COAR-SPARC conference 2015 report

Co-hosted by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) and COAR on April 14-16, 2015, the conference “Connecting research results, bridging communities, opening scholarship”, held in Porto, offered a thought-provoking programme with dynamic speakers from around the world to discuss the opportunities and challenges for libraries in a world of open science and open content, provided a valuable opportunity for participants to make connections, and learn best practices from colleagues around the world. The conference was attended by almost a hundred participants from Asia, Africa, North and South America and Europe.

All presentations and links can now be found on the event programme page. A short summary has been created by OpenAIRE’s Pedro Principe via Storify.

Table at the Breakfast Club Meeting

Table at the Breakfast Club Meeting

On Tuesday, a pre-conference was held for COAR and SPARC members. During a breakfast meeting, participants discussed topics with COAR experts such as engagement with early stage researchers and student community, Open Access Licensing, Controlled Vocabularies, Open Metrics, OER, Linked Open Data, Open Science Training and Linked Open Data.

Participants of the COAR General Assembly

Participants of the COAR General Assembly

In the General Assembly of COAR the activities and developments of the association of the previous year and plans for the upcoming year have been presented by the Executive Board and Director. Also, a new Executive Board for 2015 – 2018 has been elected by the General Assembly. Eloy Rodrigues from the University of Minho has been elected as new chairperson for COAR. See detailed information about the election here.

Pedro Principé talking about RDM

Pedro Principé talking about RDM

In the afternoon, the pre-conference continued with a workshop about “Librarians Skills and Competencies” moderated by Kathleen Shearer (COAR Executive Director Repositories), followed by presentations by Iryna Kuchma (EIFL, OpenAIRE) on FOSTER learning objectives and by Pedro Principe (University of Minho, OpenAIRE) on Librarians Skills and Competencies in RDM.

The actual conference kicked off on Wednesday, with a keynote by John Wilbanks ( Chief Commons Officer, Sage BioNnetworks) with a thought-provoking keynote reminding us that “Is it open?” is the wrong question.The right question to ask should rather be “Does it create more value than a closed version?”, as reusable content tends to be more valuable for the end user than non-reusable content.

John Wilbanks

John Wilbanks

But thinking in terms of value creation requires a change in science practice: we need to embrace design to be a platform; design that prioritizes the users. John mentioned Synapse from Sage BioNnetworks – a workspace that allows to aggregate, describe, and share research; a tool to improve reproducibility of data intensive science; and a set of living research projects enabling contribution to large-scale collaborative solutions to scientific problems. He left us with food for thought: “What we know is a lot less stable than it used to be. A different way of knowing requires a different way of teaching. The right to reuse is the right to be current

The first panel session was chaired by Eloy Rodrigues (University of Minho, OpenAIRE) and dealt with the International Policy Environment.

The first afternoon session was chaired by Lorraine Haricombe (Director of Libraries, University of Austin, Texas), addressed Organisational models for Research Data Management services and provided three case studies from Africa, Europe and North America.

  • Gerald Beasley (Vice-Provost and Chief Librarian, University of Alberta) started hte session with his presentation  on the University of Alberta Research Data Management service , and he presented HYDRA, UA’s (future ) Digital Asset Management System. The developers stayed true to to Manifesto for Agile Software Development: “..we have come to value: Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.” – centralizing user needs and expectations (“As a student , I want to deposit my dissertation in the repository so that I can fulfill the requirements of … and complete my degree“).
  • Elisha Chiware (Director of Libraries, Cape Peninsula University of Technology), shared their roadmap to Research Data Management (RDM) that started with a sentence in university’s Research, Technology and Innovation Blueprint: : “Curation, dissemination and promotion of the traditional outputs of research in terms of articles and theses, and curation of research data and innovation output, including enhanced research data management systems.” He referred to the statement on Open Access to Research Publications from the National Research Foundation (NRF)-Funded Research that also includes a requirement that “the data supporting the publication should be deposited in an accredited Open Access repository, with the provision of a Digital Object Identifier for future citation and referencing”. He also mentioned the involvement of Cape Peninsula University of Technology is involved in the eRIC (eResearch – Communication and Infrastructure) initiative and encouraged others to participate.
  • Liisi Lembinen (Acting Director of the Library, University of Tartu) spoke about co-operation with scientists as a road to RDM services in the University of Tartu Library. Some key issues for success: data training for students and researchers and support from the national funders and university library (some background information about can be found on the EIFL website ).

Lorraine summarized the session saying that you cannot move forward with small steps, you need bold leadership. And such a leadership is good for the image of the library on campus. Libraries help researchers to think about research workflows and are fighting the prejudice towards libraries as old fashioned, passive entities as librarians are frequently called upon to act as legal advisers and IT’ers.

