Elements at Virginia Tech: FAQs

Virginia Tech uses an activities data system to collect and manage information about research and scholarship, creative works, teaching, extension, outreach, and service activities.

Why use the Elements system? 

Information can be entered once and used to produce a variety of reports. Individual faculty members can produce an annual report, a promotion and tenure dossier, or a vita, for example. Faculty can make their works available to the public by depositing them into the VTechWorks institutional repository. Department heads, deans, and administrators can produce reports about the activities of faculty in their unit, including for accreditation purposes.

The Electronic Faculty Activity Reports Background presentation (PDF) provides some background on how Elements was selected for Virginia Tech's faculty data system.

What is Elements? 

Elements is the technology behind Virginia Tech Elements. Elements is a database system developed by Symplectic to collect information about faculty activities and make that information available for multiple uses, such as creating CVs, promotion and tenure dossiers, and annual faculty activity reports, showcasing scholarship through public-facing web profiles, and producing department, college, and university level reports. Elements also makes it easy for faculty members to deposit documents into VTechWorks, our institutional repository.

How does information get into the system? 

Elements imports information about publications from external databases such as Web of Science, PubMed, SSRN, and ArXiv.  Faculty members can also upload information about their scholarship from Google Scholar or EndNote. Information about teaching and sponsored research is imported from Banner. Faculty members can also enter information manually.

Who will have access to my data? 

Information a faculty member's profile page in Elements is visible to other Virginia Tech faculty members who have accounts in the Elements system. Individual activities can be hidden from the profile page by clicking on the "eyeball" icon.

Department heads and their designees have access to data on faculty in their respective department. Likewise, deans and their designees have access to data on faculty in their college, and the provost has access to data on all faculty. Assessment data is only available to designated reviewers, usually department heads or unit managers.

For more information, see the Elements Privacy Policy (PDF).

Do I need to fill in every blank on the screen? 

No, you only need to report the same data that you have included on your FAR in the past. Required fields are clearly indicated.

Why isn't the activity I entered showing up on my report? 

The first thing to check when an activity does not appear as expected on your report is the dates. Every activity must have a date associated with it in order to be included on a report, and the date of the activity must fall within the date range specified for the report. 

Date fields are at the bottom of most data entry screens. If an activity was a one time event but the data entry screen includes fields for start and end dates, just fill in the end date and leave the start date blank. If an activity is ongoing, enter a start date and leave the end date blank.

Keep in mind that the system is designed to produce a variety of reports in addition to the FAR, so you may enter some items that are not currently included in the FAR.

What is VTechWorks? ►

VTechWorks, Virginia Tech's open institutional repository, publicizes and preserves the scholarly work of Virginia Tech faculty, students, and staff: journal articles, books, theses, dissertations, conference papers, slide presentations, technical reports, working papers, administrative documents, videos, images, data sets, and more. Research in VTechWorks is given a persistent link or URI (uniform resource identifier), and is preserved by VT Libraries. Items in VTechWorks are available to the public and easily discovered in commercial search engines such as Google Scholar.

As of November 2018, VTechWorks has been added as a data source for publications in Elements. This means two things: first, items previously deposited in VTechWorks may appear in your “Pending” list for claiming or rejecting; and second, items that you have claimed may now appear as deposited in VTechWorks. You will notice the latter case primarily for open access journal articles and Extension publications.  

Email vtechworks@vt.edu to get help adding your content to VTechWorks or visit the Open@VT blog to learn about current VTechWorks activities.

What is ORCID? 

ORCID stands for Open Researcher and Contributor Identifier. It is a unique number that helps people and machines tell the difference between the Dr. Jane Doe who's an expert in Mechanical Engineering and the Dr. Jane Doe who's an expert in Latin American History. In a world where researchers and research publications have profiles in multiple systems (ResearchGate, Google Scholar, Web of Science and other scholarly databases, funder websites, and more), an ORCID is a crucial tool for linking people and research activities such as a grant proposal and the publications that emerge from it.

More information: 

What is Virginia Tech Experts? 

