A Closer Look at the Assessment Module

Last month, we released the eagerly-anticipated Elements v5.0 – a major release containing a fully redesigned user interface and navigation, alongside a brand new feature; the Assessment Module. We announced this news in a press release and introductory video; now we’ll have a closer look into the Assessment Module itself.

Periodic Assessments

Periodic reviews and assessments of research staff are a regular occurrence in all modern research institutions. These are typically time-consuming, involving the re-entry of data already held by the institution (such as names and titles) into different systems. These assessments often rely on paper documents, too.

The new Assessment Module tackles this issue by enabling the reuse of data already held in Elements, while also supporting the capture of additional contextual information by researchers from public, private or licensed data sources. Once captured, the data can then be optionally submitted for review and feedback by other users of the system.

Starting an example assessment exercise


Having worked closely with 15 institutions in developing this module, it became clear to us that there was no standard approach to Performance Reviews or Faculty Activity Reporting. To help address this, the new module is highly flexible.

Institutions can define their exercises for each department, research group or faculty at the institution and allow for the addition of pertinent information which may not be relevant to an academic profile but still important for review by the institution.

Faculty responsible for reviewing the activity and performance of researchers benefit from a user-friendly workflow for adding commentary and sharing reviews from others, as well as clear notifications of the tasks they have yet to complete.



Statutory Government Reporting

The Assessment module has also been designed to cover the needs of the governmental reporting exercises REF (UK) and PBRF (New Zealand).

Although both the REF 2020/21 and PBRF 2018 are a few years away, the Assessment Module will help institutions start collecting the data that will ultimately be included in their final submission, whenever that may be.

Selecting existing publications as part of an Assessment process


Adding supporting information to selected publication


Document generation

The Assessment Module can also be utilised to create templates to support the generation of custom documents that don’t require a review process. Using the same principles of maximising existing data reuse, virtually any document requiring a custom template can be created to reduce the administrative effort of researchers.

What’s next for Assessment?

We think the Assessment Module offers a unique platform for institutions to massively streamline and simplify the way they conduct their reviews. Unlike other systems that require long forms to be filled out, and lack configurability and flexibility, this module is truly aimed at reducing administrative overheads.

The new design of v5.0 supports Assessment through clear messaging in a way that couldn’t be done previously, and we will continue to develop incrementally, adding features and workflows as time goes on – we have now started planning for additional approval workflows and progress monitoring.

The introduction of the new Assessment Module has been our largest development project to date and we’d like to thank all those who have been involved in helping us shape and deliver this release. If you have any questions or comments, or particular workflows that you’d like to address, please get in touch. We will be exploring more in our UK User Conference in Cambridge this summer.

The automatic search features are a bonus. I really like the way the new entries arrive automatically, and all I have to do is respond to the prompt to approve them. Navigation in the new release is intuitive and friendly. Linking directly to DOIs and full text is convenient and makes it easy to access and share my own research.

Professor Penny Brothers, University of Auckland

Elements elegantly connected our multi-university system providing a
single source of truth throughout OIEx.

Tim Cain, The Ohio Innovation Exchange (OIEx)

The University measures the individual research activity of academic staff. This Measure of Research Activity (MoRA) requires the collection of publication data from faculty. Symplectic Elements supports this beautifully.

Floris van der Leest, Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia

[Elements] will help to bring transparency to the richness of thought showcased within non-traditional publications, providing a more holistic representation of faculties’ scholarly work.

Caleb Smith, University of Michigan

Feedback to date has been extremely positive from all levels across the University, with individual academics and colleagues actively promoting the ease of use of the system.

Rachel Baird, Research Policy Analyst, University of Liverpool