Thursday, 15 October 2009

Edinburgh Repository Fringe 2009

"Beyond the Repository Fringe" was held on 30th and 31st of July in the beautiful city of Edinburgh. This followed on from last years successful gathering and was aimed at an audience of repository developers, managers, researchers and administrators to see how the Repository landscape is developing and what new techniques and ideas are on the horizon.

The event kicked off with a welcome from Sheila Cannell, Head of Edinburgh University Library Services. Sheila highlighted the current financial crisis and suggested that this may act as the catalyst to trigger real changes in methods of scholarly communication - will this alter the balance between journal publications and open access?

The opening Keynote was given by Ben O'Steen and Sally Rumsey from Oxford University. We had an interesting view of the history of the Bodleian Library - "an arc to save knowledge" - and the parallels with today's institutional repositories. Ben emphasised Clifford Lynch's idea of repositories as a set of services and like the internet they should be distributed across a number of nodes. So the idea of a single stand alone repository is on its way out. He also explained the importance of linked data and connections between 'things' on the web - RDF provides a framework for this. Sally summed up by saying that repositories are moving forward but it will be a slow incremental change and we are waiting for simplification of processes especially deposit and collaboration between IRs and publishers. My view is that technically, SWORD has gone a long way to simplifying deposit but there is a demand for auto-completion of metadata.

The rest of the morning session was taken up with a series of entertaining Pecha Kucha presentations which consist of 20 slides displayed for exactly 20 seconds each. James Toon from University of Edinburgh gave an interesting overview of the ERIS project which builds on the successful IRIScotland pilot. The aim is "to develop a set of user-led and user-centric solutions that will motivate researchers to deposit their work in repositories, facilitate the integration of repositories in research and institutional processes". There are strong parallels here with the WRN and RSP and we are already planning to link up and discuss possible ways collaborating.

Les Carr spoke about "Repository Challenges" and covered the themes of service integration, e-learning and the need for repositories to be efficient and effective and to "Pimp our research ride"! He also suggested that repositories are like a box of Lego so that you can put data together as lots of modular components. Richard Jones gave us an overview of Repository Tools that his company Symplectic have developed and Julian Cheal from UKOLN then gave an award winning insight in to his Adobe Air deposit tool. Rumour has it that the bottle of whiskey he won for his entertaining and informative presentation was finished off that evening during a lively debate!

Hannah and I presented an overview of the WRN project, how we aim to work with other groups and projects, offer support for partners and the e-Theses project. Joyce Lewis from Southampton told an interesting story about how repositories can be used in Marketing by creating a narrative that links to items. We also heard from William Nixon & Gordon Allan about the interesting work being done in Glasgow University by the Enrich project which aims to bring disconnected research elements together. They highlighted the fact that the research lifecycle includes a short burst of publishing but there is a lot of unpublished work and that repositories and research systems can no longer operate in isolation.

There were two parallel afternoon sessions: "Show and Tell" and a DataShare meeting. The "Show and Tell" kicked off with Morag Watson from Edinburgh University telling us about her experiences with Open Journal Systems (OJS) which is being used by libraries for publishing and managing journals at low cost. It is open source, has a flexible design, can be installed locally and is easy to use and administer. Hugh Glaser from Southampton University then took up the earlier theme of the Semantic Web by showing us how open data can be linked when identified by names. He concludes by asking can you reliably match your publications to a consistent author id?

Fred Howell gave a very interesting overview of the EM Loader project which connects publicationslist.org to the Depot, a nationwide repository being run by EDINA. Publicationslist.org allows you to maintain personal publications lists and the metadata can be used to deposit items via SWORD. They also included a PubMed search to allow authors to find papers. Daniel Hook of Symplectic then described their system for automatic aggregation of data from key data sources to automatically generate lists of publications. Again the motivation here was to encourage authors to manage and deposit their research output by lowering the barriers and providing incentives in the form citation and usage statistics.

The second morning consisted of Digital Curation Centre network meeting and a series of Tutorials and Round Table discussions. The first of the Round Table discussions "Practical impact and experiences of institutional OA mandates for IRs" was hosted by Helen Muir of queen Margaret University. Not surprisingly researchers and academics tend to resent the pressure applied by the 'stick' approach of mandates and often it is better to emphasise the benefits of OA through the use of publications lists and Google Analytics etc. Of all those present for the discussion, without exception they used a mediated deposit process either through library staff or research administrators. Participants also expressed difficulty in getting 'final' versions but noted that targeting 'star' researchers tends to have a knock on effect.

Ian Stuart from EDINA chaired the Round Table discussion on "Where will repositories be in 5 years time?" This produced a lively session which saw IRs providing the core management of data but becoming part of a wider research management processes and questioned whether current peer review practices would change.

The Closing Plenary was delivered by Clifford Lynch from the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) who spoke about repository services, the life-cycle of what goes in to repositories, and building and selling repositories. More on the Closing Plenary can be found here.

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