Tuesday 21 December 2010

OAI-PMH aggregation?

I wanted to explore the issue of OAI-PMH aggregation and to gauge UKCoRR opinion of its still-to-be-realised potential (or not). I've also been threatening to post to the blog for a while and this seemed like an ideal subject to explore in a more public forum than on the mailing list.

As I noted once in a post on my own blog I have for some time been a little nonplussed by our collective, continued obsession with the woefully under-used OAI-PMH. Other than OAIster (an international service), the only services I'm currently aware of in the UK are the former Intute demo now maintained by Mimas - http://irs.mimas.ac.uk/demonstrator/ and a (pilot) OAI-PMH cross-search tool developed as part of ERIS (Enhancing Institutional Repository Services in Scotland)

The protocol dates back to the earliest days of the open access and institutional repository movements when there was considerable investment by the community, in software specification for example, and has never really, I don't think, been as widely used as it could be. I can offer only anecdotal evidence but I’m pretty sure that your average academic will tend towards Google/Google Scholar* - who withdrew support for OAI-PMH back in April 2008 - to source research on the open web. Google, however, arguably has inherent limitations for academic purposes and I would argue that OAI-PMH still has considerable potential for (OA) research dissemination (though possibly watered down by so many repositories also carrying metadata only records rather than exclusively full text - one of the draw-backs of OAI-PMH harvest is that there was no easy way of filtering on full text from the major repository software.)

* As an aside I've had mixed results retrieving full text records from UK IRs using Google Scholar with many not returning anything at all - though the IRs in question certainly contain full text content.

In Ireland, however, they have rian.ie - Pathways to Irish Research which is much more fully realised portal that aggregates 8 Irish IRs using OAI-PMH, enabling you to browse by author surname and offering an advanced search form to filter by keyword, title, author, subject, institution and (interestingly) funder. Aggregating just 8 repositories (5 DSpace, 2 EPrints, 1 Digital Commons) will obviously make it easier to standardise metadata and systems than in the UK and it also returns full text only which immediately makes it more useful from an OA perspective. I've been in touch with the chair of the RIAN project group who has confirmed that "it was a policy decision to include only full text metadata in the RIAN harvest, even though some IRs might have some metadata only deposits. It was felt that a national portal of OA research material would be much more useful if it included only full text." This was achieved, however, by organising local IRs such that only full text content is exposed for harvest which isn't really a practical solution across the much greater number of repositories in the UK.

I've had some discussion with James Toon, the project manager for ERIS who in his dealings with research groups in Scotland has found "no interest at all in just searching for data in a national aggregation". Nevertheless, I can't help but feel that there is still potential for an aggregation service with a high level of functionality especially if we could figure out how to return full text only. May be it's just me?

James suggests that "the power of aggregations are on the subject level, when you can do things with the data - such as enhance it by linking common ontology, or providing subject specific services, such as topic mapping and so on"; he has also been working on CRISpool which is using the CERIF standard to integrate heterogeneous research information from several institutions into a single Portal. Perhaps OAI-PMH has had it's day and CERIF-XML aggregation is the future; nevertheless, the current repository infrastructure across the UK does not (yet) widely support that format - though this may change if more institutions implement CRIS - whereas the older protocol is a standard output across all 183 institutional repositories in the UK currently listed on OpenDOAR and, for that reason, I would argue, if no other, could be used more effectively after the rian.ie model.

Monday 1 November 2010

"Doing it Differently", RSP event 27.10.10 - Sheffield Cathedral

An excellent day of presentations started off by Steph Taylor who gave an overview of repository use to date including easier deposit workflows, quality control, embedding in HEIs, plus potential links with the local community and other entry points such as Facebook.
Richard Davis discussed ideas for creative repository management involving staff profile pages, stats, links and a possible download button to Kindle or iPad.
Pat Lockley covered the use of RSS feeds - have a look at http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/xpert/.
Stephanie Meece showed us the UAL Research Online http://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/ which is 60% non-text based. Stephanie talked of practiced-based research, publicity and technical and metadata issues.
Jason Hoyt of Mendeley - http://www.mendeley.com/, gave an overview of the new service that will be available in Spring 2011 which will include clouds of trends/popular authors, a music database and statistical aggregating. Mendeley has 27 million items that are searchable now.
Joss Winn's blog and presentation outline re: RSS and Wordpress is available at http://joss.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/2010/10/25/rss-in-rss-out-experimenting-with-wordpress-for-scholarly-publishing/.
The final speaker, Sally Hanford discussed iTunesU. 16 UK HEIs currently use iTunes U - http://www.apple.com/education/itunes-u/, for audio and video files with Nottingham having launched their educational content/podcasts etc in June this year.
Altogether, an interesting and stimulating day. For slides and handouts please visit: http://www.rsp.ac.uk/events/index.php?page=DID1010/index.php.
Nicky Cashman.

