EPrints Session and OR08 Reflections

Back in the office, following a week away at the Open Repositories conference.

The last couple of days were spent in EPrints sessions, as that is the repository software we use here at Lincoln. I found the first session most interesting as the new features in EPrints 3.1 were discussed. The linked page explains in detail the changes in v3.1, but in summary they provide much more control for repository managers through a web interface, rather than editing config files directly. Les’ slides give a nice overview.

The following session on EPrints and the RAE generally reflected the experience we’ve had using EPrints 2 for the RAE last year.

A session on repository analytics was a very useful overview of using Google Analytics, AWStats and IRStats to measure the various uses of an EPrints repository. Very useful, in particular IRStats which has been developed at Southampton for EPrints. I look forward to installing it.

The final sessions were mainly aimed at developers with a knowledge of Perl. I found the session on how to write plugins for EPrints 3 clear and interesting, but not especially useful as I don’t understand Perl. Still, it was obvious, even to me, that with a basic knowledge of programming, plugins could be written quite easily. I think it’s important for repository managers to immerse themselves in the technicalities of repository development even if they don’t understand much of the detail. Just by sharing ideas and questions with developers, you get a better understanding of what is involved in rolling out new features and a sense of what can be achieved within given resources.

On the whole, the conference leaned towards the technical rather than the strategic and managerial aspects of institutional repositories. There were a lot of developers present and the number of technical projects discussed seemed high. Personally, I appreciated this and came away with a good sense of where the development of repositories is going. It would have been good to have had an event which explicitly aimed at bringing both developers and repository staff together.

Finally, I do wonder whether the open access repository community would benefit from engaging with developments in Enterprise Content Management, as there is a great deal of overlap, having to face similar issues around workflow, IPR and technical standards. Perhaps there are universities evaluating the open source Alfresco ECMS as a repository platform. If so, I’d like to hear about them.

Next year, the conference is in Atlanta, USA.

Session 7: Usage

This part of the conference ended with two excellent and very different presentations on measuring the usage and impact of scholarly output.

Tim Brody, from the University of Southampton, discussed his work developing IRStats, a tool to measure the use and impact of open access repositories. IRStats has been developed to answers questions such as, “What is Professor Smith’s most downloaded paper?” and “Who is the most highly downloaded author in Mathematics?” Existing tools such as Google Analytics and AWStats, don’t offer this level of detail, which can be useful for both strategically placing the repository as an important tool in the University and as a service to both individual scholars and departments. IRStats is available for EPrints and I intend to try it in our repository.

The final presentation was by Johan Bollen, from the Los Alamos National Laboratory. He took off from where Tim left us and discussed a much larger scale project called MESUR. This project also attempts to measure the impact of scholarly output by analysing metrics from usage data. It differs to the IRStats project in both its methodology and scale, combining the evaluation of usage, citation and bibliographic data. By analysing this data, they’ve produced some fascinating graphs which show the relationships between academic disciplines. This is a project I look forward to learning more about.

As I mentioned, this was the last session in this part of the conference. The next day-and-a-half, I will be attending an EPrints User Group Session, where I hope to learn more about the new version of EPrints, the experience people had of the RAE excercise and repository analytics. There’s also a couple of training and support sessions which will be useful.