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D-Lib Magazine

July/August 2011
Volume 17, Number 7/8


4,000+ Tweets Later: Looking Back at the Seventh International Conference on Open Repositories

Carol Minton Morris




Edinburgh's cool and misty weather set the stage for the Seventh Annual International Conference on Open Repositories (OR2012) in early July 2012, and contributed to the medieval atmosphere created by craggy hills, castles, and narrow, winding streets. The mists were parted inside the University of Edinburgh's Appleton Tower where 460 attendees from 40 countries were on hand to participate in this trademark formative, informal and inspirational conference.

Photographs of the conference site

From Left to right: A flower-filled doorway; Central space of the Grand Gallery in the National Museums of Scotland; The University of Edinburgh Old College (Home of the Neo-classical Library Hall designed by William Playfair); St. Giles' Cathedral; Victoria Street
Photographs by Carol Minton Morris (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)



Kevin Ashley (Director, Digital Curation Center and OR2012 Program Chair) and John Howard (University Librarian, University College Dublin and Open Repositories Steering Committee Chair) opened the conference. Howard remarked, "Open Repositories is for and by the people who are at the front lines of making open repositories work in the expanding ecosystem of digital repositories." Presentations were offered on every aspect of that ecosystem around the conference theme, "Local In, Global Out." Repositories in general seem to be filling up while librarians, managers, directors and developers grapple with how to control, make sense of, and create access to large tracts of many types of digital content. Kirsta Stapelfeldt, Repository Manager at the University of Prince Edward Island, pointed out in a Pecha Kucha session entitled "Consortial Repository Environments" that the number of repositories has doubled since 2007. The size, complexity and dynamic spread of repositories has led to new approaches to collaboration, curation, preservation and access, which were highlighted during OR2012, with emphasis on issues related to research data.

The main conference sessions ran in two tracks alongside a third "Repository Fringe" track, an informal event produced by teams from the Edinburgh Digital Library, Edina and the Digital Curation Centre for the past five years. Repository Fringe was combined with OR2012 this year, and featured popular seven-minute/20-slide Pecha Kucha sessions.


Opening Keynote

Cameron Neylon, Director PLoS, began the Conference with a keynote address entitled Network Enabled Research that took a close look at what new kinds of networks mean for research. He believes that the challenges for research centers, universities and libraries are lagging funds, too much information to manage, and tools that are not being used effectively. As the director of PLoS he has put time into thinking about what service providers should do. As a research disseminator, Neylon says that it is more important to serve taxpayers than funders. He believes that the general public understands the value of research and how it impacts their lives at a grassroots level. "Networks change our capacity to do things," he said. The possibilities for impact by direct citizen participation in research have increased because almost everyone now has a mobile communication device. A video of Neylon's keynote address may be viewed here: http://bit.ly/Ti2LIG.


Developer Challenge

Patrick McSweeney won the Developer Challenge for DataEngine. This project aims to address the lack of support for science "on the long tail" which is where McSweeney believes most science happens. DataEngine takes data directly from a scientific device in the field and links it to a set of processes that allow it to be visualized and analyzed right away. Keith Gilbertson and Linda Newman were runners up with their project MATS Mobile Audio Visual Transcription and Submission system. The OR2012 Developer Challenge videos may be viewed here: http://vimeo.com/album/2005062#.



General conference sessions ran the gamut from high level policy-related issues to open access solutions for large and small institutions, to innovative, bundled repository platforms and novel approaches to preservation and archiving. Data management and identifiers were 2012 topics of interest as institutions focus on research data solutions that involve methods for establishing provenance and authority.

Much has been written, published, tweeted and shared about OR2012 including more than 90 blog posts and reports, and 4,000 tweets. The University of Edinburgh host committee has gathered and made available in-depth reviews and observations as well as recordings of many sessions. Please check the following resources for detailed information:



At a conference one attendee only sees a few spots on the elephant's back. Here they are.


Data management and identifiers

Thorny Staples presented an architecture for a prototype repository-enabled virtual research environment named SIdora (A Repository-based Architecture for Capturing Research Projects at the Smithsonian Institution) to a standing-room only crowd. The new system will preserve and provide access to Smithsonian research results from all over the world. It is built on Fedora and Islandora, and designed to give researchers direct access to a field-to-managed repository solution for data. Staples pointed out that his goal was for researchers to know nothing about the technical system and only that their research results would be easy to add, under their control, durable, and contribute to the general impact of their research over time.

"Researchers must be able to do something in an active workspace that gets to a trusted repository," said Staples. The SIdora project goal is to maintain a software environment that allows for content, policies and owner control to be managed over time. A video of Staples' presentation may be viewed here: http://bit.ly/MyhAlt.

Leslie Johnson asked her audience to take a deeper look at what "Big Data" really means in her presentation entitled Big Data Challenges in Repository Development. Some collections at the Library of Congress where Johnson is Chief of Repository Development are very large and unwieldy. She pointed out that large collections are similar to repositories and that users require similar kinds of services to conduct research. View slides from Leslie Johnson's presentation here: http://bit.ly/PFV0aM.

