Imagine what unified faculty and research metadata could do for your institution.

Research Information Management Systems

Data-driven colleges and universities are at the forefront of advancement, but siloed metadata means you don’t have a complete picture of your faculty activities and research.

In an effort to innovate their processes for managing critical research amongst faculty, Penn State University Libraries faced a challenging opportunity – how were they going to effectively utilize their disparate data spread throughout multiple systems? Exploration of a solution resulted in the development and implementation of the Researcher Metadata Database – ground-breaking technology that compiled siloed data into one system for the benefit of comprehensive faculty profiles that update daily, and more. The result was a staggering improvement in the global presence of the university’s accomplishments, without strain on their administrators.

Aggregated research metadata unlocks boundless possibilities – this story is just the beginning.


Unifying Data for
Penn State Libraries

Like many higher ed institutions, research is an integral part of Penn’s State’s educational landscape, and they have an impressive reputation for it. Their drive for innovation and excellence led to the creation of Researcher Metadata Database (RMD), which curates a comprehensive collection of publications, presentations, performances, advising records, news articles, and biographies pertaining to faculty members within the University, sourced from various outlets.

Penn State faced a dilemma: there were too many sources storing critical data about the University’s research. These sources included Watermark (also known as Digital Measures), Elsevier’s Pure system, Web-of-Science, a university-specific grant system, and the internal institutional repository called ScholarSphere.

And so, this sparked the beginning of an exploration into finding a solution that could leverage the various research information sources available, with the goal of enhancing accessibility and utilization of Penn State’s vast knowledge repository. All through unified data.

With funding and organizational buy-in, the first step was to start small and figure out how to combine two data sets as a foundation for the project. Utilizing the team’s expertise, West Arete was able to successfully combine the data between the Pure and Digital Measures systems. Thus, the beginning of RMD.

This spurred further conversation for how the University might utilize the technology in ways that would get others outside of tech excited about the possibilities in a way that would add value to their lives. Enter faculty profile pages. 

Example faculty profile pages


The team decided to create an open-source API that IT teams across Penn State could use to implement automatically-populated faculty profile pages for their respective departments. To make it even more useful, the RMD was enhanced to pull and update the information nightly, alongside the deduplication sequence of operations that are verified by a staff member.

The number of publications being discovered and then made accessible through the API skyrocketed – from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands. Critical information needed for grants is now easily accessible. All while being able to have complete and robust faculty pages that truly highlight the innovation happening across the various departments that choose to utilize the API connecting RMD.

Presently, the RMD has expanded to include data from various siloed data systems over the years that update daily. Meaning, if a researcher uploads materials in any of the connected systems, that information will be available the following morning. Updates that used to span a timeframe of 6-8 months, now take less than 24 hours.

If your institution is grappling with the challenge of siloed data, we welcome a conversation to discuss experiences and share insights with you and others in the community. These are valuable discussions that collectively help break down the complexity of siloed data for the benefit of all educators, administrators, and learners across campus.

This example illustrates how a comprehensive profile for each researcher and faculty member can be created by combining information from many different sources. The profile automatically stays up-to-date with the researcher’s latest interests and achievements. The data sources listed below are used purely for demonstration purposes. West Arete has the flexibility to utilize information from your data sources, allowing for customized faculty profile pages specifically tailored for your institution.

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OCLC Research Report

Research Information Management in the United States

Research Information Management in the United States OCLC Research Report was independently conducted without any affiliation with West Arete. It is important to note that the report should not be interpreted as an endorsement or affiliation in any form.

In November 2021, OCLC Research published a pioneering research report on Research Information Management in the United States. The report offers a thorough examination of RIM practices at US research universities, highlighting their decentralized nature and complexity. It offers an insightful overview of the current state of research information management and provides recommendations tailored for university leaders and decision makers. As part of this research endeavor, the project included case studies from five different US research institutions, including an examination of RIM practices at Penn State.

Synopsis from the OCLC Website: “The Research Information Management in the United States two-part report series provides a first-of-its-kind documentation of RIM practices at US research universities that presents a thorough examination of RIM practices, goals, stakeholders, and system components. Research information management (RIM) is a rapidly growing area of investment in US research universities. While RIM practices are mature in Europe and other locales in support of nationalized reporting requirements, RIM practices at US research universities have taken a different—and characteristically decentralized—course. A complex environment characterized by multiple use cases, stakeholders, and systems has resulted. This report provides a landscape overview of the state of research information management in the United States, makes sense of the complexity, and offers recommendations targeted at University leaders and other institutional decision makers.”

Report by Rebecca Bryant, Jan Fransen, Pablo de Castro, Brenna Helmstutler, David Scherer


View Project Page @ OCLC

Part 1: Findings and Recommendations

Reporting requirements, RIM practices at US research universities have taken a different—and characteristically decentralized—course. A complex environment characterized by multiple use cases, stakeholders, and systems has resulted. This report provides much-needed context for institutional leaders to examine their own local practices by proposing: A summary of six discrete RIM use cases, A RIM system framework, Recommendations for RIM stakeholders.

Read the full report

Part 2: Case Studies

This companion report offers an in-depth narrative of the RIM practices at five US research institutions: Penn State University, Texas A&M University, Virginia Tech, UCLA, and University of Miami.

Read the full report


West Arete is not affiliated with or endorsed by Elsevier or Watermark or The Pennsylvania State University. Pure and Faculty Success are trademarks of their respective companies.

Let’s Connect

Interested in elevating the way that the information at your institution can serve your people and your mission? Contact us to explore how West Arete’s solutions can help.