Open Repositories 2009

I wasn’t fortunate enough to attend the recent OR2009 conference held in Atlanta

For what it’s worth here’s a bunch of links – though you’ll get pretty much the same set of results by putting “Open Repositories 2009″ into Google…—group-1.html—group-2.html

New UKCoRR blog

The UK Council of Research Repositories (UKCoRR) committee are keeping a blog at

Final project report published

The final project report for our JISC start-up project, Implementing an Institutional Repository for Leeds Metropolitan University has now been published.  Available to download as PDF or Word format.

PDF version

Word version

Implementing an Institutional Repository for Leeds Metropolitan University was funded by the JISC Repositories and Preservation Programme – Repositories Start-up and Enhancement (Strand D).

We would like to thank the programme manager Andy McGregor for his support and guidance throughout the project.

During the project, input from several user groups and supporting staff was of great value and these include:

Academic staff at Leeds Metropolitan University

The TEL team at Leeds Metropolitan University

The Streamline project team

JISC Emerge community

The project team would also like to acknowledge the support and enthusiasm of our software provider, Intrallect as well as the Repositories Support Project and Web2Rights for their expert advice throughout the project.

Thanks also to Beth Hall who used our project as a case study for her MSc in information studies; some of her results are presented as a formal element of the project.

UniCycle website

There is now a project website for UniCycle.  Not much there yet as it’s Ning and we’re relying on this newfangled Web 2.0 to generate content – so if you’re interested in Open Educational Resources come and join us.

Box of Broadcasts Launched to Institutions Nationwide

Repository week

From 1st – 5th June is repository week when colleagues can come together to learn more about the repository and how it will contribute to the information infrastructure of the institution.

Projects that are supported by the repository include an Open Access research archive and research administration; reusable learning objects/Open Educational Resources and Personal Curriculum Creation and provision of distance learning.

The final programme of events is yet to be finalised but will be a series of learning lunches at Headingley and Old Broadcasting House. For more information or to register your interest please contact Nick Sheppard or Kirsty Maw.

Innovation Bank

This looks like an exciting use of Web 2.0 in HE…from our very own faculty!

It’s a social network site enabling Leeds Met undergraduates to form final year project teams and to connect with industry professionals.

A showcase of student work

Last week I was contacted by a colleague from my own faculty, Innovation North, about using the repository to develop an online “showcase” of student work. We are “the faculty of information and technology” and courses include Multimedia and Entertainment Technology, Computer Animation & Special Effects and Games Design. In addition, student work needs to be securely archived, searchable and easily retrievable.

To employ a dreadful management cliche, I have often found one of the biggest challenges in HE is “joined up thinking”. If such a thing even exists, an integrated information environment will surely be instrumental in achieving it; another crucial, and related, element is appropriate communication between the right people; to avoid the need to continually reinvent the wheel. Easier said than done (and other cliches).

So to the problem.

Final submissions in the faculty are made on DVD in a format that will auto-boot from a PC (also presumably a DVD player); I was given an example and asked if they could be archived in intraLibrary.

No they can’t. Not in a particularly useful manner anyway. These are big files (50 -100MB) which is not a problem in itself but intraLibrary is not designed to stream this kind of content and the only way the actual files themselves could be archived would be as .zip files that could presumably be downloaded and burned back on to a DVD. If we got hold of content in it’s original file format we may be able to do something with it but I’ve no idea how these things are produced; some of the content looks Flash based but could well be something more exotic. Can the finished product perhaps be exported in alternative formats, that can be viewed using client-side technologies for example?

I’ve also been told of some mysterious “Digital Asset Management system” that Innovation North has recently implemented but haven’t yet been able to track down any more information. Is it a server of some description? Is it capable of streaming files? Is there any metadata associated with resources? Is it networked?

In any case, what sort of metadata needs to be associated with this material? Even modest amounts of cataloguing information can add signicantly to the workflow and as a minimum we might need course, student, tutor, level, (degree) class, year…where is this information currently recorded/what administration systems are already in place?

Who needs access to the material? This depends very much on context – a “showcase” would presumably be openly accessible and would really need to stream whereas another potential use case is external examiners/moderators in which case a catalogued archive of .zip files might be adequate – I’m not certain if the current process is any more sophisticated than a cardboard box full of plastic DVD cases.

It would be nice to join some of this together – if not with intraLibrary then with other appropriate technology – and move ever close towards the utopia of an integrated information environment!

Repositories for research and teaching/learning material: The debate continues at #rpmeet


Last week I attended the JISC Repository and Preservation end of programme meeting in Birmingham. I recall being very nervous at my first JISC event in November 2007 but feel much more at ease now and enjoyed the event immensely; the programme has certainly been successful in fostering a sense of community though it’s an unusual social experience to meet people face to face, often for the very first time, when one feels you already know them from reading their blog and following them on Twitter.

During one of the breakout sessions on the first day I made a bee-line for a discussion about repositories for learning and teaching materials – as opposed to OA research repositories. I use the word “opposed” advisedly as there is certainly some strong sentiment around the issue, particularly with respect to using a common software platform. As a representative of a project that is adapting a learning object repository to also serve as an effective Open Access research repository I’m finding it a little difficult to understand the vehemence of some of this opposition, though I would be the first to acknowledge a steep learning curve and recognise that we have required extensive development, not of intraLibrary itself perhaps, but of an appropriate web infrastructure surrounding it. And yes, we would certainly have been able to implement a functioning OA research repository more quickly using EPrints or DSpace however, from the outset, it was vital that our repository had the the capacity to fulfil its broader potential – in the words of Clifford Lynch “[A] mature and fully realised institutional repository will contain the intellectual works of faculty and students – both research and teaching materials – and also documentation of the activities of the institution itself in the form of records of events and performance and of the ongoing intellectual life of the institution.”  [Lynch, Clifford. A “Institutional Repositories: Essential Infrastructure for Scholarship in the Digital AgeARL Bimonthly Report 226 (2003).]