The conference day ended with a session on Global alignment and Collaboration, chaired by Norbert Lossau (Vice-RectorUniversity of Goettingen, OpenAIRE, COAR) followed by a very lively discussion.

  • Johanna McEntyre (Director, Europe PubMed Central) stressed the importance of structured and accessible data as one of the true enablers of life sciences, talked about projects such as Europe PubMed Central, linking publications and data, BioStudies , a database of biological studies and ELIXIR – a distributed infrastructure for life-science information. She highlighted the importance of Joint Declaration of Data Citation Principles, stressing that a the life sciences have a long history of collaboration
  • Kathleen Shearer (Executive Director, COAR) presented COAR’s work in aligning repository networks across the regions on two levels: on the technical level,  adopting a common set of interoperability standards ensure that content can be aggregated across networks – facilitating discovery, re-use and the development of value added services. On the service level, common approaches to service adoption are of interest for the global level (e.g. common usage statistics across regions). More details on COAR activity on this can be found here.
  • Andrew Sallans (Partnerships, Collaborations, & Funding Manager, Center for Open Science), spoke about CoS’ approach to the open science framework : free, open source solution for connecting global research infrastructure. CoS believes in a community supported model with a shared responsibility (we do tech, others do community management) and creating added value is crucial (added traffic, services, …) for publishers.

Day 2 started with a session chaired by Lars Bjørnshauge (Director of European Library Relations, SPARC Europe) on Assessing Value.

  • William Nixon ( Digital Library Development Manager, University of Glasgow, UK) presented “Enlighten” the digital repository of the University of Glasgow, which works with a research excellence framework (REF), a process of expert review carried out in 36 subject-based units of assessment (UOAs) for assessing the quality of research of higher education institutions in the UK. Enlighten is an embedded repository, no longer a separate data silo; it operates on the mainstream of the university’s research management processes.
  • Stefanie Haustein (post-doctoral researcher at the University of Montréal) talked about “Scholarly communication and evaluation: from bibliometrics to altmetrics”. In her talk she highlighted the criticism of the current practice of research evaluation (peer-reviewed publications as the only output that counts and citations as the only form of impact that counts). Instead, altmetrics include all kind of outputs and predict scientific impact and measure societal impact. But Social Media metrics do not replace citations and are heterogeneous and the disciplinary differences and document types have to be carefully reflected when using this type of impact measurement.  For more information, check out a Special Issue of Aslib Journal of Information Management: Social Media Metrics in Scholarly Communication.
  • Nisia Trindade (Vice-President, Foundation Oswaldo Cruz, Brazil) reflected on the topic of research assessment from the brazilian perspective. She started with a quote from Hebe Vessuri : “citation-based evaluation policies has tended to work against development” and stressed the need for an alternative qualitative model. The Fundation Oswaldo Cruz contributes to excellence, quality and internationalisation with The Policy on Open Access to Knowledge, the institutional Repository Arca, the Portal of Scientific Journals and the Observatory in Science, which comprises indicators and both quantitative metrics and qualitative  analyses over the scientific research and technological development performed in Fiocruz.
Dominique Babini

Dominique Babini

Dominique Babini (CLACSO – Latin American Council of Social Sciences) closed the conference with her keynote “Repositories as key players in non-commercial open access – a developing region perspective”.

She highlighted open access impact – more medical research outputs are openly available now – and the progress Latin America has made with an early and widespread adoption of open access journals, now facing trends from the North. And she has expressed concerns that adopting APC’s at current market value is a direct threat to thriving open access system in Latin America, comparing average APCs with average salary rates for researchers in selected countries. Dominique suggested the following contribution of repositories in shaping the future of open access from a developing region perspective: repositories as publishing platforms; repositories as a source of indicators for research evaluation; and repositories as facilitators for research cooperation and open science. Mandates, immediate deposit and a user-friendly self-deposit workflow strengthen repositories as publishing platforms, which are then linked with other databases within the institution and further academic networks. At the same time, repositories can serve with indicators for research evaluation: Dominique suggests to promote more strongly the use of quality metadata in the research evaluation of institutions. Last, but not least, seeing repositories as social constructions, she advocates for facilitating teamwork among researchers for open science, open data, open education and open edition initiatives. And if you want to know more about open access indicators and scholarly communications in Latin America, check out the book Dominique edited with Juan Pablo Alperin and Gustavo E. Fischman here.

After two days of a dense conference programme, the participants agreed on the value of international collaboration and exchange for learning from each other. Like one participant said on the last evening: “It didn’t feel like two organisations bringing two groups of people together. It felt like one community.”

This post is based on notes taken by Iryna Kuchma,Gwen Franck, Maxie Gottschling, Katharina Mueller and Pedro Prinicipe.

Pictures are by Pedro Principe and available on Flickr under a CC BY-NC-SA license.

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