Wednesday, February 13, 2008

VALA 2008 Report Back: Repositories thru the looking glass - Andy Powell

There are many methods for predicting the future. For example, you can read horoscopes, tea leaves, tarot cards, or crystal balls. Collectively, these methods are known as "nutty methods." Or you can put well-researched facts into sophisticated computer models, more commonly referred to as "a complete waste of time." Scott Adams

Andy has a long history with Eduserv and was the principal technical architect of the JISC Information Environment. He has been active in the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative for a number of years. Andy jointly authored the DCMI Abstract Model and several other Dublin Core technical specifications. More recently he jointly authored the DC Eprints Application Profile for the JISC. He was also a member of the Open Archives Initiative technical committee.

With a background like that it was surprising that he opened his talk by saying he thought we'd gone down the wrong path with institutional repositories (he pre-disclaimed that these were things he was pondering lately, and were not the thoughts of his employers).

His key ideas were:

  • Repositories have largely ignored the web
  • Too much focus on the word ‘repository’ rather than servicing content on the web
  • What’s the difference between a repository and a cms?
  • If we focused on content management we would stop talking about OAI-PMH and start talking about search engine optimization
  • We are service oriented not resource oriented
  • Our institutional focus:
    • Is contrary to the nature of research and research communities
    • Makes web 2 apps unlikely because of small user communities
  • In some areas even a national focus is not enough and we should be approaching it globally

So what does Andy think a web 2 repository would look like?

He freely acknowledged the 'cons' of this approach:

  • No preservation
  • No complex workflows
  • Don’t expose rich metadata
  • Author searching citation counting not handled well by the current web

Having seemingly dismissed his own work in the area of repositories he went on to discuss what was good about the 'librariany' approach to repositories:

  • eprints and SWAP scholarly works application profile
  • FRBR offered a sound basis for identifying the multitude of versions of research eg preprint vs peer revied published PDF

The key points I got from his wrap up were:

  • Repositories don’t work with the real social networks used by academics
  • Open access is inevitable, we should focus on ‘making content on the web’ not ‘putting content in repositories’
  • The future lies in resource orientation, REST, and the semantic web

No comments: