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RAE 2008 is the sixth in a series of exercises conducted nationally to assess the quality of UK research and to inform the selective distribution of public funds for research by the four UK higher education funding bodies. Like previous exercises, RAE 2008 will be based upon expert review by discipline-based panels considering written submission from participating HEIs. However, a number of significant changes will be made to the process, following the recent review led by Sir Gareth Roberts. The results for the next RAE will be published in December 2008, following a staff census date of 31 October 2007 and submission closing date of 30 November 2007.
Research assessment is a complex activity involving decisions made by researchers, research managers, administrators, institutional committees, and Vice Chancellors. The final submissions will be transmitted through a set of web services to HEFCE, collated and passed on to 25 discipline-specific panels, who then need to refer back to the evidence originally submitted by the individual researchers to be able to form their judgements.
The process by which six years of research output for each institution are selected to field the strongest possible set of submissions across a whole institution will involve a complex set of political and pragmatic trade-offs, informed by what-if analyses of the submissions and complicated by the need to second-guess the criteria of the various assessment panels.
An Institutional Repository (IR), as a managed collection of its institution's research outputs clearly has a place to play in at least part of this process, however it is played out. In outline:
Institutions have become interested in Research Quality Management as a way of constantly monitoring their success, and many have begun the process of implementing an Institutional Research Management System (IRMS). The relationship between an IRMS and an IR will be somewhere along the following spectrum:
the IRMS is a monolithic, independent system which has no connection with the IR.
the IRMS and the IR inter-operate, sharing appropriate data through well-defined schemas.
the IRMS is implemented by a set of plug-ins to (or services on) the IR.
In particular, it may be the role of the IR to communicate with the HEFCE/RAE interface. Alternatively, the IRMS may undertake this responsibility.
Southampton's School of Electronics and Computer Science has experience of using its Eprints repository to collect, collate and perform initial analyses of research evidence as part of two RAE exercises internal to the University of Southampton. The repository has been adapted to allow individual researchers to
This material is then provided to Heads of Research Group and external assessors for making initial quality assessments.
Edinburgh University Library is an international centre of expertise for DSpace repository development and has begun preliminary work in designing an add-on RAE module for the DSpace environment, in order to allow Edinburgh and other universities in the UK to manage their 2008 RAE submission database in a functionally integrated, simple and secure way. Its DSpace-based Edinburgh Research Archive has been selected by its three Colleges as the system of choice for management of Edinburgh's overall RAE submission in 2008.
Development will be undertaken in parallel across both platforms in which we have expertise – GNU EPrints and DSpace. The add-on modules to be developed must as a minimum:
The Edinburgh and Southampton teams propose a one-year activity to jointly develop solutions for integrating DSpace and EPrints repositories and repository workflows into institutional RAE activities. The resulting software should be easy to install in existing repositories and should be relatively easy to adapt to local circumstances. This work will be performed in three phases:
Requirements Investigation (3 months): Conduct interviews with RAE and repository personnel from a wide selection of research-based universities (aim to cover 20 institutions) to develop general RAE/IR institutional model
Implementation (6 months): Develop plug-ins for EPrints and DSpace software to support RAE/IR model
Dissemination (3 months): Run four regional workshops (probably Edinburgh, London, Birmingham, York) to train repository technical managers in the installation and configuration of the RAE/IR packages and the issues of RAE data management. A printed IR Managers' Guide to RAE will be distributed at the workshop; its contents will form the basis of a web site which will be maintained beyond the end of the project until the conclusion of the 2008 RAE exercise.
Through the dissemination activities, the IR RA tools and the expertise needed to use and develop them will have been shared with the community. Particular emphasis will be given to informing the DSpace Federation and EPrints User Community in order to ensure that tool maintenance and development can be undertaken by a range of stakeholders in the Institutional Repositories' community.
A one-year half-time development post has been funded for each partner, together with sufficient travel to provide monthly meetings for technical and management co-ordination. The costs of four regional project dissemination workshops have also been covered.
The project will be managed jointly by Les Carr at Southampton and John MacColl at Edinburgh. The lead site will be Southampton. The project team will meet monthly to maintain synchronisation, alternating between sites. Les Carr will represent the project on the EPrints Steering Committee and John MacColl will feed into the DSpace community through Edinburgh's role in the DSpace Committers' Group.