Evolving Scholarly Record workshop (Part 3)

This is the third of three posts about the workshop.

Part 1 introduced the Evolving Scholarly Record framework.  Part 2 described the two plenary discussions.  This part summarizes the breakout discussions.

Following the presentations, attendees divided into breakout groups.  There were a variety of suggested topics, but the discussions took on lives of their own.  The breakout discussions surfaced many themes that may merit further attention:

Support for researchers

It may be the institution’s responsibility to provide infrastructure to support compliance with mandates, but it is certainly the library’s role to assist researchers in depositing their content somewhere and to ensure that deposits are discoverable.  We should establish trust by offering our expertise and familiarity with reliable external repositories, deposit, compliance with mandates, selection, description …  and support the needs of researchers during and after their projects.  Access to research outcomes involves both helping researchers find and access information they need as inputs to their work and helping them to ensure that their outputs are discovered and accessible by others.  We should also find ways to ensure portability of research outputs throughout a researcher’s career.  We need to partner with faculty and help them take the long view.  We cannot do this by making things harder for the researcher, but by making it seamless, building on the ways they prefer to work.

Adapting to the challenge

We need to retool and reskill to add new expertise:  ensuring that processes are retained along with data, promoting licenses that allow reusability, thinking about what repositories can deliver back to research, and adding developers to our teams.  When we extend beyond existing library standards, we need to look elsewhere to see what we can adopt rather than create.  We need to leverage and retain the trust in libraries, but need resources to do the work.  While business models don’t exist yet, we need to find ways to rebalance resources and contain costs.  One of the ways we might do that is to build library expertise and funding into the grant proposal process, becoming an integral part of the process from inception to dissemination of results.


Academic libraries should first collect, preserve, and provide access to materials created by those at their institution.  How do libraries put a value on assets (to the institution, to researchers, to the wider public)?  Not just outputs but also the evidence-base and surrounding commentary.  What should proactively be captured from active research projects?   How many versions should be retained?  What role should user-driven demand play?  What is needed to ensure we have evidence for verification and retain results of failed experiments?  What need not be saved (locally or at all)?  When is sampling called for?  What about deselection?  While we can involve researchers in identifying resources for preservation, in some cases we may have to be proactive and hunt them down and harvest them ourselves.


Competitiveness (regarding tenure, reputation, IP, and scooping) can inhibit sharing.  Timing of data sharing can be important, sometimes requiring an embargo.  Privacy issues regarding research subjects must be considered.  Researchers may be sensitive about sharing “personal” scientific notes – or sharing data before their research is published.  Different disciplines have different traditions about sharing.

Collaboration with others in the university

Policy and financial drivers (mandates, ROI expectations, reputation and assessment) will motivate a variety of institutional stakeholders in various ways.  How can expertise be optimized and duplication be minimized?  Libraries can’t change faculty behaviors, so need to join together with those with more influence.  When Deans see that libraries can address parts of the challenge, they will welcome involvement.  When multiple units are employing different systems and services, IT departments and libraries may become key players.  There are limits to institutional capacity, so cooperating with other institutions is also necessary.

Collaboration with other stakeholders in a distributed archive across publishers, subjects, nations

The variety and quantity of information now making up the scholarly record is far greater than it used to be and publishers are no longer the gatekeepers of the scholarly record.  This is a time to restructure the role of libraries vis-à-vis the rest of the ecosystem.  We need to function as part of a ecosystem that includes commercial and governmental entities.  We need to act locally, think globally, employing DOIs and Researcher IDs to interoperate with other systems and to appeal to scholars.  Help researchers negotiate on IP rights, terms of use, privacy, and other issues when engaging with environments like GitHub, SlideShare, and publishers’ systems, being aware that, while others will engage with identifiers, metadata systems, discovery, etc., few may be committed to preservation.  How do we decide who are trustworthy stewards and what kinds of assurances are needed?

Technical approaches

We need to understand various solutions for fixity, versioning, and citation. We need to accommodate persistent object identifiers and multiple researcher name identifiers.  We need to explore ways to link the various research materials related to the same project.  We need to coordinate metadata in objects (e.g., an instrument’s self-generated metadata) with metadata about the objects and metadata about the context).  Embedded links need to be maintained.  Campus systems may need to interoperate with external systems (such as SHARE).  We should help find efficient metrics for assessing researcher impact and enhancing institutional reputation.  We should consider collaborating on processes to capture content from social media.  In doing these things we should be contributing to developing standards, best practices, and tools.

Policy issues

What kinds of statements of organizational responsibility are needed:  a declaration of intent covering what we will collect, a service agreement covering what services we will provide to whom, terms of use, and explicit assertions about which parts of the university are doing what?  Are there changes to copyright needed; does Creative Commons licensing work for researchers?  What about legal deposit for digital content, based on the print model?  What happens when open access policies conflict with publisher agreements?


Attendees of the workshop feel that stewardship efforts will evolve from informal to more formal.  Mandates, cost-savings, and scale will motivate this evolution.  It is a common good to have demonstrable historical record to document what is known, to protect against fraud, and for future research to build upon.  Failure to act is a risk for libraries, for research, and for the scholarly record.

Future Evolving Scholarly Record workshops will expand the discussion and contribute to identifying topics for further investigation.  The next scheduled workshops will be in Washington DC on December 10, 2014 and in San Francisco on June 4, 2015.  Watch for more details and for announcements of other workshops on the OCLC Research events page.

Ricky Erway, Senior Program Officer at OCLC Research, worked with staff from the OCLC Research Library Partnership on projects ranging from managing born digital archives to research data curation. Ricky left OCLC in 2015.

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