Researchers, institutions, funders, and publishers face many metadata challenges across the research lifecycle. For example, it can be difficult for authors in the scholarly communications ecosystem to easily find collaborators, identify potential conflicts of interest, authenticate to content, and secure open access funding.

To help address this issue, CCC and Media Growth Strategies collaborated to study metadata management. Our in-depth review expands upon the existing research and resources to uncover policy and system complexities as well as breakages that create missed funding and access opportunities for the communities that open access and open science models are designed to serve.

This is the second in a series of blog posts in which CCC shares this analysis with the scholarly community to spark dialogue and drive action with respect to metadata management during each stage of the research lifecycle. We explore the challenges of each stage, how each stakeholder group is affected, and the impact when these challenges persist.

The first blog in this series looked at the metadata challenges researchers and stakeholders face during the idea development and proposal preparation stages. In this blog, we examine the interactions between researchers and funders during the proposal submission stage. 

Inconsistent Metadata Capture Leads to Ineffective Grant Utilization

During the proposal submission stage, researchers submit applications for funding. The potential funder then selects reviewers and begins the application review process. If the application is approved, the funder will log funding terms in its grant management system.

Interviewees shared that one of the major challenges that emerges during this stage is inconsistent metadata capture. Variability across the grant application process and within its systems can result in the loss of the metadata that’s necessary to determine open access funding entitlements at later stages of the research lifecycle, e.g., institutional affiliations. 

Poor data quality also results in low accuracy of later-stage funding identification and tracking. Poor data quality is often due to limitations of legacy systems and/or lack of awareness. While the free text fields in these systems may facilitate the collection of feedback, they do not automatically capture granular data like organizational identifiers. This inadequate data capture can lead to inaccuracies later in the publication process – for example, researchers confusing proposal numbers with grant IDs. Without disambiguated grant and funder details, grants may not be effectively utilized, leaving open access funding unclaimed and shifting payment obligations to research institutions and/or researchers themselves.

In addition, the lack of registered grant DOIs makes it difficult and costly to link funding to specific research outputs. This results in missed open access opportunities as well as incomplete analysis to inform future funding investments. 

Lack of Systems Interoperability

During the proposal submission stage, we also see multiple systems that need to come together to support the research process. Researchers depend on a variety of systems to do their work, but the systems don’t always work together. Our research found that missing integrations among the systems that researchers use (e.g., CRIS, grant management, curriculum management systems, etc.) often result in gaps in metadata and PID capture. 

Legacy System Limitations Threaten Research Integrity

Another challenge comes when funders select reviewers and begin to review the application for funding. When there’s low adoption of standardized Persistent Identifiers (PIDs) such as FundRef, RAiD, Ringgold, ISNI, and ROR, the process of identifying and managing conflicts of interest among peer reviewers becomes more challenging.  

Guide to Metadata Management Across the Research Lifecycle

While researching metadata management during each stage of the research lifecycle, a key artifact CCC developed by leveraging the data and the insights we gained from this study is an interactive report. This report guides you through metadata management—highlighting the challenges, related impacts, and key decision points. The report also offers the opportunity for you to provide your own input and feedback. 

In our next blog post, we discuss the metadata challenges faced by researchers during the Research & Authoring stage. To learn more, please visit The State of Scholarly Metadata: 2023 and provide your input through the Feedback function. 


Author: Jamie Carmichael

Jamie Carmichael brings 20 years’ experience in publishing to her current role as Senior Director, Information & Content Solutions, at CCC. In this position, she leads go-to-market strategy for CCC’s open access portfolio, including RightsLink for Scientific Communications and OA Agreement Intelligence.

Author: Jessica Thibodeau

Jessica Thibodeau is Senior Director, Information & Content Solutions at CCC. In this position, she is responsible for the strategic direction of CCC’s Ringgold portfolio and go-to-market efforts for products and services across the scholarly communications ecosystem.
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