Trust, sustainability, collaboration. . . and research libraries under the Greek sun

We recently returned from attending the LIBER annual conference, held in Patras, Greece. LIBER is the Ligue des Bibliothèques Européennes de Recherche – Association of European Research Libraries and serves as an important professional organization for national and university libraries throughout Europe. We attended to talk with European research librarians and also to present preliminary findings on our collaborative research with LIBER on the adoption and integration of persistent person and organizational identifiers in European research information management infrastructures.

This year, trust and sustainability were the dominant themes emerging over the three days. Whether distributed solutions (such as the new COAR initiative to create a globally networked infrastructure for scholarly communication) or shared efforts (such as the European Print Initiatives Collaboration EPICo) – they require trust to work, and sustainable operational models to survive.

Another theme that stood out for us was collaboration. Jacquelijn Ringersma, Head of Digital Production Centre, Wageningen University & Research (WUR), spoke about Research Data Management policies at WUR locally as well as on the Dutch National Coordination Point Research Data Management led by SURF, an initiative to coordinate knowledge sharing and stimulate cooperation among stakeholders nationwide, which has helped develop a visible, knowledgeable, and efficient RDM community in the Netherlands. She offered one of our favorite quotes of the conference “You cannot build RDM services as only a library”, adding that libraries succeed through local partnership with researchers, IT, legal services, and the graduate school– and that you also need national collaboration.

Join us next week when we hear more from Jacquelijn on Policy Realities in Research Data Management in an OCLC webinar.

Our own presentation on “The Adoption and Integration of Persistent Identifiers in European Research Information Management” also addressed themes of trust, sustainability, and collaboration. We define research information management (RIM) as the aggregation, curation, and utilization of metadata about research activities–in Europe, RIMs are also widely known as Current Research Information Systems (CRIS). In collaboration with LIBER, OCLC Research is examining the nexus of RIM infrastructures with person and organizational identifiers in three national contexts, Finland, Germany, and the Netherlands, in order to gain useful insights on emerging practices and challenges at different level of scale.

We have conducted interviews with more than fifteen research universities and ICT providers in these national landscapes. Our presentation offered preliminary findings of our research, documenting how Finnish and Dutch infrastructures are highly organized and aggregate research outputs at the national scale, largely in response to national and funder mandates for improved impact assessment and open access. These external incentives are largely absent in Germany where we observe far less state or national scale coordination.

One thing we found interesting at the LIBER conference was that persistent identifiers (PIDs) and research information management infrastructures did not feature prominently in the printed program, including the abstracts, and so we were curious to learn why that was. For persistent identifiers, it turned out to be pretty simple. Persistent person and organizational identifiers are critical infrastructure necessary for scaling, for networked solutions, for interoperability and interlinking, so they were rarely mentioned but often implied, as was confirmed whenever we asked. System integration of PIDs with RIMs provides added convenience for busy researchers, as they enter metadata once–which can make them more likely to comply.

The absence of RIM related topics from a library related conference, however common in our experience, is less easily explained. Is it that RIM, unlike RDM, is regarded as a purely administrative topic? Do research libraries feel excluded from this sphere in their institutions, or do they selectively focus on those parts of RIM which are close to their skills and mission, such as publication management and researcher support? Share your thoughts below if you have any, as we would love to hear from you.

In Patras, we ended up having terrific conversations on the joys and sorrows in PID land, and learned a lot. Watch for more news about our research through this blog and by following @OCLC on Twitter.

Rebecca Bryant & Annette Dortmund

Thanks to our research partner Constance Malpas for her input in writing this post.