Thursday, 1 August 2013

Getting to the Repository of the Future. RepositoryFringe2013

Yesterday I attended the first day of Repository Fringe 2013 and an afternoon workshop entitled Getting to the Repository of the Future. It was held at the University of Edinburgh Informatics Forum.
I haven't taken part in this event before and although not a repository expert, I am keen to find out more about the current situation regarding repositories and gain an informed general overview.
The room was laid out with 6 tables of approx 6 people ( there was another workshop session being held at the same time so this was a subset of the total attendees).
The session was introduced by Chris Awre who gave an overview of the context, background and aims of the day. He mentioned that repositories need to be used for a variety of purposes to include Research Data, OER, Digital assets, MOOCs etc. He raised some questions to be considered during the workshop:
There are many repositories in place but how do we support them?
There are lots of repositories and lots of services but where do we go now?
Institutions need to be responsive
If you work with a repository, are they still the right system for managing the institutions assets?
Staffing and skills requirements?
What tools will be used in the future?
There needs to be a collaborative approach and sector wide perspective.
Then Balviar Notay from Jisc talked about the current picture with an overview of the development of digital repositories by key strategic area. This included considering what the value is of a repository to an institution. In order to help address the question 'So what can we do now?' She gave some examples of pioneering ideas including:
Uni of Hull (Hydra)
Uni of Creative Arts - creative arts repositories (ePrints). Practioner based researchers work.
Middlesex MIRAGE 2D repository of MRI scans could be turned into 3D visualisations with embedded visualisation toolkit

In a sharing economy power is moving to the edges - are repositories at the edge?

Chris Awre then added the following questions to consider
How do repositories pay their keep?
Directly through exploitation? Indirectly through lowering of costs elsewhere?
What are the current trends that influence repositories?
Social - open learning, RDM, academic shifts in need/innovation
Technological - content centric development, system integration, usability, analytical
Legal issues - licensing
Environmental - relational to other systems VLE, shared library management systems, public engagement, preservation
We then had breakout sessions which consisted of discussions on our tables to look at 2yr, 5yr, 10yr predictions for repositories - Short, medium and long term. What is the future of the repository?
There was a good mix of people on our table with different levels of expertise and experience which made for a good discussion. We looked at the functionality of repositories - what should you be able to do with a repository?
(We did have a discussion about the actual word Repository and whether it is appropriate or relevant but in the absence of any other word........)
The main points we made were:
Other systems need to be able to pull information out of a repository easily - it should be an 'invisible repository' in a good way - transparent.
There should be an automated way of getting stuff into the repository - no need to input.
Enhanced discovery - easily searchable. Different ways of visualising - clever interfaces.
Publishers? Do we still want them in 10 years? Need to have more engagement. A better relationship with publishers should be part of the infrastructure providing more ingest.
Which institutions repository should a piece of work be stored in when co-authors?
More interaction with open access repositories? What are the incentives? There needs to be a change in culture.
Is it possible to get all the repositories or silos to talk to each other and then bring data together to send out into an interface that is usable?
There was then a feedback session when the groups fed back to the whole room. The main points raised were:
Functionality of repositories revolve round three main aspects - preservation, access and diversity.
Repositories should do less but better.
Automation of management.
Should the delivery of the content be offloaded to a delivery platform rather than being a function of the repository itself.
Who decides access and how?
Interoperability - add service layers.
Diversity of content - images, videos etc
Access to ephemeral content such as blogs
Organisationally there needs to be more integration with other systems and multiple systems. Fully integrated into people's workflow.
Governance and transparency - how much does the organisation want to invest?
Two good quotes of the day were
"If everything could be automated, then that would be great"
"The future is here, but not evenly distributed".

The summary of the day was that:
Repositories are good to draw stuff together and manage it - breadth of content will grow.
Who is driving? conflict between ownerships of content and repository and those who run the institution and the requirements
A lot of what we want to do is already known about but an uncertainty how to do it. So what are the barriers? Policy? Skills? If we could identify the barriers would this help?

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