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Oxford Digital Repositories Steering Group

1. About the Oxford Digital Repositories Steering Group

The Oxford Digital Repositories Steering Group was established in April 2007 to provide a coordinating role for the development of digital repository services within Oxford. The Steering Group was closed in 2009. The Group comprised key stakeholders from across the University, representing teaching and research domains, existing activities, and other sources of expertise. The Group had responsibility for ensuring:

Links to documents, including agenda and minutes, are provided on the left hand side.

2. ODRSG Terms of Reference

2.1. Purpose

The Oxford Digital Repositories Steering Group provided a coordinating role for the development of digital repository services within Oxford. The Group comprised key stakeholders from across the University, representing existing activities, and sources of expertise as well as the teaching and research domains. The Group had responsibility for ensuring communication across repository activities in the University; stakeholder and user input to the requirements gathering and analysis; overseeing the definition of services; and for developing and communicating standards to ensure interoperability between services.

2.2. Role

The Oxford Digital Repositories Steering Group had particular responsibility for:

  • Ensuring communication across repository activities in both research and learning;
  • Maintain a portfolio of relevant activities and promoting collaboration between digital repository initiatives within, and where relevant, beyond the institution;
  • Advising on the strategic development of digital repository services, identifying priorities and, where relevant, supporting bids for further resources;
  • Overseeing the development of an interoperable services framework for institutional repository services;
  • Ensuring appropriate input from, and consultation with, stakeholder and user communities;
  • Receiving reports from projects and activities;
  • Raising awareness about and promoting digital repository activities, policies and standards.

2.3. Membership

The membership of the Steering Group was as follows:

  • Chair (April 2007 to September 2008) - Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research, Academic Services and University Collections;
    • Professor Ewan McKendrick
  • Chair (as nominated by the Pro-Vice Chancellor from September 2008)- Director of IT;
    • Professor Paul Jeffreys
  • One nominated representative from each of the four academic divisions;
    • Professor John Baines, Humanities
    • Vacancy, MPLS
    • Dr Vivien Sieber, Medical Sciences
    • Professor Jonathan Zittrain, Social Sciences
  • Director of IT
    • Professor Paul Jeffreys
  • Two senior members of the Library Services;
    • Dr Sarah Thomas
    • Mr Richard Ovenden
  • Two senior members of the Computing Services;
    • Mr Lou Burnard
    • Ms Ruth Mitchell
  • A member of the OeRC;
    • Professor Anne Trefethen
  • Principal investigators or heads from relevant projects or services;
    • Dr David Shotton
    • Dr Mike Fraser
  • Co-opted members with expertise relevant to the role of the Group;
    • Dr Anne Bowtell
    • Mr Luis Martinez Uribe

2.4. Meetings

The Steering Group met once per term.

Agenda and papers were circulated electronically to all members at least five working days prior to the date of the meeting; and unreserved agenda and minutes were made available on the dedicated website.

The committee were able to resolve any issues within its remit which arose between meetings either facilitated through an email list or by delegation of authority to the Chair.

3. Digital Repositories Standards Working Group Terms of Reference

3.1. Purpose

The Standards Working Group brought together experts from the range of digital repository activities within Oxford. The primary purpose of the group was to develop an interoperable services framework for a federated institutional repository. The Group defined the discrete repository services required to support research, education and administration; and maintained a registry of standards for interoperability. The group was also intended as a forum for sharing information and expertise between the different activities. The group reported to the Digital Repositories Steering Group and was chaired by a member of the Steering Group.

3.2. Remit

The remit of the Standards Working Group was to:

  • Consolidate and, where appropriate, develop user scenarios for repository services within the education, research and administration domains;
  • Define the broad set of repository services required to support specific processes within the above domains;
  • Undertake a gap analysis with reference to the current repository activities and recommend to the Digital Repositories Steering Group priorities for development;
  • Identify the key standards for interoperability between repository services (technical, semantic and organisational);
  • Raise awareness about, and make recommendations concerning, technical innovations, training and support requirements, sustainability, policy and other issues relating to repository development and deployment.

3.3. Membership

  • Member appointed by the Oxford Digital Repositories Steering Group (Chair)
  • Digital Repositories Research Coordinator
  • Up to 8 members were drawn from existing digital repository projects within Oxford (see the list at http://www.ict.ox.ac.uk/repositories/index.xml?ID=body.1_div.4).

It was proposed that the group meets six times per academic year and makes use of an email list and dedicated website at other times.

