Wednesday, November 14, 2007

e-repositories in Spain

Yesterday I received a wealth of information about several interesting e-repository initiatives going on in Spain that I would like to share with you. After seven years living in England, I am so out of date with all Spanish initiatives; I have a lot to learn! This was at this year’s TSIUC meeting, which took place in Barcelona. TSIUC (Trobada de Serveis Informàtics de les Universitats de Catalunya) are meetings to debate the uses of IT in Catalan universities, and this year it was the turn of e-repositories. So here’s the summary.

e-repositories, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, are online collections or databases of documents, to say it simply (they offer other interesting services, but this is the basis). The speakers at the meeting presented several initiatives, mostly about institutional repositories of research (papers), but also about some collective repositories (at a local or national level), and about repositories of websites or educational resources. Whatever the subject, OAI-PMH (the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting) was the star of the day – this is definitely the common protocol everyone is using. Open Access is (finally, happily) in vogue!

It seems there are about 447 European repositories – and only 17 are Spanish. Se we still have a long way ahead of us. But things are moving. In 18 months there has been a 150% increase in the number of repositories in Spain (from 13 to 31). And as I mentioned yesterday, the PRBB makes the full-length PDF version of all articles published by the PRBB centres accessible from the PRBB website, via a search-engine that can retrieve them. Not quite a repository, but at least something to make sure the work being done here is publicly accessible.

Here are some other examples of such an initiative that were introduced at the meeting. The CBUC (Catalan University Libraries Consortium) presented some of their ongoing and future projects:

- TDX (or TDR), a repository for full length PhD thesis from universities of all over Spain, which contains now nearly 5,000 thesis.
- Recercat, a cooperative repository of digital documents that include research from universities and research centres of Catalonia. It includes more than 3,800 documents, amongst preprints, working papers, reports, final papers, etc. All of them under a creative commons license.
- Raco (Catalan Journals in Open Access) is a cooperative repository where the full-text from articles of scientific, cultural and erudite Catalan journals can be consulted freely. It currently contains 144 Catalan journals and more than 37,000 articles

Alicia López Medina came from Madrid to tell us about a repository by the Madroño consortium (the equivalent to the CBUC in Madrid) which is called e-ciencia. It is also a cooperative repository, fed by seven independent institutional repositories. In total, they contain nearly 17,000 full length documents.

We also had a visitor from La Rioja, Marta Magriñá Contreras, who presented Dialnet, a Hispanic scientific production diffusion portal. They not only store articles published by external journals, but they also host about 170 journals published by universities or non-for-profit associations.

And talking about journals, RECyT (Spanish Repository for Science and Technology) is a set of services with the aim of helping Spanish scientific journals to be more professional and international. There is a public zone in RECYT (Library) where quality-proved Spanish scientific journals can be hosted and there is a private zone (User Home) that provides an editing tool to help publishing (including peer review, etc.). RECyT is an initiative of the FECYT that was presented by José Manuel Báez.

They also introduced other non-scientific repositories, which I won’t go into but were also interesting. I’ll finish with a take home message that I came out of the meeting with: the way to preserve things is not to keep them locked away, but to have so many copies of them that it’s impossible for all of them to disappear. Or, as Thomas Jefferson put it “… let us save what remains: not by vaults and locks which fence them from the public eye and use in consigning them to the waste of time, but by such a multiplication of copies, as shall place them beyond the reach of accident”.

Regretfully, scientists are still not boarding this ship. Several international reports show that most of them are not aware of these initiatives or of their advantages (such as more visibility for their papers, the assurance that their papers will be preserved indefinitely, etc.). So, I think one essential thing to do in parallel to the technical improvement of the repositories is to get authors enthusiastic about these open archives.

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