The News from Edinburgh and Open Repositories 2012

by Leyla on July 20, 2012

Rob Hilliker, Academic Commons Manager at CDRS, gives us the lowdown on Open Repositories 2012

This past week, as folks here in New York were sweltering, I was enjoying the mild climate and warm hospitality of Edinburgh while attending Open Repositories 2012.  Open Repositories is an annual gathering of scholarly communications librarians, software developers, institutional repository managers, and sundry other folks engaged in the creation, implementation, and improvement of digital repositories for scholarly research outputs and cultural heritage materials.

Photo of a Bagpiper at the National Museum of Scotland

Photo by Keita Bando via Flickr (CC-BY)

This year’s conference, with over 450 participants from some 34 countries gathering for 5 days of workshops, presentations, posters, and plenaries, demonstrated the continued growth and increasing maturity of the Open Access movement.  It came on the heels of the UK’s Finch Report, which recommended increased government support for OA journal publication—and was quickly followed by the Research Councils UK’s announcement of a new Open Access policy that, if anything, goes further than the Finch Report in its strong support for the role of repositories in archiving and disseminating research outputs.  This context of increased success informed my own presentation at the conference, in which I argued that it is time to replace the old metaphor of the repository manager as the lonely “Innkeeper at the Roach Motel” (per Dorothea Salo’s classic article of the same name) with a new one: the repository manager as beekeeper, working alongside a team of fellow beekeepers to ensure that their hives are well-provisioned, productive research environments whose fruits are available to the world to enjoy.  Given the immense collaborative energies in evidence at the conference, this new metaphor seemed (at least to me) especially apt.

Wordle based on tweets with the #OR2012 Hashtag

Wordle courtesy of Adam Field

While there is still plenty of work to be done to ensure public access to government-funded research here and elsewhere, this community has now set it sights firmly on the next big challenge: providing access to and preservation of data, particularly research data.  I took part in a standing-room only pre-conference workshop on the subject, where I shared notes with other repository managers on what they are up to in this area and then, during the conference itself, saw a number of impressive demos and posters introducing us to new projects like DataONE for geosciences data and Oxford University’s DataFlow, which provides an active storage platform, and a data dissemination and archiving platform. Patrick McSweeney (pictured below) won the annual DevSCI Developer’s Challenge (on his sixth try, no less) with his proof of concept of a system for ingesting and normalizing datasets in an ePrints repository and then generating compelling visualizations of them at the tap of a trackpad.

Photo of Patrick McSweeney, winner of the OR2012 Developer's Challenge

Photo by Keita Bando via Flickr (CC-BY)

Next year the conference returns to North America—to Prince Edward Island, Canada—and my sense is that, while data management will continue to dominate the conversation, the archiving of research software will come to the fore as a particularly significant piece of that puzzle.  Certainly the code produced by the developers at this conference was increasingly on public display—notably in a number of open Github repositories—and the code for DSpace, one of the most popular repository software packages, has also moved to Github this past year.  I was pleased to hear the name of Columbia’s own Victoria Stodden come up several times during the course of the conference, as she has long been a strong advocate of the need to preserve both data and code as the only way to truly provide for reproducibility of scientific research.

If you’d like to learn more about Open Repositories, the conference website is a good place to start, but there are also Flickr and YouTube collections for the conference, and with over 4,000 tweets generated during the conference at the hashtag #OR2012, you could spend hours reliving the highlights of the conference and linking out to all manner of wonderful content and amazing advances in repository software.