Sunday, May 24, 2009

OR09: on subject based repositories

Open Repositories 2009, day one, session 1b.

Phew! OR09 is over, and my jetlag almost. An intense conference that was certainly worth it, the content was generally interesting and well-presented. I'll be posting my conference notes here the coming few days.

First session on Monday morning were two talks on two subject based repositories. The planned third one, on a Japanese one, was cancelled - unfortunately as I know very little of what’s happening there regarding OA.

First came Julie Ann Kelly (University of Minnesota) on AgEcon, a repository for Agricultural Economics, a field with a strong working paper tradition. It was set up in the gopher days (not so surprising, as the critter originated in Minnesota).

Interesting was the reason: in this fields, working papers are citable, but the reference format was a mess.

Even more interesting: because of this, it also became the de facto place for depositing appendices to articles - datasets! The repository accepts them and they have the same citing format. There is a lesson here... solve a real problem, and content will come.

Usage statistics: only 53% of downloads comes from people, 43.6% is googlebot (rest other spiders). 66% of visitors come through google straight to results, not through the frontend anymore. Then 19% are some other search engines: leaves 14% coming through front.

Further notes:

Why is life easier in a subject repository?

  • Focussed topic makes metadata easier, common vocabularies exists etc.
  • Recruitment (of other institutions) is easier (specialists in one profession tend to meet frequently, recruiting can piggyback on conferences etc).

And why is it harder?

  • organising the community is hard work - 170 institutions with each between 1 and 300 submitters creates a lot of traffic on quality issues. They frequently hire studens for the correcting.

Minnesota is consolidating its repositories from 5-6 different systems to Islandora. AgEcon will be one of them.

They want to use this Drupal based system also to add social networking, akin to Ethicshare. Ethicshare is interesting: a social citation manager (a la Citeulike/Bibsonomy) plus repository plus social network plus calendar and then some more, for a specific field of study, in this case ethic research. Commoditisation coming?

The second subject repository was on Economists Online, presented by Vanessa Proudman of Tilburg University. Interesting to see this is in many ways the opposite approach. EO is a big European project that works top-down, tries to get the big players aboard first as incentive for the others, and emphasizes quality above all. Whereas AE was a grassroots bottom-up model, that empowered small institutions.

It's a work in progress, only mockups shown. These look slick, with a well thought-out UI. Interesting: with every object in the result list, statistics will be shown inline (ajax), and can be downloaded in multiple formats.

Small pilot with 10 datasets per participating institution, DDI format, Dataverse as preferred solution. Provenance of datasets is very complicated: there are many contributors to the data life cycle, dataset owners, sources, providers, all must be accredited.

Like AE, EO stresses that subject-based repositories have different characteristics. They will organize a dedicated conference on subject repositories in january 2010 in London, as they note that the subject rarely comes up at general repository conferences.

Interest in attending: mail

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