Wednesday 14 July 2010

Collaboration with COAR

I'm back from the Open Repositories 2010 meeting now, and, having cleared most of my immediate tasks, I have time to reflect on some of last weeks presentations and meetings.

On Wednesday last week I attended the COAR 'birds of a feather' session at OR2010, and was introduced to a number of representatives of various member institutions, and was given an overview of COAR, its members and what it is all about. As stated on their website, COAR is a 'not-for-profit association of repository initiatives' which aim s to 'enhance greater visibility and application of research outputs through global networks of Open Access digital repositories'.

In addition to the meeting I had informal discussions with Birgit Schmidt, and was able to talk to her and her colleagues about UKCoRR, its aims, and what it had achieved already.

I was able to attend this meeting as my institution (the University of Nottingham) is currently a COAR member (at a cost of €2500 pa). As far as I can tell, JISC and EDINA are currently the other UK members, but sadly UKCoRR does not have any money, let alone €2500 to put towards COAR membership. The team from Göttingen were interested in UKCoRR and I have agreed to write a short case study or briefing paper, to explain more about what we have achieved in the UK and how this has been accomplished.

We will stay in close touch with COAR and the team, but as UKCoRR has no funding, we cannot make the necessary contribution to become members, so for now, we will stay in touch and collaborate where appropriate, but UKCoRR as an organisation will not be able to become formal members of COAR at this time.

Wednesday 23 June 2010

'Cafe Society' element to the next UKCoRR meeting?

Finally, the new UKCoRR Committee met in cyberspace yesterday to welcome the new committee members and to discuss forthcoming actions and issues.

As the agenda steered around to the next UKCoRR membership meeting, we wondered what you would all like from it. Networking is an obvious point, and we will be sure to build in enough time for longer coffee break and a good lunch break.

Another point that came up was whether we should have a 'Cafe Society' element to the day. The Welsh Repository Network team used this format at their recent CRIS event, and I believe this was popular and successful. Would a similar format be of benefit at a UKCoRR meeting, perhaps split around different topics. If so, then what are the hot topics you'd like to discuss? Do drop me or any of the UKCoRR committee a line to let us know what you'd like! You can get me at dominic.tate@nottingham.ac.uk or on 0115 846 7544.

Friday 28 May 2010

RSP: Digital Preservation Day, Birmingham 27/05/2010

I attended the RSP event in Aston Business School on Thursday 27th May and came away with not only some good advice, but also with the impetus to build on long-held ideas and assumptions. Preservation was the aim of the day, but as so often happens, other forms of repository work kept popping up. When discussing preservation/curation the question was : does your repository/institution have a digital preservation policy? I don't believe any hands went up in the air. Furthermore, with very few of us with steering groups, policy-making seemed relatively unattainable at present. So, the advice then given was to start with baby steps - meet with colleagues/superiors first and discuss the barriers you feel are in place - attempt to conquer these one by one or over a set period of time. Furthermore, yet more education of stakeholders is required so as to demonstrate the value of your repository. Also, we must target that value to user needs. I appreciate that this is repeating the same message, but it seems that is what needs to be done. Keep plugging away, know who your supporters are, communicate your repository's value more effectively. Then repeat all over again! A good repository day with presentations, discussions, good company and yet more food for thought! Nicky Cashman.

Thursday 21 January 2010

JISC Cross Projects Forum Meeting 18/01/2010

I attended this meeting with my UKCoRR hat on. With me were colleagues from the WRN, via video conference were Andy McGreggor from JISC and James from ERIS and Dominic for the RSP. There were updates from participants which included the process of information gathering, focus groups, technical enhancements (ERIS), the results of which will be made available. The WRN discussed e-theses harvesting, developing learning objects and future planned events and workshops. The RSP are now recruiting and planning a general outreach activity event and possibly a CRIS/REF management event. Main event for senior management to unveil Alma Swan’s report re: impact of repositories to be held in London, March’10. UKCoRR’s Leicester meeting was discussed as well as the growing number of members and future plans. All participants engaged in the following topics: technological and communication issues, training days, blogs, site visits, free consultancy, general uptake of repositories by top level management and finally, and most importantly, the sharing of tips with other repository managers. Nicky Cashman