4. Agenda and Minutes

The ODRSG met once a term. Unreserved agenda and the minutes for meetings are available below as PDF files. Access is only available within the .ox.ac.uk domain (including access via VPN).

5. Short Introduction to Oxford Digital Repositories

5.1. Introduction

Oxford University creates and modify many hundreds of digital objects every day through its education, research and administration activities. The variety of materials in digital form is very broad, ranging from email messages, office documents, reading lists, journal articles, images, web pages, through to huge and complex datasets. Most of these digital objects reside on the hard disks of personal computers, networked filestores or buried within software systems. There is, however, an increasing need to ensure digital assets for which the University is (or should be) responsible are properly stored, curated, disseminated and preserved. The role of digital repositories is to provide a set of services which address these requirements.

5.2. Federated Institutional Repositiory

The development of digital repository services in Oxford is not confined to any one part of the University. Whilst the Library Services is a primary provider of digital repository infrastructure (and the Oxford Research Archive, in particular), other relevant activities are located within academic divisions, research groups, and other academic services.

Many universities are developing centralised institutional repositories. For the most part these focus on providing a digital repository of research outputs (e.g. pre-prints, peer-reviewed articles, monographs, theses) and are centralised within the institution to the extent that a single unit (often the library) provides both the technical infrastructure and the data curation services. Increasingly, however, the institutional repository is expected to support several purposes (e.g. a preservation archive of digital records, Open Access scholarly publication, store of learning materials accessible from within the VLE).

Oxford has a similarly broad view of the institutional repository. However, like other universities with a devolved ICT structure, Oxford supports a number of digital repository activities rather than one centralised service. Therefore, it is more appropriate to speak of a federated institutional repository, the services and data of which might be both organisationally and technically distributed within the institution. Any given repository 'service' combines technical infrastructure and domain expertise, either or both of which might be located within, for example, research groups or other divisional units. Many of the existing repository-related activities have operated from the ground-up and, without a more coherent and co-ordinated approach, there is the risk that some existing activities will become unsustainable silos.

In 2004/2005 Oxford established a Digital Archiving Group (DAG) to explore the broader issues of relating to institutional archiving policies and practice. A stakeholder workshop was held under the aegis of this group in June 2005, an outcome from which was the report, “Towards a Research Repository for Oxford University” (2005). It is clear that a digital repository, driven by the research needs of the University, has to interoperate with data creation, analysis and dissemination workflows at the point at which the research occurs as well as the outputs of scholarly publication. For research, many of these issues are being addressed by the Oxford Research Archive and its management structure (the Steering Group for which includes the heads of the divisions). This principle, that repository services should be embedded within the working practices of the domains they are intended to serve, applies equally to repository services for other areas of the University's working life (e.g. educational, library or administration).

In addition, there may be clear relationships between different types of digital object within different domains (e.g. within the knowledge lifecycle including resource discovery, data analysis, scholarly communication, teaching and learning, administrative reporting, preservation and access). It is also increasingly recognised that it is desirable and possible to define common services required by repositories in different domains. Examples include: access management, file storage systems, ingest or deposit, cataloguing or metadata standards, identity and version control, IPR and preservation policies.

The Oxford Digital Repositories Steering Group has been established to both coordinate digital repository activities across domains and to help ensure that stakeholder requirements and priorities are represented.

The development of a federated set of repository services provides the potential to:

  • improve the management of a wider range of digital objects (e.g. teaching materials, data sets, images, and grey literature);
  • simplify reporting and knowledge management;
  • encourage the development of a framework which retains devolved responsibility whilst facilitating data sharing, common searching and other forms of interoperability.

It is anticipated that the technical infrastructure for the federated digital repository will be largely built on the Fedora repository architecture, managed by OULS and underpinning the Oxford Research Archive (ORA). The ORA will form a key component within the federated repository, and there will be many more locations where digital output will be stored. In many cases digital output will be curated and managed locally by academics.

The following are a sample of scenarios which might be realised through the federated institutional repository:

  • An academic shares a working paper with colleagues who can make comments, insert amendments, with a full version history being retained. The final paper is accepted by a journal and made available through ORA with the minimum of effort.
  • A reader accesses a journal article held within the Oxford Research Archive and is able to find out about and download associated datasets.
  • An undergraduate student enters a virtual learning environment to access a package of research papers, sample datasets and customised tools to manipulate them, teaching materials and past examination papers, all derived from different repositories but collected into a virtual course pack by the tutor.
  • A research student knows how to find the most appropriate copies of electronci sources and how to cite them so that the references have a greater chance of remaining valid over time. The resulting thesis is deposited in electronic form to be cited by others.
  • Student video presentations can be created, stored, shared, archived and reused in the future with the creation of a workflow which combines departmental and central services.

