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Towards a global knowledge commons


Report from the COAR Annual Meeting 2019

The 10th COAR Annual Meeting took place last week in Lyon, France. This was the most well-attended COAR meeting to date, with about 110 participants from over 40 countries. The meeting was an opportunity to take stock of progress related to several of COAR’s major strategic objectives including aligning repository networks, next generation repositories and interoperability between repositories and publishing services.

There were several pre-meeting workshops, including a technical meeting at which repository networks and aggregators shared techniques and technologies. While different aggregator services have different users and varying objectives and scopes (e.g. some are regional and national, while others are international), they tend to use common technologies and methods. The workshop enabled networks to share their challenges and solutions with each other. Because the quality of these services is built on metadata, the quality of metadata remains an issue. A workshop specifically focussing on metadata discussed how we can achieve the balance of interoperability related to metadata, while still supporting the needs of different communities, and yet another workshop explored strategies for increasing researcher engagement with local services.

Collaboration across networks is critical for building the global knowledge commons, and there was a session exploring the evolving relationships between regional networks (Africa, Europe, Japan, Korea and Latin America). It is clear that successful collaborations, which include technology transfer, sharing expertise and data exchange, require a certain level of trust, and that personalities are important for forging close ties across different languages and cultures.

There was a session addressing how to bridge domain and institutional communities. Domain repositories talk of a major challenge related to funding their services, while institutional repositories speak to the challenge of researcher engagement. Can we forge models that bring together the strengths of each community to address these issues and develop sustainable services that are well used by the research community?

There was also a session focusing on the use case of layering peer review on top of repositories. This use case is extremely important from COAR’s perspective, as it has the potential to significantly change the role of repositories and disrupt the current traditional publishing paradigm. Several demonstration projects were presented, including an overlay journal at Queens University, the Episciences initiative in France, and a new project being launched at the University of Amsterdam, called University Journals. The PubFAIR conceptual model, which grew out of the COAR next generation repository work, offering various dissemination channels (think spotify) on top of participating repositories was also described.

The General Assembly provided an overview of COAR’s work in the previous year, and some new strategic opportunities for 2019-2020. COAR members were also invited at the meeting to contribute their opinions to several draft logos developed by a design company. This input was very valuable as COAR is refreshing its website and branding in the summer of 2019.

There was an interactive session about research data management and the FAIR principles. The aim was to discuss the relevance of these principles for repositories. Given the strong promotional efforts related to FAIR, it was not surprising that most audience members had heard of the FAIR principles. Indeed, for our community, FAIR is just a new term for something many repositories have already been working on for years: improving the quality and comprehensiveness of metadata. The session also explored the relationship between NGR, which focuses on technologies and FAIR, which focuses on metadata. COAR will provide more information about this to members soon.

There were presentations illustrating several projects in different regions that have adopted the COAR next generation repository protocols and technologies and it was good to see that there are real cases we can point to that have implemented the COAR recommendations. Additionally, the preliminary results of an international survey on open access services undertaken by OCLC were presented, along with work to support repositories in adopting ORCID IDs.

The conference was book-ended by two inspiring speakers: John Willinsky, from the Public Knowledge Project, who talked about what we really mean by open infrastructure? He presented 5 principles of open infrastructure, which align very well with COAR’s approach to building the knowledge commons: open, interoperable, community-based, sustainable, and smart. The closing keynote, delivered by Marin Dacos, Frances Open Science Advisor, ended the meeting on an optimistic note, by pointing out the need for “bibliodiversity” and underscopring that there is no “one size fits all” solution for open access. Repositories should and will continue to play an important role in the ecosystem.

To celebrate our 10th anniversary, we had a special cake at the gala dinner along with some nice words from Paolo Budroni from University of Vienna characterizing COAR as a global “family”. COAR was launched in 2009 with a membership of 28 organizations and has come a long way since then, growing by 500% and consolidating its place as an important strategic organization.

Big thanks again to our sponsors, University of Alberta Libraries and SPARC, the local hosts from CCSD and Carla Marques and Ilkay Holt from COAR who made sure everything ran smoothly.

And last but not least, it was announced that the next COAR Annual Meeting will take place on April 22-24, 2020 in Lima, Peru. I really hope to see you there.

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