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Researchfish, the new RCUK reporting system

There are only 19 working days in this annual submission round for PIs to submit research outcomes to RCUK’s new reporting system, Researchfish. With a Comprehensive Spending Review likely after the general election in May 2015, this may be the last opportunity to ensure EPSRC, or other funders, and government are aware of your project’s achievements before future high-level funding decisions are made.

For researchers used to the old ‘ROS’ system, the idea of an annual submission round in Researchfish is new. No longer can you submit your research outcomes at any time. Although they can be entered into the system at any point, they can only be formally submitted from 16 October to 13 November. Research outcomes won’t be visible on the publicly available Gateway to Research until the PI has submitted them.

The main reasons for these changes are to make reporting of RCUK projects, including EPSRC, consistent with other funders, and to encourage PIs to have a clearer association with the formal process of reporting to their funder.

PIs can nominate delegates and research team members to enter research outcomes, but only the PI themself can submit them. As an absolute minimum, PIs need to register with Researchfish, as 29% (at 6 October) of EPSRC funded researchers to have done so far, and then press the submit button for each of their grants by 4pm on 13 November. Even if your project has no outputs yet, PIs should press ‘submit’ to confirm that that is the case. If you forget an output, it can be entered, and the grant resubmitted before 4pm on 13 November. The contents of ROS have been migrated to the new system.

I attended the Researchfish seminar in London on 6 October 2014 and it seems to be a step forward from ROS. It’s a more up to date technology, now used by 90 funders and 38,000 researchers. There are mechanisms for long-term relationships with funders and researchers, and plans to consult on using unique identifier systems such as ORCID to improve data quality. A big bonus is that publications can be entered quickly and easily via Scopus or a digital object identifier (doi). Other outputs may still take more time to enter, but it’s probably easier than ROS. Researchfish also conducts quality control by cross-checking entries with other systems where possible; this is a big improvement on ROS (29 spellings of University of Cambridge, for example, limits accuracy of free text searches). As soon as information is entered, funders and designated research team members can see it. But it cannot be used in funder and government statistics until the PI actually submits the outputs for that grant.

There may be a few disadvantages of Researchfish compared with ROS. Firstly you can only submit during the 4–5 week period of an annual submission round. Also, from the perspective of someone like me trying to create a data and information management system for the ARCC Network, it remains quite difficult to submit multiple-authors for publications such as grey literature if you don’t have a DOI or Scopus entry. This limits its usefulness as a system for finding ARCC Network outputs. But to be fair, that is not what it was designed for. Researchfish does not have the ‘bulk upload’ facility that some universities used to use to enter data from their own institutional repository to ROS. For these researchers, although existing ROS entries to 30 April 2014 have been transferred, you may have to enter your own new information rather than rely on your university central team to do it for you. Although I see that at the University of Edinburgh, the central team will enter all your information for you if you are willing to nominate it as your Researchfish delegate.

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