Non-traditional research outputs (NTROs) differ from traditional research outputs such as scholarly monographs or peer-reviewed journal articles. NTROs are frequently, although not exclusively, the product of creative or practice-based research projects and practices. There are indeed a wide variety of disciplines that create NTROs across the research lifecycle making it difficult to posit an exact and encompassing definition. NTROs are frequently the research products of different kinds of critical endeavour that see the development of new concepts, understandings, methodologies, often in new and creative forms.
Part of the challenge follows from defining NTROs in opposition to traditional publication outputs rather than working with a more inclusive definition of research outputs as an accessible presentation of research findings in their many forms and formats. Examples of NTROs given by the now discontinued Excellence for Research in Australia (ERA) include creative works, performance, recorded/rendered works, curated exhibitions or events, research reports, portfolios. NTROs can also include software, coding, website creation, databases, and commissioned reports of various kinds.
CAUL’s Advancing Open Scholarship Program has been focussed for the last 18 months on reaching beyond libraries and the higher education sector to advocate for a FAIR strategy for Australia. Open research sees the sharing and re-use of outputs with the wider community, helping to share research sooner, and supporting reproducibility. Many researchers are now looking to be as open as possible and as closed as necessary. The FAIR principles emphasise the Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability, and Reuse of research.
To date, the CAUL Advancing Open Scholarship Program has largely focused on publications and data. There is now an opportunity to extend this work to explore the role of libraries beyond the management of open publications and data, and provide guidance to CAUL member institutions on support for researchers working with NTROs.
FAIR and Open Non-Traditional Research Outputs
Dr Gary Pearce, Monash University Library
FAIR and Open Non-Traditional Research Outputs
Julie Clift, Curtin University Library
Peter Neish, University of Melbourne
Gary Pearce, Monash University Library
Piyachat Ratana, Macquarie University
Thomas Reeson, Australian Catholic University
Advancing Open Scholarship (FAIR)
Project Start Date:
Project End Date:
CAUL National Office Contact:
Dr Kate Davis
The following framework provides guidance to CAUL Member institutions about how to increase the proportion of NTROs by Australian university researchers that are appropriately described, archived, preserved and made accessible. The intended audience are those working within library services involved in planning, developing and delivering relevant library services in support of OPEN and/or FAIR NTROs.
The framework contains a high level of detail which is intended to capture the ideas and input from researchers, libraries and experts in the field. It is hoped that this will be part of its value as a resource. Libraries should, however, draw from the framework selectively according to resourcing, interest and opportunity. It is structured with different levels of maturity in mind and different tiered service options to draw on. The Framework is intended to provide guidance to CAUL member libraries about how to increase the proportion of NTROs produced by Australian university researchers that are appropriately described, archived, preserved and made accessible.
Pre-production, Production and Post-production phases
The Framework is structured according to different phases of ‘Pre-production’, ‘Production’ and ‘Post-production’. The Pre-production phase includes the ‘Plan’ elements and lists broader and general considerations in support of FAIR and OPEN NTROs, along with some early and initial considerations and decisions around key issues that should be part of thinking about a research project from the outset.The Production phase includes the ‘Create’ and ‘Output’ elements which cover some key issues arising from the conduct of research and the creation and generation of research outputs by researchers as well as issues associated with the management of research outputs. The Post-production phase includes ‘Communicate’ and ‘Engage’ elements including the promotion and dissemination of research outputs along with a focus on the impact, reach and engagement of these research outputs. Impact can range from academic impact to cross sectoral impact to wider societal impact.
Within each of the phases the framework is further structured according to different facets: the ‘Focus area’, the ‘Aims’ involved in focussing on and developing this area, broader ‘Advocacy/Enablement’ issues raised by this area, and finally, the ‘Tiered Service’ considerations.
Focus areas and broad content were identified from engagement with experts and stakeholders, researchers and academic libraries. Focus areas have been mapped to that part of the lifecycle where they become particularly prominent as concerns while recognising that many of these issues cross the different phases of the lifecycle.
The Framework outlines the aims associated with each focus area. It also considers a more general advocacy and enablement aspect that Libraries may want to consider, often relating to collaborations, policy, or infrastructure development.
The tiered approach to service support is designed to allow flexibility in how libraries develop services, eg:
Tier 0 - Self service
Website information, research guides, reference guides, repository FAQs, recordings and video
Tier 1 - Research support - Mediated service provided by general Library research services
Webinars, training and presentations, onboarding, promotional activities, front-line support
Tier 2 - Specialist assistance - Specialist service provided by Library specialists in areas like copyright, research data, metrics etc
The final part of each section includes resources that have been identified as good practice examples.
For each Focus area the framework potentially identifies maturity level categories of Introductory, Intermediate and Advanced/Aspirational for each of the facets. Maturity level category bands are largely defined by the project’s survey and interview feedback for what Australian university libraries are currently doing, currently implementing, or planning/forecasting/hoping to implement in the future (or is currently being conducted by advanced institutions). The maturity level designations for framework focus areas are an estimation of whether a focus area’s aspects (aims, advocacy/enablement, and tiered services) align with any of the following values for each category:
Is easily or already implemented by University Libraries; and/or
Requires only communications efforts (newsletters, announcements, inclusion in existing guides/class materials).
Can be implemented through a small project or resource development effort; and/or
Requires concerted development and implementation effort from a Librarian, Research Support Staff, and/or other Professional Services staff member/s.
Requires the establishment of a new role or the refocusing of an existing role’s remit; and/or
Requires University leadership buy-in to approve implementation, significantly redraft policy/procedures, and/or establish a new interdepartmental collaboration; and/or
Requires Universities to establish a new managerial group/committee to oversee implementation and ongoing conduct.
This along with the tiered service approach allows Libraries to consider and adopt different aspects of the framework according to their maturity level, resourcing and opportunity. Libraries that are new to NTRO support may wish to consider the introductory elements initially; the intermediate section is for those that have mastered the basics and wish to extend their support; and the advanced section is for those who already offer great support and wish to ensure nothing has been missed. Not every focus area has an Advanced/Aspirational category or even an Intermediate category. It should also be noted that there is no intended correspondence when reading the framework across the different facets within a maturity level category.
Research that involves Indigenous people and issues often intersects with a range of issues and focus areas associated with NTROs. The move away from more traditional research paradigms, is evident, for example, from the need to build the capacity of Indigenous communities to undertake and determine the kind of research that will benefit them as nations and communities as opposed to being the subject of research. The CARE (Collective benefit, Authority to control, Responsibility, Ethics) Principles, intended to complement the FAIR principles in the area of research data, bring important issues for the treatment of NTROs also. These principles posit that research enable Indigenous peoples to derive benefit, that Indigenous peoples’ rights and interests in Indigenous research be recognised, and that those working with Indigenous people have a responsibility to show how research outputs are used to support Indigenous peoples’ self determination and collective benefit, and that Indigenous peoples’ rights and wellbeing should be the primary concern at all stages of the research lifecycle.
There is still much work to be done in this area guided by the views and leadership of Indigenous researchers themselves. The framework attempts to signpost some of the considerations but is intended to be open to iteration and review as the general conversation around these issues develops
The FAIR and Open Non-Traditional Research Outputs Project was launched in November 2021. The Framework was published in October 2023. All information is current at the time of publication.
Except where otherwise noted, all content from FAIR and Open Non-Traditional Research Outputs Framework is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0) licence. Under the licence conditions, please attribute Libraries and Open Publishing Case Studies.