Compliance monitoring in RIM systems: not a US thing? Think again.

This blog post is jointly authored by Rebecca Bryant from OCLC Research and Jan Fransen from the University of Minnesota Libraries, and is part of a series based upon the OCLC Research Information Management in the US reports.

Monitoring research policy compliance is a major driver of research information management activities. That was a key finding of the 2018 report, Practices and Patterns in Research Information Management: Findings from a Global Survey, collaboratively prepared by OCLC Research and euroCRIS, which describes the global research information management (RIM) landscape, from a survey of more than 380 respondents in 44 countries.

The report found that 79% of responding institutions described monitoring and supporting institutional compliance with external mandates as an extremely important or important driver of RIM activities. One Australian respondent commented, “Compliance with government regulations is the main driver behind RIM activities.”

But not here in the United States

The majority of US survey respondents indicated that compliance monitoring was not important or even applicable. This finding was further confirmed in the recent OCLC Research report, Research Information Management in the United States, which examines the US landscape through close examination of the RIM practices at five case study institutions:

  • Penn State University
  • Texas A&M University
  • Virginia Tech
  • UCLA (including University of California system-wide practices)
  • University of Miami.

In these case studies, we found that while most US institutions support multiple RIM use cases, especially public portals and faculty activity reporting workflows, compliance monitoring was by far the least important. In stark contrast to other locales, we found only limited compliance monitoring activities at one case study institution, the University of California, and only for certain units, particularly the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), which is an entity under the US Department of Energy and managed by the University of California.


A major reason is that the US doesn’t have an external research assessment exercise like the Research Excellence Framework (REF) in the United Kingdom or the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA), which require institutions to collect information about research outputs and measure the impact of sponsored research activities. Failure to accurately track and report outputs may have significant economic and reputational repercussions.

Slide from Russell R (2013) “CERIF CRIS UK landscape study: work in progress report”.
euroCRIS Membership Meeting Spring 2013 (DFG, Bonn, May 13-14, 2013),

For example, beginning in the 1990s, Dutch research universities and institutes have been assessed every six years. In Finland there are strong incentives to track each and every publication, as 13% of institutional support to universities from the Ministry of Education and Culture is directly linked to publication output. These requirements have led to the earlier development and maturity of RIM infrastructures in Europe.

Open Science may change this

Today an ever-increasing number of funders, research organizations, and regional bodies are requiring public access to scholarly or scientific research, including publications and/or data. For example, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) seeks to make all UKRI-funded research outputs openly available, with policies impacting publications and research data. These efforts are strong in Europe, particularly as the cOAlition S consortium of research organizations and funders are enacting mandates requiring immediate open access to scholarly publications.

Here in the US we are also seeing an increase in public access mandates, such as the 2013 policy memo from the White House Office of Science and Technology applying to federally-sponsored research as well as private funders like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The failure to comply with an open access mandate potentially risks economic losses for the investigator and the institution.

RIM systems offer a useful infrastructure for monitoring compliance with open science mandates by offering an entity-based structure that can link publications, datasets, and other research outputs with a specific grant (and with the investigators, institutions, equipment, and more).

RIM systems can help make sense of a complex regulatory environment by facilitating a more granular view of the institution’s research.

Specifically, it can enable tracking of subcomponents of this research: only some publications, resulting from specific grants, by specific principal investigators are necessary to monitor, and in relation to specific funder requirements.

Opportunities for US institutions

European institutions are using RIM systems to track compliance with open access mandates, but it doesn’t appear that this functionality is widely used in the United States[1]. Or at least not yet. Since US RIM systems aren’t used for compliance monitoring for national research assessment exercises, their potential for open science compliance monitoring may not be as apparent to US users, but we believe there are significant opportunities for improved processes and efficiencies.[2]

We encourage readers at institutions with an existing RIM system to share this potential use with others at their institutions, particularly those with grant awards from NIH (which requires PubMed Central deposit) and NSF (NSF-PAR deposit).[3]

RIM systems populated with high-quality data can offer a time-saving alternative to laborious spreadsheets used today for monitoring and reporting on compliance with these mandates.

RIM systems can support multiple uses. Institutions will see the greatest return on their investments when using these systems to support and streamline as many processes as possible.

Rebecca Bryant, PhD, serves as Senior Program Officer at OCLC Research where she leads investigations into research support topics such as research information management (RIM).  Janet (Jan) Fransen is the Service Lead for Research Information Management Systems at University of Minnesota Libraries. In that role, she works across divisions and with campus partners to provide library systems and data that save researchers, students, and administrators time and highlights the societal and technological impacts of the University’s research. The most visible system in her portfolio is Experts@Minnesota.

[1] The Practices and Patterns report documented that compliance and open access to publications were an extremely important or important function in locales like the UK and the Netherlands, but it was of less or no importance in the US (and Canada).

[2] P De Castro (2018), “The Role of Current Research Information Systems (CRIS) in Supporting Open Science Implementation: the Case of Strathclyde”. ITlib. Informačné technológie a knižnice Special Issue 2018: pp 21–30,  

[3] The NIH Public Access Policy requires scientists to submit final peer-reviewed journal manuscripts that arise from NIH funding to PubMed Central immediately upon acceptance for publication. The NSF also has a public access policy, effective 25 January 2016, with details at It offers NSF awardees the opportunity to deposit their work in the NSF Public Access Repository (NSF-PAR,)