Thursday, June 26, 2008

UK Repositories and the criteria that make or break them

I walked into a packed room of participants hearing Les Carr describing his UK experience with Repository systems and their fame or flop in UK institutions. After offering a Repository Checklist of 14 operating criteria (I'll post when scanned), Les encouraged us to discuss in break away groups the merits of these and to recommend or delete in order to compose a revised version. A host of discussion surfaced (both in the group I was a part of) and in the feedback sessions that followed. Our group got stuck on number 1, author identification, and brainstormed on the need for an international author identification number (like a Driver's License or ISSN perhaps we shoud develop an International Researcher Number). One participant, Joan Dalton of UWindsor's Leddy Library, asked about "the elephant in the room" ~the question of whether this depository tracking would eventually lead to institutional surveillance. Les remarked that its the game one had to play in the UK because the government mandates full research disclosure. So too does Australia, and a participant from Brandeis U also suggested that faculty there are encouraged to annually update their on-line CV with publications, conference attendance and other professional activities in order to qualify for a salary review. Another participants offered this great observation, that there are "2 people carrying sticks" ~ institutions and research funders~ and it is their presence and power that forces the high traffic in download counts and citation-metrics. If you don't like the game played, agreed Les, there is only one simply answer . . . look elsewhere for a career (i.e. from move from publishing to just "the Pub"). In fact, faculty in the UK are trying every avenue in their range to prove the impact of their work in the scholarly community, even scanning for anyone who might be blogging about their work, simply to raise their digital profile.
Someone else commented that institutions can actually gain respect by referring to and promoting the repository work happening at their school (something I heard confirmed later in the hallways in reference to "ads" placed on their Repository site saying "if you like the research you find here, why not consider applying for a Masters or PhD here"). My own reflections went to China, where there is a full-tilt engagement in the bibliometrics game, where their University Ranking System is based on simple criteria: number of Field Medal and Nobel Prizes by faculty and alumni and the number of faculty publications in high profile journals (that's a far cry from Maclean's Magazine's pop rankings model of campus space, gym facilities and Starbuck's per square mile)

One value about the stream-lined practice now developed for faculty in the UK, according to Les Carr in his summation, is researchers can now simply give their papers to a secretary to "top and tail it" (what a great phrase to refer to all the metadata additions that are required for depositing into the Repository) and then easy peasy! its in the IR. But now I'm on my way to hear Willinsky . . .

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