Tuesday, 21 June 2011

CRIS -> Repository...full-text only...or metadata records too?

Just a quick post to hopefully stimulate some discussion ahead of the RSP event ‘Repositories and CRIS: working smartly together. Conference and Software Exhibition’ that is taking place at Nottingham University Park Conference Centre on the 19th of July. (Places still available!)

From the RSP publicity: "With the REF taking place in 2014 (http://www.hefce.ac.uk/research/ref/) CRIS systems and repositories are becoming a higher priority and their functionality more visible. Smooth interaction between the two will be vital for a smooth and painless submission in 2014. Now is the perfect time to find out how others have managed this process! This event will look at how repositories and CRISs can work together to meet this goal. Findings of the RePosit project, which has developed case studies around the integration of Symplectic Ltd and repositories in 5 institutions, will be shared."

I've had several conversations recently with repository managers from different institutions in the process of or planning soon to implement CRIS and integrate with their repositories with many reporting a driver to transfer not only full-text to an institutional repository (the current functionality supported by Symplectic for example) but also metadata-only records - presumably to ensure their repositories remain the locus for research management. However, does it perhaps make more sense to separate our research database in a CRIS from full-text only in a repository?

Arguably, one of the limitations of Open Access repositories from an original conception (in the arXiv mould) of holding, disseminating and preserving full-text research outputs is that they have, in effect, become "diluted" by metadata records for which it has not been possible to procure full-text or copyright does not permit deposit. Developing a "hybrid" model that separates full-text from bibliographic records in this way rather than pushing everything into a repository might enable repositories to return to an antedeluvian world where they are focused once again on preservation of full-text material rather than also including bibliographic data.

The very term "CRIS" is perhaps problematic and probably better conceived of as an infrastructure derived from a set of software and services - HR systems, Finance systems, repository etc as well as 3rd party commercial software like Symplectic Elements, Atira Pure and Converis (Avedas). Moreover, leading repository software providers like EPrints are looking to extend the functionality of repositories themselves (see: Carr, L. (2010) EPrints: A Hybrid CRIS/Repository. In: Workshop on CRIS, CERIF and Institutional Repositories, 10-11th May 2010, Rome, Italy.); I have no idea whether such a "hybrid" approach would necessarily be achievable in every - or even most - institutions; as emphasised at "Learning how to play nicely: Repositories and CRIS", institutions are all different and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The availability of human and other resources, in-house expertise and the existing infrastructure will all have an impact on the most appropriate course of action. The tentative conclusion from that event was that if starting with a blank slate, it probably makes sense for a CRIS to be the central system with the repository as a linked peripheral component; but, of course, very few are actually starting from this point and different models can be just as effective.

1 comment:

  1. The question I ask myself more and more these days is why do we need to have a (local) repository component at all in the cases where a CRIS is implemented. The reasons for keeping them seem more and more tenuous. I'm starting to believe that the IR has been kept 'alive' in a lot of institutions not because of the goal of open access and scholarly communication, but because they act as a holding area for the metadata that is used for research assessment. Without that purpose, how many would survive? I'd like to know how many repositories are being decommisioned in favour of a CRIS run out of a research office and not the library.

    I specifically mention local in the above para, because I do think there is mileage in having a managed backup/preservation service even when a CRIS does exist and holds full text documentation. Duracloud has impressed me recently in this regard.

    There is however a really big difference where the repository exists to service the vertical needs of the institution and research assessment against the more horizontal needs of the subject and scholarly dissemination. So, what local repository services can we develop that work in this horizontal plane?

    We asked researchers this question as part of the ERIS project, and a couple of key messages were that the loyalty of the researcher was in the subject, not in the institution, and that management of grey literature to provide access to content associated with the official publication is of more value in the long term.

    We can link these things together readily in CRIS systems, and I think that where we can increase value in repositories, it is in services that could be developed to extend the value of the final research publication, and where these services can work in the horizontal together with others in the same subject community. CRIS systems have pretty much got the vertical tied up, and although there are some IR's that are starting to offer similar functionality, is it too little too late?