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March 14, 2009


"If providing an institutional repository is your primary or core value to the organisation, you are putting yourself at tremendous risk, because a savvy administrator may notice that you can purchase hosted repository services from BePress and BMC Open Repository. Any time a primary function (however valuable) has become commodity, you are at risk."

We run bepress and still need a staff of three to upload material for authors, ensure copyright compliance, embed the IR in other processes, disseminate usage statistics, train admin staff, communicate with bepress and request changes and updates, attend research committee meetings, and run a very active awareness programme. Hosted services only take care of the tech stuff - there's a great deal more to running a repository than that. Did you speak to repository managers about your ideas?

S. Meece
Digital Collections Officer
University of Surrey, Guildford, U.K>

@S.Meece I recognise that an IR requires a tremendous investment in terms of people and process in order to be successful, and I wasn't in any way trying to understate the critical role of the repository managers.

As I said in the update to this post, in subsequent posts, and in discussion on FriendFeed, I'm looking at this from a technology differentiation point of view. So read it as "if (as an IT group) providing (the technology infrastructure for) an institutional repository is your primary or core value" then be aware that that *IT service* can be replaced with a hosted solution.

The tagline for this blog is "Thoughts on the use of technology and other issues" - technology is always the perspective I'm coming from. I realise this often creates a communication gap in this blog, and I appreciate feedback on how to clarify my statements.

A longer version of this answer is: assuming you have run your full planning process and designated the institutional repository as a priority, with full resourcing, don't assume either that: 1) simply hosting the IR will provide a measure of "protection" for your organisation from technology or staff cuts 2) providing the repository service will be necessarily be perceived as a high value-add. I'm coming from the perspective of an organisation that is getting a 50%+ cut, so I'm preoccupied with what services the library can provide in order to continue to exist.

Richard wrote: "The best we can do is kind of grassroots e-science, which is kind of a contradiction in terms, since the common understanding of e-science is that it is about tackling large scale problems with large scale infrastructure."

I wonder if it may be helpful to use the term "eResearch", standard in Australia and I think in increasing use in the UK and US, to cover the whole spectrum of applications of advanced information and communications technologies to the practice of research. eResearch encompasses not only big e-science, but a long tail of smaller research projects in all disciplines benefiting from data management, collaborative environments, and/or high-performance computing.

I certainly endorse the distinctions you draw between publications in repositories and sharing of data. Commencing with "small, practical experiments in data sharing and preservation with willing researchers" (but aligned with existing work not reinventing wheels!), and building upwards from there as we gain experience, is for me the right approach to development of infrastructure for research data preservation, management and sharing.

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