City Open Access

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

City Research Online & IRUS-UK

Regular readers of this blog will know that we like our stats here at City Research Online. Therefore, when we were approached by representatives of the IRUS-UK project, we leapt at the chance to participate.

The JISC-funded project is intending to set up a national infrastructure to aggregate and disseminate institutional repository (IR) download statistics, thereby demonstrating the vital importance of IRs in the scholarly communications landscape (and by extension, the importance of Green Open Access). These statistics will also be COUNTER-compliant, meaning they can be reported on to SCONUL and other interested parties. The statistics gathered will be freely available and re-usable, in the spirit of the openly accessible IRs on which they report.

For us, the project is a chance to be involved in (and perhaps in a small way influence) the early stages of a project which is likely to be an important piece of infrastructure. It also will provide a way to verify the statistics we gather from our in-house tools (Eprints’ IR Stats package and the ubiquitous Google Analytics), and to benchmark ourselves against other institutions. The early indications are that the other four participating institutions (Bournemouth, Cranfield, Huddersfield and Salford) receive LOTS of downloads compared to us, but then they are all larger and more established than us.

I’ll blog about this project more in future, when we have more to report upon.

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Making systems talk

We’re currently in the process of asking our Symplectic Elements current research information system (CRIS) talk to ePrints, our repository software. The idea is that academic colleagues should be able to upload full text versions of research directly to the CRIS, at which point the item gets cross-walked into ePrints automatically. This gives a one-stop-shop for academics wanting to manage their research profile and open access material, and makes administering the workflow seamless for those of us behind the scenes. Fantastic: a seamless service for academics and for administrators, and a sound basis on which to set up a  new repository.

The problem seems to be actually getting this to happen. It has proved difficult to get the necessary code from Symplectic to pass to ePrints to make the cross-walk happen; then there were issues with opening up the server ports, as City’s network security people were (quite justifiably) interested in what systems were being given network access and why; and now we think it’s possible that when Symplectic uploads records to ePrints, it may overwrite material already there (fine if these are just test records as currently, not so good if genuine records we create in ePrints down the line get over-written).

None of this is to point the finger of blame, and I’ve actually not had to manage any of this directly (my colleague Andrew has had that pleasure). The point seems to me to be that systems architecture is difficult, and particularly so when you’re trying to manage a  bi- or tripartite relationship (in this case Symplectic, City, and ePrints). If I were to draw a lesson from all this it would be, in a project setting, to always factor in plenty of time to allow for delays in making these relationships work, because things never run as smoothly as one would like.

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