Web Magazine for Information Professionals

Editorial Introduction to Issue 52: The New Invisible Industry

Richard Waller introduces Ariadne issue 52.

We are frequently reminded that, in a globalised market place, industrialised countries must ever look to a developing knowledge-based economy to ensure the green shoots of competitive innovation keep sprouting. Whether all governments have been as quick to invest whole-heartedly in the research that sustains that knowledge-based economy remains to be seen. However, if the industrialised nations think they have got their problems, then, like Barbara Kirsop, Leslie Chan and Subbiah Arunachalam, they would do well to consider the situation of the developing countries which must not only compete in a ferocious global market but do so without the depth of infrastructure and investment which the Western Hemisphere takes for granted. It is now possible to argue that, alongside roads, railways and hospitals, research and development is as much a part of any national infrastructure as financial services are in a post-industrial economy. As a consequence, developing countries need to establish a strong research base as much as they need machine tools. In Access to Scientific Knowledge for Sustainable Development: Options for Developing Countries the authors consider the issue of access to peer-reviewed research material in developing countries and in particular provide a comparison of two broad approaches, donations and free open access, in terms of their ability to build scientific research capacity for sustainable economic growth.

When I used to have a spare moment I would carry out an analysis of the content of Ariadne over its preceding 4 issues and few long-standing friends of the Magazine will be surprised to learn that Ariadne tended to highlight the burning issues of the day in the number of articles which would reflect the latest must-have technological development. For example, when I took up this role some 4 years ago the word on everyone's lips seemed to be 'portals'. There will not be a prize for working out the hot topic from this issue's contents page. It is fortunate that an electronic publication such as Ariadne makes it relatively simple to identify such trends even over the space of a decade, but we may well find that when some future analytical eye comes to rest upon digital repositories, it will turn to Repository Thrills and Spills for an overall view of activity to date. Sue Manuel and Charles Oppenheim write about the current context, the marketplace for repositories, actors and their roles, managing expectations, and service requirements. They also offer a light-hearted metaphorical view of the Rights and Rewards Project's 'repository adventure' as well as discussion of areas for additional research activity.

I think readers new to the topic of IRs and those who may even feel they have already been around them too long, will be grateful to Dana McKay who has pulled together in her article Institutional Repositories and Their 'Other' Users: Usability Beyond Authors the wealth of material already penned on the subject, though it will quickly become apparent that the coverage is by no means balanced when one analyses it from the standpoint of the different users of institutional repositories. Dana points out the weaknesses and also suggests how progress may be made despite the lack of research in certain areas. Not for the first time, this article draws to our attention the impact of human reactions to technology and explains why it is that adoption of new systems can never be taken for granted.

I am indebted to Maurits van der Graaf for the European perspective that he brings to this issue in DRIVER: Seven Items on a European Agenda for Digital Repositories where he is able to cast some light on the state of play with digital repositories for research output in the European Union. Maurits provides results on various aspects such as types of software, the role of search engines and the roles and reactions of the practitioners involved in their institution's repository. His description of the outcomes of the DRIVER inventory study provides clues to the next steps along the road towards an infrastructure for digital repositories in Europe, a goal which some may regard as less attainable than the Holy Grail, but which is nonetheless a worthwhile journey.

David Groenewegen and Andrew Treloar describe in ARROW and the RQF: Meeting the Needs of the Research Quality Framework Using an Institutional Research Repository the work of the ARROW Project in Australia as it attempts to meet the requirements of the forthcoming Research Quality Framework (RQF). The RQF is a government initiative to measure the quality and impact of Australian research, and is based on the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) held here in the UK. The RQF differs from the RAE in its reliance on local institutional repositories for the provision of access to research outputs, and this article explains how it is envisaged that this role will be filled, and the challenges that will doubtless arise.

Jill Russell rightly maintains that "Electronic theses are widely recognised as a Good Thing" and argues that, combined with a significant growth in institutional repositories in the UK, and gradual moves towards mandating the deposit of electronic versions of theses by new generations of research students, the UK is now ready for a fully-fledged and co-ordinated service. The EThOSnet Project is the implementation phase, building on the sturdy foundations laid down by the EThOS Project, to transform it into the EThOS service. In EThOSnet: Building a UK e-Theses Community, Jill provides us with the history of the EThOS Project as well as offering a view of the aims and objectives of EThOSnet in order to strengthen the operations and business model of e-theses services and so provide future students and researchers with a significant support to their work.

Virginia Knight provides us with useful background to the Subject Portals Project (SPP) and highlights an aspect which assumed greater importance in its second phase, namely portlets. Here she concentrates on the alerting portlet which was one of the two types of portlet identified by the Project as being of particular usefulness to users of institutional portals. The alerting portlet evolved from the concept of the aggregated newsfeed searching portlet and is designed to notify users about new resources in their subject areas and to allow them to register those areas with the portlet software. In The SPP Alerting Portlet: Delivering Personalised Updates Virginia provides us with an overview of the portlet as well as detailing the outcomes of two case studies, one for the end-user and the other for a portal administrator.

I am extremely grateful to Iain Wallace, Graeme West and David Donald who have been able, despite very challenging circumstances to provide Ariadne with their article Capacity Building: Spoken Word at Glasgow Caledonian University. The Project, as the authors write, 'was conceived … in response to a set of pedagogical and institutional imperatives' and they add, somewhat intriguingly, that it was associated with a move to 'recapture some of the traditional aspirations of Scottish Higher Education' through the use of 'an information technology-intensive learning environment'. What we also discover, apart from the powerful mix of partners ranging from the BBC Information and Archives to groups at GCU, Michigan State University and Northwestern University, is the Project's commitment to a library standards-based approach and the intention of offering high-quality digital resources to encourage the adoption of the highest standards of scholarship in the students using them. It is heartening that, when the belief abounds that digital technologies are only used to adulterate academic activity, practitioners are proving that technological innovation in media beyond the still dominant largely text-based resources can offer challenging learning opportunities using the wealth of resources held by the BBC.

I am grateful to Jon Pratty for his article on 24 Hour Museum: From Past to Future in which he provides an overview of 24HM's development to date and how the Museum is looking to the future.

We learn from Jackson Pope and Philip Beresford that The British Library is adopting the International Internet Preservation Consortium Toolset (comprising the Web Curator Tool, NutchWax and the Open Source Wayback Machine for its evolving Web archiving operations, designed to meet the demands of the Legal Deposit legislation being introduced within the next few years. Picking up the story of the Web Curator Tool, this latest contribution Web Archiving at the British Library: Trials with the Web Curator Tool now provides us with information on the performance-testing stage designed to evaluate what hardware will be required to run the toolset in a production environment. The article covers all three components of the IIPC Toolset and offers recommendations on bugs, gathering and reviewing, indexing, searching and storage issues.

As usual, we offer our At the Event section, as well as reviews on The Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland, change management in information services and the art of managing technical people. In addition of course we provide our usual section of news and events.

I hope you will enjoy Issue 52.

Author Details

Richard Waller
Ariadne Editor

Email: ariadne@ukoln.ac.uk
Web site: http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/

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