SWORD ARM: Thinking about institutional repositories

I had recently had the opportunity to attend an event organised by the team at the Leeds University RoaDMaP project, another of the projects funded under the JISC Managing Research Data Programme 2011-13. The event brought together staff from the Universities of the White Rose consortium (the Universities of York, Leeds and Sheffield) to discuss their experiences. The three partners are all a slightly different points in developing research data management services and they all had slightly differing experiences to bring to the table.

While I was able to give a brief overview of the SWORDARM project, most of the presentations during the day concentrated on the policies and procedures surrounding engagement with the academic community regarding data management. Both the presentations and the subsequent break out groups gave rise to a number of important issues which face the institutions.

• The size of the challenge

Some participants were concerned by the size of the challenge ahead. While this should in no way be underestimated, there are organisations and institutions that can help. Already the suite of NERC data centres (including the ADS), the UK Data Archive, STFC, the UK Hydrographic Office and GenBank, to name but a few, have between them decades of experience in providing specialist repository functions for research data. Individual institutions don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but they do need to get to grips with a pretty complex landscape of disciplinary based services.

• How open is Open?

I also wondered how institutions would approach the question of access to data held in repositories. How would this be interpreted? Would an institution feel that research outputs should be primarily available to their own research group, more widely within their own institution, or freely available to all? These questions would have to be framed within the expectations of the funding councils, but whatever the outcome it will have an impact on how institutional repositories manage their collections and plan to mediate them with their potential users.

It was an interesting day.