Virginia Tech Experts is a searchable profile system providing a public facing view of researchers, scholars, educators at Virginia Tech, along with their publications, research interests, teaching, and additional activities. You can search profiles by keyword or leave the search box blank and select 'Search' to browse profiles, and to see filtering options. For example, you can filter profiles by Unit / Department, by Availability to engage in activities such as: mentor graduate students, provide expert commentary, collaborate on research, speak on a panel, and more. You can also filter profiles by subject tags.

Virginia Tech Experts supports identifying potential collaborators and discovery of research, scholarship, creative works, and areas of specialization and expertise across disciplines. See the Experts Library Guide for more information.

How much historical data must I enter? 

How much historical data to enter is up to you.

For this year's annual report, you must enter data starting January 1. 

If you will need to produce a dossier for promotion and/or tenure in the next few years, you may want to enter all the information you will need to include in your dossier.

If your college or department has accreditation requirements that include several years of historic data, the college or department may ask you to enter data for that purpose.

Why can't Elements import from Google Scholar? 

Google Scholar does not make its data available for export into other systems. Google Scholar is also not transparent about its algorithms for data collection, but in general, we know that they scrape the entire web to identify 'academic objects,' which is why it is the most comprehensive data source for scholarly and creative works.

You can find more information about the limitations of Google Scholar in 4 reasons why Google Scholar isn’t as great as you think it is.

You can find information about how to use the platform advantageously on the Google Scholar Profile page of the Researcher Profiles & Identifiers Library Guide.

Users can manually import their publications from Google Scholar by downloading a BibTeX file from their Google Scholar Profile, cleaning up the records in a reference manager, and then importing it into Elements. Full instructions available on this Google slide.

What is Open Access (OA)? 

Open Access refers to the removal of price and permissions barriers to peer-reviewed research. Open access can be achieved by:

  1. Publishing in an open access journal
  2. Archiving scholarly and creative works in a repository, such as:
    1. Preprints
    2. Author Accepted Manuscript of a published journal article
      1. Permissible for immediate deposit in VTechWorks under the Virginia Tech Open Access Policy
    3. Conference papers
    4. Technical reports
    5. Presentation slides
    6. Much more 

Virginia Tech Libraries has more information about open access at Open Access: OA Overview.

Why don't the activities I just entered show up on the publications histogram? 

The publications histogram is updated overnight. Activities entered today will show up on the histogram tomorrow.

What are Records of Impact? 

Records of Impact are a way for faculty to provide a narrative about their work, link the narrative to activities recorded in the system such as grants and publications, and attach documentation of the impact of their work outside the academy. Records of Impact are sometimes programmed into faculty annual report (FAR) templates for some colleges. Records of Impact are not currently included in the Promotion and Tenure Dossier template report. We are exploring how these might be included in additional reports in the future. Faculty who work in extension and faculty who produce creative works are particularly interested in this functionality.

Who can see my profile page? 

Anyone with an account in the Elements EFAR system can see your profile page. Currently this includes all instructional and research faculty and some administrative and professional faculty at Virginia Tech, as well as extension agents at Virginia Tech and Virginia State University.

In the future we will use data in Elements to feed public web profiles visible on the internet. For more information on how to control access to your data, see the Elements Privacy Policy (PDF).

Why are my citations lower in Elements than in Google Scholar? 

Google Scholar is considered one of the most, if not the most, comprehensive source of data for scholarly outputs, though their data is often incomplete. However, Google Scholar is better at identifying scholarly outputs from non-journal sources and in more non-English languages and from the Global South than commercial databases. In a 2019 analysis of Google Scholar, Scopus, and Web of Science (Martin-Martin et al., Google Scholar, Web of Science, and Scopus: a systematic comparison of citations in 252 subject categories (PDF), Journal of Informetrics, vol. 12, no. 4, pp. 1160-1177), the authors found that "Most citations found only by GS were from non-journal sources (48%-65%), including theses, books, conference papers, and unpublished materials. Many were non-English (19%- 38%), and they tended to be much less cited than citing sources that were also in Scopus or WoS."