The Symplectic Australasia Conference 2018 – In Review

Michael Events & Conferences

At the end of January, we hosted our first Symplectic user meeting of 2018 at Deakin University, Melbourne.

Attended by over 70 institutional representatives from around New Zealand and Australia, our user meeting formed part of a 3-day Digital Science extravaganza that also included sessions on Dimensions, Figshare, Altmetric and Digital Science Consultancy. Here’s a short overview of the highlights.

Day 1 (Symplectic User Meeting)

The first day started with a traditional welcome from Christoper McAvaney, Director of eResearch at Deakin University.

We then heard from CEO Jonathan Breeze, explaining who Symplectic are (for those not yet familiar with us), giving a quick overview of Elements, our services and the features and functionality we’ve introduced since our last Australasia meeting.

Jonathan calculated that we had issued 63 pages of release notes in 2017 (!), including the launch of (and subsequent improvements to) Automatic Identifier Claiming, Repository Tools 2 for both EPrints & Figshare for Institutions, as well as improvements to the Assessment Module, and some of the positive feedback we’ve heard from the community about these. We then heard about some future projects that are being worked on.

After this, representatives from the universities of Melbourne, Auckland, Adelaide, Deakin and La Trobe formed a panel session to talk about how they each re-use the data captured in Elements.

We always enjoy listening to our clients talk about how they make use of Elements, and it was particularly pleasing to hear Murray from La Trobe explain how they had decided to widen their adoption of Elements from ‘just’ publication management to now also include researcher profiling as part of their recent decision to adopt VIVO (hosted by Symplectic).

For all our clients, data quality and completeness remains an ongoing challenge – both from external and internal systems – but in passing data to Elements, they have been able to identify and address data issues in upstream systems (e.g. HR and Grant Management systems). In such cases, Elements not only breaks down data silos but also helps improve their data quality.

Following the panel session, Kate gave a great overview of our latest Repository Tools 2 work, including a demonstration of depositing to Figshare and a comprehensive overview of the Open Access Monitor.

Before lunch, Marko took to the stage and provided a live demonstration of updating the status of publications eligible for annual collections in batch, using Excel as a front end with a cunning bit of VBA to update and return statuses via a new API endpoint we will add to Elements v5.9.1. This was really exciting for many people in the room and another great example of how the Elements API can be used to reduce manual data curation.

After lunch, we saw a few short demos of other features we’ve been working on during the last year. We then split for workshops, both of the Assessment Module, and optimising the use of Automatic Claiming. Meanwhile, representatives from both UTS and Deakin gave some fascinating talks on how they are using the Elements API to further the automated annotation of outputs in Elements.

We then heard from a number of Elements clients that have started to make use of the Elements Assessment module to capture contextually rich data in support of internal reviews and other data collection exercises. One thing that we were really pleased to hear was that the Assessment module was “easy to use”! This came from a business user of Elements who explained how non-technical staff at his University had been able to create bespoke forms and surveys independent of IT. This is something we hadn’t considered when developing the Assessment module, but it was a point well made: the availability of IT resource at major universities can choke lower priority projects and so it was great to hear how the Assessment module has empowered business users to independently capture data they need without calling on IT.

Following the parallel session, we held a short Q&A on pushing affiliation data to ORCID (including audience participation from a number of researchers that attended our session as it was part of the Digital Science event) and then it was time for us to thank everyone for attending Symplectic’s user day and to ask them to return on the following day for the Digital Science sessions.

Day 2 (Digital Science Event including a few Symplectic sessions)

On the Wednesday, we held a really positive meeting with our New Zealand clients who are all super busy using Elements to capture the portfolios required for the PBRF, and we held another “live SQL” session on querying the Elements Reporting database to help reveal the level and value of ORCID adoption within an institution.

Finally, Simon Porter from Digital Science provided a great tutorial on producing network visualisations using data captured in the Elements Reporting database. The event then continued as the Digital Science Showcase Week, with more from our partners at Altmetric and Figshare.

This was a particularly enjoyable few days, and we would like to thank staff at Deakin University and all our attendees for making it such a success. We can’t wait to return next year!