Archive for the 'Supporting Scholarship' Category

Research dissemination and ‘the archive’

Monday, April 26th, 2010 by John

Ithaka S+R recently published its Faculty Survey 2009: Key Strategic Insights for Libraries, Publishers, and Societies. It considers the way faculty views of the library are changing, and analyses library roles into three key functions:

“The library is a starting point or ’gateway’ for locating information for my research” (which we refer to as the gateway function). “The library pays for resources I need, from academic journals to books to electronic databases” (which we refer to as the buyer function). “The library is a repository of resources – in other words, it archives, preserves, and keeps track of resources” (which we refer to as the archive function).

Ithaka’s analysis shows that the gateway function has declined (its importance rating has dropped from 70%-58%) over the six years in which the biennnial studies have been made, while the buyer function has steadily increased (81%-90%). The archive function has remained relatively static at just over 70%.

Many of the findings in this report are interesting, and relevant to us as we focus – via our Working Group on Research Services – on the specific topic of Support for Research Dissemination. We have chosen the word dissemination with some care. What we will be looking at is researcher behaviours and practices concerning institutional repositories, individual websites, subject archives, virtual research environments, blogs, blog aggregations and other social venues. In other words, every research dissemination venue except the conventional (and still overpoweringly influential) modes of scholarly publishing – the journal, the monograph and the conference paper. We will look at the way researchers use these alternative venues to disseminate their work, and the factors that account for the types and rates of dissemination. Read the rest of this entry »

Scholarly content and the cliff edge: the place of subject ‘repositories’

Friday, February 5th, 2010 by John

The famous (and famously reclusive) author J.D. Salinger died on 27 January this year, two days after the anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns – a day which is celebrated across Scotland and in many parts of the world. Salinger and Burns are of course connected, since the title of Salinger’s most famous novel, The Catcher in the Rye, is based on a mishearing of the Burns song Comin’ Through the Rye by the protagonist, 17-year old Holden Caulfield:

… I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff—I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.

Salinger, J.D., The Catcher in the Rye, Chapter 22

The idea of being a ‘catcher’ struck me when I attended a conference held at the British Library last week, Subject Repositories: European Collaboration in the International Context. Neil Jacobs of JISC mentioned Glasgow University Library’s policy of seeking to ‘catch’ researchers close to the end of funded projects to ask if they would like help with their outputs. Certainly, it is easy to argue for libraries to be the ‘catchers in the rye’ when it comes to digital scholarly works and outputs – and the obvious place to deposit these materials is the institutional repository.

However, we were gathered at the BL to hear about subject repositories – including EconomistsOnline which was being launched during the event. And we heard about several very successful subject repositories in a number of very good presentations. The event left me reflecting on a number of things. For example, some subject repositories are success stories almost against all odds. Services like arXiv and RePEc have captured their respective corners of academia so effectively that they go on existing and attracting even without much resource (almost none in the case of RePEc), and their proven value is such that people probably would pay to maintain them (as arXiv is now proposing for its heaviest users). This makes them the inverse of many institutional repositories, which can’t attract content almost irrespective of the amount of resource invested. Read the rest of this entry »

ORCID and ISNI: Author, Swineherd, Taxman, Alcohol Researcher

Saturday, January 30th, 2010 by Jim

At recent meetings I attended in Washington D.C. there was significant hallway discussion about the Open Researcher Contributor Identification (ORCID) initiative. Given the science orientation of the meetings this initiative to resolve the problem of name ambiguity and attribution in scholarly publication was particularly welcomed. As you’ll see if you visit the ORCID site this is early days for this pre-competitive multi-publisher effort whose goal is to establish

“an open, independent registry that is adopted and embraced as the industry’s de facto standard.” Their mission is “to resolve the systemic name ambiguity, by means of assigning unique identifiers linkable to an individual’s research output, to enhance the scientific discovery process and improve the efficiency of funding and collaboration.”

Meeting one was convened by Thomson Reuters and Nature Publishing not long ago with the first meeting in November 2009. The roster of participants is impressive and the continued involvement of Elsevier made those with whom I talked hopeful that this would be as successful an effort as CrossRef has been. A recent editorial in Nature Credit where credit is due (pdf) is quite to the point about the implications of success.

