Privacy and Research Management Systems: Guidance on What to Take Into Account from Oklahoma State University

Organisations seeking to select the right Research Information Management (RIM) System for them increasingly need to take into account issues around data privacy as part of the procurement process. 


A 2019 report by University of California Senate warned of the “significant threat Research Information Management systems pose if not regulated by strong data governance,” and recommended that universities set strict policies on “data generated about faculty, addressing their ownership, collection and reuse.” 


Oklahoma State University (OSU) recently adopted Symplectic Elements as a Research Information Management (RIM) System, which is being implemented and supported by the OSU Libraries. At a recent user meeting we heard from Clarke Iakovakis and Megan Macken of OSU Libraries on their decision-making process when selecting Symplectic Elements as a Research Information Management System.

Privacy and Research Management Systems: Guidance on What to Take Into Account from Oklahoma State University

Macken and Iakovakis also recently co-authored a paper on Privacy and Research Information Management Systems, published by Taylor & Francis in the March 8, 2021 issue of Serials Librarian and openly available as an accepted manuscript on the SHAREOK Repository here.


In the paper, Macken and Iakovakis note that, “During the exploratory phase, questions about user privacy and data ownership were at the forefront of our investigation of various RIM Systems.” Questions were raised about privacy concerns at both an institutional and an individual user level (usually faculty, researchers, or administrators working on their behalf), as profiles within Symplectic Elements can display a wide range of user information, including research outputs, collaborators, contact information, streaming media, citations and bibliometrics, and links to other repositories and permanent identifiers.  

“University administrators and many faculty consider this ability to share personal data publicly an incredibly useful service. A RIM System provides a single authoritative profile within the university domain, a clear improvement over the myriad, free profile systems available around the web. In training sessions, early adopters or “Power Users” expressed excitement about the system. An important difference between previous iterations of faculty profile systems and websites and a RIM System, however, is that the traditional directory or CV data now appears alongside altmetrics and journal impact metrics that quantify faculty output at a glance….Despite significant research and international proclamations questioning the validity of tying bibliometric indicators to performance, these metrics continue to play a key role in tenure and promotion decisions; thus their inclusion in the system is not entirely unproblematic.”


Symplectic Elements is designed to offer granular controls over what personal data is available, both for their overall profile and for specific profile components. Components can be individually set as either ‘Public’ (for institutions which have developed a public portal using the Discovery Module, such as OIEX); ‘Private’ (available to other institutional users), or ‘Private’ (available only to the user, the user’s selected delegates, and administrators). 


The Digital Science Representatives were very responsive to all of these concerns and all of them were addressed to the point that we felt very comfortable moving forward with Elements,” concluded Iakovakis during the Symplectic 2021 User Meeting. 

Privacy and Research Management Systems: Guidance on What to Take Into Account from Oklahoma State University 1

With this partnership, we have the opportunity to position ourselves as
a world leader in the development of the scholarly ecosystem.

Keith Webster, Dean of University Libraries, Carnegie Mellon

I cannot overstate how pleased we have been.
We have to have confidence to work with a partner
for at least 5 years on a project of this size.

Caleb Smith, Senior Strategy Manager for Research Intelligence & Analytics, University of Michigan

“Faculty need only spend perhaps less than an hour a year to prepare and submit their annual reports.”

Associate Dean, Carnegie Mellon University at Qatar

"Leveraging the interoperability between Symplectic Elements and DSpace has increased policy-driven institutional repository deposits by over 350%."

Ellen Phillips, Open Access Specialist, Boston University

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