Repository Professionals: The Next Generation

The internet is basically a teleportation device for information [citation needed] and like the original Star Trek series, where the technology may have aspired to be futuristic but is very firmly rooted in a 1960s aesthetic, repository systems are still using technologies and protocols from the early days of the web (COAR 2016).

Spock and Kirk 1968

© Public domain. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

In April 2016 the Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR) launched a working group focussed on Next Generation Repositories and as the 9th International Open Access Week rolls around it’s another chance to take stock of the repository landscape and its mission to boldly promote open access, the recent ongoing discussion around which is captured by Richard Poynder and Kathleen Shearer of COAR.

Equally important as the technology, if not more so, are those on the bridge and in the engine room who increasingly need a professional skill set the breadth and depth of which rivals anything required by Starfleet; from traditional librarianship, to web-science, from a hundred and one technical protocols to an arcane realm of policy edicts from university, research funder and government. We even have our own Borg in the form of the commercial publishing industry, ever more efficient at assimilating the infrastructure and co-opting the language of open access. As a case in point, the publishing giant Elsevier that acquired Mendeley in 2013 as well as [Atira] Pure (CRIS software) in 2012 and more recently SSRN in 2016, now run a Mendeley Certification Program for Librarians, as they seek to lock-in researchers and their librarians, Facebook-like, into their ecosystem. A particularly jarring example of corporate hubris even by their standards.

For this year’s Open Access week, then, we want to know what you think UKCoRR’s role should be in nurturing the next generation of repository professionals?

As argued by UKCoRR member Jennifer Bayjoo recently in her paper Getting New Professionals into Open Access at the Northern Collaboration Conference, OA and repositories are still not a priority in many CILIP accredited professional library and information management qualifications. CILIP assess courses against their Professional Skills and Knowledge Base which has just one single reference to Open Access buried in point 7.3 ‘Selection of materials and resources’ (and which is only accessible to paid-up members of CILIP, in stark contrast to Elsevier’s ‘freemium’ model for Mendeley.)

It is instructive also to consider the types of job that have been posted to the UKCoRR list which increasingly focus on a broader range of skills than the traditional ‘Repository Manager’ and with a growing emphasis on research data management for example. Of the 16 roles posted to the list in 2016 only 2 explicitly mention the word ‘repository’ and just 1 ‘librarian’:

Research Repository Data Administrator
Research Publications Officer
Research Data Management Advisor
Research Data Support Manager
Copyright and Scholarly Communications Manager
Research and Scholarly Communications Consultant
Open Access & Research Data Advisor
Manager of the Institutional Repository
REF and Systems Manager
Research Data Adviser
Research Publications Manager
Research support librarian
Research Publications Officer
Research Data Officer
Research Publications Assistant
Open Access Officer

The most common perspective on the value of UKCoRR seems to be our supportive community which is largely self-sustaining via the email list, do we need to do anything beyond this?

What is our role in liaising with other organisations like Jisc, CILIP or ARMA?

Might you be willing to share your expertise via an informal mentorship scheme for example?

With these issues in mind, we have put together a very short survey and would like your help to identify the skills and knowledge the future Open Access professionals should have.

As Captain Jean Luc Picard might have said to send his (much more modern) Starship Enterprise to warp speed, “Engage!”

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