Doing it Differently in Sheffield Cathedral

On Wednesday, 70 plus people from all over the UK came to an RSP event which showcased some interesting and different approaches to repository creation and management. Stephanie Taylor from UKOLN set the scene by outlining some themes in the development of repositories recently. She introduced the idea of the guerrilla repo – images of staff coming to work in fatigues and with Kalashnikovs! She cited the example of one repository manager who sat with a number of researchers to identify which pages on the university web site they visit most frequently with a view to placing repository links there.

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Open Access week: whats happening in the UK

Last week I asked repository managers in the UK to let me know what they are doing this week to promote open access in their institutions as part of SPARC’s International Open Access week. I’ve had a really good response and I’ve listed below a summary  of activities (in no particular order) – if yours isn’t there please add it as a comment. There are so many events and imaginative projects which will really help to raise the profile of open access. Well done UK repository staff! You can also check out the JISC OA week site for managers and researchers which will focus on a different aspect of OA on each day.

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Metadata: growing and harvesting


I am taking part in an e-Conference on Learning Repositories in Agriculture Food & Environment: Quality Promises & Considerations in Learning Repositories and Portals, October 6-20/10/2010. This is open to anyone and the discussions will fall into two phases.  During Phase 1, I am jointly moderating a topic which asks: Providing quality metadata: Is the gain worth the effort? My co-moderator in the e-conference is Steph Taylor from UKOLN. (As some of you may already know, she has initiated the Metadata Forum and you can keep up to date with this on her blog).  

The areas up for discussion in our Topic are:

1. Have you described in the past, your learning resources using metadata (description, title, keywords, tags, etc)? Which are the metadata elements that you mainly use?

2. Do you feel that providing metadata for resources is useful? What are the incentives that drive you, to provide the metadata?

3. What constitutes high quality metadata for a resource? Is it completeness for all metadata elements? Is it the clarity and correctness of the language used? Other aspects?

4. What are the benefits you see in providing metadata for learning resources in practice?

From the comments so far, people see an obvious value in metadata but this is difficult to quantify. There are many more questions than answers at the moment. People have also mentioned the importance of standards and an interesting point was made that correct adherence to a minimum set is more important than completeness. For some interesting and entertaining thoughts about standards, see Pat Lockley’s blog post on Learning Technology at the University of Nottingham.

DataShare at Edinburgh

Readers may be interested to have a look at the DataShare service at Edinburgh University. This repository allows researchers to “deposit, share, and license their data resources for online discovery and use by others, either openly or in a controlled way if requested”. It arose out of a JISC funded project in the Repositories and Preservation Programme.

I know from conversations that many repository managers are being approached by people in their institutions for help with storing datasets. It will be interesting to see how successful DataShare is in encouraging deposit. The survey on Scottish Witchcraft is intriguing! And for those working in/studying repositories the results of surveys of attitudes to open access and institutional repositories among academic authors, senior managers and technical staff would be useful.

Organic Agriculture in Budapest

I was in Budapest on 16th and 17th September, presenting at the final conference of the Organic.Edunet project – International Conference on IT Enhanced Organic, Agro-Ecological and Environmental Education. This was a three year EU funded project to develop a multi-lingual, federated repository of e-learning materials in organic agriculture and agro-ecology. It also developed and implemented scenarios for use of the materials in schools and universities in some of the partner countries.

Presentation on OA and RSP

It was a packed and varied programme with presentations about advances in organic agriculture, educational and e-learning initiatives, repositories and information technologies. It was fascinating to hear about the challenges of providing education in an agricultural context, particularly in the developing world. Also, I learnt some interesting facts such as 20% of Romania’s organic production is honey!

My presentation was part of a session on Open Access Agricultural Repositories and I spoke about Open Access in the United Kingdom and of course about the RSP. I shared the platform with colleagues from the University of Alcala, Spain who outlined their proposals for broadening the scope of open sharing. They referenced the CERIF schema and are developing a model which combines ontologies of research work with an open linked data approach. The third presentation from the Technological Educational Institute of Athens described the VOA3R Project which is developing a platform which aims to re-use existing metadata and semantics technology to retrieve open content and data. The final speaker from FAO described their work in developing metadata standards and controlled vocabularies and their work with repositories such as DSpace. They encourage the use of Linked Data and this theme was further developed in a workshop later in the day.

It was a stimulating (if exhausting) two days and we also had time for social events including a dinner in the very grand Hungarian Academy of Sciences, serenaded by traditional folk musicians and served by staff in white gloves. The view from the window looking out onto the Danube and the Palace Hill on the Buda side was beautiful. And it had the biggest internal doors I’ve ever come across – I had to reach up for the door handles! I really valued the opportunity to spread the word about OA in the UK and to meet up with project colleagues I’d worked with over three years and count as friends as much as co-partners.