Digital scholarship: Advanced technologies for research (2)

Second set of liveblog notes from Digital scholarship: Advanced technologies for research – a JISC-sponsored roadshow held on 10 March 2010 in the Ambient Technology Lab, Jennie Lee Building, The Open University.

This one is Colin Smith on Institutional Repositories: Helping to bridge the gap between traditional and digital scholarship.

Colin Smith – Open Research Online, The Open University

Open Research Online – OU institutional repository of research outputs.

Martin says he’s not a repositories fan, but ORO is good!

Colin keeps the ORO blog, mainly, and manages ORO. Previously working in publishing; has an interest in publishing and open access. Focused mainly on research aspect of scholarship, but this impacts on other areas too.

Vivid photoshopped image of Martin Weller in a C19th punchfight with Robert Winston (as a poor example of a traditional scholar) – not what he wants. Wants to help traditional scholar to use the best of the digital way, and bring the digital scholar in who might think they’re beyond a repository.

Institutional repositories are really easy to use.

Good incentive is to show evidence of usage, and benefit. Showing people viewing and engaging with outputs.

Stumbling block is that institutional repositories are open-access, so hard to track what people are doing with it, so we’re often none the wiser: did they find it useful? Where did they come from? Do use Google Analytics, visits, downloads, and download index.  Index is the number of downloads an item has had, divided by the length of time it’s been there – if it’s >1, it’s downloaded more than once a day.

ORO uses ePrints software. Have a ‘request copy’ button on individual items – so can still ask for a copy of something even if the rights don’t let us make it available completely openly. Also gives us a picture of who’s using the repository and why they’re interested.

Useful for all four Boyer aspects – Discovery very obviously. Integration – e.g. someone wanting an experienced person to boost a research bid in a particular area. Application – e.g. a local council using evidence to support the development of policy and guidelines. Teaching – e.g. academic taking articles as basis for teaching material.


Someone: Why don’t you (Martin) like repositories? And what about preserving digital data for repositories?

Colin: Yes. Project at Southampton looking at impact, but interested in evidence of impact archived alongside outputs. Preservation is a key task for repositories.

Martin: They are an educational response to something that doesn’t need it. Usually they’re inferior to existing systems – e.g. Slideshare, blog, etc. Overcomplex solutions to the ‘problem’ of where to put stuff, but people are already using other systems. Slideshare is a great OER reuse system. Learning objects approach kills it dead – huge amounts of metadata to fill in. There is a return on investment for ORO, very simple to upload, and you get some nice things back. Don’t underestimate impact of ego – friendly competition for numbers of readers, Twiter followers.

Colin: Gets a lot of positive feedback for his index figures. Good for the ego, recognition too. Moral aspect less of an incentive.

John: Small matter of the way that web 2.0 services tend to disappear quickly. Links to his Arcadia project work. How many companies have been around for 800 years? Slideshare is wonderful but could disappear tomorrow. Very few companies last more than even 100 years. Universities have a cultural role as custodians of the record. Institutions tend to do things in a very heavy-handed way; attracted to the lightweight commercial approach. But there is an issue.

Simon Buckingham Shum: Institutional repositories can be trusted to be around for a bit longer than, but can wrap services around that – e.g. retweeting – take advantage of external services. Use APIs, make it as open as possible.

Colin: Repositories not just as dull places to store things. OU has a good chance here.

John: Hopefully the OU will be around here for 100 years, or more.

Martin: Is your priority a conversation and easy sharing, or preservation of a record?

Nick: Disciplinary differences in currency of outputs.

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Author: dougclow

Experienced project leader, data scientist, researcher, analyst, teacher, developer, educational technologist and manager. I particularly enjoy rapidly appraising new-to-me contexts, and mediating between highly technical specialisms and others, from ordinary users to senior management. After 20 years at the OU as an academic, I am now a self-employed consultant, building on my skills and experience in working with people, technology, data science, and artificial intelligence, in the education field and beyond.