Research and faculty are each core assets of an institution and are critical to an institution’s reputation. As higher education slowly recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, institutional research and faculty will play an essential role in the recovery process. Many institutions are reporting an emphasis on increasing and diversifying their revenue stream and expanding partnerships with internal and external sponsors. Over the past 24 months, even before COVID-19, higher education has experienced an increased focus on expanding research. As a result, the market has experienced an increased interest in faculty information systems (FIS) and research information management systems (RIMS). While there are multiple solutions devoted to both faculty information management and research information management, the market is starting to see an overlap across these areas.
Leading FISs, such as Interfolio Faculty Information System and Watermark Digital Measures, have a strong focus on streamlining and automating the collection and organization of scholarly accomplishments needed to support faculty activity reporting, accreditation, and annual reviews for reappointment, promotion, and tenure appointment. FIS allow institutions to electronically collect, store, showcase, analyze, and report on faculty activities and accomplishments using a single system of record. Once data is input into the FIS, faculty can use tools to create biosketches, curriculum vitae (CV), and dossiers. Institutional leaders are also using FIS data to facilitate decision-making by gaining deeper insights on what activities faculty are engaged in, the impact of those activities, areas of institutional strength, and institutional gaps that need to be addressed.
Historically speaking, RIMS have been focused on aggregating, curating, and storing data and metadata about institutional research and scholarly activities in a single system of record. RIMS are multi-faceted solutions that showcase research, both at the institutional level and at the researcher level. RIMS are strategic to an institution as they provide insights into the performance and competitiveness of the research, which is essential to sound decision-making and planning. RIMS also include tools that facilitate the collaboration and publication of research, automate the population of faculty profiles and management of curriculum vitae (CV), track compliance across policies (such as open access policies), and facilitate research analytics, benchmarking, and metrics tools.
While FIS and RIMS are distinct solutions typically used in conjunction across higher education, the industry is starting to see a blending of functionality across these solutions. FIS have tended to focus more on the annual faculty review and tenure process and less on gathering research publications. Conversely, RIMS have traditionally been focused on faculty that do heavy research, and a key differentiator is that RIMS solutions support the auto-claiming of research output from multiple internal and external sources. Lately, though, leading RIMS providers are increasingly delivering FIS functionality, especially in the areas of faculty activity reporting, accreditation reporting, and annual faculty review, promotion, and tenure. One of the key features required to support annual faculty review is a robust workflow. While FIS solutions have historically possessed richer workflow functionality, RIMS vendors are also delivering more advanced workflow capabilities. For example, Symplectic Elements supports accreditation reporting, faculty activity reporting, and comprehensive workflow to support the annual faculty review, promotion, and tenure process. In addition, Clarivate Analytics Converis and Elsevier Pure support faculty activity reporting and have added functionality to address the annual faculty review process. Some of the similarities between FIS and RIMS include the ability to create biosketches, CVs, dossiers, and faculty reports; the generation of publication lists; the ability to showcase academic achievements; and the population of faculty profile pages. Since faculty is such an essential component of research, it makes sense for RIMS to blend this functionality, especially for R1 and R2 institutions.
Both the FIS and RIMS markets are experiencing a growing trend toward enterprise-wide deployment rather than departmental deployment. A contributing factor to this trend is increased peer competition and the need to benchmark faculty activities, research publications, and accomplishments to gain a competitive advantage. Institutions are also expressing an increased demand for research and faculty intelligence and established performance management frameworks. As the research landscape becomes more competitive within higher education, institutions need to understand where they excel and the types of research for which they are best suited. Both FIS and RIMS vendors are starting to deliver functionality around analytics and business intelligence and performance metrics, and enhancements are scheduled for the near-term roadmap.
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