Researchers love their disciplines, not their institutions: open access repositories in the arts

Added by Sarah on 21 July 2009 14:08

I attended the Repositories Support Project?s ?The role of open access and repositories in the arts: a forum for discussion? on 14 July 2009, which raised the issue of why arts institutions don?t seem to have the same kind of usage of, and engagement with, repositories as the science community, and to explore the issues surrounding open access to outputs in the arts.


Andrew Gray gave a very engaging presentation on setting up and running the KULTUR project, a JISC funded repository lead by Southampton University and covering work from Winchester School of Art, University of the Arts, London, University for the Creative Arts and the Visual Arts Data Service ? he looked at both the challenges and the benefits facing a project of this kind.


Richard M Davis gave a different view on the running of a subject-based repository, the Institute of Music Research at the University of London?s repository, Practice as research in music online (PRIMO), including working with the thorny intellectual property and copyright issues surrounding music work and the videoing of rehearsals.


Rachel Proudfoot of the White Rose Consortium research online repository across the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York gave a good overview of the issues and benefits of working in consortia. Thanks also to her for this blog’s title, which I thought was very apt!


Unfortunately I had to shoot off to another meeting, so missed the final presentation by Charles Oppenheim on ?Copyright in the arts? and the concluding session, but I understand there will be a report on the event on the RSP?s website soon, along with the presentations that are already available.


Here are some of the main issues that I took away from the day:

  • Promoting open access repositories to arts communities ? some are keen but lack technical infrastructure or know how. It was interesting that some people felt often the arts community don?t actually like using technology, so this is a big challenge to overcome.
  • Managers and staff working in arts repositories feel they are at the early stages of development. They feel a bit isolated and need more support, guidance and sharing of best practice, to feel that they are ?getting it right?.
  • User engagement: there seem to be many issues here, including the first point above. There seems to be an ongoing problem that repositories are set up without enough consultation with staff, researchers and other users - and this leads to them not being used, or not in the ways envisaged, which can make it difficult or frustrating for the users. Someone had an interesting idea of using social networking tools to engage users better, with the Twitter model as an example, i.e. researchers can follow/be followed in the repository and see the usefulness of their work being in there. But this type of approach needs to be based on an assuredness that your audience will respond and use these kinds of technologies.
  • There is a need for clearer advice and guidance from research funders, especially on mandating for researchers.
  • Tagging: this was seen as very important as it adds context and searchability. This is imperative in a Web 3.0/Semantic Web world, as otherwise content will not be picked up by search engines. The idea that users won?t actually use your repository website directly, but that they access the content via a search engine (like Google) is not yet fully appreciated or understood by institutions.
  • Taking responsibility: the setting up of repository is not an end in itself, ?someone? needs to continue to update and promote it, and this cannot always assume that it can be taken on by existing staff. There may be huge backlogs, especially in terms of scanning or rights clearing material, and this could be a huge issue.



One of the main issues seems to be that there are two sides to a repository: it can be used as a showcase for an institutions? work, but in order for it to be used (and useful) by researchers, you need to engage your staff and academics in the planning, setting up and ongoing work involved in curating it, if you want it to become a successful online resource.


And a final note of congratulations to the RSP project on securing a further three-years funding, enabling them to continue doing their good work in supporting and developing the UK?s repository network, well done!

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