Thursday, July 12, 2007


Presenters: Astrid van Wesenbeeck (right), Martin van Luijt (left), both of whom are from the University Library Utrecht, Netherlands
PKP Scholarly Publishing Conference
Thursday, July 12, 2007
11:00 AM - 12:00 PM in SFUHC Sauder
Vancouver, Canada

Astrid van Wesenbeeck is a member of the publishing unit in the University Library at Utrecht, and is responsible for open access projects. Martin van Luijt is the manager of the IT development team in the University Library at Utrecht.

History of Open Access at Utrecht University Library
Utrecht University Library is the biggest university library in the Netherlands, at the largest university in the Netherlands. The library serves 27, 000 students, 8,000 staff members, and 45 university departments, all of whom are potential participants in the PARTNER open access and collaboration program.

Astrid presented a brief history of the library’s involvement in open access journals. In 2000-2001, the library started publishing e-journals, although most were not open access. Recently, the library had come to be publishing 12 open access e-journals, some of them fully open and others having delayed access. They found that their systems for online publishing were inefficient and it was taking a long time to get new journals up and running, and that these did not have an editorial workflow system to manage workflow once the journal was functional. They came across Open Journal Systems (OJS), invited John Willinsky to Ultrecht, researched OJS, and in April 2007 decided to work with this program. The result is a new Open Access journal published through OJS called Relief.

The library wants to do more than publish Open Access journals. As a library, they want to be more supportive to more research communities: to offer an open, solid, clever, smart platform for collaboration. These ideas were put into a five year project called PARTNER. PARTNER found three user groups at the university who wanted to use the library’s proposed collaborative environment and who offered their input in its development stages.

The Goal of the PARTNER Project
Martin then presented, stating that the traditional role of the library is changing, and they as a library want to reinvent themselves by establishing more services and collaborative Knowledge Centers for research groups. Collaboration is hard, so they have begun by focusing on research groups because research groups are small, but not too small. They currently focus on the university community at Utrecht. They want to create this collaborative tool through collaboration with interested research communities.

The idea behind PARTNER is that researchers do not have an environment to host their own work. From consultations with the three research groups, the project has discovered that researchers want tools for developing ideas for research proposals, and the resources to contribute to an ongoing discussion (Virtual Knowledge Centers). The PARTNER project has prototype online services within the university community, such as Wiki collaborative tools and document libraries. The project wants to offer more of these tools to a wider community, and integrate them with other tools.

The trouble the project is currently facing is that they want to integrate their program with other programs, but it is costly to do so because they need to develop each integration by itself. They hope to eventually have 50-100 Virtual Knowledge Centers (VKCs). To do this, they are moving towards an overall architecture that supports the integration of applications. They also wish to obtain different products that can be standardized under similar standards, to develop an architecture based on web services, and to expose functionality openly, so that integration between products can be undertaken easily.

Examples of How it Will Work
Astrid offered concrete examples of this kind of integration in the library at Utrecht.
Their current development are based on wishes from the three user groups (Medicine and Pharmacy research groups). The library hopes to provide a service wherein a researcher can have written a paper, be at the final stage, and easily store their research output in the related Knowledge Center by clicking a button. The idea is to bring various systems together without bothering the researcher. The researcher need only press an archive button, and the library’s repository retrieves the data automatically. The researcher need not leave the research environment, or fill out long, tiresome web forms, or face security warnings when archiving material.

OJS is useful because perhaps you want all the output from one research group combined and/or displayed in a nice way. OJS works well for this kind of thing because OJS can retrieve documents and publish them easily. The new OJS journal at the library, Relief, is not really an example of this, but is a step towards working with OJS more widely.

Other capabilities will be that researchers can submit an article to a suitable journal as easily as they can archive it. They would simply type in the journal name and send it off to be considered for publication by an OJS journal. The researcher can then monitor the status of the submission using the OJS author’s page—a page whose data would be displayed directly at the researcher’s Knowledge Center.

BUT most of this is currently conceptual, based on the sample user groups’ desires. The presenters have no idea if it will go any further.

Questions asked after presentation:
Q: Where I (questioner) work, central services will never cut it, because they work with people at different institutions all over the world. So how will it work if the IT is all based within a single institution?

A: The tools will be provided to international partners as well. There are 3 levels of users: 1.the general public; 2.members of the Knowledge Center (domestic and international partners); 3. groups involved in a specific project (not limited to a single university). The PARTNER project is starting with their own research groups done locally and nationally—international cooperation will come later.

Link to Igitur a department of the Utrecht Library involved in the PARTNER project

Link to Open Journal Systems (OJS)

Commentary (by blogger)
The proposed PARTNER project is concerned with changing the role of the library, in a certain way, and simply maintaining the same role in a new, advancing technological setting. The proposal is that the library will offer easy archiving and collaboration services to researchers. In a sense, it has always been the job of libraries to offer both of these tools, although in a much slower and more cumbersome way. In order to have research archived at a library, the researcher needed in the past to get it published, and then to have the journal or book added to the library’s holdings. These research findings were available to the greater research community, and represented a kind of communication among researchers. However, this communication is not exactly collaboration, and the time lapse between obtaining research findings, acceptance for publication in a journal, and the library acquiring the journal could be years.

The Utrecht University Library is evolving its role as an institution that archives research findings and enables scholarly communication. In the proposed PARTNER project, researchers could archive their materials immediately in Knowledge Centres, which are linked to other researchers who are likely to be interested in the data. This data can be used immediately by other researchers, and can be changed or amended easily by the original author. The time lapse barrier of the past is essentially eliminated. Further, the past ability of researchers to “communicate” through the holdings of libraries (a communication that is largely one-sided, and not at all interactive or fast) is being updated to an advanced forum for immediate, real-time, two-sided (or more) communication which can easily be used for research collaboration. The library aims to both preserving its old role, and update it for a new, digital age.

The Utrecht University Library is not only concerned with maintaining and updating its past role as an archiving and communication-enabling institution. The PARTNER project is also concerned with aspects of research such as incentive, and encouraging innovation among scholars. The incentive to publish is increased when the researcher need only click a button to publish the findings. Further, when the researcher knows that others can use the findings, incentive to publish, and an environment of innovation go hand-in-hand. In the PARTNER project, the library acquires a new concern that goes beyond merely acquiring holdings that might help the academic community—it is concerned with helping the academic community more easily create dynamic archives.

The ideas behind the PARTNER project are certainly inspiring and ambitious, but the problem is that the project is currently only ideas. The actual Knowledge Centers and other collaborative tools are not developed or functioning at the library.


Martin van Luijt/Astrid van Wesenbeeck said...

The blogpost suggests that OJS is already capable of the type of integration our VKC requires. OJS does indeed offer integration and extensibility by means of it’s plug-in architecture but this is integration at a much lower level than we envision. We propose that the PKP team look into having their software expose services conformant to the OASIS set of Web Services.
This type of ‘loose’ software integration provides more independence (for example no dependence on programming language0 and handles issues like identity management and service discovery. In short: it scales better.

Furthermore, in his reaction David states that our project is currently just ideas. That is not entirely true. The screenshots in our presentation come from a working prototype which we use in our discussions with the first wave of interested research groups. As mentioned in our talk we have reached an agreement with one of them to deliver the first version of the actual product later this year.

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