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News about City University's open access repository, philosophical musings about Open Access

Open Repositories 2012 – brief conference report

A couple of weeks ago I attended Open Repositories 2012 in Edinburgh. The conference is the big event for anyone interested in open access technology and policy, and it had over 450 delegates from more than 40 countries in attendance. It featured a packed schedule, and I’ll post further over the course of the next week or two with musings upon this. For far more comprehensive overviews of the conference, see the incredibly full accounts of various sessions from the conference’s in-house liveblogging team; Natalia from LSE Library’s posts (part 1, part 2); Nick from UKCoRR’s reflections; and Yvonne from Warwick’s thoughts.

In yet more shameless self-publicity, I gave a paper on the Friday morning of the conference in the Eprints User Group strand, immediately before hopping on a train back to London. It was on our set-up here at City, and the extent to which we’ve managed to integrate City Research Online with the rest of the University’s systems. You can see the abstract and slides in the open access repository, and I have also uploaded the slides to Slideshare.

Finally, a photograph, courtesy of Dave Puplett from LSE. It was taken at the Playfair Library, where a drinks reception was held. It’s of me giving the thumbs up to my favourite philosopher and doyen of the Scottish Enlightenment, David Hume.

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One of these people is a renowned philosopher. The other isn’t.

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Open Repositories 2012- the excitement mounts!

Open Repositories 2012 is approaching, and I’m getting excited/ nervous, as I will be presenting a paper. It’s on our experiences here at City at coming to the repository game relatively late, and how to go about integrating repository systems with other university systems, policy and stakeholders given that situation. You can read the abstract of my presentation at City Research Online (I’ll update that record with slides when I’ve written the damn thing, which I will hopefully do tomorrow).

If you’re planning on attending the conference, I would encourage you to create a Crowdvine profile, which is a lightweight social network for delegates- you can see my profile here (warning: contains mugshot). Looking forward to seeing repository types in Edinburgh!

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Repository Fringe 2011- day two

Earlier in the week, I blogged about day one of the Repository Fringe 2011. This post, logically enough, is about day two of that same event. Again, I add the caveat that this is a partial account, and that further details can be found on the Repository Fringe website.

The first session of the day was a set of presentations on the the JISC Repositories Takeup and Embedding programme. The presenters all gave good presentations about the wide range of projects which fall under this umbrella programme, but the session was stolen by the final presentation. This was delivered by Robin Burgess from Glasgow School of Art, who SANG A SONG. That’s right, a repository takeup and embedding song.

Next up was Mark Hahnel talking about his Figshare service. Mark was a PhD student at Imperial, who realised that there was no easy way to collate and share his figures, scientific data and results and other media. In response, he developed the Figshare service. It seems to me to be comparable to Mendeley, except that it allows collation and sharing of data rather than formal research outputs. Data curation and sharing has been something that repository-type-people have been grappling with for a while, but it seems to me that Figshare might be the “killer app” for this, given that it appears to be easy to use and has exemplary social media functionality, e.g. allowing users to provide feedback on data. Definitely a service to keep an eye on.

After lunch, there were some more round table discussion sessions. I picked the session “How Repositories are being used for REF & repository advocacy”, chaired by Helen Muir from QMUC. I volunteered to provide feedback to the conference on this, and here are the points that were raised by the group:

  1. There is the risk that the repository might be seen to be only for REF purposes. Further, there is a possibility that the repository might lose sight of its Open Access goal when focussing on REF matters.
  2. There are managerial issues in dealing with spikes in submission of materials.
  3. There is a risk that academics’ engagement with the repository could tale off post-REF, and a challenge in ensuring this does not happen.
  4. The possibility of automated harvesting of data from citations databases such as Web of Science or Scopus for REF purposes was discussed, and it was noted that there were problems with the subject coverage outside of STEM subjects.
  5. This led on to discussion of the possibility of back-filling of the repository as a result of REF work. It was noted that re-surfacing and re-purposing of data for REF purposes can make this data seem “fresh”, and demonstrate the good work done by the repository.
  6. The old info science problem of disambiguation came up, in relation to authors sitting in more than one department (where do they really sit?), and departments splitting, merging and disappearing. There seemed to be no easy answers to these challenges!
  7. Despite these challenges listed above (and others), there was a general feeling that REF provided a great way of engaging with the wider university, and that it was an important opportunity which repositories could not afford to miss out on. There was also the possibility that, if repositories don’t engage with REF, that the repository could be sidelined.
  8. The above notwithstanding, it was felt extremely important not to let the Open Access aspects of repositories to be lost.

