Case Study: University of Aberdeen

Scenario 2 – CRIS (PURE) linked with repository (AURA)

Scenario 2 section


The University of Aberdeen has implemented a Current Research Information System (CRIS) which has integrated its pre-existing DSpace institutional repository (AURA) to hold and manage research outputs.

The procurement of the Pure product from the vendors Atira A/S, was made jointly with the University of St. Andrews , but each university has its own separate installation of the software.

Strategic drivers for the CRIS and the integration of the repository

The existing publications database had not proved to be an effective way to manage the university’s RAE submissions – a fluctuating proportion of publications were recorded (90% in 2005, only 60% in 2008) – and the requirements of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) were likely to be more demanding. The university was also seeking to raise its research profile and ensure the wider use of its research outputs. The CRIS offered the prospect of achieving this, but also the chance to free up the time of researchers to do research rather than administrative tasks, at a time when it was becoming clear that all universities would be coming under greater financial pressures to maximise income and minimise costs.

The repository was well-established, having gone live in 2006,but in common with many others was not succeeding in capturing more than a small proportion of research outputs, perhaps 3%. The workflow for adding publications to AURA was separate from the publications database and both were time-consuming manual processes.

The increased emphasis on impact from research and the importance of showing how universities benefit local economies and the wider community are providing an impetus for deposit of research outputs, but it was clear the process needed to be streamlined.

People and organisation

The drive for the CRIS came from the Vice-Principal for Research, but the University Librarian is on the University Management Group and so participated in discussions about the proposed acquisition of a CRIS and was able to make the case for a more integrated approach. The Library had got involved in the RAE submission work as a result of the deficiencies of the publications database, and so had made valuable connections with the research office. Partly as a consequence of library involvement in the discussions, it was decided that the CRIS would not simply replace the existing publications database but would be part of a wider infrastructure incorporating the repository. The Library also got a seat on the Project Board for the implementation of the CRIS.

A new Principal, Professor Ian Diamond, was appointed in 2010, and with his former roles as chief executive of the ESRC and chair of RCUK, has helped to raise the profile of the issue of access to research outputs and research impact at the university.

Benefits for researchers

The integrated infrastructure would also be able to deliver efficiency gains for researchers, who would no longer have to enter the same information about themselves and their publications for multiple purposes, such as the publications database, personal webpages, subject repositories as well as the institutional repository. The CRIS would enable tracking of research performance, but also feed out to personal profiles on the website. Taking bibliographic data from external systems and de-duplication produces a much more accurate record of publications to make available online. This is particularly attractive to younger researchers seeking to raise their profile. The CRIS also allows them to draw attention to their work internally, which is important in the run up to the REF.

Making upload of their own publications easy (including encouraging work-in-progress deposits, not necessarily publicly accessible) relieves pressure on the repository staff.

Most researchers were not motivated by Open Access and had a stronger commitment to their peers in their respective fields than to the university. But the practical benefits of the new integrated system were clear. Equally, a workflow which helps researchers to satisfy easily the increasing requirements of funders for deposit of outputs in some form of openly accessible repository makes good sense.

The CRIS – functionality

The chosen CRIS system, PURE, is modular, with modules on research outputs, activities (including traditional ‘esteem’ factors like membership of editorial boards, but also newer ‘impact’ activities like community engagement, public awareness of science etc) and more, such as its Portal public-facing module and a CV module. It is a fully relational database, so it will link all the outputs of a particular project to that project and funder, to the researcher(s) involved and to other activities. This means it can produce a full ‘impact statement’ for any project or researcher. Links are also possible to journals and publishers, based on an authority list maintained in PURE by AURA staff. It is hoped to add bibliometric information for papers from InCites in due course and to integrate data from RoMEO and JULIET.

The Portal module is a good way for the university to showcase its research as it provides a public-facing, browseable window on the whole of the research output, while the repository acts as the Open Access destination for those seeking a particular publication or other piece of research. The Pure portal data is also available for harvesting through OAI-PMH, as well as the DSpace repository.