My colleagues, Thom Hickey and Janifer Gatenby, have been involved. OCLC has much to contribute here given Thom’s leadership of the Virtual International Authority File (VIAF) effort and Janifer’s in the development of the International Standard Name Identifier (ISNI). The scope of ORCID is narrower than ISNI as the latter is intended for the identification of “identities used publicly by parties involved throughout the media content industries in the creation, production, management, and content distribution chains.” This goes across all fields of creative activity not just science. As Janifer said,

“ISNI could become a cross domain identifier so that a researcher who also plays in a rock band (and wants it known that he is one and the same) can be identified.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Libraries and research excellence

Thursday, January 14th, 2010 by John

Last month I mentioned the publication of A comparative review of research assessment regimes in five countries and the role of libraries in the research assessment process, which had been produced for us by Key Perspectives. It is a detailed report, and I also said that we’d shortly issue a companion report with some background information on the question of research assessment – ie the system by which universities are evaluated for their research performance by the bodies that fund them, with some of the key findings for each country, and with some recommendations for research libraries. That companion report, Research assessment and the role of the library, was published yesterday, and I thought I might draw attention here to the recommendations for research libraries that it makes. These are:

  • Libraries should be sources of knowledge on disciplinary norms and practices in research outputs for their institutions
  • Libraries should seek to sustain environments in which disciplines can develop while co-existing with political constraints
  • Libraries should manage research outputs data at national and international scales
  • Libraries should take responsibility for the efficient operation of research output repositories across research environments
  • Libraries should provide expertise in bibliometrics
  • Libraries should provide usage evidence
  • Libraries should claim their territory
  • These challenges are easy to state, and most of us would readily assent to them. Some academic librarians may even claim to be doing several of them already – particularly in the operation of repositories, and in the provision of expertise in bibliometrics in some cases. But how many non-library organisations would recognise these as library roles? Would our funding bodies? The President’s or Vice Chancellor’s Office? Our research councils? Research publishers? Our politicians? Until these roles can be seen from the outside, we have not ‘claimed our territory’. Read the rest of this entry »

    National systems of research assessment and implications for libraries

    Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009 by John

    Research assessment is a very big deal in some countries. Countries whose university systems are largely publicly-funded routinely check up on the research quality of individual universities to ensure that they are squeezing the best possible performance out of their systems. They do this because they see a link between high-quality research and economic development. The economic potential of research is growing in importance as national ‘knowledge economies’ recognise the need for international research excellence, and see universities as a key driver.

    We have just published a report which reviews the research assessment regimes of five countries, and the role of libraries in the processes of assessment that exist. This report was produced by Key Perspectives Ltd, a UK consultancy, and it surveys the research assessment situation in the Netherlands, Ireland, the UK, Denmark and Australia. We chose countries that we knew were doing interesting things in assessment – or in preparation for its introduction. The high political stakes involved were evident even as the report was being written. In the UK, the pilot exercise for the system that will replace the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) ditched one of its proposed new thrusts (bibliometrics) and found another (economic impact) for the country’s universities to stress about. In Australia, a recent change of government led to temporary abandonment of a system that tied assessment outcomes to government funding, and arguably lost the country some ground in the international scramble for both reputation and economic advantage.

    The Review provides a fascinating account of different cultural understandings of the purposes of assessment, and a glimpse of the trend of concentrating research excellence in a small number of top universities that is now taking shape in many countries, as the competition for research income, top faculty and students becomes one that occurs within a single international marketplace. We found countries that tied research assessment to large amounts of government funding, and others that did not (yet); countries that operated systems based on bibliometrics and others that mistrusted them; countries that devised league tables of journals and awarded points to researchers on those they published in – and others that assembled national panels of experts to determine the rankings.

    Libraries are involved in these assessment exercises in a range of ways, from the clerical (data entry) to the highly strategic, and from the specialist (bibliometric expertise) to a role as providers of general infrastructure (institutional repositories). Whatever differences there may be in the assessment systems adopted by different countries, they all share a focus upon the research outputs produced by their researchers and faculty. These outputs are managed by libraries – both indirectly (via publications) and, increasingly directly (via arrangements with the authors themselves at pre-publication stages). Does this suggest that libraries play a central role in research assessment within their institutions? Or that they should? At the very least, shouldn’t libraries seek a shared view on this question?

    Climate change for libraries

    Monday, November 30th, 2009 by John

    At the RLG Partnership Annual Meeting in 2007, Timothy Burke told the assembled research librarians ‘you have to figure out how to be hydraulic engineers of information flow rather than the guardians of the fortress’. It’s an image that has stuck with me. Everywhere now in our professional literature we see the challenges of our work represented by the imagery of flow and fluidity. We try to scope and identify workflows that are changing or need to change. The platform of the web dips and peaks faster and differently than we can predict, and as it does so content suddenly flows in different directions, taking new channels. Stability in this environment is rare, and a relief when we find it, even though it may lie in places that librarians take some time to trust – like Google and Wikipedia.

    I often show a slide produced by Rick Luce, Vice-Provost and Director of Libraries at Emory University, when describing the territory of our Research Information Management (RIM) programme. This appeals to me because it indicates that library attention needs to be focused on the workflow layer, rather than the repository layer that sits below it.

