Research groups, membership and clusters of research content

 This page describes the current status of Pure support for research groups and centres, membership mapping, and keyword-driven lists of research. This approach was adopted in summer 2019.


There are a several drivers for research groups to be modelled in University systems. To date, Pure has been used to support groups in two areas. The first area is to create or support a group’s website presence and group promotion. The second area is for research analysis and intelligence, to build a picture of a group for strategic and operational decision making purposes. 
  • Pure doesn't meet functional requirements for modelling groups and group membership. Groups are difficult to manage in Pure and become inaccurate without constant attention and editing. Furthermore, the association of a person with a group can have unintended and detrimental consequences on Pure research content as it associates each member’s entire research portfolio with each group they are affiliated with.
  • Explore Bristol Research (EBR) is not an integrated part of the University's web architecture.  It is a stand-alone catalogue of research and an end point.  Attempts to make EBR part of a research group web journey have been unsatisfactory and have led to confusion. EBR is therefore not an appropriate place host a research group web presence.
  • Several web-related projects are underway, including a refresh of external web profiles.  This will include an analysis of the University’s information architecture and user journeys and, we hope, a more robust approach to supporting research groups. We await the outcome of this analysis.
  • Pure cannot meet the University’s broad range of needs for management reporting information.  A better strategy is to have a purpose-built data warehouse where management information from several sources can be housed and queried from. A programme to address management information needs across the University’s business areas is currently being explored. 

End of support for Pure research group organisations 

The Pure team no longer support research group as organisations in Pure.  This includes

  • No new groups as organisations or new roles to support existing groups (including membership)
  • No creation of public group pages on Explore Bristol Research or the addition of the group on the EBR organisation hierarchy
  • No editing of existing group member lists or other details

We are not removing existing groups and centres from Pure, and instead are working on each group or collection of groups as staff contact us with related requests and questions. This means:

  • Existing group pages will continue to appear on Explore Bristol Research and within its organisation hierarchy, as a legacy
  • The group-organisation widget that generates a list of publications on T4 websites will continue to function, as a legacy, for any groups that already exist and that are public on EBR
  • When staff contact us with queries about their group/s in Pure, we will offer to remove the existing information and/or member list. Where appropriate, we will also offer a keyword so that group-related research can still be collated in Pure

The only exceptions to the end of support are University and Specialist Research Institutes which we will continue to support in Pure. 

Keywords to cluster research content  

Pure is the appropriate place for tagging research content (eg publications, activities, projects) into discrete categories.   Pure structured keywords are a controlled taxonomy of terms. They are easy to use by researchers and tagged content is easy to filter and report on. However, they cannot be re-named, deleted, or organised within a deep hierarchy.   

Operating process for structured keywords

  • The Pure team will continue to create structured keywords on request.  These can be related to a theme or area of interest (eg Brexit, TEF) or they can relate to a research group/centre
  • Researchers can use keywords to tag their work. This creates a list of research in Pure and on Explore Bristol Research. Keyword tagging user guidance is available
  • Lists of research can be linked to or (in the case of publications) embedded on T4 sites via a widget. The Web Editor team are responsible for advising on and building T4 widgets that use keyword lists
  • Once Pure keywords have been used, they cannot be removed or renamed
  • If a School or Faculty wish to control the list of research group keywords, they should identify a member of management staff (eg a School or Research Manager) to coordinate with the Pure team on the structured keywords. If there is no coordination of keyword names then issues can occur (eg duplications, name disputes etc), which the Pure team cannot mediate. 
  • If you would like a structured keyword to cluster content for online lists, please contact the Pure team

Research projects versus research groups

Note that research projects (funded or unfunded) are distinct from research groups in Pure. Rather than using keywords, research content should be clustered around a project using relations.  
As well as appearing on Explore Bristol Research, relating outputs to projects in Pure can be useful for project/funder reporting purposes.

Research Groups and REF

There are 2 places in the REF that the research groups may be used: (i) to record up to 4 research groups that a member of staff may belong to. Panel A (health & life sciences) encourages this and Panel B (science and engineering) allows it; (ii) in the UOA-level environment statement, where: "...submissions should explain any distinct groups or units covered, particularly where discrete organisational units form part of a single submission. Neither the existence of research groups, nor their absence, is, in itself, considered significant by the sub-panels." In the environment statement, UOAs may have referred to either real (i.e. exist within a school) or combined-just-for-the-REF research groups.

In terms of needing to represent either real or combined-just-for-the-REF research groups on our websites, REF Panel Members will not look for additional evidence beyond what is submitted. The guidance on including URLs in environment statements is clear: "All the material required to make a judgement should be included in the environment template – no further reading should be required. URLs should only be included for the purpose of verifying or corroborating claims made in the submission. Panels will not follow URLs to access additional evidence or information to supplement the submission."