In Built to Scale? presenter Edwin Shin, MediaShelf, reviewed fundamental challenges around managing research data — there's more of it and it requires that repository systems scale appropriately. Repositories need to "search bigger, write faster and read smarter" to adequately manage big data. Shin explained strategies required to meet a high volume of read requests versus a high volume of write requests when faced with large volumes of data with high availability requirements in a Fedora repository. A video of Edwin Shin's presentation may be viewed here: http://bit.ly/OU3CfK.

Simeon Warner, Cornell University Library explained the motivation behind ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor ID Initiative), "We want to face this challenge of applying unique IDs that identify people in all the records associated with the scholarly world." His presentation, ORCID Update and Why You Should Use ORCIDs in Your Repository, illustrated why an ORCID is a reliable and simple connector that paves the way for rich linkages to all types of related research objects through author IDs. The effort is being led by an international and diverse set of collaborators working across many types of organizations. The ORCID Registry will be launched in Fall 2012 with adoption being encouraged everywhere. Warner reminded the audience that it will only work if everyone signs on. In a recent blog post Peter Sefton, Independent eScholarship consultant, suggested, "The repositories that stay out will be marginalized in a world of research metrics glued together by ORCID IDs." For information about ORCID and how to get involved visit http://dev.orcid.org/. A video of Simeon Warner's presentation may be viewed here: http://bit.ly/Nk7p6m.


Open Access

The DSpace open access user community continues to address the challenges of data management, discovery, search, navigation and workflow with new innovations, add-ons and integrations. One example was The World Bank Open Knowledge Repository: Open Access with Global Development Impact presented by Tom Breineder, Matthew Howells, and Lieven Droogmans focused on the policy, workflow and technology behind the World Bank's decision to make their resources openly available. As an international organization working towards relieving poverty, providing access to documentation for the many projects and initiatives they fund was a way to increase the impact and reach of their efforts.

Lieven Droogmans, @mire, led the technical implementation of the World Bank Open Knowledge Repository based on DSpace. He reviewed integration challenges and faceted search. They will be working on additional integrations with existing World Bank systems this fall. Droogmans emphasized the World Bank's contribution to the Open Source community by contributing code for Faceted search feature of the OKR. Video of the World Bank presentation may be viewed here: http://bit.ly/MjZQyO.


Cloud integrations

A panel presentation, Preservation in the Cloud Three Ways, presented by Richard Rodgers, Mark Leggott, Simon Waddington and moderated by Michele Kimpton, provided institutional use cases for the DuraCloud open source software and service that combined cloud preservation capabilities with customized software stacks and in-house storage. All three presenters provided information about DuraCloud customizations that met their particular requirements.

Richard Rodgers, MIT, uses DuraCloud to provision MIT video content and has experience in working with DuraCloud SAS. He has found DuraCloud to be a convenient point of service operation with the benefit of providing abstraction to multiple backend services. DuraCloud's geographically distributed replication option also met key concerns around potential failures above and beyond bit rot. For cloud services to succeed in general Rodgers feels that providers need to understand the fine line between the convenience of having a highly automated process and "trust but verify" visibility.

Mark Leggott, Discovery Garden, described DuraSync, which maintains the context of individual objects, features a single button restore of damaged assets, and integrates with DuraCloud. The first release of the DGI "Vault" will be available through Discovery Garden as well as through a DuraCloud account.

Simon Waddington, King's College, explained the Kindura exploratory project that provided technical proof of concept for a flexible institutional repository hybrid storage model based on cloud storage combined with existing IT resources. Kindura was implemented with DuraCloud featuring customized management controls.

Video of this presentation may be viewed here: http://bit.ly/NoK3ef.



OR 2012 concluded with a keynote by Peter Burnhill who said, "Edinburgh is like a repository" — an irreplaceable, intertwined collection of related history, culture, art, architecture and scholarship that is valued and supported by all segments of its stakeholder community. He urged attendees to look beyond the academic library community and build bridges to new stakeholders in the expanding ecosystem of institutional repositories, repository services, emerging technologies and organizations for new kinds of collaborations, shared data management, and long-term digital preservation.

John Howard announced that the Eighth International Conference on Open Repositories (OR2013) will be hosted by the University of Prince Edward Island and Discovery Garden on Prince Edward Island from July 8-12, 2013. John Eden, Discovery Garden CEO, issued a general invitation to attend OR2013. The 2014 Conference is scheduled to take place in Helsinki, Finland.


This report is dedicated to the memory of long-time Open Repositories Conference sponsor, colleague and friend Lee Dirks and his wife Judy Leu, who lost their lives in a tragic car accident on August 29, 2012 in the Cuzco region of Peru.


About the Author

Photo of Carol Minton Morris

Carol Minton Morris is Director of Marketing and Communications for DuraSpace, and is past Communications Director for the National Science Digital Library (2000-2009) and Fedora Commons (2007-2009). She leads editorial content and materials development and dissemination for DuraSpace publications, web sites, initiatives and online events, and helps connect open access, open source and open technologies people, projects and institutions to relevant news and information. She was the founding editor of NSDL Whiteboard Report (2000-2009) featuring information from NSDL projects and programs nationwide. Follow her at http://twitter.com/DuraSpace.

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