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News from the open access movement

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Notes on Dorothea Salo in Edinburgh

Stuart Macdonald has blogged some notes on Dorothea Salo's keynote address at The Repository Fringe (Edinburgh, July 31 - August 1, 2008).  Excerpt:

Dorothea Salo's keynote speech provided a controversial overview of why IRs are dead and need to be reinvented!

She claims "we built it but they didn't come!" and that we (as in the repository community) ignored or didn't quite comprehend the world that academics are immersed in - 'their narrow field of battle'. Or their 'paranoid' (her words not mine) and legitimate questions such as plagiarism of their academic works, is this the institution acting as big brother?, what is authoritative version?, will my publisher be happy? etc.

So, as she states - it is not as simple to say - yes, lets have open access. For example, the software platform that repositories are based on don't have download statistics nor versioning; they won't let you edit your metadata, there are no facilities to digitise analogue material, can't stream videos etc etc. She painfully admits "I helped to kill the IR - it is dead! - so lets mourn the death of IR".

However she sees the shape of opportunity in the ashes. Repository software made the same bad assumptions as we did; workflows that don't work for born digital materials; protocols that don't do enough; there's services that could/should be offered but aren't; there's a stunning amounts of redundant effort aimed at redressing these problems. What we should be doing is putting effort into better software and better services before the web whizzes past us as we try to catch up! Currently the 'Institutional Repository' is not mashable....

She asks us, the repository community to 'take one step back - then two steps beyond' - beyond the idealism and the 'green OA'. Our experience is now telling us that peer-reviewed research is not all we care about, that useful research products happen long before publication and as such open access is a by-product not an end product. She wants us to look beyond the silos of digital resources and do a good job with the 'stuff', not to be too obsessed by where it goes, to be profligate with our 'stuff' - mash it up, expose it, manage it, mainstream it - no matter where it eventually ends up.

She highlighted the fact that self archiving doesn't have a management component, she's 'tired at watching good code fly past' i.e open utilities that could be utilised within the repository environment but aren't....

For example, regarding harvesting - the content is out there - just have to get our hands on it; lets have more APIs, allow programmers to be more flexible, lets learn from and invest in relations with commercial services and disciplinary repositories....