Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Behind the curtain . . .

How you manage recording your publications is changing . . . this blog post will cover some of the processes involved in ensuring your existing information moves across seamlessly to the new platform.

First, a little about the existing facility - the TULIP Manage Publications Function (TULIP-MPF). This has evolved organically out of the University's changing needs to record and report research outputs. It allows a lot of flexibility in how information is recorded. This has its good and bad points. On the plus side, the lack of constraints allows any information to be entered. On the negative side, the lack of constraints allows any information to be entered . . .

For example, in TULIP-MPF you can enter any author names as free text, formatted any way you want. This is great for getting your presentation just right in the other places you use that record BUT it makes it very difficult to link back other members of staff that may be on the publication. There are also innumerable ways to enter the same name of a journal, which can make tracking WHERE people publish difficult.

As part of the move to the new system, there has been a concerted effort to rationalise all this free form information and provide a bit more structure so that, in future, information will be more rigourously controlled. For example, in the new system, as you enter an author's name, suggestions from the staff list will pop up. When you start to type a publication's title, if there are similar titles in the system, they will appear, so that you can see if a colleague has already entered it, and link to that, instead of creating a duplicate.

A lot of time has been spent trying to identify information structures and to carry them across, to try and reduce duplication and make the new information intuitive and useful - both at a personal, and institutional level. One area where this has required a compromise is the way TULIP-MPF records the people involved in a publication. In TULIP-MPF there are two types of person record - those involved with administering the record, and those on the citation (authors, editors, etc). Unfortunately, the authors is a free text string - that is, one of those flexible pieces of information. This means that there's no way for the new system to know which of the authors on teh citation are members of staff, so initially the new repository will only maintain those links to administrative users - which may, or may not, include authors. This means that, in the first instance, those authors who have colleagues on papers will have to edit the citation to link them directly to their staff record.

Initially, the project promises to deliver information AT LEAST AS GOOD as that which currently exists in TULIP-MPF. Over time, individuals will curate their records and much of the duplication and low quality information will be replaced and removed.

Interested in what your records will look like in the new system? The Sandbox has the records from TULIP-MPF and the Research Repository - why not head over and take a look, then let us know what you think in the comments below . . .

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