June 29, 2007

ETD Uppsala conference update 6

Filed under: E-Theses and ETD conference — Neil Godfrey @ 4:36 am

Forgot to add earlier that the TDL uses the Manikin module interface — worth comparing with the normal DSpace view. The next session I was able to discuss with others (e.g. MIT — Craig Thomas) their use of Manikin as well for improving DSpace’s functionality, and how they found it in ‘real life’.

Else Nygren addressed the differences between old and new ways of learning which I found very interesting. Spoke of problems mixing Metalib with Google habits, the need to find the habits of users, and to make content accessible across cultural and cognitive barriers. Asked afterwards who the “new users” a repository should be alert for Else spoke of interested young people, not university students. I’m sure there are more interested among groups other than the young, too. I don’t see that public accessibility, open access, will be of interest exclusively to students and academics.

One of the most interesting sessions from my particular metadata perspective was Session 5’s “Discovery and Access” segment, and I made the most of using the Q and A session at the end of it. Sharon Reeves discussed user generated metadata for etd’s in Canada, in particular for the national LAC (Library and Archives Canada). Austin McLean of Proquest read Dr Livia Vasas’s (unable to attend in person) paper, and John Hagen of West Virginia libraries spoke on Building Effective Discovery Tools for Academic Promotion and Tenure Evidence. UMI’s PQDT (Proquest’s progenitor database?) apparently pays authors royalties on sales of copies of online theses? LAC uses ETD-MS — cataloguers don’t look at the record so there are no controlled vocabularies. (Compare this with the controlled subject vocabularies I noticed in other networks of repositories in the U.S.) There was a table in her presentation showing the relationship between MARC and ETD-MS which I must see in detail as soon as it is available. I was curious to know why ETD-MS was chosen by Canada (it has not been adopted by ADT in Australia reportedly because it is not yet a universally recognized or adopted standard.) I also wanted to know if it was chosen over comparisons with other metadata schema.

The other main query I had was the problem of reconciling different (international differences) meanings of the terms “doctoral” and “masters” etc. Not all doctoral theses are research theses in all countries, although that term might be the definition that explains it IS a research thesis in, say, the Netherlands. Clearly we cannot rely on or expect a common terminology. The differences in the terms are culturally and politically rooted. It is up to additional metadata fields to clarify the natures of each thesis type.

Place this in the context of the value of ETD-MS. I don’t think that that schema does justice to this problem. The global solution has not yet arrived, but this did highlight for me the importance of building the required granularity into the metadata schema now — whether through a MODS application or other. This is going to have to be a priority that I will want to work on and make a proposal for others here in Australia.

But while my time was with this session I was missing out on comparative developments in India and Japan. Clearly Australia needs to be in step with Asia as much as Europe given much of our research focus. But I am currently following up personal contacts made with some of the delegates from these countries.

Also missed was DissOnline Portal by Germany’s National Library Natascha Schumann — a topic I’d really need to tackle with input from ICE-RS Peter Sefton; also EthOS in the UK — but I’ve since meeting Susan Copeland briefly followed up with the metadata issues and schema involved here, and will be making use of those in evaluating Australian needs.

The afternoon session was also a bit of a head spinner for me. There was a session on the power of pdf files now to embed video and sound files in them, thus enabling interactive simulations within pdf’s. But discussions with others subsequently showed some strong divide and necessary cautions over this technology. Joan Cheverie of Georgetown Uni spoke of social science data and etd’s, and Austin of Proquest also made an appearance in this context, though there was no apparent linkage between the 2 institutions. These in part made reference to their use of controlled vocabularies, a topic of some interest to me at different levels – contrary to the presentations either side of this one. Concept maps in NDLTD were discussed by Edward Fox. The limitations of Scirus, for one, in not listing the department awarding the thesis, was commented on. This underscored for me the impossibility of standard schema and terminologies, and the need for interoperable (read, in part, granular) local or national schema for future-proofing our databases. But again I found worthwhile the opportunity at the Q and A conclusion to discuss and ask their views on the relative benefits of controlled vocabularies in the context of the available technologies. I know this is something that many will find infrastructure impositions upon them deciding the issue for them, but I did find myself leaning again and further towards maintaining controlled vocabs if at all possible.

Again, there were session I missed and I look forward to catching up with some of the sessions discussing situations in Italy and elsewhere. It is a plus to have made contact with the personnel involved, and knowing that a communication has begun with some that I have since begun to follow through. The abstracts at least at this stage are online at the conference site, and probably email addresses for others interested too.

Some of the keynote speakers did succeed in their intention to be provocative, but some of the delegates felt they were being too much so — and if taken at their word one might be left with the impression that repositories have no place at all. But the balance here that needs a place before going that far is the work of integrated systems, such as ICE and other systems working towards this world and in use in Sweden and elsewhere. Peter Murray-Rust’s presentations, for example, should be read in tandem with Peter Sefton’s.

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