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

Symplectic Conference

Laura and I attended Symplectic’s Conference earlier in the week, which featured a number of interesting presentations and some intriguing feature announcements. The presentations included:

  • An introduction to the VIVO Project, an initiative to create a network of scientific researchers and enable discovery of those researchers’ publications. VIVO has a number of interesting features which we might look at here at City, not least the ability to create staff profiles.
  • An update on the DURA Project, which will synchronise users’ Mendeley accounts with Symplectic Elements, allowing easy addition of both metadata and full text to Elements, and hence to repository systems. This looks like an excellent feature development, though of course it will depend on City people using Mendeley. A quick search on Mendeley reveals about 20 City users of the system- not loads, but a start.
  • An introduction to Digital Science, a spin-off from the Nature Publishing Group, which is investing in many networked science start-up companies including Symplectic, and notably also Figshare and Altmetric, two companies we like!

The conference then heard from Symplectic CEO Daniel Hook, who outlined development priorities for Symplectic over the course of the next year. There were a lot of them, so I thought I would summarise some of the ones we’re particularly looking forward to here at City:

  • New data sources, including RePEc (actually available in the latest version of Elements, which we will be upgrading to soon), the British Library (book and chapter data?) and CrossRef (with the ability to pull through article-level metadata, hopefully)
  • User profiling and CV generation.
  • An upgraded user interface, featuring Symplectic’s snazzy new branding and the ability to customise look and feel. We’ll certainly want to make our Elements installation look more like the rest of City’s web presence.
  • Enhanced search, including via the API. This should assist us with outputting publications data to City’s web presence, particularly if and when a university-wide staff profiling system is put in place.
  • New reporting functionality. Reporting is already pretty good in my opinion, but any way to improve this is to be welcomed. Hopefully a report scheduler will be added.

The afternoon was taken up with a focus group session, which involved answering some (tricky) questions about the functionality of the REF module, which will hopefully help make that part of the system more user friendly.

All in all, a really good event, which looked at the bigger picture, but also promised some exciting developments for Elements over the course of the next year. It was also heartening to hear about Symplectic’s commitment to its software interacting with repository systems, something that is always high on our agenda here at City.

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Business as usual

I became conscious we’ve not updated this blog in a while. This is because it has been business as usual, getting hold of and adding content to City Research Online. We’re now up to over 300 papers in the open access repository- not bad, considering in August we had nothing!

A few pieces of work we have in hand, or will be looking at in the New Year are worth mentioning:

  • Further integrating data from Symplectic and Eprints into City’s web presence, specifically the Research area of City’s website. We’re currently working on a publications search, allowing users to query our holdings in both Symplectic and Eprints.
  • In the New Year, we’ll start looking at using City Research Online to store and serve City’s PhD theses. This will be an interesting piece of work- the infrastructure side should be relatively straightforward, but the policy side of things (including intellectual property issues) will be more challenging.
  • We’re going to be examining whether Gold OA is something that we need to be more actively supporting at City, particularly in light of recent government pronouncements on this issue.
  • I would also like to do some scoping of the extent to which City is producing working paper series (I know of at least a couple), and if and how we might archive these series, or even support their publication.

Seasons greetings to our readers, see you in the New Year!

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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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