A week or so ago I attended the RSP summer school at Madingley Hall, University of Cambridge. The Summer School has been running for three or four years now (I helped organise the first one) but until now I’d never found the right time to attend. Originally these three day focussed study events were aimed at first time repository managers, but clearly the support remit of the RSP has broadened considerably. It could be seen from the delegate who ran the breadth of experience from old hands like myself or Graham Stone (Huddersfield, and UKCoRR chair) through to people only just taking their first steps.
To cover an event in any real depth would take far too many lines of text, so what I’ll attempt to do here is try and capture a flavour of the event, with any especial highlights.
As with all events day one began with the gathering of the 20 or so delegates from across the country, some of whom had been travelling since before 5am in order to get there. Following an introduction to event from Dominic Tate and Jackie Wickham of the RSP we moved to an ice-breaker exercise, creating a poster to encapsulate the discrete elements that make up a repository – and then selling them to the group at large. There were some interesting insights that came out here including the challenges of the REF, working with academics as well as the technological barriers to progress. In many respects this was a good opportunity for some reflection on our advocacy work and the differing messages to different stakeholder groups.
After tea the first talk was from Tanya Abikorr of MIT Open CourseWare. Her focus was more on educational repositories than institutional, and was possibly of more interest to those working on coursepack digitisation. What was very interesting to note was the size of the MIT team working on this (at least 7 full time staff), and some of the comments about what is permissable under US copyright law. As one of the speakers on day 2 pointed out, UK copyright law is actually far more restrictive than this. Finally Graham Stone talked about the Huddersfield repository experience in some depth.
The second day was the most hectic and packed, and despite a cancellation of the first speaker the delegates engaged in a long (possibly overlong) session on IPR, copyright and repositories from Laurence Bebbington (Aberdeen University). There was much of value in what Laurence had to say, although at times it seemed to take him at his word on what is and is not permissable would freeze developments in the repository field. He was followed by Bill Hubbard (CRC, Nottingham University) looking at institutional mandates and compliance. While few delegates had an OA mandate, most institutions represented are considering implementing them in one form or another. There was a considerable amount of talk focussed on the carrots we can offer, contrasted with the more stick like mandates, during this session too.
Following a brief update on the RSP’s work from Dominic, David Davies (University of Warwick) presented the results of some research looking at what people look for when searching for online learning resources. I must confess that I found David’s talk hard to follow, and while the discovery and exposure of the contents of our repositories is often paramount in my mind, I found it problematic to join what he was espousing with our every day practice. The day was capped by the delightful Robin Armstrong-Viner (Aberdeen University) who gave a fascinating talk looking at how a repository and CRIS can work together in practice. While a few technical hitches denied Robin the practical demonstration he’d planned at the end, it was still fascinating insight as to how a CRIS can change the workflows and relationships that repository staff have within an institution for the better.
The final day was very practically focussed with a reflective session on advocacy from Dominic echoing at least in part some of the previous two days activities and coverage. One thing that was clear from delegate comments is that there is still much work to be done in this regard within most if not all institutions; and that we should not be downhearted by the repetition that is required. We also touched briefly on the some of the work of May’s RSP Advocacy workshop. complementing Dominic’s session nicely was Nicky Cashman (Aberystwyth University) who gave a fine overview of using statistics as a tool. While the mathematical components weren’t new to me, some of the approaches and uses to which Nicky puts them had me scribbling notes for future consideration.
The final full session from Ian McCormick (ARMA) was a little disappointing. As an overview of ARMA it was fine, however as to the role at which repository managers, UKCoRR and RSP could play in tandem with the organisation this was much less clear. What was clear from the delegates was increasingly we are all working more closely with our research office type colleagues with whom we share much more commonality on many issues than those in the libraries within which many repositories are based.
Overall though it is safe to say that this was an excellent and information packed event. The opportunities for networking (and in my case to also lose at croquet twice) were especially very valuable, and continued throughout the delicious meals and long into the night. I’ve returned to work with a much greater insight into what is going on across the country, as well as numerous practical ideas to apply within our repository work. As is always the case at these kind of events in one way or another we are all facing similar challenges ranging from academic engagement, compliance, deposition, changing copyright environment, staffing challenges and of course the REF. But what is heartening is the number of different ways in which people have found to meet these; and while not all are applicable to Leicester’s environment many are.