Individual members of staff (or their designated administrators) can:

  • Add the full text for inclusion in AURA
  • Display their research outputs through the portal:
    • Browsable by department, professional activities, publications and staff
    • Searchable by keyword
    • Includes links to the full text in AURA
  • Select their research outputs to be included in on their University web pages
  • Import bibliographic data via:
    • ArXiv, PubMed and Web of Science Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), the Library catalogue, BibTex and RefMan
  • Export the bibliographic data for their research outputs to:
    • BibTex, HTML, Microsoft Office (Excel and Word), PDF and RefMan, Endnote

User workflow

The user workflow in PURE allows individual members of staff to add and make changes to their research outputs – including the full text.

Adding outputs

  • The bibliographic data displays immediately in the portal (and on their university web pages) unless:
    • The research output has not been published
    • They choose not to make the bibliographic data publically available
  • Either they are notified that the research output has been validated and the full text made available in AURA if it was attached
  • Or the research output is returned to them with a request for more information or the appropriate version of the full text

Changing outputs, including adding full text

  • The bibliographic data will be updated immediately on the portal (and on their University web pages) if it has been changed
  • The full text will be temporarily removed from AURA if it had previously been made available
  • Either they are notified that the research output has been re-validated and the full text made available in AURA if it was attached
  • Or the research output is returned to them with a request for more information or the appropriate version of the full text

Repository workflow

There is a single repository workflow in Pure which allows the AURA team to validate published research outputs:

  • Checking the bibliographic data
  • Checking the full text against Sherpa Romeo
  • Either triggering the transfer of the full text to AURA, setting the embargo if appropriate
  • Or returning the research output to the individual member of staff requesting more information or the appropriate version of the full text
  • Re-validate published research outputs updated by individual members of staff:
  • Either triggering the transfer of the full text to AURA, setting the embargo if appropriate
  • Or returning the research output to the individual member of staff requesting more information or the appropriate version of the full text
  • The full text is transferred to the appropriate collection in AURA once any embargo has passed
  • AURA returns the handle to Pure which is then passed through to the portal and the individual member of staff’s web page


From spring 2009 onwards the Research Information System Project Board met, consisting of the Vice Principal for Research & Commercialisation, heads of research of the College of Arts & Social Sciences, the College of Life Sciences & Medicine and the College of Physical Sciences, the Commercialisation Officer, and the Directorate of Information Technology and Library & Historic Collections. During the period from late 2009 to spring 2010 there was a programme of communication with research staff, including letters and statements of support from senior management, regular email updates from the Project Director, demonstrations and presentations to departments by the Project Director and the preparation of a support website, documentation and webinars by the Documentation team.

When the implementation of PURE kicked off, the developers held a number of workshops to specify requirements. At this point the Library’s cataloguing manager got involved, bringing his bibliographic data expertise to the process.

One of the key tasks for the repository was the process of checking external bibliographic data from Web of Science against existing data. In the summer of 2009, Pure was pre-populated with data from Web of Science. Existing data was passed to Thomson Reuters who returned three data sets:

  • Existing data enhanced with Web of Science data – loaded as ‘Validated’
  • Existing data which could not be matched to Web of Science data – loaded as ‘For Validation’
  • Web of Science data linked to the University by Thomson Reuters which could not be matched to the existing data – loaded as ‘For Validation’

Pure was launched in April 2010, and AURA was re-launched at the same time. There has been almost a doubling of the full text content in AURA over the year or so since. This is in spite of quite a small amount of advocacy activity; researchers have begun to spontaneously add full text as a logical part of the Pure workflow and because it is as straightforward as attaching a document to an email. The launch of Pure has of course allowed for an ongoing dialogue between the repository staff and researchers and much more obvious benefits to the researchers than were apparent before.

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