Overview of the ERIS Project

1. Background

The IRIScotland projects[1] have produced two pilot services – the IRIScotland cross-repository (OAI PMH harvester/search) service[2] to aggregate research outputs in Scottish repositories and a hosting service based at the National Library of Scotland (NLS) for institutions that do not wish to set up their own research repositories – thus successfully demonstrating the value and practicality of the distributed environment for the development of a research repository infrastructure at regional level. The projects have also produced a Repository Toolkit for Use by Researchers and Institutions[3], a Draft Metadata Agreement for Institutional Repositories[4] and, through the formation of the IRIScotland Council, a broad grouping of stakeholders responsible for overseeing the future development of the service. These achievements are testaments to a long-standing tradition of expertise-building collaboration between HEIs across Scotland in the field of research information, further strengthened by the work carried out – within the framework of the IRIScotland projects – with the NLS. The NLS has now agreed to develop and sustain the two central elements of the IRIScotland infrastructure[5] – i.e. the above-mentioned pilot harvester/search and hosting services – on a long-term basis for the interests of Scotland as a whole.

The IRIScotland projects have shown that top-down advocacy, guidelines and the development of standards, while essential, are not sufficient to engage researchers with repositories and therefore create the critical mass that repositories need – both at institutional and cross-repository levels – to achieve recognition amongst the research communities. HE institutions around the world are beginning to mandate their academics to deposit their research outputs in Open Access institutional repositories. In Scotland the movement is rapidly gathering momentum partly as a result of the Scottish Declaration on Open Access and the work of IRIScotland, but it is still the case that only a minority of Scottish HEIs has so far introduced mandatory open access policies[6]. Furthermore, to translate these policies into reality, Scottish HEIs need to develop researcher-friendly repositories that fit neatly in the research workflow. The success of the cross-repository service is reliant on their ability to do so.

It is increasingly the view that to achieve high deposit levels in repositories there is a need to work in close collaboration with researchers and research managers in order to reach a better understanding of how repositories fit into the research workflow and how added-value functionality may contribute to generating significantly higher – or as required by mandatory institutional policies – maximum deposit rates. ‘Attending to the “Demand Side”’ – in other words ‘the development of high-value repository services… [that] requires understanding user needs and capabilities’– has recently been identified in an ARL report[7] as one of the key issues facing digital repositories. Repository services must be matched to the needs of researchers to ensure they offer real incentives to deposit. For example, evidence having already shown that researchers would value a service helping them to keep their personal bibliographies up to date, this could be set up by the repositories in such a way that the updating would only occur in conjunction with the deposit of a new research output. Other added-value services may include tools for group work and version control at file level – particularly useful for research pools –, facilities for the deposit of other types of information including research datasets or for improving the visibility of research outputs amongst the business community. These are only examples – the whole issue of how repositories can help researchers with the research process needs to be thoroughly investigated in partnership with researchers with the assistance of senior library staff – usually referred to as ‘liaison’ or ‘subject librarians’ – whose responsibility it is to support research within their institutions.

The work conducted by the IRIScotland projects have also helped highlight the need to bridge the gap between the repository-related technological advances achieved by dedicated repository-focused projects on the one hand and the level of technological and organisational awareness, engagement and expertise at institutional level on the other. Close collaboration with institutional repository managers is the other side of the equation in the successful delivery of researcher-friendly repository and cross-repository services – the collaboration being essential to maximise the potential of the distributive environment which is dependent on reliable patterns of interaction between institutional repository infrastructures and the central elements. Metadata for enhanced resource discovery, curation and long-term preservation are all areas of activity that have been identified as needing enhancements requiring greater levels of engagement with repository managers and their institutions.

It is to the credit of the original IRIScotland project that it recognised at an early stage the importance of the SFC-funded research pools – SUPA (Scottish Universities Physics Alliance), the first research pool, formally supported the project bid, and the project greatly benefitted from the SUPA representative’s active participation in the work of the project board. Research pools are now widely credited for having substantially contributed to Scotland’s RAE 2008 successes, including the increase of Scotland’s share of the UK’s world-class research from 11.6% in 2001 to 12.3% (even though Scotland has only 8.5% of the UK population)[8]. Pooling, which is defined as the ‘…formation of strategic collaborations between universities in disciplinary or multi-disciplinary areas involving the international quality departments or individual researchers across Scotland’[9], represents a novel’ – and clearly successful – cross-institutional way of doing research that needs to be reflected in and supported by the research information environment. While the IRIScotland cross-repository infrastructure is certainly a step in the right direction, much more work needs to be done – in close partnership with research pools – to investigate, develop and implement ways of providing the best repository infrastructure and functionality for research pooling and other types of collaborative work. There is a need, in particular, to develop methodologies enabling researchers to view the outputs of an entire research pool or other collaborative grouping from one point of access and to find out who is working on what so that new collaborations can flourish both within and across institutions locally, regionally, nationally or globally. Repositories for research collaborations will need to take account of the specificity of the different groupings – some research pools, for example, involve the participation of both academics directly funded by the research pool and others working in the same subject area. It is also essential to discuss the relationship between subject, institutional and research pool repositories to ensure, for example, that researchers do not have to deposit more than once and that all types of repositories can include metadata referring to the grant-related information that the Research Councils are keen to make available in this way[10].

