This Tuesday saw me down in London once again (a whole 4 days since my last trip down for CILIP Council) for the Symplectic User Conference 2011 at Hamilton House – so here are my notes – apologies for any typos as I was typing these on my knee!
The day was split in two with talks in the morning and workshops in the afternoon. Daniel Hook kicked off the day by announcing that Symplectic had partnered with Digital Science to work in the open science community.
The first speaker was Lorna Mitchell of the Brunel University talking about the BRUCE project. She mentioned BRAD (their Symplectic Elements) and repository BURA (which coincidentally I helped formally launch back in 2006). They have linked BRAD and BURA together, although they noted that this was a longer process than they expected. They both a mandate, of which many academics remain unaware, but also a OA publishing fund for researchers to bid to for OA publishing.
BRUCE was a JISC funded project. Their aim was to facilitate the analysis and reporting of research information from existing data sources, using a CERIF framework. It brings together a lot of different sources of information from across the university system and generates bespoke reports based on them. While the focus is often the REF, there are other university management areas of interest for the outputs.
The next speakers (Sarah Mallory, Rachel Proudfoot and Nicola Cockarill) spoke about the RePosit project (I’m on the expert group for this one). The aim of the project was to increase the engagement with repositories to generate more content for them. A lot of the focus was on advocacy but also to engage with the repository community as well. The project has 5 HEI and one commercial partners, using one CRIS and 5 different implementations. The question they asked was does simplifying the process of deposit increase the level of ingest for the IR. At Queen Mary part of their problem was low visibility, and so their engagement with stakeholders aimed to get them up the agenda. Embedding it within college strategies was key in this respect.
Plymouth rolled out their SE alongside their repository (PEARL) – but noted it was tricky in terms of time. Not for the first time we head about how much of a time sink setting up crosswalks between SE and the repository has been too; something I know will occupy a lot of my time in the coming months. Plymouth are considering moving to a self-deposit model, as they feel this mirror the model of staffing and library service. However, noted that speaking with other repository managers Emma noted that there were various concerns to address. Their advocacy was met with mixed reception, some were very enthusiastic. For others though they struggled to see where it fitted in with their research outputs. However, illuminating academics with the knowledge of how restrictive (or not) publishers in their sector are with open access is a role all subject librarian staff should be very experienced and engaged with. Highlighting metrics of downloads and demonstrating that students want or indeed expect to be able to download their local academics research from the repository, important for keeping student experience levels high.
The third case history was from White Rose Repository Online (Leeds, Sheffield and York) where a similar experience to Leicester, 25% engagement from academics even after a protracted advocacy campaign including direct email contact. Awareness of WRRO was generally low. Making deposits as easy as possible was a major point, as academics are simple creatures with time poor lives. They also suggested that there is a need to build a community of interest in CRIS related systems, not solely within Symplectic but across the IR, research support and IT environment.
Next up was Jonathan Breeze talking about research data management, from more of an IT and data life cycle POV. Researchers think a lot about their data but how do you keep it or even what do you keep. Research funders are increasingly expecting or requiring data as well as publications to be shared, and curated for long-term access. Ownership of data is unclear, even within the institutions let alone whom or how this will be captured and stored.
Finally for the morning Peter Murray-Rust made a call for open bibliographies. He declined to use PowerPoint or PDF on the grounds that they “Destroy information”. He went on to say that we should use volunteers to gather bibliographic data rather than paid for systems. He spoke a lot about community performing the data gathering or aggregation functions, but I must confess that while he raised some interesting points practically I think a lot of what he talked about was aspirational rather than functional. Most academics I’ve worked with over the years have very little interest in collating the literature, they’re more focussed on their own area of research and outputs. What Peter was suggesting was certainly laudable, and may have worked in the isolated examples he suggested but one has only to look to the Arts or Social Sciences to see where the technical knowledge or awareness may prevent many academics from engaging with his one.
After a sandwich free (but tasty) lunch we broke into two groups for workshops. The one I was at looked at new REF functionalities for Symplectic, which as I’ve yet to have much hands on experience; and given this is more the research office’s forte, left me a bit flat. Then we went into groups to discuss where the problems with REF submission functionality in Symplectic will be. Again, somewhat out of my area of knowledge so not something I felt informed enough to contribute to.
All in all there was a lot to talk about with the other delegates on the day, and I especially benefitted from conversations with a number of my fellow repository managers; focussing on the implementation side of Symplectic Repository Tools.