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IConnectEU - Developing and testing a model for integrated dissemination of outcomes from complementary research projects

Final Report Summary - ICONNECTEU (IConnectEU - Developing and testing a model for integrated dissemination of outcomes from complementary research projects)

ICONNECTEU aimed at increasing the visibility and impact of collaborative research in Europe by improving the dissemination of and the accessibility to research outcomes from projects with similar topics and audience. For such projects, a joint platform for disseminating their outcomes is not available yet. This has negative effects on visibility, accessibility and sustainability for the projects themselves as for the public which wants to access these outcomes.

The main pillar of work carried out in ICONNECTEU focussed on the development of a technical dissemination infrastructure which could document all entities relevant in the context of research information (i.e. actors, activities and results) at a very detailed level and at the same time could interconnect them within the context of an individual project and across project boundaries. To fill the dissemination infrastructure with content and assess the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of such a joint dissemination infrastructure, a pilot internet portal was created on the topic of research on 'governance in the EU'. The eight participating projects, each represented by the coordinating institution, took responsibility for filling the pilot internet portal with information about their projects, the participating institutes and persons, and the outcomes achieved (e.g. publications or conferences organised). In addition, all entities described in the portal were interconnected with semantic relationships, i.e. persons were associated with their affiliation, projects with institutes, persons with their role in a specific project, and projects results with the project they resulted from.

The main objective of ICONNECTEU was to test the feasibility and potential of thematically focussed dissemination of results from complementary projects. As ICONNECTEU was not meant to replace the actual dissemination activities of the projects who supplied research information, but support them at the technical level to increase the quality and consistency of their documentation and dissemination work, the results achieved in ICONNECTEU have to be seen under the aspect of creating a sustainable infrastructure on which future dissemination activities can build. With regard to this perspective, ICONNECTEU was successful in creating such an infrastructure. The development of the pilot internet portal was driven both by the requirements of the participating projects and the European Commission. Adapting already existing software allowed for efficient development of a flexible and powerful infrastructure far beyond of what normally can be realised in a (social science) research project - and only requiring a fraction of the financial resources spent on technological development in the partner projects. By re-using the ICONNECTEU infrastructure for dissemination purposes in social science research projects on a large scale therefore yields the potential of significantly reducing the need to build up individual infrastructures and frees a considerable amount of resources which can be spent for actual research.

The feedback received from projects outside the ICONNECTEU consortium indicates broad acceptance for the idea of building a thematically focussed dissemination infrastructure which integrates results across projects and over time. Several already finished projects expressed the willingness to contribute their results to make access to them sustainable beyond their project's duration. The focus of ICONNECTEU on a single research topic closely resembles existing communication structures within the scientific community and brings together actors and research outcomes which have to be considered as a complementary whole when it comes to disseminate research results from the social sciences to target groups like policy makers or the general public. Here, ICONNECTEU can help not only in supporting researchers in finding complementary projects and colleagues working on the same thematic area, it can also help policy makers and the media to identify groups of experts distributed across the European Research Area (ERA) and to stimulate active dissemination by having a prominent place they can efficiently approach with their information needs.

ICONNECTEU at the same time makes a valuable contribution towards monitoring trends in research at the level of a single research topic - not a discipline as a whole - and towards integrating ERA at the European and the national levels. Especially, the thematic focus allows more easily connecting European and national research activities, as especially researchers involved in both see an immediate benefit of making their outcomes more visible at both levels and of networking their activities with those of their colleagues.

The project results of ICONNECTEU consist mainly of two components: the pilot internet portal on research on the topic of governance in the EU and of the software system which is freely available and can be used for building similar portals for other research topics and in other domains. The pilot internet portal on governance in the EU available at http://www.IConnectEU.org is actively maintained by GESIS as part of its offerings to the scientific community in the social sciences. All information contained in the portal will be integrated into http://sowiport.de one of the largest information portals for the social sciences in existence. http://sowiport.de in return is connected to http://vascoda.de an interdisciplinary portal for scientific information in Germany and to WorldWideScience.org a global science gateway accelerating scientific discovery and progress through a multilateral partnership to enable federated searching of national and international scientific databases and portals. This integration of ICONNECTEU into international information infrastructures will enhance the visibility of EU-funded research at the international level and may serve project coordinators and researchers as an incentive for making their results available in ICONNECTEU. Besides this, the technology used for creating the pilot internet portal allows crawling and indexing by search engines such that the content produced is visible to all users on the web.

ICONNECTEU partners can maintain and update information about their projects and the resulting outcomes and can expand the information base with new projects as they become available. In addition, ICONNECTEU is now open to all projects carrying out research on governance in the EU for documenting their activities and results. Intended as a pilot project for cross-project dissemination, the ICONNECTEU platform now is open to host project information from other thematic priorities within the social sciences. Presentations at conferences and publications will be used to advertise the project throughout the social sciences in Europe and to strengthen the contacts already established to the maintainers of similar systems at the national level.

With the open access pilot, the European Commission has only recently launched an activity to support the free access to scientific results in the social sciences. ICONNECTEU will, therefore, connect to the Social Science Open Access Repository, SSOAR.info which was created by GESIS in a project funded by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG. Giving the researchers involved in the projects covered by ICONNECTEU the means to easily deposit their research publications and make them open access will both enhance the visibility of scientific results and promote the idea of open access. Projects specialised in actively disseminating available research results, like the project PLATON+ funded under the Seveth Framework Programme (FP7), have already expressed their interest in re-using the information collected in ICONNECTEU for their project objectives. Building on this information reduces their efforts in finding experts in specific thematic areas and collecting related research results. The infrastructure available with the ICONNECTEU portal can be used for disseminating also the results produced in PLATON+, therefore initiating a cycle of information collection, aggregation, transformation and re-dissemination in different forms and media (e.g. policy briefs).

The software infrastructure developed in ICONNECTEU is made freely available as open source software to third parties. Using the software for dissemination in other projects and for other research areas (also outside the social sciences) will significantly reduce the amount of technical resources needed. Collaboration with users of the software will lead to the development of new features, which can then be made available to all contexts in which DBClear is used. This maximises the investments of the European Commission and other funding agencies in whose projects the software is involved. Access to the software is realised by contacting the coordinator at the ICONNECTEU web site at http://www.IConnectEU.org.

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