An institution’s research reputation is reflected in measures such as university rankings and, less tangibly, by factors such as peer opinion. It derives in large part from the individual reputations of the researchers and research groups the institution employs. This theme will examine how institutions can use digital technologies to protect and enhance their reputations by attracting the best researchers, giving their research maximum impact and managing their research data well.
This theme will examine what ‘reputation’ means to institutions and how they can use digital technologies to protect and enhance their reputations by:
• devising IT strategies to attract the best researchers
• putting policies and practical support in place to ensure that the data their researchers produce is well managed and openly available where appropriate
Top tips for senior managers
- Collaborative research will be the future. Do we use European initiatives enough? Europe is very important in terms of both student exchange and strategic partners.
- Do not put the cart before the horse: focus on improving the quality of your entire academic portfolio, not simply improving your position on university ranking tables
- Think carefully about collaboration. Partnership is good but who you partner with is crucial. What may be a sensible academic reason may not be a good institutional reason or vice versa. To what extent by partnering are we enhancing someone else’s reputation and how much recognition are we getting ourselves?
- Think about researchers in terms of their support needs, rather simply their ICT needs, by working as closely as possible with them
- Centralise as much of your commodity services, such as repair and data storage, as possible, but tailor your services to local needs
- Ensure support for advanced IT needs connects with the overall research needs
- Employ research facilitators, who understand both the needs of researchers and the technology available, to bridge the gap between IT and researchers
- Develop a clear career path for research facilitators to keep them in post
Top tips for researchers
- Good data management is vital for better research – and can increase citations. For an example of a framework for institutional data management see www.southamptondata.org
- If you get a FOI request, always consult your institution’s FOI practitioner as soon as possible. Management need to listen to their FOI practitioner!
- Outwith Scotland, an open data policy may help to protect your research data.
- Knowing what data you have is key – and knowing who was responsible, what is yours that’s held elsewhere, and what is being done with it. Understanding and measuring the value of the data, and most importantly cultivating the knowledge to do more of it, is vital. The DCC can help with audit/assessment, training and policies.
More on this topic from the Future of Research conference
Institutional reputation was discussed depth at the Future of Research conference. A presentation by Professor Julia Goodfellow, Vice Chancellor, University of Kent was followed by three sessions covering different aspects of the topic. Find summary of each of these below, and click on the session name to read more about who was on the panel, a more detailed record of the discussion, and supporting resources from JISC for each session.
Professor Julia Goodfellow’s presentation
UK research has a deservedly strong reputation – personified in the last couple of weeks in our four Nobel prizewinners – and we are also efficient but we must not be complacent. Others are catching up fast. Particular challenges we face include the national challenge of resource; fast-changing technology; and research data management. Future imperatives in order to maintain our position are: people (continue to produce skilled, competent and able researchers); partnerships (strong links between quality research and collaboration); effectiveness (not just about doing things more cheaply but doing things better); and communication (the need to communicate our success much more).
Attract the best and save costs: centralise your IT support for research
IT support needs to centralise many of its core commodity functions, such as high-performance computing, in order to avoid duplication and reduce costs. But it also needs to work more closely with researchers through ‘research facilitators’ to ensure it remains closely allied with research needs.
Protect your reputation? Manage your research data well
Why should we care about research data? Data is expensive to create – and is an investment. It can have impact (with or without publication) – even outside the institution that created it. How well we manage research data can affect an institution’s reputation, so this session focused on management issues such as freedom of information, and showcased the work done at the University of Southampton to create an institutional data management framework. Kenji Takeda gave an insight into the Southampton project’s short and long-term goals (which included a one-stop-shop for advice and guidance, and training courses for students and researchers). Chris Rusbridge considered the obligations for data access under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 – drawing out valuable insights from his ongoing development of Frequently Asked Questions for researchers. Kevin Ashley from the Digital Curation Centre (DCC) looked at the advice and help they can provide to support data management.
What do reputation and brand mean for institutions?
Reputation is quite a nebulous concept. It can change dramatically for good or bad (eg Chile, East Anglia climate change emails). While we are aware of our own excellent reputation, we do not sufficiently appreciate how much other universities elsewhere in the world are improving, how much resource is going into them and what pools of talent they are drawing on. While we recognise that there are going to be challenges over the next 5-10 years because of resource issues, we may already be more challenged than we recognise. There are great institutions in Asia and we don’t know much about them even though they know about Oxford and Cambridge. We need to establish where in an institution reputation is located, what the evidence for that reputation is, and also untangle the concepts of reputation and brand.
Further resources from JISC
- The eUptake project http://www.engage.ac.uk/e-uptake documented why researchers do or do not use advanced ICT and has compiled recommendations to increase use. We have also just completed a study into ‘a review of models of Advanced ICT support for researchers’ which will be presented in the first workshop. JISC InfoNet http://www.jiscinfonet.ac.uk/ has produced several infokits to guide institutions through some of the steps on the way to developing institutional ICT strategies.
- JISC’s Managing Research Data programme http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/programmes/mrd.aspx is looking into all aspects of research data management from the researcher to the institution to the funder and policy maker and assessing what is required to make research data more openly available. JISC InfoNet and JISC Legal provide guidance to institutions on their obligations under FoI. We’ve been reviewing and interpreting this guidance for researchers and this new work will be discussed in the second workshop.
- JISC are preparing a Q&A document for researchers who may want to know how they should respond when faced with a FOI request for research data. The draft document is available for comment at http://foiresearchdata.jiscpress.org/ until 12 November.
- Names feature – Sorting out the Smiths: The Names project is working to uniquely identify individuals and institutions involved in research in higher education in the United Kingdom. (http://mimas.ac.uk/news/2010/05/names-sorting-smiths/)
- Mimas News: Showcasing Mimas news and successes (http://mimas.ac.uk/news/)
- Edina Annual Review (http://edina.ac.uk/about/annual_review2010/annual_review_2009-2010.pdf)