Today, along with Paul Stainthorp from the library I attended another Repository Advocacy meeting, this time at the University of Northampton. Regular readers might begin to think I don’t do anything other than travel to exotic locations as my last post was on the same theme. In fact that’s all I have done about advocating our repository, and today’s session was really useful in that it convinced me that we really ought to get moving on this. We’ve spent a lot of time (and quite a lot of JISC and the University’s money) on establishing the Lincoln Repository, and we need to do a lot more about getting it on to people’s radar.
The first two presentations were slightly technical in nature. Firstly we had Les Carr from the University of Southampton talking about repository statistics, and how they can be used to illustrate the success of an e-print once it’s in the repository. While I won’t reproduce the whole talk here, (essentially he reviewed a number of statistical services including Google Analytics and IR stats) I do want to note the point he made that once people start to link to an e-print, the number of hits it gets can grow exponentially, especially if it becomes an external reference on a wikipedia page. And of course if bibliometrics are going to be used in the next Research Assessment exercise, that becomes a very good reason to deposit your paper in the repository, as you’re likely to get lots of citations. (And no, you can’t just edit Wikipedia pages to add your links. That would be spamming and Wikipedia has ways of preventing that.)
Les was followed by Stuart Lewis from the University of Aberystwyth who talked about ways of making your repository useful to search engines. There were some things that really ought to be obvious, such as ensuring that your title is spelled correctly, and that your title contains the words people will use to search for it. I was also interested to note that “funny” titles tended to get lower hit rates. He also drew our attention to sitemaps which is a useful tool to help webmasters get search engines to pay more attention to their sites.
Something else that is recommended is to make full use of the infrastructure surrounding repositories, such as OAISter which is a sort of union repository and Ethos Again, I don’t want to write an overly long post, but if anyone wants more details of either of these presentations, I can supply some notes I took in the session, and as I did with the Bradford day, if the slides and notes are made available I will add a link to the site here.
As far as presentations were concerned that was practically it. We then had a lengthy discussion about what constituted a successful repository, from the point of view of a researcher, a repository administrator and a university manager, and of course there were as many points of view as there were people present. The general feeling was that a successful repository was a tool that enhanced a researchers’ career by making their work available, but without requiring too much work on the part of the researcher, that did not require huge amounts of the time of repository staff to be spent either on training colleagues, or on depositing material, and that a senior manager could show off as a sort of “shop window” for the university.
While all of this is true, and very relevant, it brings me to the point of this blog post. None of this will happen if people don’t know about the repository. We must make a huge effort raise awareness of the repository among colleagues. I came away convinced that we do have to produce some high quality publicity material, and have a high profile launch. (Northampton had had a very successful launch party, even featuring a “repository cake” Click here for more information on the party!)
We then spent an interesting hour reviewing the various advocacy materials people had brought with them. Some of these were professionally produced, others done in house and a variety of tools were used – newsletters (we really MUST get something in Contact), posters, photographs, web sites, Flyers, Frequently Asked Questions lists and so on.
Of course, these things in themselves won’t bring about a vibrant community of repository users. On the other hand, not doing them, seems a guaranteed way of condemning the repository to a quiet existence on the sidelines of the university’s information environment. They are a first step to making the repository a sustainable part of the academic process, and they are high on the “to do” list that I made as part of the last exercise. The day being a very practical sort of day we all had to do this, and it was quite interesting to compare mine with Paul’s. One thing we both had on our lists was to create a presentation on the repository for use in staff development sessions. So that’s another thing I’ve got to do. But I’ve also got lots of other things to do, including finding some money for a few brochures and so on. But there’s also things like finding out what’s happening with installing our own IR stats package, seeing what is happening in relation to the repository at the Research Policy Steering Committee, looking at what if anything, I can do with the CERD web page and portal sites to promote the repository, and seeing what we can do to get more involved with the national infrastructure.
But, a very good and useful day, and thanks to JISC and the organisers (Miggie Pickton from Northampton, and Jenny Delasalle from Warwick)