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Research at a glance: The new Research Information System (FIS) of Hof University

Some time ago, Hof University of Applied Sciences started to set up a new database in which central results on research at Hof University of Applied Sciences are entered. The aim is to professionalize research management.

Source: Hof University of Applied Sciences;

If required, the entered data can be read out: How many publications were published in year x? How many research projects does Hof University of Applied Sciences have? How many doctorates are in progress or have been completed? Professor Dr.-Ing. Valentin Plenk, Vice President for Research and Development, was responsible for this introduction. We talk to him about why such a database is a milestone and what exactly can be done with it.

Professor Plenk: Why was the decision made to introduce a so-called “FIS”?

“We currently have around 40 research projects and 30 professors leading externally funded projects, as well as 115 academic staff working on the projects. That’s a total of around 150 researchers. This work results in around 100 publications per year.

Our main aim was to collect this data, which had previously been decentralized, centrally in one place. Previously, it was stored on many different sites and could not be presented well either internally or externally. Internally, we use the data for our reporting, for example, and externally mainly for marketing purposes.”

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Valentin Plenk

We clearly book this under “progress in digitization”, because I see the great added value for everyone in the fact that the data only has to be recorded once and that it is also standardized at the same time. It can then be used in many other places. That saves an enormous amount of time. But yes, of course it’s not easy to get started.”

Is the FIS networked with other systems at the university or are there plans to network it?

“The plan is to map the entire third-party funding process and also the tax assessments via the FIS. We are working on the details. Third-party funds are the funds that we receive from external sources for our research, without which nothing works in our research.

As far as websites are concerned, the data collected can also be displayed directly on websites for external presentation. On the one hand, there is the FIS frontend, which can be accessed at https://forschung.hof-university.de and is linked from our websites with deep links. In concrete terms, this means that the websites no longer have to be filled in manually, but instead the data on publications, projects etc. can be pulled directly from the FIS. With its new websites, iisys has even gone one step further and retrieves the data directly from the FIS so that links to the FIS front end are no longer necessary. This is also planned for the other research institutes in the medium to long term.

As far as user administration is concerned, we want to keep it simple: You can log in with your normal university ID. We are working on an automatic system that will also make this possible for new employees from the outset.”

What do the other Bavarian universities do? What tools do they use?

“We looked at various tools and then decided on Bay.FIS, which has been tried and tested over the years. Originally, our colleagues from Weihenstephan had only built it for their university, but then opened it up to others. We are now a total of 12 out of 17 Bavarian universities that use the tool. I also like the fact that we meet regularly to talk about updates and new functionalities. We actually learn a lot from each other.”

Can Bay.FIS also be used to exchange data with the core data set for research? The so-called “KDSF” is a standard in the German science system when it comes to recording research data.

“Perhaps a brief classification: The KDSF is intended as a basis for automated reporting to various higher-level bodies. At the moment, queries are still made from person to person, but with Bay.FIS we are equipped for the future. Our data is already recorded in a data schema based on the KDSF. The schema is being further developed in line with user requirements.”

What do you need this data for?

“External presentation was a central motive for us to introduce the FIS. In the meantime, it has become clear that it is also very useful, especially internally, because we can easily get an overview of the current number of our doctoral students, for example. Reporting can be partially automated. And via the front end for external presentation, external interested parties – these can be our donors, but also civil society, politics and business – can look into our treasure trove of data and see what issues we are dealing with. That’s why we can also say that an FIS will always be a work in progress, as new things are constantly being added.”

You’ve already said it in part, but to what extent does the FIS play a role internally?

“Internally, it also creates greater clarity for researchers and research administration by bringing together data that was previously maintained in parallel in many places in one place. The idea is that the data is only stored once in a central system so that it can then be used multiple times. This makes data storage and data access much more sustainable.”

Has all the data you planned to collect already been recorded?

“Hof University of Applied Sciences is now more than 25 years old. Our goal is to capture the last five years. It’s a complex process, and we mustn’t forget that.”

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Valentin Plenk
Responsible for the introduction of the new research information system (FIS): Prof. Dr.-Ing. Valentin Plenk; Photo: Hof University of Applied Sciences

Until now, researchers had to enter a lot of data manually. The FIS now provides a database for all applications. Does the FIS simplify life for researchers?

“Researchers have reporting obligations to the university, just as we all have to our funders. At the same time, they also have a vested interest in the visibility of their work. The FIS significantly supports both of these dimensions: enter once and then use x times. As you can see, it benefits the researchers! That is why we are still working on incorporating relevant project papers such as reports into the FIS step by step.

As I have already explained using the example of the websites, explicitly released data can also be displayed directly on the university websites (“research portal” of a university), thus eliminating the need for manual updating. We now have a solid foundation within our research infrastructure that we can work with.”

How did you go about implementing the FIS? How many people are currently working on it?

“We had some ideas and conceptions and checked them against our needs. At the beginning, we had a consultant with us to guide us through the decision-making process. For us, Bay.FIS is an inexpensive and simple solution.

The rollout across the entire university currently involves one person from the administration side and one from the IT side. Apart from that, all departments are involved, i.e. the institute secretariats, the researchers, the External Funding department, University Communications and the President’s advisor.”

Do you want to expand the system to include other key figures in the long term?

“As I said, it’s a living system. We are currently focusing more intensively on academic staff who are writing a doctoral thesis.”

Thank you for the interview!

Here is the access link..

Anne-Christine Habbel

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