Repository Services?

Got to musing about this having read the report on the JISC funded White Rose project which had some interesting things to say about repository services.  Bit of a rushed post I’m afraid, but I thought it worth recording my notes

Clearly any services have to be derived from an understanding of the requirements of users. Why would they want to use a repository at all? How can the capture of research outputs contribute to a personal or institutional research profile?  How can it help grant holders fulfil grant related open access obligations. Of course the more services we can offer the more visible the repository becomes. 

Ideas included import of Refworks/Endnote databases or come to that bulk import of full text which would be useful because researchers are understandably reluctant to duplicate effort in creating metadata.  It would also be useful to share repository metadata with other internal and external systems. 

Some things we might want to consider that White Rose did – Researcher behaviour – investigate researcher awareness, motivation and workflow though a survey of  their existing archiving activity. 

Interoperability with other univ. systems (such as the library catalogue, Blackboard Content Store and so on) 

Advocacy at a departmental level, which might include production of regular statistical reports of downloads thus emphasising the benefits of using the repository. 

Offering a copyright checking service. (Well we do, sort of.) 

And to finish on a bigger question. Should the repository be a high profile service or should it be, in effect, invisible? I think the answer to that is that it starts high profile and then gets embedded. But how?

Even More Repository Advocacy

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)

Repository Advocacy

Just returned from an interesting day about repository advocacy hosted by Bradford University. This is relevant to us, because having set up a repository, (at considerable time and effort and expense) we want people to use it. I’m not going to regale readers with a long account of the day, rather to pick up on some useful themes that emerged.

If you want more details the slides from the presentations and notes from the breakout session are now available.

Firstly, what constitutes a successful repository? Well, one with a lot of stuff in it, obviously, but it also needs to meet user requirements which will of course vary according to who is using the repository. One of the presentations was from Julie Allinson and described how the repository software in use at York was meeting a very specific need, in this case, effectively digitising their slide library. Not every repository meets a specific need and one measure of success might be that there are more people using it and in doing so generating more funding. The challenge here is that researchers may be using content in the repository to generate bids, but not really acknowledging it, or even understanding that’s what they are doing. Ideally a successful repository should be deeply embedded in university structure. Another presentation from Shirley Yearwood Jackman explained how Liverpool University had created a role of repository editor and given this to fairly senior academic staff in the various departments. She admitted that this hadn’t worked everywhere, but where it had it had certainly raised the profile of the repository.

We will return to what constitutes effective advocacy later, but there was quite an interesting theme running throughout the day about what the barriers to a successful repository might be. Most of those present thought the very word “repository” itself was unhelpful, and were changing the name of their repository to something like “digital library” Personally I’m not totally convinced by this argument. I think pretending something is something other than it is can be counter productive in the long term. I do agree that the word repository isn’t all that familiar to many users (and sounds slightly medical) but “digital library” can have lots of other meanings, and in any case Lincoln already has an E-library. So if anyone’s got a better name, I’m listening. I suppose the main difference is that the repository is more a library of material produced by the University, whereas the e-library (at least at Lincoln) is mostly made up of things we’ve bought in.

But, that’s perhaps the least important barrier. Rather more to the point is the perennial lack of time, money and staff. There is a continuing need for the repository team to ramp up its efforts, be more structured for example be realistic about the resource that is likely to be required. Rachel Proudfoot from the White Rose Project (a collaboration between three Yorkshire Universities) reminded us that advocacy is much bigger than the project. So, what can we do to get started. One common approach is to mandate deposit, which essentially means that the University makes it a condition of research that material is deposited in the Repository. Rachel thought that this might have some benefit but a there was a danger in setting up a mandate before the university was ready for it. Mandates needs foundations or as she put it you have to have a mandate ready landscape. And you can expect some harrumphing. (At Leeds university about only about 70% of academic staff agreed that they would comply willingly, but equally only 8.5% said they would flatly refuse. A mandate might not lead to a huge rush of deposits, but she gave the example of Glasgow university where it has led to more demand for advocacy work – explaining what it’s all about.

The recommended strategy is to develop as many allies as possible, continue to use multiple routes, be clear about the benefits the repository will bring. Having some sort of demonstration package is worth a great deal. The key seems to be to finding evidence of the repository’s potential and using that to sell it to stakeholders (e.g. the repository as a marketing tool) Find out what pushes the stakeholders buttons. For example, it’s widely accepted that departments within a university have different needs, but so do researchers themselves. End of career researchers might be expected to be less interested than beginning researchers although there is some evidence that some see the repository as an excellent place for storing their academic legacy! But it is a good idea to work on the research students, and find ways to embed the repository into the research management process, even if this does fall short of a full mandate.

Finally there are some technical issues to consider. Metadata is essential to a successful repository but is not something that grabs the attention of many researchers. As Julie said, many academics believe they don’t need or want it but THEY DO! There was some discussion of commercial products such as Symplectic, but nobody present had actually implemented them (I have to admit I hadn’t actually heard of them before, but their web site does look interesting).Another issue that few of those present had been able to address was interoperability with other Campus systems. Ideally, a researcher should be able to add something to the repository from Blackboard with a single click but we are some way away from that yet. Finally, there is the issue of preservation. Most of us are happily using PDFs for our documents but there’s no guarantee that this format will last any longer than any other digital format has done, so although we claim that the repository is a permanent home, for research materials we need to ensure that we have addressed this issue if our advocacy is going to be credible. There was some inconclusive discussion about whether we should adopt the PDF/A format which is designed for longer term archiving.

A very useful day, which if it didn’t provide any instant solutions, probably on account of there not being any, did focus my mind on the fact that while we might have completed the JISC project, the work is really only just beginning.