6. Digital Repository Activities in Oxford

The following are examples of digital repository activities underway at Oxford.

Accessing and Storing Knowledge (ASK) Project
The ASK project, led by Oxford University, is developing a suite of open source software artefacts that support learners, researchers and teachers in securely accessing and sharing learning objects. The project is implementing a pilot design pertaining to a repository reference model based on the JISC e-Framework. The project will implement services for metadata management, content management, authentication, and authorisation (Shibboleth). The overall goal of the project is to build interoperability between user agents (e.g. VLEs) and information systems normally under the management of library departments. The ASK project is a direct response to the project partners' institutional requirements to integrate library and learning services.
Responsibility: OUCS (Howard Noble)
Start/End Dates: 1 June 2005 - 31 May 2007
Partners: UHI Millennium Institute; University of Manchester
Funding body: JISC
Bridging the Interoperability Divide Project
The Bridging the Interoperability Divide (BID) project is using a service-oriented approach to build interoperability between three repository systems: SRB (OeRC), Fedora (OULS) and ASK (OUCS). The implementation will help join e-science, academic publishing and learning/ teaching practice communities by creating a joined-up set of repository services. The project will focus on demonstrating interoperability across the federation for the following services: harvesting (OAI), federated search (SRW), authentication (Shibboleth), metadata management (MODS/ METS), identifiers, and discovery (OpenURL). The project will also create a client for authenticated bulk upload (ingest service) into an institutional repository.
Responsibility: OULS (Neil Jefferies)
Start/End Dates: 1 April 2007 – 30 Sept 2008
Partners: OUCS (Michael Fraser/Howard Noble), OeRC (David Wallom)
Funding body: JISC
Complex Archive Ingest for Repository Objects (CAIRO)
The Complex Archive Ingest for Repository Objects (CAIRO) project, led by Oxford University, is developing a tool for ingesting complex collections of born-digital materials, with basic descriptive, preservation and relationship metadata, into a preservation repository. The project is based on needs identified by the JISC-funded Paradigm project (see below) and the Wellcome Library's Digital Curation in Action project. It is a key building block in the partner institutions' strategy to develop digital repository architectures which can support the development of digital collections over the long-term.
Responsibility: OULS (Richard Ovenden)
Start/End Dates: 1 October 2006 - 31 March 2008
Partners: John Rylands University Library, University of Manchester; Wellcome Library
Funding body: JISC
OULS is a development partner in the DART-Europe (Digital Access to Research Theses -- Europe) initiative to explore the creation of a European model for the deposit, discovery, use and long-term care of research theses in an open access environment, led by UCL and Dartington College of Art. The Project is developing a portal through which institutions with existing repositories will be able to expose their theses.
Responsibility: OULS (Michael Popham)
Start/End Dates: Phase 1: June 2005 - Dec 2006; phase 2: 2007-
Partners: Dartington College of Arts (co-lead); University College London (co-lead); Proquest; Dublin City University; DiVA; University of Oxford; Trinity College Dublin.
Funding body: Consortium
Defining Image Access
The Defining Image Access Project is a short six-month requirements-analysis project to investigate what would be required to develop and provide discovery and delivery interoperability for image data held in DSpace, EPrints and Fedora institutional repositories, the three main open-source software systems used within the UK HE/FE sector, using a data web approach.
Responsibility: Department of Zoology (David Shotton)
Start/End Dates: 1 Jan 2007 - 31 July 2007
Partners: Cambridge University; Southampton University; Imperial College London
Funding body: JISC
Integrative Biology Virtual Research Environment
The integrative Biology Virtual Research Environment (IBVRE) Project, funded under the JISC's Virtual Research Environments programme, is using the requirements defined by the EPSRC Integrative Biology project to design and build a large-scale virtual research environment for integrative biology. Based on uPortal, this online collaboration environment will act as a central point of focus for the community and provide a visual gateway to the core IB middleware. An In silico experiment repository will be made available through the VRE portal and will provide an environment where heart modelling experiments can be conducted, stored and retrieved almost entirely through a visual interface without the need to develop complex scripts or use a command line.