Now, a shameless plug: I will be talking about REF matters at a forthcoming RSP event, called the Readiness for REF (R4R) Workshop, taking place in London on September 5th.

The closing keynote address was delivered by Professor Gary Hall from Coventry University. This was a refreshing break from the instrumentalist, utilitarian approach so often taken by repository people who (understandably enough) are interested in solutions. Instead, Hall talked about the politics of repositories (and not just the interminable Green vs. Gold OA arguments). He posited the idea that repositories and Open Access are interventions in the standard practices of publishers, and are hence politically radical. There was a lot more to Hall’s arguments, and I confess I didn’t take as many notes as I should have, but it was good to take a step back and think about the philosophy of Open Access. It was also rare to hear a presentation at a repository conference in which the names of Foucault, Nietzsche and Zizek are invoked!

All in all, Repository Fringe is an excellent conference, with its air of informality and the way it brings together a wide variety of repository people. Holding it in Edinburgh during the Festival gives it an extra something that other cities would struggle to emulate.

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Repository Fringe 2011- day one

Last week I attended the Repository Fringe 2011 conference in Edinburgh. Repository Fringe is intended to be a less formal alternative to the bigger repository conferences such as Open Repositories, in keeping with the festive air in Edinburgh during August. What follows is what I took from the conference, and is partial- there’s also a remarkably comprehensive live blog of the event on the Repository Fringe website and the event’s Twitter hashtag which will fill in the many gaps in my account.

The conference kicked off with a presentation from Eloy Rodrigues from the University of Minho in Portugal. He summarised the work that he and colleagues had been doing to foster the growth of repositories in Portugal, and to create a truly national infrastructure. This has been done to an admirable extent, with a Portugal-wide aggregator called RCAAP, a repository for Portuguese researchers without a home institution, and a service aggregating Brazilian and Portuguese repositories to create a portal by which all Portuguese language OA material can be accessed (now incorporated into the main RCAAP service linked to above).

The presentation made me consider the way in which smaller nations (off the top of my head I thought of Ireland, Wales, the Netherlands, Australia and colleagues on Twitter added Norway, Belgium, Slovenia, Denmark; there are probably others too) can organise national infrastructures in a way that larger and perhaps more disparate nations have problems in so doing. Portugal, Australia and the Netherlands are particularly good examples of nations that have linked repositories directly to governmental research dissemination policy at a national level.

Next up was Thomas Krichel, talking about the Author Claim project. Author Claim is an attempt to crack the name disambiguation nut, a long-standing problem for research management. The service allows authors to “self-disambiguate” their research outputs, incidentally a model we at City are using for the repository project. This is great, but left me wondering about the various projects out there looking at these issues, and how they relate to one another (Names, ORCID etc. etc.). If anyone can point to any guidance on this, I would be most grateful- perhaps a topic for a future UKCORR meeting or similar?

The afternoon saw a round-table session on SWORD metadata package and standards, the lesson from which I took: there are as many metadata standards for transferring data as there are repositories! Following on from this were the always-enjoyable Pecha Kucha sessions. The two most interesting sessions (because I was unfamiliar with the projects) were those from Adrian Stevenson (UKOLN) on the LOCAH project, which is converting Archives Hub and COPAC data into freely available open linked data; and from Sheila Fraser (EDINA) on a project to mine OpenURL activity data to (amongst other things) suggest similar items to those discovered, and to track resource usage.

Then it was off to the rooftop of the Informatics Forum, which featured lovely views over the Crags and Arthur’s Seat, as well as the University district, for some drinks in the August sunshine.

A report on day two of the conference to follow!

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OAI7 Workshop, Geneva, 22 – 24 June 2011

I attended the OAI7 Workshop in Geneva last month, and now I have a blog I thought I would report back on it. I’ve picked out the most personally interesting or notable events below, but there were plenty of other good sessions as well as these. The event was also notable for the rather good social engagements, including a reception at the Globe, CERN.

