December 4, 2006

December 1, 2006

Calming a hostile critic of repositories

Filed under: Repositories — Neil Godfrey @ 2:25 am

Again re followup from my Hostile criticism of repositories post, here are some of the things that appeared to turn my friend around. They all grew out of time spent first clarifying her concerns (email and a couple of phone calls) by listening fully and sympathetically to her concerns, thus helping us in turn to see more clearly pressures academics are under:

  • Having sufficient recordkeeping and administrative metadata and backups in our system to be able to give her assurance of what had actually happened;
  • Reassuring her that what she was hearing from some of her peers about messy processes obliging academics to check out copyright details themselves was not the case at all, that the library would take care of that;
  • That the library was not “requiring” academics to submit all the details of the work themselves but that each Department could negotiate its own process, ‘Why not arrange for your research assistant to do it?’ etc.
  • Reassuring her that repository publishing processes do not require DEST approval, but that we only publish in accordance with copyright restrictions and her feedback from her Research Office and DEST re publication details for grants etc in no way affected what she might see in Google from us.

Not all academic departments are equal and some do not sustain a culture or whatever it is to support their academics in submitting to repositories. The only solution I could see here is for repository coordinators to work through the larger university administration, to get onside the VC’s and policy formulation people to support the institution’s departments and department heads in promoting the necessary culture.

Are repositories evil?

Filed under: Repositories — Neil Godfrey @ 2:01 am

As a result of my last post re the hostile reception I got as a local repository rep someone  else also closely involved with repositories did admit that repositories may be potentially a bit evil, but that they also do some good. It’s worth noting that they are also helping to break up the power the publishing companies have held over academics up till now.  So on balance, this someone reassured himself, they are probably more good than evil.

That sounded pretty sort of good to me too. So I dashed off a note to another colleague including a reminder of this, but she replied that in her institution several academics are on editorial boards of publishing companies and THEY DON’T WANT to see the power of publishing companies diminished!

So I guess we have evil being in the eye of the beholder, customized targeting for different folks and all that.

The ‘repositories are evil’ line that my academic friend was initially hitting me with and that prompted my first post on this topic lost some of its force yesterday too, when I spoke to her again about her experiences with our repository. She was most happy to learn that I had resolved what was her personal embarrassment caused in her mind by our mismanagement of her paper, and scarcely mentioned her earlier political critique.

I took her final happiness over the whole thing as reminder to:

  • get our workflows dead right so that there can be no stuffups and adequate records are kept to clarify any matters that arise;
  • maintain ground contacts with the troops in the trenches and work smarter at communicating the positives that are working for them (from the grand goal to the nitty gritty of housekeeping issues);
  • be careful to keep ourselves clear of any appearance of being a political tool and to avoid any murkiness of such a perception to pollute our open access goals.