Responsibility: Comlab (David Gavaghan, Andrew Simpson); OUCS (Michael Fraser)
Start/End Dates: 1 April 2005 - 31 March 2007
Partners: Integrative Biology consortium
Funding body: JISC
The Mathematical Institute ePrints Archive
The Mathematical Institute runs an eprints archive to make available articles, book sections and other materials published by its members.
Responsibility: Mathematical Institute (N M J Woodhouse)
Start/End Dates: Ongoing
Funding body: Mathematical Institute
OARS -- Open Access Repository System for Forced Migration Online
The OARS project is migrating a fragmented digital repository of scholarly resources, currently managed by two proprietary software systems, to a single open source platform. This repository, based at the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford, is the largest in the world on its subject area of forced migration. It is a unique, widely used and constantly expanding collection of resources. The enhancement of this repository will make it more manageable for those maintaining it, and also make it globally interoperable with other open systems, as well as with the University of Oxford’s institutional repository.
Responsibility: Refugee Studies Centre (Mike Cave)
Start/End Dates:Sept 2007 - Mar 2009
Funding body: JISC
OxCLIC is an image management project concerned with the practical use of digital images in teaching within the University of Oxford, focusing on slide collections held by the Department of the History of Art and the faculties of Classics, Archaeology and Oriental Studies.
Responsibility: Classics (Charles Crowther); OUCS (Pete Robinson)
Start/End Dates:Jan 2006 - Mar 2007
Funding body: HEFCE E-learning Innovation Fund (Oxford)
Oxford Research Archive
ORA is a secure online archive for research output (e.g. ePrints, conference papers, discussion papers, book chapters, datasets, images) built to be a sustainable mainstream service for the University of Oxford. It will be used to gather together, store, provide access (open access wherever possible), manage and preserve the digital items it contains. The current implementation builds on the previous Oxford ePrints Project.
Responsibility: OULS (Sally Rumsey)
Start/End Dates: Aug 2006 - Aug 2008 (Phase 1)
Funding body: OULS
Oxford Digital Library
Oxford Digital Library (ODL) has established a range of core services to support the creation of digital resources from Oxford University Library Services holdings. ODL projects include the Paradigm and Cairo projects; the Early English Books Online project, and the Oxford-Google Digitization Partnership. The beta-test site provides access to materials digitised through Development Fund projects.
Responsibility: OULS (Michael Popham)
Start/End Dates: Ongoing
Funding body: OULS
OxGrid -- Storage Resource Broker
OxGrid, managed by the Oxford e-Research Centre, is a single entry point for Oxford University researchers to access a combination of shared and dedicated computational resources (including the National Grid Service). The Storage Resource Broker (SRB) supports multiple collections distributed across organisations and file storage systems.
Responsibility: OeRC (David Wallom)
Start/End Dates: Ongoing
Funding body: OeRC
Paradigm Project
The Personal Archives Accessible in Digital Media (paradigm) project sees the major research libraries of the Universities of Oxford and Manchester come together to explore the issues involved in preserving digital private papers through gaining practical experience in accessioning and ingesting digital private papers into digital repositories, and processing these in line with archival and digital preservation requirements. The project is funded until February 2007, under the JISC's programme "Supporting Institutional Digital Preservation and Asset Management".
Responsibility: OULS (Richard Ovenden, Michael Popham)
Start/End Dates: October 2004 - October 2006
Partners: University of Manchester
Funding body: JISC
Research Discovery System (Medical Sciences Division )
The Research Discovery System (RDS) is a joint initiative between the Medical Sciences Division (MSD), Research Technologies Service and the Academic Computing Development Team (ACDT). The system provides summary information about research activities and groups within the Division. It is expected that the RDS will reuse data from the Oxford Research Archive.
Responsibility: Medical Sciences Division (Ann Bowtell); OUCS (Paul Groves)
Start/End Dates: 2004 -
Funding body: MSD
Secure Personal Institutional and Inter-Institutional Repository (SPIRE)
The JISC-funded Secure Personal Institutional and Inter-Institutional Repository (SPIRE) Project is led by the Department of Continuing Education and is investigating the feasibility of using Peer-to-Peer (P2P) and informal repositories in learning design.
Responsibility: Department for Continuing Education (David White)
Start/End Dates: 1 June 2005 - 31 March 2007
Partners: Penn State University
Funding body: JISC

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