CERIF stands for Common European Research Information Format. It is an international-standard data model which describes the research domain and the relationships between elements in the domain. The following diagram shows the key elements and links to second-level entities in the model.

CERIF data model

The main elements are:

  • Person
  • Organisation
  • Project
  • Publication
  • Patent
  • Product
  • Skills
  • CV
  • Funding programme
  • Event
  • Service
  • Equipment

This data model allows linking of these entities to each other, and is neutral with regard to the system architecture.

Link entities record the precise, time-bound relationships between and within entities, so a person might be a member of both a project and an organisational unit, for different periods of time. Such relationships can become extremely complex, and the strength of CERIF is that it is able to capture such web-like complexity with a data model that is essentially very simple.

It has additional features to cope with multiple languages and semantics e.g. to align the different vocabularies used across the research community. It is the linking of entities which allows questions to be answered about the relationships of people to projects and outputs, for example.

It is therefore a powerful means of managing the research information within an institution and exchanging it with other systems outwith the institution which are also CERIF-compliant. A standard data model could also eventually support a national, distributed Research Information Management Infrastructure.

CERIF was originally developed with the support of the European Commission, but is now looked after by euroCRIS.

Many European research institutes and universities already use CERIF, but it has been much slower to be adopted in the UK. Following the recommendations from the EXRI report, JISC has funded projects to explore how it can be used especially to manage information for the REF. HEFCE has endorsed it as a format for institutions to submit information for the REF.

Proprietary RPMS or CRIS systems, such as PURE, Converis and Symplectic, which are installed in an increasing number of UK universities are also CERIF-compliant. They can provide a direct link between the publication entity within the CRIS to the full text held in the repository:

Proprietary RPMS or CRIS model

Several UK projects (DoTAC, Readiness4REF, St. Andrews and Aberdeen CRIS projects, CRISPool and IRIOS) have attempted to map their own data models to CERIF. There are still detailed questions about the harmonisation of data structures, vocabularies and syntax.

Potential complementary approaches are Linked Data (RDF) and OAI-ORE (Object Reuse and Exchange).

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