It’s also important to be pragmatic.  Historically, Leeds Metropolitan University is a polytechnic that gained chartered university status in 1992; its heritage is very much in teaching and learning rather than research with, arguably, a more vocational than academic flavour.  In recent years, the research profile has steadily increased, culminating in unprecedented success in the 2008 RAE and the university is naturally keen to capitalise on this success, enhance its research profile further whilst also continuing to emphasise its student focussed teaching and learning credentials. The implementation of an integrated repository to support both research outputs and learning objects reflects this dual focus.  Clifford Lynch’s article suggests that the concept of a central system to manage disparate resources in this way has been implicit within the sector for some years, however, the technology has tended to focus on Open Access to research, with the two most widely used software platforms being EPrints, developed at the University of Southampton in 2000, and DSpace, developed at MIT in 2002; early versions of both platforms were primarily designed to manage text based resources (though subsequent versions of EPrints and DSpace can manage a wide range of digital file formats.)  

NB.  In an extended discussion on this issue on JISC-REPOSITORIES (archive hereRepositoryMan Les Carr of EPrints refers to the fact that he still comes across the firmly held (and spurious) belief that because EPrints is used for Open Access it can’t be used for multimedia files or scientific data.

The session was chaired by Amber Thomas of JISC and I asked a somewhat blunt, perhaps naive, question about JISC’s perspectives on combined repositories of research and teaching materials.  Amber suggested that JISC have been deliberately neutral on the issue which is also perhaps emphasised by the diagramatic representation of the programme structure reproduced above.  

Some of the commentators last Wednesday were adamant that though it may well be possible to manage different types of resources with a single system it was far from desirable with one colleague making the pithy analogous observation that you can write letters in Excel but that doesn’t make it right.  Phil Barker of CETIS was also at the discussion and in a recent blog post on the “question of whether research outputs and learning materials should stored in the same repository” is “inclined to think the answer is no, the purpose of the repository is different, a learning material isn’t an output, sharing means something different for the two resource types.”  Phil goes on to say that ” If you think a repository is a database and a bit-store then you may come to a different conclusion, but I think a repository is a service offered to people and your choice of starting point in offering that service will affect how easy your journey is.”  (Full post here)

I’d certainly concede that our journey hasn’t been an easy one and I also agree that a repository is a service offered to people and with our repository start-up, and also Streamline and PERSoNA, that is certainly the approach we have tried to take; with intraLibrary and the SRU interface we now have an incipient infrastructure to manage both research material and learning objects; the discrete types of material can be managed entirely separately, however, there is also potential for the ongoing development of a holistic approach to the management of the full range of digital resources produced by a modern university and as we develop our infrastructure further I hope we can utilise appropriate web-technology around a central management system (intraLibrary) to achieve decentralised resource discovery – through appropriate interfaces, widgets and environments – the VLE for example.


Then of course there is the small matter of persuading academics to part with their resources, not to mention IPR, copyright and quality control issues…

Open Access to research is an evolving paradigm and represents a considerable shift in the established academic publishing process; Open Access to a broader range of educational resources still more so. Any paradigm shift is likely to take time to evolve and Open Access, to research and other materials, is no exception, especially given that academia, perhaps, tends to subscribe rather strongly to established tradition!

JISC’s current OER programme should go some way to addressing many of these issues but infrastructure is the foundation. The perfect system almost certainly doesn’t exist and it’s surely important to be pragmatic when implementing and developing appropriate system. Here’s to ongoing discussion, debate and development.

Using intraLibrary for research administration: Towards an integrated workflow

We’ve had positive feedback from the research administrators about inputting data directly into intraLibrary rather than EndNote which is their current workflow and I’m meeting with them next week to demonstrate how it might work and get some feedback.  We didn’t want to ask them to input more data than they are used to (though we will be asking them to source the published URL); the current template incorporates several fields that are specific to the broader OA remit – copyright for example – so I’ve developed a two stage workflow whereby administrators enter Title; DOI; Source Title; Journal Volume; Journal Issue; Source publication date;  Start page; End page; Journal ISSN; Abstract; Author(s); Publisher; Type of resource.  They can then send it to the next stage of the workflow for a designated repository administrator/librarian (me!) to complete – as well as adding keywords and classification against LCC, this will involve SHERPA RoMEO to establish copyright permissions and whether we can pursue full text.

The other important function is reports for faculty information – for example, lists of the academic year’s outputs for Faculty Research Committee meetings. Intralibrary does permit an administrator to generate metadata reports by collection and I’ve been able to select the relevant metadata fields and generate an Excel spreadsheet of results by faculty. However, it’s not terrible user friendly and, unlike EndNote, results aren’t in a nice Harvard style reference so it remains to be seen if this will be acceptable to the research administrators.

(N.B. Might it be possible to intercept the data so we could programmatically transform it into Harvard style references; pass it to a MySQL database for example and access / transform it from there? This would provide information as closely as possible to the way it is already generated by EndNote.)


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