Open Repositories 2008

Before arrival at the recent Open Repositories 2008 conference, I was telling myself that this would be a dynamic, busy and vibrant conference, attended by a technically ambitious and knowledgeable community, and that it would obviously be a great opportunity for me to engage in constant blog activity (reading and writing). As it turned out, the preconceptions I had about the conference were exactly right. The aspirations I had about my own activities in the blogosphere, however, turned out to be more a case of ‘amplified expectations’ rather than the ‘amplified conference’ that Lorcan Dempsey has referred to (

From the more comfortable perspective of two weeks after the energetic and meeting-packed week down in Southampton (that made it impossible to get near a blog!) it’s possible to look back and consider a few of the more prominent features of the conference.

One principal item was the role that OAI-ORE (Open Archives Initiative Protocol – Object Reuse and Exchange ( may have in describing the structure and semantics of aggregations of web objects, thereby making those objects available to a variety of applications. Though still in beta (or perhaps even alpha) by the time of the conference, this data model was used in the development of the winning prototype of the ‘Repository Challenge’ competition ( ) – a JISC/CRIG sponsored event that was an important and characteristic feature of the conference.

Tim Brody (University of Southampton) along with fellow team members, Ben O’Steen (University of Oxford) and Dave Tarrant (University of Southampton) developed the winning application which was called ‘Mining the ORE’. Tim Brody describes it as …
‘A practical approach to copying complex objects between repositories. Every eprint in a repository is exposed as an ORE aggregation (Object Reuse and Exchange). Each ORE
aggregation of an eprint links together all the files and associated metadata. This aggregation of files had one resource that was marked as conforming to simple Dublin Core and this was used as the basis of the metadata interoperability. When ingested into a new repository each resource in the ORE aggregation is retrieved and stored. The simple Dublin Core is used to index the new eprint for the purposes of search and discovery, otherwise all of the component resources are simply shown to the user. We implemented exemplar ORE interfaces for both EPrints and Fedora, enabling the transfer of complex objects between the two system implementations.’

19 teams entered the ‘Repository Challenge’ and in total over 40 developers were involved in creating the rapid prototypes. Five prototypes were shortlisted by an international panel of judges and the winner was then selected by a balloted vote from the conference delegates at the OR08 awards dinner. This type of developmental process is a new departure in terms of JISC-funded initiatives but has proved to be potentially of great benefit in terms of providing candidate service-usage models (SUM’s) for submission to the e-Framework, and other forms of documentation including training materials and case studies. It would be very interesting to hear views and opinions about the value of this form of rapid prototyping exercise. Anyone interested should contact David Flanders at the Common Repositories Interface Group (CRIG) David was the driving force behind the Repository Challenge at OR08 and its success was entirely to do with his energy and determination.

Returning to the mainstream sessions of the conference, Peter Murray Rust gave the first keynote speech and urged delegates to be wary of the ubiquitous use of the pdf format to capture the complexity of scientific information.  This reluctance to accept what has become the de facto deposit standard clearly rang bells with some delegates (—the-pres.html).

One of the challenges tackled by many presenters was how to ease the burden of deposit and how to incorporate web 2.0 interfaces and techniques into repository design and workflow. The automation of metadata tagging and the design of batch ingest procedures were also variously discussed.

All the papers are being made available in the OR08 repository ( and this will give some idea of the complexity of the main part of the conference. What it won’t describe is the amount of peripheral but important activity that happened around these presentations, encompassing: Fedora, e-Prints and DSpace group meetings; a repository manager forum; a developer barcamp; an international meeting about Global Registries; a EurOpen Scholar day addressing issues about Open Access … not to mention gatherings and briefings put together by commercial participants such as Microsoft, who introduced the research data repository platform that they have been developing.

Perhaps the very busiest part of the conference was the one that I almost completely missed. If Owen Stephens’ experience of the conference was anything to go by (and this was someone who wasn’t even at the conference), then all the ‘amplification’ that was going on was perhaps a bit too much!

The ‘chattering classes’ is obviously a thing of the past. Now we have the ‘twittering’ classes.

4 thoughts on “Open Repositories 2008

  1. Brian Kelly

    Hi Neil
    I think I’d agree with you (and Owen) – we haven’t yet identified best practices for making use of networked technologires at events. However we do need to carry out the experiements in order to arrive are unlikely to be the same for everyone. This will be part of the individual participant’s personal learning environment, I suspect.

    Brian Kelly
    PS My name is spelt incorrectly in the blogroll

  2. Neil Grindley


    I was trying out some new art techniques with my kids on the floor of my in-laws kitchen at the weekend. What I did was dreadful. Didn’t look like art, didn’t look like anything. Just looked like a splodgy mess. Theirs didn’t look like much either … but somehow it had more nobility.

    We were doing stuff with wax and shredded crayon and an iron – pretty cutting edge. My mother in law told me to relax. She said we were all getting use to some new ideas.

    Wise words.


    p.s. Am I going nuts? I can’t see your name spelt incorrectly.

  3. Brian Kelly

    Hi Neil – yes, it will be interesting to look back in 5 years time at what we’re doing now.

    The mispelling of my name was fixed shortly after I poisted the comment.


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