Wednesday, 1 February 2012

It was the Year of Fire...

Those of you in Portsmouth last week had the chance to hear my Babylon 5 themed talk thinking about the future direction of UKCoRR.  The aim was to get not just the membership in the room talking and thinking about where we go next with UKCoRR, but also to give an idea of some of the obstacles and opportunities that currently exist.  You can view the slides here and view the quote that drove my thinking here.

New look for Repository Managers?
One of the reasons I picked the Babylon 5* is for the key questions that are asked that define a person I think perfectly transfer to help define or at least clarify what UKCoRR stands for, should be doing as well as aiming to do.  For those of you not familiar with Babylon 5 lore here are the questions.
  • Who are you?
  • What do you want?
  • Why are you here?
  • Do you have anything worth living for?**
  • Who do you serve?
  • Who do you trust?
  • Where are you going?
Leaving aside one of those these neatly give us a guide with which to look to how the membership of UKCoRR is comprised, how we can serve the needs of our membership and our members' stakeholders along with the more tricky questions of interactions with those entities and organisations who lie beyond the rim...or at least outside of UKCoRR itself.

Some of these questions I believe are easier to answer than others.  Some though need continued and protracted thought and consideration.  I can say, for example, the question of funding vs Independence is one that has vexed the Committee for some considerable time; and I suspect will continue to.  As Chair I'm personally ethically opposed to the introduction of any fee for membership structure, but at the same time conflicted as there are opportunities that would be far easier for UKCoRR if we had some form of funding stream.

Naturally there are those organisations out there whom might wish to provide us with an alternate funding stream - but with great funding comes great responsibilities (apologies, mixing my genres there) - to whit to accept a quid means there may a pro quo around the corner.

Likewise there is the prospect of UKCoRR entering into arrangements of mutual benefit with external bodies that may well serve the interests of our members well; but at the same time once again these come with strings attached.  Is it better to simply be in formal liaison with key players rather than partnership, or is loss of our Independence a small price to pay for advancing the cause of professional repository management and administration?  I remain to be convinced but over 2012 we will continue to talk to a variety of other organisations that do overlap with our concerns to explore where mutual benefits do exist, whilst not giving away the home world at the same time.  I'll be talking more about one of these in particular where I want you the membership's views in my next post!

There are two major reasons why I raised all these questions in this post and the talk.  Firstly because I believe that UKCoRR as an organisation, like open access and repositories, is a field that continues to evolve at a relatively cracking pace.  As the professional membership body for repository practitioners we too must evolve likewise.  And secondly because as part of the annual cycle which begins anew in April the Committee will be charged with drawing up a strategic and operational plan of action for the next year - and this is your opportunity to feed directly into the process.

So contact us, comment on this or catch us at the various repository events around the Country over the coming couple of  months because, as I never tire of saying, UKCoRR is the membership - we the Committee simply try and run it according to your desires and needs; not to mention enlightened best interests!

Because if we don't, it may all end in fire but this could also be the year of rebirth just as easily.
* Don't get me into who the Shadows, Vorlons and First Ones are in the repository world - that's a whole other talk!
** I think this one is a bit beyond us!


  1. I should have probably mentioned this at the meeting on Friday, but it seems to me that the elephant in the room here is the future of the RSP. If, as seems possible (and I'm obviously not in a position to second-guess the RSP or JISC here and may be off-base in my assumption), RSP funding is wound down over the next few years, there seems to me to be a case to merge the functions of UKCoRR and RSP. Whether this is done under the auspices of JISC or not is an open question, but I would expect that if the current (excellent, useful) functions performed by RSP were to continue, this would require funding, and hence some kind of relationship with JISC.

    Would any RSP representatives (or indeed anyone else) care to comment on this? I understand that it may be a sensitive topic, given that it might involve people's jobs.

    Neil, City University London.

    1. It's a very good point Neil, one that I am only too aware of (and I can add have chatted to the fine people of RSP about on a number of occassions in recent months) - but I think now we're still some way off from more clarity on exactly what and indeed when this might happen.

      As UKCoRR's secretary is also a RSPer and given our representation on JISC's Oversight Committee for repository infrastructure I think we're at least as well placed as we can be to be aware of which way the wind blows.

      Certainly while the JISC are certainly good friends to UKCoRR, that's a whole different ball game to being funded in any way by them. And we need to remember that fundamental difference - UKCoRR has no salaried secretariat, it's all done in our "free" time for the Committee - and we certainly couldn't hope to even come close to the range of quality activity that RSP generates; at least not without a major restructuring.