Symplectic at 20: Looking forward to what’s next

21st March 2023
Symplectic at 20: Looking forward to what’s next 1

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Jonathan Breeze is CEO of Symplectic and MD, Research Workflows at Digital Science. He has worked at Symplectic since 2012, leading the unification of Symplectic and CC Technology in 2021, and now heads up a team of specialists that serve universities, institutions, and funding organisations located in 20 different countries from across the world.

Here, he takes a forward look at what’s next for Symplectic – including key development areas for 2023 and where products and services could go in the future.

This month Symplectic marked its 20th anniversary as a business and in recent days we’ve enjoyed as a team reflecting on our collective endeavours since 2003, as well as making a justified fuss of Symplectic’s Founders – all of whom continue to play (either within the Symplectic team or as part of Digital Science) a role in furthering the work of Symplectic.


Symplectic is 20! 4

Symplectic’s founders, L-R: Daniel Hook (now CEO of Digital Science), Phil Parkin (now Head of Financial Planning at Digital Science), Marko Ivin (Chief Development Officer, Symplectic) and John Fearns (CTO, Symplectic).


Twenty years is a genuine milestone for a software provider (e.g. Android will also turn 20 this year, but Google+ will not!) and although still recognisable from our earliest product, our latest software has a level of sophistication that’s now recognised by our clients across the globe as leading in its design, usability and level of interoperability. 

However, each time I speak with a new or existing Symplectic client, I’m always struck by how many more opportunities there are for us to better help our clients realise the full potential of tracking and managing their research-related activity within a system like Symplectic Elements, or through our ongoing commitment to product innovation with our development partners for both Symplectic Elements and Symplectic Grant Tracker.

It’s also the case that no matter how sophisticated our products are, there are a huge number of competing demands on many of our clients – especially their IT teams – and so our clients are also increasingly turning to Symplectic’s own Client Service and Consulting teams to help them make the very best use of our products. 

But for this blog, rather than looking back,  I thought it would be useful to summarise some of our key development areas for our 20th year, as well as to look further into Symplectic’s crystal ball to attempt to predict what our products and services might look like in the future.


What’s next?


Symplectic Elements

A theme from our past 20 years has been the desire for our clients to promote the work of their research communities and in recent years we’ve seen the dramatic adoption of the Symplectic Elements Discovery Module by research organisations looking to effortlessly showcase researchers’ expertise through a modern, easy-to-maintain search and discovery interface. 


In 2023, we plan to: 

  • Incorporate even more data categories within the Discovery Module to help further contextualise the wider impact and commercialisation opportunities of an organisation’s research activities, including a redesign of functionality designed to help organisations effectively manage their internal structures, and the addition of a new set of features designed to capture and promote research innovation within both Elements and the Discovery Module. 
  • Further expand our Open Access monitoring and reporting to give organisations an even more comprehensive overview of their scholarly publishing activities, in line with funder mandates and policies being issued by a whole range of funding bodies, such as UKRI in the UK, NIH and OSTP in the US, or ARC and NHMRC in Australia.


Symplectic Grant Tracker

At Symplectic we have long sought to reduce the barriers and burden for researchers and research administrators, and in recent years we have worked with our funder clients to also help researchers, institutions and research funders get credit and increase the visibility and impact of their work. 


In 2023, we plan to: 

  • Launch a new ORCID integration to help our Funder clients more easily write grant data to researchers’ ORCID profiles, in line with their ORCID policies.
  • Extend the support of the Grant Tracker API to further support interoperability and streamline key administrative processes to simplify the process of supporting grant rounds. 


Then what?

Looking beyond our 20th year, it is clear that there is a real appetite for Symplectic’s products to further automate the capture and recording of metadata that goes beyond traditional journal publications (e.g. non-traditional research outputs such as designs and other creative works) and to add additional sources of truth for other research activities.

There’s also a growing interest in capturing information within an organisational system that is not only linked to researchers but also linked to shared research infrastructure – both publicly and privately funded.

Another key aspect of our future work at Symplectic will be to ensure that our products continue to support an ever-changing set of business rules relating to the privacy and access of research metadata and files.

But the likely largest area of activity for the Symplectic team in the coming years will be our ability to address the requirements of organisations that choose to work with us to not only manage the capture and reporting of metadata via an attractive UI but also manage a wide range of associated internal processes and workflows  – whether those be the workflows associated with periodic research quality assessments such as the REF in the UK, the workflows designed to support Open Access engagement, Faculty Activity Reporting (FAR) in North America, or the internal review and approval workflows of those asked to manage the distribution of research funds. 

Whatever our future, I know Symplectic will continue to need to call on many of the amazing people I’ve worked with, as part of the Symplectic team, as part of Digital Science and as part of a unique bunch of folks who we refer to as Symplectic’s Community – made up of Librarians, Research Managers, Academics and IT professionals from across the globe, each looking to make the lives of academics slightly less administratively burdensome! 

For me personally, being part of Symplectic has been life-changing, and my tenure as CEO has only been made possible by the hard work and dedication of the Symplectic team. So if you’ve been part of our journey in the past 20 years, happy anniversary to you too!


Vive la Symplectic