Repository Fringe 2008

“The Repository is dead, Long live the repository!” Dorothea Salo’s (University of Wisconsin) Keynote speech kick-started the inaugral Repository Fringe by lambasting Evangelists, policy makers and developers in a cutting diatribe that exposed the very foundations of the Open Access movement. Speaking from bitter experience, she highlighted issues with fundamental concepts; institutional procedures; deposit processes; and even the software developers… usually from first-hand experience.

Back in April, I was attending Open Repositories 2008 down in Southampton, and fell into discusson with Les Carr (General Chair of OR08, and one of the leading lights of the Repositories movement) about this & that and how there is lots of “little stuff” being done by “little groups” with no co-ordination…. and from this grew the insane idea of having a meeting to gather these people together, these people who are working on the fringes of the repository world, and try to foster co-operation and cross-pollination.
“Where should we have this group?”
“Well, it’s a Fringe thing, isn’t it? I’m from Edinburgh, Lets tap into the Fringe thing in Edinburgh, and give people an excuse to have a bit of a holiday at the same time?”

And this was born the idea of the Repository Fringe event.

When I got back to Edinburgh, wiser heads interceeded, and the event as it played out was planned by Theo Andrew, Philip Hunter, Clair Knowles, Stuart Macdonald, Robin Rice, Robin Taylor and Clare Whittaker (with me sticking my oar in occasionally).

The event was centered in the magnificance of Edinburgh Universitys PlayFair Library and was styled in homage to the Edinburgh Fringe, With “Soapbox” sessions (multiple, parallel, 20-minute pitches, incongruously terminated by a clamoring bell), “Group Improv” sessions (hour-long meeting aimed at audience participation), and “An Audience with…” talks (half-hour talks where someone presents an idea or piece of research.)

There was a lot of very interesting information that came out of the conferance, more that I can include here, partly because I was running around swapping laptops for speakers; toting microphones for audience participation; and just possibly hogging a microphone myself, and partly because I actually didn’t see all of the event, as most of the time we had two rooms going!

The highlights for me were:
– Andrew Girdwood echoing the “Build and they shall come” failure of the dot-com era from Dorothea’s “Build and they shall come” failure of the Open Access movement.
– Steven Hichcock’s analogy to banks and libraries
-Neamh Brennan’s hilarious soliloquy to a laptop in a shroud, echoing the death of the repository, followed by a superb example of how a well thought out, well designed, and well executed Current Research Information System can be a positive enhancement to researchers, and just incidentally, by happenstance, provide an Institutional Repository.

The closing Plenary by David De Roure (Southampton) was a look at the GRID system, and highlighting how the successes and failures of the grid system can be mapped to the Open Access/Repositories systems… and how the new world of the Web 2.0 can, and should, influence our descisions.

The event seemed to take on, in some places, more import than could be expected from an event thrown together in such a short time – and maybe some of this reflects on the import that Edinburgh, and EDINA, play in this field.

Everyone I spoke too seemed energised and enthused that, dispite the recognised failings in our systems, we were looking forward to a better and brighter world…. different, but from evolution, not revolution.

An on a final note: I think we have a right to be proud that we put on an event in less than two months; an event that attracted over 80 participants; and an event that was interesting enough to keep the Director of EDINA present for two days when he was less than 20 minutes from his office!

(See pictures at


3 thoughts on “Repository Fringe 2008

  1. Interesting event, much more relaxed then the usual gubbins at conferences. Is Dorothea’s presentation anywhere? Could you link to it at all, her blog didn’t mention it.


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