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Symplectic Conference

Laura and I attended Symplectic’s Conference earlier in the week, which featured a number of interesting presentations and some intriguing feature announcements. The presentations included:

  • An introduction to the VIVO Project, an initiative to create a network of scientific researchers and enable discovery of those researchers’ publications. VIVO has a number of interesting features which we might look at here at City, not least the ability to create staff profiles.
  • An update on the DURA Project, which will synchronise users’ Mendeley accounts with Symplectic Elements, allowing easy addition of both metadata and full text to Elements, and hence to repository systems. This looks like an excellent feature development, though of course it will depend on City people using Mendeley. A quick search on Mendeley reveals about 20 City users of the system- not loads, but a start.
  • An introduction to Digital Science, a spin-off from the Nature Publishing Group, which is investing in many networked science start-up companies including Symplectic, and notably also¬†Figshare and Altmetric, two companies we like!

The conference then heard from Symplectic CEO Daniel Hook, who outlined development priorities for Symplectic over the course of the next year. There were a lot of them, so I thought I would summarise some of the ones we’re particularly looking forward to here at City:

  • New data sources, including RePEc (actually available in the latest version of Elements, which we will be upgrading to soon), the British Library (book and chapter data?) and CrossRef (with the ability to pull through article-level metadata, hopefully)
  • User profiling and CV generation.
  • An upgraded user interface, featuring Symplectic’s snazzy new branding and the ability to customise look and feel. We’ll certainly want to make our Elements installation look more like the rest of City’s web presence.
  • Enhanced search, including via the API. This should assist us with outputting publications data to City’s web presence, particularly if and when a university-wide staff profiling system is put in place.
  • New reporting functionality. Reporting is already pretty good in my opinion, but any way to improve this is to be welcomed. Hopefully a report scheduler will be added.

The afternoon was taken up with a focus group session, which involved answering some (tricky) questions about the functionality of the REF module, which will hopefully help make that part of the system more user friendly.

All in all, a really good event, which looked at the bigger picture, but also promised some exciting developments for Elements over the course of the next year. It was also heartening to hear about Symplectic’s commitment to its software interacting with repository systems, something that is always high on our agenda here at City.

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