universities in the UK HE sector were discussed, including but not limited to pre- and post-award grant management, research reporting, publications management, human resources for research and teaching, student monitoring including postgraduate records, statutory requirements such as Freedom of Information, league tables and government targets, and government open data initiatives. The tension between the needs and professional preferences of the researcher in maintaining control over their information and those of the institution in effectively carrying out these processes across multiple disciplines and departments at a managed, institutional level was a recurring theme in the discussions.

There was a focus on the need for technical interoperability with existing systems, in particular on linked data initiatives, especially where that concerns research data sets. The discussion identified several well known researcher ID schemes such as ORCID, HESA IDs and the 16 digit ISNI number. It was agreed that all of these discussions between stakeholders should be documented as a starting point. Suggestions were taken for which stakeholders were not yet present and who should therefore be invited, and it was agreed in particular that HEFCE needed to be represented in some way, whether or not they would actually commit senior staff time to be represented at the meetings directly. It was also suggested that a representative of the Wellcome Trust could be invited.

In summary, Neil Jacobs stated the overall modus operandi and aims of the group as follows:

  • The group will meet 5-6 times to develop recommendations.
  • All apart from the first and last meetings will be virtual meetings using Skype, telephone conference or an alternative technology if appropriate.
  • The dates of these meetings were to be set out at the end of the meeting (see below), following the discussions about the recommended work packages.
  • The group will be presented with pre-existing reports, e.g. ORCID and the Names Project, and these groups will be continuously consulted on the basis of feedback from the meetings, in a manner to be established as the need arises. For example, there will be a workshop at the end of the month to outline opportunities in identity management, from which a short briefing will be delivered to the group.
  • The stakeholders will faciliate discussion and provide information to the group.
  • Case studies will be used to map out the individual pieces of work that might be done to inform about options, risks, benefits in setting up an identifier infrastructure.
  • At the end of 6 months the recommendations that can be implemented on the basis of these discussions will be in place.
  • The final report in January 2011 will take a longer term view: there is no expectation that the infrastructure itself will be in place by then. This will be part of subsequent work and will come out of the recommendations that will be in place by then.

David Flanders then gave a brief summary of developments in the Names Project project, followed by brief summaries given by Brian Kelly of the current state of the ORCID project, and the work on the Technical Foundations (Talat Chaudhri) and ISKB (Thom Bunting) web sites, services and processes being developed by UKOLN staff.

The rest of the meeting was largely devoted to focussed discussions of the required nature and scope of the work packages that had been suggested in the actions from the discussions in the preceding half of the meeting, for which the group separated into two groups and then came back together to discuss and synthesise their findings.

In summary, Neil Jacobs reiterated the need to remain aware of milestones outside of this work, e.g. the REF outline in July 2011 and the  final specification in January 2012, as well as JES milestones, in order to avoid being caught out by those developments.The meeting was happy with the provisional shape of the work packages recommended to the JISC for commissioning in order to inform the ongoing series of meetings. Josh Brown agreed to prepare a timeline, and that he, Neil Jacobs and David Flanders will report back at the next meeting once these actions have been carried out.

Finally, dates were agreed for the entire series of meetings. Very considerable progress was made during the meeting in a very short space of time, which was hard but rewarding work that proceeded from an initial position of quite general and all-encompassing discussions in the the area of research management and unique identifiers to a clear, scoped and planned series of provisional work packages and processes for their co-ordination with the ongoing meetings of the group.

Dr. Radut | blog_post_tf