UKCoRR members’ meeting, University of Portsmouth, 27 Jan 2012

Here are some notes on the first event held for UKCoRR members this year:

Four boats

As you probably know, UKCoRR is an entirely unfunded organisation which relies heavily on the time and energy of its members, and on the generosity of universities to host our meetings – on this occasion our heartfelt thanks to the University of Portsmouth Library, and particularly to Andy Barrow and (associate university librarian) Ken Dick, for very kindly putting us up and keeping us fed and coffee-ed, and for Ken’s warm welcome at the start of the meeting.

This was a very well-attended event: nearly 50 UKCoRR members and invited guests, from as far afield as Edinburgh (350+ miles away)… and a packed schedule. So packed, in fact, that we probably didn’t leave enough breathing space. We’ll build in more rest breaks and time for gossip professional networking at the next meeting!

  1. Slides from all the presentations below will shortly be made available on UKCoRR’s slideshare account, at:
  2. Some of the speakers kindly agreed to be filmed, and videos will be made available at:

After Ken had welcomed us to Portstmouth, UKCoRR chair Gaz Johnson gave the first presentation of the day, with a science fiction gloss and a look at the possible future directions of UKCoRR. Gaz has already blogged about his talk. A few key points and questions:

  • The committee needs to consult with members, and these members’ meetings are a good way of doing that!
  • Our priorities (validated by the user survey, 2011) should be best practice exchange, lobbying, and advocacy;
  • Is our lack of a membership fee our USP? It means we’re beholden to no-one, we don’t have to serve anyone’s agenda (other than our members’), and it makes it easier to avoid conflicts of interest…
  • …but it’s worth considering what we could do differently if we were funded;
  • Should membership of UKCoRR bring with it certain responsibilities?
  • Aren’t repositories generally understaffed in the UK?

Next up, Andrew Dorward of EDINA on the UK RepositoryNet+ project to build “a socio-technical infrastructure to support repositories”. Andrew gave an overview of the original RepositoryNet project, and the ongoing aim to build shared services for repositories. Recently, the new project interviewed a range of UKCoRR members, Open Access publishers, members of ARMA, and active researchers about the repository landscape — broadly, those interviews validated the current approach to services — but Andrew noted that in repository “ecology“, there is some room for drawing together the range of services (search, deposit statistics, etc.) into fewer but more comprehensive tools. He also talked about the growth in OA publishing since the launch of PLoS in 2003: see doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001235.t001

Last up before lunch, Marie-Therese Gramstadt from the University of the Creative Arts gave us an update on the Kultivate project, the advocacy and decision-making toolkits, and the associated Kultur II group, sharing best practice in repository design for creative and visual arts research. Asked to show hands, about half the UKCoRR delegates had arts researchers ‘at home’ – about the same number of people also expressed an interest in continuing the work of Kultur II. Some Kultivate links:

After lunch – the lightning talks!

  • Talking about a new strategic marketing project for WRAP (the University of Warwick’s repository) – Yvonne Budden explained the need to revamp the repo’s image, and how WRAP piggybacked on a wider redesign project at Warwick and used an interesting methodology from the Kay Grieves at the University of Sunderland, summarised as: (1) Match services to users (2) Transform services into benefits (3) Translate benefits into messages! Freebie materials (highlighter pens, etc.) are being used as bribes to encourage depositors to take the message of the repo back to their colleagues. A really striking new black-and-yellow colour scheme!
  • Matthew Smith from the University of So’ton, on the EPrints Shelves project. Building a tool to give users more control over how results from their repository are displayed on author profile pages, etc., by allowing people to log in and add/remove items from a ‘shelf’. Those ‘shelves’ can then be exported using normal EPrints export tools. Shelves should be released to the EPrints Bazaar soon. Lots of interest in the room about this plugin!
  • Tracey Kent on the use of a “request a copy” for e-theses at the University of Birmingham. Birmingham offer four options for access to e-theses: from [1] “full OA” through to [2] “request a copy” (with theses available through EThOS), [3] a more limited request (excerpts only; not on EThOS), and finally [4] fully-embargoed theses. They went from around 2,500 thesis requests per year to more than 250,000 requests/yr., with ~88% on some kind of Open Access (options [1] or [2]).
  • Margaret Feetham of Southampton Solent University talked about running their mixed-economy repository (research, student work, university publications) …with (very familiar to UKCoRR members!) little budget and few staff. SSU practice unmediated deposit, with academics given training on copyright and licensing issues. Margaret explained how they’ve still managed to get an impressive deposit rate by engaging keen users and advocates, and by working with the university’s research services – with REF2014 as an attention-focuser!
  • From the STFC (Science and Technology Facilities Council), Catherine Jones explained how they are using CrossRef to create large numbers of (metadata-only) records in – scientific authors like the ability to use that repository’s quick & easy DOI import tool to deposit records, but are now pressing to be able to speed the process up even further. Challenges of recording articles with hundreds or even thousands of collaborators – not uncommon in some areas of physics!

A quick breather, then straight on to the first of two invited speakers to wind the day up:

Sarah Gould of the British Library on some of the changes in the pipeline for the EThOS service. There’s general recognition that some of the features of EThOS (e.g. the “checkout” process for supplying PDF copies of theses) are a bit old hat, and too rooted in old document supply processes. The limited metadata applied to many items in EThOS is also a barrier. EThOS are engaging a new development to drag the service kicking and screaming into the 21st century, and are also engaging on a big programme (working with the BL’s library systems vendors as well as with panels of librarians) to improve the quality and range of metadata. There was an interesting discussion at this point about the possibility of EThOS linking to copies of theses in institutional repositories, rather than/as well as holding digitised copies – what might that mean for the responsibilities of the BL and institutions to ensure preservation of access?

Bravely accepting the final slot of the day, Phil Barker of JISC CETIS on the world of Open Educational Resources (OERs). Another show of hands: fewer than 25% of UKCoRR members in the room have involvement with OERs (either through projects, or through working institutional OER repos). That’s not too much of a surprise: the issues involved in storing and managing repositories of OERs can be much more complex (multiple complex objects, quality control, metadata requirements, copyright and licensed re-use, the sheer number of people involved!) and many institutions have shyed away.

Phil talked about some of the motivators for universities to engage with OER, including the morals obligation of the university (“…charter to widen knowledge”), the role of OERs in marketing universities / acting as a shop window / leading to student recruitment, and the hope that the rigorous approach needed in creating of OERs will provide a beneficial ‘trickle down’ effect into the design and management of all educational materials. Some food-for-though OER links:

As always, there was a breathtaking amount of ‘stuff’ for us to get stuck into — useful advice, supportive discussions, and news of exciting work going on — and the recognised benefit of UKCoRR members’ meetings as being a refreshingly practical, non-threatening and safe place for repository staff to talk to people faced with the same problems every day. Keep your eyes peeled for the next couple of UKCoRR events planned for this year: looks like 2012’s going to be one of our busiest yet.

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