Re: Cliff Lynch on Institutional Archives

From: Thomas Krichel <krichel_at_OPENLIB.ORG>
Date: Sat, 15 Mar 2003 22:49:00 +0200

  Stevan Harnad writes

> There is no need -- in the age of OAI-interoperability -- for
> institutional archives to "feed" central disciplinary archives:

  I do not share what I see as a blind faith in interoperability
  through a technical protocol. The primary sense of belonging
  of a scholar in her research activities is with the disciplinary
  community of which she thinks herself a part of. It certainly
  is not with the institution. Therefore, if you want to fill
  institutional archives---which I agree is the best long-run way
  to enhance access and preservation to scholarly research---it
  to institutional archive has to be accompanied by a discipline-based
  aggregation process. The RePEc project has produced such an aggregator
  for economics for a while now. I am sure that other, similar
  projects will follow the same aims, but, with the benefit of
  hindsight, offer superior service. The lack of such services
  in many disciplines, or the lack of interoperability between
  disciplinary and institutional archives, are major obstacle to
  the filling the institutional archives. There are no
  inherent contradictions between institution-based archives
  and disciplinary aggregators,

  In the paper that Stevan refers to, Cliff Lynch writes,

> But consider the plight of a faculty member seeking only broader
> dissemination and availability of his or her traditional journal
> articles, book chapters, or perhaps even monographs through use of
> the network, working in parallel with the traditional scholarly
> publishing system.

  I am afraid, there a more and more such faculty members. Much
  of the research papers found over the Internet are deposited
  in the way. This trend is growing not declining.

> Such a faculty member faces several time-consuming problems. He or
> she must exercise stewardship over the actual content and its
> metadata: migrating the content to new formats as they evolve over
> time, creating metadata describing the content, and ensuring the
> metadata is available in the appropriate schemas and formats and
> through appropriate protocol interfaces such as open archives
> metadata harvesting.

  Sure, but academics do not like their work, and certainly
  not their publishing habits, be interfered with by external
  forces. Organizing academics is like herding cats!

> Faculty are typically best at creating new
> knowledge, not maintaining the record of this process of
> creation. Worse still, this faculty member must not only manage
> content but must manage a dissemination system such as a personal Web
> site, playing the role of system administrator (or the manager of
> someone serving as a system administrator).

  There are lot of ways in which to maintain a web site or to get
  access to a maintained one. It is a customary activity these days and does
  no longer require much of technical expertise. A primitive integration
  of the contents can be done by Google, it requires no metadata.
  Academics don't care about long-run preservation, so that problem
  remains unsolved. In the meantime, the academic who uploads papers to a web
  site takes steps to resolve the most pressing problem, access.

> Over the past few years, this has ceased to be a reasonable activity
> for most amateurs; software complexity, security risks, backup
> requirements, and other problems have generally relegated effective
> operation of Web sites to professionals who can exploit economies of
> scale, and who can begin each day with a review of recently issued
> security patches.

  These are technical concerns. When you operate a linux box
  on the web you simply fire up a script that will download
  the latest version. That is easy enough. Most departments
  have separate web operations. Arguing for one institutional
  archive for digital contents is akin to calling for a single web
  site for an institution. The diseconomies of scale of central administration
  impose other types of costs that the ones that it was to
  reduce. The secret is to find a middle way.

> Today, our faculty time is being wasted, and expended ineffectively,
> on system administration activities and content curation. And,
> because system administration is ineffective, it places our
> institutions at risk: because faculty are generally not capable of
> responding to the endless series of security exposures and patches,
> our university networks are riddled with vulnerable faculty machines
> intended to serve as points of distribution for scholarly works.

  This is the fight many faculty face every day, where they
  want to innovate scholarly communication, but someone
  in the IT department does not give the necessary permission
  for network access. I am afraid that calling for central administration of
  digital assets is only making matters worse. Heaven forbid the
  a situation where a faculty member will have to work with
  some central authority every time they want to put a
  piece on the web.

> And faculty create content at risk because they typically do not
> back it up appropriately, ensure its integrity (in part by hosting
> it on secure systems), and curate it properly.

  This is where central services should come most appropriately,
  as a backup, and as gateways to discipline based aggregators,
  rather than a primary content holding facilities.

  With greetings from Minsk, Belarus,

  Thomas Krichel
Received on Sat Mar 15 2003 - 20:49:00 GMT

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