    Understanding the particular environments of researchers, and the flows that matter to them, is perhaps not a new challenge for research libraries, but it is a newly urgent one. In the pre-digital world the flows were not digital flows, with the capture challenges and opportunities that now exist. The library dealt mainly in the solid world of published literature. It collected from the physical outputs that emerged at the end of flow processes, and could structure its operations around that bounded reality (within its ‘fortress’ print stores, to use Tim Burke’s analogy). Now, we see potential for library services everywhere, because we have systems that capture flows, and allow them to combine, split and replicate wherever it is useful for them to do so, and legal barriers do not obstruct. But to do so optimally, we need to understand researchers’ worlds at a level of detail that is still not familiar to libraries. Read the rest of this entry »

    Academic Library Manifesto

    Monday, November 9th, 2009 by Ricky

    Support for the Research Process: An Academic Library Manifesto (PDF) was just released by the RLG Partnership Research Information Management Roadmap Working Group. You don’t need to nail it to your library’s door, but you might want to think about how many of these things you currently do, how many you could do, and what you could stop doing (or streamline) so that you can better support your institution’s research mission.

    OAIster Update: More Access & No Conditions

    Friday, October 30th, 2009 by Roy

    In previous posts, I sought to clarify our plans for taking over the OAIster aggregation of metadata from the University of Michigan. Since then a couple key things have changed, which are being communicated to the repositories being harvested as well as to the broader community.

    One of the changes is that there are no longer any “terms and conditions” regarding the metadata. In keeping with the open style of the Open Archives Initiative community, if you make your metadata available for harvesting, you must intend for it to be harvested. We will also feel free to index it, provide access to it, and allow Google to crawl it. After all, we believe that discovery and access is the whole point of opening up your metadata for harvesting. If it isn’t, then all you have to do is let us know.

    The other key change is that we have decided that the OAIster aggregation is an important enough destination for finding open access content that we will make it possible to search only the OAIster records on WorldCat.org, at separate web address, should you wish to do so. The records will still be integrated into the WorldCat.org database as well, and continue to be available as a separate database in FirstSearch, but there seemed to be enough interest in the OAIster aggregation as a unified database that we decided to support those uses. This will take a little time to put together, and our plan is to make it available after the first of the year.

    We listened to your feedback, we carefully considered your comments, and we feel that it is important enough to get this right that we are willing to make an investment in it. We hope you feel that it is a worthy use of your resources. We do.

    Mendeley scrobbles your papers

    Thursday, September 24th, 2009 by John

    Mendeley is a social web application for academic authors that has been receiving quite a lot of attention recently. Victor Keegan wrote about it in The Guardian last week, likening it to the streaming music service Last.fm:

    How does it work? At the basic level, students can “drag and drop” research papers into the site at mendeley.com which automatically extracts data, keywords, cited references, etc, thereby creating a searchable database and saving countless hours of work. That in itself is great, but now the Last.fm bit kicks in, enabling users to collaborate with researchers around the world, whose existence they might not know about until Mendeley’s algorithms find, say, that they are the most-read person in Japan in their niche specialism. You can recommend other people’s papers and see how many people are reading yours, which you can’t do in Nature and Science. Mendeley says that instead of waiting for papers to be published after a lengthy procedure of acquiring citations, they could move to a regime of real-time citations, thereby greatly reducing the time taken for research to be applied in the real world and actually boost economic growth. There are lots of research archives. For the physical (but not biological) sciences there is ArXiv, with more than half a million e-papers free online – but nothing on the potential scale of Mendeley. Around 60,000 people have already signed up and a staggering 4m scientific papers have been uploaded, doubling every 10 weeks. At this rate it will soon overtake the biggest academic databases, which have around 20m papers.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    The Straight Dope on OAIster

    Monday, September 21st, 2009 by Roy

    As many of you are probably aware, OCLC and the University of Michigan announced last January that OCLC was taking over the OAIster aggregation of metadata harvested from OAI-compliant repositories. The University of Michigan was no longer able to support it, and was looking for assistance in sustaining this valuable community resource. As Kat Hagedorn remarked in regards to our agreement, “Hosting anything of this size quickly got out of hand for UM Libraries, and it took us a long time to realize it. Besides, greater access for more folks? Sounds win-win to me, as long as it’s continuously freely available.” [reported by Dorothea Salo]

    I have heard lots of questions since we started contacting contributors with the most recent phase of the transfer plan, so the purpose of this post is to bring everyone up to date on why we are doing this, where things are, and what we hope to accomplish in the future. Read the rest of this entry »