Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Open Repositories 2009 (OR 2009)

I attended the first day of OR 2009 and presented on the Data Conservancy, our pending award through the National Science Foundation's DataNet program. At a time of economic strain, it was amazing to note that over 320 people from 23 countries attended OR09. Tyler Walters, local organizing chair, and John Howard, program chair, deserve a great deal of credit for putting together a great conference.

This level of participation provides ample evidence that repositories remain an important topic in the digital library community. While each group held its separate user group meetings during OR09, the DSpace and Fedora organizations spoke for the first time as the newly merged DuraSpace. It's my understanding that DuraSpace's services will have specific names based on this new name. The cloud computing service that helped bring the two groups together will be called DuraCloud.

Perhaps because of the presentation on the Data Conservancy, I had many conversations about data curation. There was agreement that data are more complex than publications or images. While we have some experience with document or image repositories, our community-wide experience with data repositories is less recent and not as deep. During my presentation, I made the point that while there is an urgency to build data curation infrastructure, we also need to acknowledge that there are unsolved problems or research questions that merit further examination.

I moderated a session with three presentations exploring repository services to support research. Michael Witt from Purdue University spoke about their research into data practices, especially as they relate to potential sharing of data across disciplines. Purdue's partner for this research, the University of Illinios at Urbana-Champaign, is one of the institutions within the Data Conservancy. Mark Leggott from the University of Prince Edward Island spoke about their library's strategic decision to offer virtual research environments as a core service to their faculty. I had all too brief exchange with him about how their library made the difficult decisions about reallocating funds within their budget to support this service. Wendy White from the University of Southampton described local efforts to embed and cast the repository as part of the overall knowledge management environment. Her presentation offered an interesting view of institutional repositories as part of the decision-making framework for academic institutions. It seemed to me that the sociological issues would be more challenging than the technological issues.

I regret not being able to stay longer at OR09, which is clearly becoming one of the most rewarding gatherings of the digital library community.

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