The Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation has developed the Oman Research Portal, which is one of the national initiatives that aims to establish an integrated system to provide many electronic platforms and complementary tools to facilitate and enrich the research environment in the Sultanate of Oman.
The Oman Research Portal provides research services to researchers wishing to submit their research proposals within the programs of the Ministry. Through the portal, the researcher can submit their research proposal from anywhere with internet access. The results of the evaluation of the submitted proposal and evaluation reports can also be followed up through the portal. The researcher can access the portal if their institution is affiliated with the Ministry or if they are registered as independent researchers. The portal also provides statistics on the number of researchers registered in the Research Information Management System (RIMS) and the number of submitted and approved research proposals. The portal displays statistical information on the number of scientific publications, practical journals, industrial challenges and current research projects available as well.
Regarding the facilities provided by the Oman Research Portal, Eng. Nasser bin Ali Al Mandhari, Director of the Oman Research Portal Project at the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation, maintained that the portal facilitates the process of communication between users and research centers and institutions in the Sultanate. It also provides quick access to national and international research systems and easy access to research topics, publications and project outputs, in addition to presenting research-related news, research statistics, research projects and submissions, and more.
Research platforms within the Oman Research Portal
In regard to the platforms and programs available in the Oman Research Portal, Eng. Nasser Al Mandhari said that the portal contains many digital platforms and electronic systems that support scientific research, such as the Oman Research Repository (Shuaa), Oman Research and Education Network (OMREN), EJAAD, the National Equipment and Facilities Database (iLab), and Masader (Oman Virtual Science Library).
Eng. Nasser Al Mandhari added that the portal includes many research services such as the Taawun platform, which is an interactive platform that facilitates communication between researchers and those interested in research and innovation. The Research Information Management System (RIMS) is another service provided by the Oman Research Portal, and it is an electronic system for the integrated management of research support projects and programs and institutional and individual funding opportunities in association with the Ministry. Through RIMS, new and existing research projects are managed as well as funding requests, scientific publications, research reports and other related services are available for use by researchers from institutions affiliated with the Ministry electronically.
Furthermore, the Oman Research Portal includes the National Equipment and Facilities Database (iLab), which is a web-based system that helps researchers locate and learn about the available research equipment in the Sultanate to assist them in undertaking research and scientific measures. iLab displays the status of available equipment, how to request it, and the cost of its usage, and it aims to centralize and list all local research equipment and facilities to efficiently utilize available resources and optimize research activities.
The Oman Research Portal have added features to support the RIMS service, which is under trial, such as allowing research institutions from outside Oman to link electronically with the Ministry, linguistic proofreading, and discovering the percentage of plagiarism in the submitted research proposals in order to maintain the quality and originality of the proposals, in addition to having the automated assistant service, which allows users to obtain automated assistance in the event of having any difficulties in using the service.
A database is also being developed for research equipment purchased within the financial allocations for projects funded by the Research and Innovation Sector (formerly known as The Research Council), which will contribute significantly to avoiding wasting public money on buying the same equipment each time and avoiding overstocking of the same equipment. It will also help in sharing resources between research institutions, allowing institutions to benefit with one another and achieving financial profits.
The utilization of RIMS
The Oman Research Portal allows researchers to submit research funding applications online effectively at any time and place through RIMS. In regards to the service, Idris bin Said Al Hasani from the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation stated that the service provides researchers with information that tracks the status of the research support request and its various stages of evaluation, and it is equipped with a programmed alert or notification feature through e-mail messages. The service also allows evaluation committees in research institutions to receive proposals, evaluate them completely and request any modifications from the researcher electronically, in addition to having the ability to make decisions about whether to accept or reject the proposal. The external arbitrators (whether from Oman or abroad) who are registered in the system also receive the research evaluation request electronically with a specified period of time, and they are allowed to complete the evaluation process online and make any observations they have.
Idris Al Hasani added that during the research project implementation period, the research institution can manage the project financially and technically through RIMS, as well as submitting change requests (such as changing the research team or modifying the time period), in addition to submitting and evaluating performance reports electronically. The service has been designed with clear and unified paths for all programs that serve all users at the level of individuals as well as at the level of various research institutions.
Regarding the efficiency of the RIMS service during the COVID-19 pandemic and through remote working, Idris Al Hasani mentioned that 738 research proposals were submitted through RIMS for the Block Funding Program, while more than 400 research proposal were summitted for the COVID-19 Research Program during a limited timeframe through RIMS. Moreover, the number of beneficiaries of the Oman Research Portal reached 57 beneficiaries, while the number of researchers registered in the system reached 16560 and the number of arbitrators reached 4956. As for the number of projects funded, it has reached 1229 projects so far. The Oman Research Portal also contains 1711 publications, 1374 scientific journals, 561 research projects and 68 challenges.