July 16, 2012

Open Repositories 2012 – Day One

Writing about web page http://or2012.ed.ac.uk/

This is the first of a series of blog posts on my reflections on the 7th International Conference on Open Repositories. I've split the post by the days of the conference mainly to avoid this being the longest blog post ever and to make it easier to refer to later.

Day one was taken up with half day workshops, a fantastic idea and allowed a level of interaction that some of the later sessions couldn't. All the workshops seemed to feature great discussions on relevant topics and a great comparison of different practises in different countries and institutions. My day one workshops were:

  • ISL1: Islandora - Getting Started
  • DCC: Institutional Repositories & Data - Roles and Responsibilities
  • And an optional evening workshop on EDINA's Repository Junction Broker project.

The Islandora workshop was fascinating! I'd not seen very much of the software or it potential before and the workshop was a great introduction to everything about the software, from the architecture and underlying metadata to the different Drupal options for customising the front end. Their system of 'solution packs', Drupal modules that allow you to drop in functionality for different functionality and content types into the system is a great idea and allows the system a degree of flexibility not found in other systems yet (although the EPrints Bazaar might get there soon). They demo-ed a books solution pack for paged content as well as discussing forthcoming solution packs for institutional repository (IR) functionality and Digital Humanities projects. Islandora maintain a web-based sandbox environment to allow people to experiment which is wiped clean each evening which I'm looking forward to playing with as we scope new software for future projects. I also like the fact that the software is completely open source, following the replacement of Abbyy OCR software with the open source equivalent Tesseract. Islandora as the 'new' player in the market is managing to provide the same functionality that the other systems do with a collection of exciting add-ons, however I do see that as you add the extra functionality you are having to maintain a number of additional modules as well as the core software which could have resource implications down the line.

The afternoon workshop run by the Digital Curation Centrewas a nice mix of presentations on the current thinking of a number of projects from around the world and group debate on the weeks 'hot button' topic of Research Data Management (RDM). This topic was to come up time and again in the week as most of the talks and discussions touched on it at least a little. As the title suggested the main thrust of the discussion was around who was responsible for what! Discussions covered a range of topics and some of the messages that came out most strongly for me where:

  • Use the discipline data centres as much as possible, no IR (data or otherwise) can, or should, do everything.
  • Knowing where the other data centres are is essential.
  • Try not to get bogged down trying to 'fix' everything first time, fix what you can and work on the rest later or you could end up doing nothing.
  • Interesting point from Chris Awre at Hull, use the IR as a starting point for discussions to move the researcher's thinking from what you have to what they need.
  • Try to get into the researchers workflows as early as possible as it makes creating the metadata easier for the researcher, which in turn helps the archive.
  • Are repositories qualified to appraise the data deposited with them?

I'll admit that the whole area of RDM is a scary one but it was good to realise that there are both a, a lot of people out there feeling the same and b, a lot of assistance there for when its needed. The idea of just getting something in place and fixing the rest later feels a bit anti-intuitive to me but, on the other hand, it's what I've been doing with WRAP's development of the last two years, it's just that someone else had to take the first step!

The final workshop of the day was an informal one in the evening discussing the development of the EDINA's Repository Junction Broker project which is going to form part of the services offered by the UK Repository Net+. This discussions centred around the development of the extension of the middleware tool developed by EDINA to allow publishers to feed deposits directly into repositories as a service to researchers. As ever this sound like a fantastic idea and the debate was active and enthusiastic as the various stakeholders discussed how to make this work for both repositories and publishers. Certain as far as WRAP is concerned if what we need to do is get our SWORD2 endpoint up and running that that is what we have to do, the service offered by the Repository Junction are far too good to miss out on! I'll be watching this develop with interest....

More on day two soon....


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