Advocacy for Open Access within HE institutions (Monica Hammes, University of Pretoria)

Monica Hammes talked about how to get Open Access (OA) onto the agenda of university management. She began with the premise that “OA is obvious, so why hasn’t it become the norm?” She identified the specificity of universities, and their internal structures, stakeholders and politics as the explanation for this. Universities are “places of many agendas” when it comes to OA, including those of:

  • Researchers
  • University management
  • Research leaders
  • Readers/ repository end users
  • Library/ IT services
  • Funders

In this environment, an OA mandate focuses attention on the repository and associated services, but is not a “silver bullet” which automatically makes OA occur at institutional level. There is a need to keep OA on the agenda of senior university management, but this can be difficult when senior management has so many other demands and concerns. Ms Hammes identified the Research Office as a key ally in keeping OA on the university agenda, a position here at City we are fortunate to be in!

Embedding repository services and the “invisible repository” (William Nixon, University of Glasgow)

William Nixon’s presentation focussed on the ways repository services can be embedded in the broader work of the university in which it is based. The aim is to seamlessly integrate the repository with other services, in such a way that the repository becomes “invisible”, in the sense that it is so well integrated with other services that its clients (both academic colleagues and others) no longer even notice its presence. He noted a few points which pertain to us at City particularly:

  • Glasgow is attempting to get rid of the word “repository” from all of its documentation, on the basis that the term is not widely understood by academic colleagues.
  • Use of the term “mandate” when talking about OA is also perhaps unhelpful: Glasgow have used the phrase “publications policy”, since there are many policies which university members are expected to adhere to. Glasgow’s policy was created and implemented in close collaboration with the Pro Vice Chancellor for Research.
  • The cultural aspect of repository integration is very important, but must be underpinned by proper integration of the Current Research Information System (CRIS) and the repository, and the ability to inter-operate repository and other systems’ data. Silos of data and other information are things of the past!
  • There is a strong element of reputational management in handling research information; academic colleagues are understandably sensitive about the correct and accurate management of this information.

Mendeley: the elephant in the repository room (Victor Henning, Mendeley)

Mendeley’s founder, Victor Henning, talked about the inexorable rise of Mendeley, the research management software tool. He actually gave the exact same talk twice, which was rather cheeky, but it did highlight some very interesting points about Mendeley:

  • The service’s startling levels of growth- some 90 million papers have been uploaded to Mendeley in the last 18 months!
  • Its ambivalent attitude towards OA. Mendeley is agnostic toward the content it allows its users to upload to the service, and it would seem that more often than not these are the “published” versions of papers. There is no emphasis on provision of OA material, though as Southampton’s Les Carr has shown, there are significant amounts of OA content and sharing of scholarly material within the service.
  • Its “wild west” approach to copyright. Mendeley allows the sharing of scholarly articles within groups, meaning that uploading a PDF to the service is likely to infringe that article’s copyright. Henning’s response, when pressed, was that infringement of copyright was the responsibility of end users, not the service. This is a large topic, and one that can’t be examined in detail here, but I think it unlikely that repositories could take such an attitude towards the material with which it deals.
  • The emphasis on the “ego driven” nature of research sharing. In Henning’s view you have to demonstrate to researchers what’s in it for them before they will share research- to expect this to happen for altruistic reasons is unrealistic.

Henning’s talk was very thought provoking. Mendeley is in many ways a fantastic service, but its ambiguity on questions of OA and copyright pose some challenges to the OA community. It is positive, though, that Mendeley is engaging with OA events such as OAI7.

SHERPA CRIS plug-in tool (Peter Millington, Centre for Research Communications, University of Nottingham)

I talked to Peter Millington, a developer at SHERPA, during a break-out session. He has developed a plug-in which works with Symplectic (and should be easily switched on by Symplectic services). The plug-in runs a query against the repository holdings, and does the following within the Symplectic interface:

  • Where a paper is already present in the repository, it alerts the user to that fact.
  • Where a paper is not present, it runs a query for that journal title against the SHERPA RoMEO database, and returns the following results:
    • If the paper in question is eligible for deposit, the plug-in tells you this, and provides a button to upload a version of the paper.
    • If the paper is not eligible, a notice to that effect is displayed.

Peter’s poster can be viewed online. In my view, this could be an excellent way of fostering OA deposit to the repository.

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