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Pure and Impure Thoughts

Posted by Brian Kelly on 25 Jul 2012

Thoughts on the Pure CRIS

The University of Bath recently announced that “the University’s new Current Research Information System, Pure is now available to all academic and research staff“.  The announcement went on to describe how:

Pure provides a single location for staff to store information about their research, such as publications, collaborations, research projects and grants etc and the associations between them. Having been entered into Pure once, data can be used for a variety of purposes, including creating CVs and bibliographies and later this year automatic population of personal web pages. Pure is designed to make it as easy as possible to keep information about research up-to-date, providing ongoing visibility of research activities at the University.

As soon as I saw this announcement I logged on to the service and viewed my papers, which had been deposited using the University of Bath’s ePrint’s service, Opus.

I have to admit that I was impressed with the interface, which provides a much cleaner interface that the Opus interface I have had to use previously.  In addition to the listing of my papers, illustrated, the editing interface was also much easier to use and, as illustrated, I am able to update the metadata from a single page – a simple task which was  cumbersome when I had to use the ePrints service.

In addition to the simple list display of my papers as illustrated there is also an option to view a graph of connections with co-authors.

From my initial use of Pure I felt that the service provided a valuable development to the University’s ePrints service, with improved editing and display features.

I was very pleased with the service and was glad that I had chosen to use it as soon as I saw the announcement that the service had been launched.

Impure Thoughts

Quality Validated Metadata or Instantly Updated Access to Content?

Further use of Pure, however, revealed a number of limitations. The reverse date order display of items within years is a minor glitch (as shown in the initial image, my first paper published in 2012 is displayed after two other papers published this year. However  I have to admit that I was annoyed when I found that  items I had edited were deleted from Opus, with a 404 Item not found error message being displayed. It seems that items are deleted if they are edited and are not available until edits have been validated. In my case, there was a delay or several days before the items were retrieved due to a combination of annual leave and sickness.  However this seems t0 me to be an inappropriate policy decision especially, as in my case, the items were new and, during this period, are more likely to be read.  I’m pleased that my concerns have been acknowledged by Bath repository staff who have agreed to revisit this policy. I am highlighting this issue here as it appears likely that others may well encounter the tension between the repository managers’ desire to ensure that they possess high quality validated metadata (especially in the run-up to the REF) and the desire for researchers to be able to maximise access to their research. Such concerns were highlighted in a recent post on the JISC-Repositories JISCMail list when Stephan Harnard argued that:

What OA IRs need today, urgently, is not cataloguers to monitor quality, nor IP specialists to monitor rights, etc. etc. No intermediary is needed between the author and the IR “monitor”, retard, block or otherwise impede deposits (though help is always welcome to encourage depositors and facilitate and speed their deposits!).

What OA IRs need urgently today instead of needless, costly and counterproductive monitoring and mediation is e*ffective Green OA **mandates (ID/OA)*. That is what will generate deposits (and further minimize the negligible cost per paper deposited).

The problem of IRs today is not fraudulent researchers depositing bogus content, it is legitimate researchers failing to deposit OA’s target content (refereed research publications).

Private or Public Content?

The issue of rapidly updated versus validated content is one topic for discussion with colleagues at Bath. However the feature which surprised me most was that the information about my papers is only available to me.  In retrospect I should have realised that the prime function of a CRIS) (Current Research Information System) is for internal management and reporting purposes. As the Pure web site describes:

[Pure] covers Grant applications, Research Income, Projects, Research Outputs, Research staff, Organisational units, External collaborations, and more. It is achieved by integrating Pure with local systems while also capturing data by work processes that ensure quality and completeness.

This makes Pure a single authoritative source of quality-assured information about an institution’s research affairs. Information is available at the desired level of granularity in real-time.

This is the main role which is envisaged locally:

Jane Millar, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, and Project Sponsor, said that the implementation of Pure was a major step forward in how we handle information about our research here at the University: “In an increasingly competitive environment it is essential that we have up to date and accurate information about the excellent research undertaken here at the University. Pure will provide this data and help us to comply with external reporting requirements such as REF2014“.

However the Pure web site goes on to add that “Pure is also a tool for researchersPIs, and departmental managers – clear and recognised value is provided for these users, which furthers user-acceptance and -uptake; mission-critical factors in any CRIS project“.

This is, however, were I have my reservation. Although the ability to publish a CV of one’s research publications is provided by Pure and, as illustrated, I can currently create a CV in PDF or MS Word formats,  this functionality does not appear to provide the social function in establishing connections with one’s peers that is provided in services such as LinkedIn or Academia. edu. In addition, it seems unlikely that a researcher profiling service which is co-located on the same institutional domain as the institutional repository will provide the ‘Google juice’ to one’s research papers which LinkedIn and appear to pr0vide. It should also be noted that, as described in posts on What I Like and Don’t Like About IamResearcher.comThoughts on Google Scholar Citations and Will the Real Scott Wilson Please Stand Up, Please Stand Up services such as LinkedIn, Academia,edu and IamResearcher appear to provide richer interfaces and visualisations than Pure provides.


It would, however, be inappropriate to criticize Pure for not providing the same quality of visualisation of one’s co-author network as, Microsoft Academic Search, for example, does.

Microsoft Academic Search’s visualisation of my co-authors is illustrated. However Microsoft Academic Search also thinks I am an expert in Psychiatry and Psychology! The service has confused me with B D Kelly who is an expert in these areas and, despite updating my profile, I have been unable to decouple my research publications from B D Kelly’s.

Pure aims to provide  an authoritative list of research publications by researchers within the institution which will be needed to support institutional reporting requirements.

However an individual researcher may have different requirements –  and if a key aim is to enhance access to one’s research papers I am still convinced that use of social media services such as LinkedIn and will provide benefits which aren’t provided by a Current Research Information System.

One Response to “Pure and Impure Thoughts”

  1. […] key word in the above quotation is ‘interoperability’.  In a recent post on his excellent UK Web Focus blog, Brian Kelly reviewed his own university’s Current […]

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