Repository Fringe 2015

This year, the Repository Fringe organised by the DCC, EDiNA, and University of Edinburgh and sponsored by ULCC, Arkivum and EPrints services offered a buffet of all you can handle technical and non-technical ideas, features and projects around repositories. The event partly followed an unconference style, but was focused around two general topics: open access agenda on day 1, and research data on day 2.

Open access and shared services

RLUK’s David Prosser opened the conference with some excellent reflections on open access and  ideas based on those. My takeaways were:

  • busy is not an excuse for researchers to avoid sharing their work;
  • we need to focus on making open access and research data management important, rather than just easy; Mendeley and Figshare work because the benefits outweigh the costs to researcher, we need to look at ways that make institutional repositories more inviting to researchers;
  • although the infrastructure is not in place in full yet, institutions should focus on content and making use of shared infrastructure;
  • scholarly communications isn’t about communication and dissemination, it’s about reward, and reward is propping up illogical behaviour, holding back innovation and change.

ULCC’s Rory McNicholl brought some smiles to the room with the architecture of the 80s and a few pictures from the archives. Rory talked about the services that ULCC is currently providing to the sector in areas such as EPrints and the Open Journal System etc. and also mentioned their collaboration with CREST, UCA and Arkivum within the Jisc-funded Research Data Spring Project around RDM for small and specialist institutions.

My highlight of the first day was probably the open access workshop run by Valerie McCutcheon. The workshop started with a live demo of how to upload an article to the Glasgow Eprints repository. At different points in the live demo, Valerie stopped and invited each speaker to talk about the work done around the particular aspect. Steve Byford talked about the Jisc Publications Router, Bill Hubbard – about the Sherpa services, Balviar Notay – on reporting to funders and RIOXX. The audience then broke into discussion groups around these topics, with an additional ad-hoc group interested in the peer-to-peer institutional repositories alert (aka COAX).

After the updates on EPrints, DSpace and PURE, the closing panel session of the day brought up a few interesting points around building data networks. The discussion always returned to issues around preservation – reasons, incentives and benefits of doing it; longevity and identifying the right examples to share with researchers. There was emphasis on the ease of the process for the researcher (going back to the point made by David Prosser earlier in the day), with discussions around the importance of metadata being captured and packaged within the research process more seamlessly.

Research data and repositories

The second day started with a presentation from Arkivum’s Steve Mackey and their current emphasis on Arkivum as a repository for live research data via interoperability with iRODS, Sharegate and QStar. He has also mentioned the RDM workflows report that just came out via the Jisc research data spring initiative. Robin Taylor introduced the audience to the DataVault pilot, also supported by the Jisc research data spring, and how University of Edinburgh and University of Manchester are managing active data via a local service with potential for scalability.

The next session followed with short introductions from Graham Steel, the animated Les Carr and myself. We talked about previous or current projects that are aiming to ‘unleash’ data. A series of discussion groups tackled 5 challenging questions that were posted up on the boards the day before to allow the attendees to express their concerns or opinions. I went for the repositories of the future session, and the three key points raised were: the commodification or standardisation of data, licensing issues and infrastructure for discovering data.

I missed Neil Chue Hong’s linking data session, but there are some very good notes on the live blog.

Martin Donnelly took up our challenge to get into the Fringe Festival mood and write a poem for his session on European projects.

There once was a man from Glasgee
Who studied data policy
In a project called FOSTER
Many long hours lost were
And now he’ll show some slides to ye.


Martin then gave a more formal update on EUDAT, OpenAIRE, FOSTER and PASTEUR4OA, as well as the EC Open Data Pilot. Jisc and DCC are working on all of these initiatives – for example Jisc & DCC are leading work on data management plans and EUDAT data services governance, and Jisc is the UK NOAD for OpenAire. The work on these initiatives is about the practical join-up of the UK repository infrastructure for data and research papers with European infrastructure. One of our objectives is to ensure that H2020 and EC developments are cognisant of what the UK has in place and vice-versa.

The Jisc workshop on the research at risk activities around research data management followed. We gave a bird’s eye view on the work we have been doing around research data, the critical work packages within research at risk and an update on progress. This was followed by 3 discussion groups: shared services for RDM (lead by Rachel), Journal research data policy registry (lead by Linda) and business case costing and value of RDM (lead by me). We will have a full update for you in our next blog.

I missed Stephen Grace’s presentation on the UK Unlocking Thesis Data, but can tell with certainty that the project team has done an excellent job in the past 3 months. Take a look at their report. Following Stephen, Jo Alcock presented on the Jisc project IRUS-UK, which is a national aggregation service for UK institutional repositories – with 400k items covered already and a variety of reports available around the usage statistics.

The Impact session was really interesting and as was noted by Les Carr – quite unusual to hear someone speak about impact with such passion. Rose-Marie Barbeau from Glasgow showed a very useful model for impact and thinking about impact: universities don’t do impact a such but they do the bridging between research and researchers and paths to impact impact. Mick Eadie, also from Glasgow, described a practical way in which they tailored EPrints to record impact. Will link the slides as soon as available.

Less Carr made an interesting observation about the link between impact and preservation. For example a broken link to a news item or a policy report is a problem when demonstrating evidence of impact, this is a problem and something that needs addressing.

Will Fyson talked about Kolola – an application he has worked on with his co-PhD peers, and which is intended to gather and record activities and impact. In terms of engagement, Will agreed that there is a need for a combination of carrots and sticks to make the application valuable, for example – cases for international travel being dependent on theresearcher recording the event on the system.  

The posters

Eight posters were up for voting at the event. Obviously biased, my favourite was the DMA online from Lancaster University. They came in second. It was also interesting to see the work around exploring RDM in visual arts via an animated poster by Rob Burgess, who came first in the poster competition. The work around Hydra at Durham, the geolocation plugin for EPrints from LSTMH (who came in third), the Pericles project, the interoperability of figshare with institutional repositories, the easy integration of electronic lab notebooks into RDM workflows and the results of the FP7 Open Access Pilot project were also very informative.

In parallel with the main sessions and the coffee breaks there were live demos of DMP Online, DMA Online and R Space.

Kevin Ashley embraced the most difficult part of any event – summing up the key themes in the closing remarks:

  • a great opening of the event from David Prosser, but some worrying thoughts for the sector to consider in his talk;
  • we are good at identifying problems, but less at coming up with solutions;
  • we have the attention of the Government in terms of open access and open data, but governments get excited about agendas every couple of years, so we should maximise this opportunity before it disappears;
  • experiments a few years ago are now reality, we are indeed making a lot of progress;
  • machine learning will be key.

We are glad to have participated at another (7th!) engaging Repository Fringe and will be looking forward to hear more feedback and see more engagement in improved repository infrastructure and where needed shared national solutions.