2. Aims and Objectives

Overall aim 

The purpose of the ERIS project is to develop – in close partnership with researchers and their institutions’ repository managers – a set of user-led and user-centric solutions that will motivate researchers to deposit their work in repositories, facilitate the integration of repositories in research and institutional processes and, as a result, develop the IRIScotland pilot into a trusted cross-repository resource discovery service, capable of providing access to a critical mass of Scottish research output. In order to achieve this overall aim, ERIS will pay particular attention to the requirements of research pooling – an innovative cross-institutional way of conducting research, which has been widely credited for having substantially contributed to Scotland’s RAE 2008 successes

In the light of the above analysis and keeping in mind that the ultimate goal is to provide Scotland with a trusted cross-repository service providing access to a critical mass of Scottish research output, the ERIS project will aim to achieve four main objectives, which seek to meet the four challenges listed in the Terms of Reference for Strand 5 in section 91 of the JISC call document, namely:

  • Increasing deposit rates via technical, policy or other means;
  • Enhancing the user experience for depositors, administrators and users of materials held in repositories;
  • Improving the capacity of repositories to contribute to the preservation of the material they hold;
  • Improving the institutional policy framework within which repositories work, in terms of both documented policies and their implementation.

The four main objectives of the ERIS project are as follows:

  1. To enhance the level of researchers’ engagement with repositories with a view to achieving a more sophisticated understanding of what repository functionality is needed.

This will entail:

  1. Discussing with subject-specific research pools and targeted groups of individual researchers across disciplines what repositories can do that will be so helpful to them that they will want to deposit their research outputs in them ‘as a matter of course’ – functionality development needs to occur in parallel with infrastructure building to ensure researcher involvement and support;
  1. To enhance curation and preservation processes within institutions with a view to strengthening credibility about the longevity of repositories amongst researchers.

This will entail:

  1. Working in close collaboration with repository custodians to help institutions – using, for example, the DCC Curation Lifecycle Model – with planning the various stages required for successful curation and preservation of data from initial conceptualisation or receipt (including roles and responsibilities; standards and technologies);
  2. Developing recommendations – in close collaboration with repository managers – for a set of machine-readable digital object preservation policies for use within a collaborative preservation service option, and investigating the advantages and feasibility of developing a long-term preservation facility for repository content in partnership with the National Library of Scotland.
  1. To provide technological enhancements that will improve researcher-centric functionality and strengthen the technical synergy between the institutional repositories and the central elements of the cross-repository service in a number of areas including: virtual repositories for research pools; resource aggregations and version control; subject access for improved resource discovery; usage statistics reports for the benefit of researchers and institutions; and long-term preservation of content.

This will entail:

  1. Working in close collaboration with the repository managers and research pool webmasters of the institutions where the researchers and research pool members involved with the project are based – using this opportunity to develop the best ways of bridging the gap, as and when necessary, between the technical expertise gained by the project and that of the institution-based technical teams;
  2. Acting upon the outcomes of the work conducted with researchers to increase researcher-centric functionality – see Objective i(b) – including functionality specifically required for research pooling.
  1. To develop an IRIScotland policy framework for organisational and financial sustainability that may subsequently be translated to other repository federations.

This will entail:

  1. Campaigning – in partnership with the IRIScotland Council, SCURL, SLIC, Universities Scotland and the Research Pools – for the adoption of mandatory open access policies across Scotland with a view to stimulating repository population growth and therefore increase the relevance of IRIScotland for Scottish research;
  2. Costing the value to the HE community of supporting IRIScotland – including the costs of implementing a shared metadata agreement, maintaining adequate staffing levels to support interoperability and adopting the DCC curation lifecycle methodology – and the potential cost of not supporting it.
  3. Producing a cost model and business plan to ensure on-going financial viability of the IRIScotland service including aspects of the service added as a result of the work conducted with researchers by the ERIS project – these may include, for instance, services aimed at providing researchers with usage information and higher levels of visibility with the business community;

[1] The original two-year project funded within the framework of the JISC Call for Projects in Digital Repositories (JISC Circular 03/05) was followed by a five-month extension completed in August 2008.

[2] See at http://cdlr.strath.ac.uk/iriscotland/.

[3] See at http://cdlr.strath.ac.uk/iriscotland/iristk/index.htm .

[4] See at http://cdlr.strath.ac.uk/pubs/dawsona/IRISMetadataDraft.pdf.

[5] The IRIScotland Council is currently discussing the possibility of using a different brand name for the service or even different names for each of its components. For the sake of convenience, however, the service as a whole and its underpinning infrastructure will be in this proposal referred to as IRIScotland.

[6] Napier University and the Universities of Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling and Strathclyde have already introduced mandatory open access policies.

[7] Association of Research Libraries (ARL). The Research Library’s Role in Digital Repository Services. January 2009. p. 8. See at http://www.arl.org/bm~doc/repository-services-report.pdf.

[8] See Scots universities pool research to join world leaders, The Guardian, 18/12/08, at http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2008/dec/18/rae-scotland; see also Pooling hailed as key to Scottish improvement, Times Higher Education, 01/01/09, at http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storyCode=404806&sectioncode=26

[9] See http://www.sfc.ac.uk/information/information_research/strategic_research_grant.htm#pooling for list of current research pools and full definition.

[10] See sections 203-204 in JISC Information Environment Grant Funding Opportunity 12/8: Call for Proposals.

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  1. […] The ERIS Project (Enhancing Repository Infrastructure in Scotland) is a collaboration of Scottish HE institutions looking to create a better understanding of how academics and researchers engage with the publications process, and in particular related to the deposit of open access materials locals within your institution. Further details of the project can be found at https://eriscotland.wordpress.com/about […]

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