Understanding Organisational Cultures, the workshop

This turned out to be a really interesting event, and well worth the trip down!

We started with two talks: one from Dr Colin Macduff (Robert Gordon Uni.) talking about his experience in submitting his eThesis, and how it changed the way he approached the whole thesis; and a second from Dr Bruce Jefferson (Cranfield Uni) taking the role of the sceptic, and pointing out all the things that he wants, and why repositories are not helping him.

We also had a quick overview of the national picture from Neil jacobs, and three talks on ways to make changes, or recognising the opportunities for change to happen: Michael White (Stirling Uni); John Harrington (Cranfield); William Nixon (Uni of Glasgow).

What was particularly gratifying to see was that three of the six speakers were from Scottish Universities – are we ahead of the curve in this field?

Colin Macduff – The Convert

This was the story of his PhD. He started his PhD after many years as a member of staff, and he started his PhD as a classic piece of work: lots of text; several diagrams; plenty of references; all designed to be bound into that classic black hardback book, where it sits on the shelf and gathers dust.

With the new Robert Gordon eThesis program, he switched to producing an ETD document, which allowed him to include an additional errata and a feedback form, amongst other options.

Statistically, his eThesis has been visited over 2,000 times, and downloaded over 1,400. Comparing this to the number of requests to the RCN’s library of thesis, where there are less that 300 requests IN TOTAL for an entire year.

Never, he pointed out to chuckles from the audience, underestimate the vanity of academics: if their work is read more, it makes them feel more important.

Bruce Jefferson – The Sceptic

Bruce was quick to point out, at the outset, that he was playing a role: he was not necessarily taking his personal stance, but caricaturing himself.

So, he asked, what does an academic need to progress his/her chosen career?

  • Papers
  • Grants
  • Students

Papers are the indication of work output; Grants are the funds to get paid; and students supply the shortfall between the two for the institution to stay in business. All universities work to this: some are research led; others are teaching led; all are a balance between the two.

What do academic want?

  • Power
  • Cash
  • Fame

Power is wielded in Senate courts, on advisory panels, and in commercial boardrooms. Cash gives the comfortable lifestyle, the bigger/better/fancier toys to playresearch with, the sharper suits, the ability to attend more conferences. Fame is when people pay you to go to conferences, or pay you for consultation work.

The dictat at Cranfield, and probably accepted as an unwritten guide the world over, is to produce “the best possible article, published in the best possible journal”. Bruce did, however, also admit that less than 30% of the published output of the School of Management at Cranfield was Journal Article work.

Bruce then went on to talk about the REF, and how that defined the “worth” of a researcher: REF is (currently) The count of papers in Web of Science, divided by some citation factor (‘cos some subject areas are not as prolific as others) [c/cf]. This means that

  • If it’s not a journal paper, it doesn’t count
  • If it’s in a journal that Web of Science does not collate, it doesn’t count

This means that he is not interested in anything other than peer-reviewed articles from a specific set of journals.

Then there are other, less tangible, issues that relate specifically to these Institutional Repositories:

  • “All we do is fill in databases.” They usually have the same data as some other databases, so why am I doing all this duplicate work?
  • A researcher will do anything to get published: sign over copyright, rework the text, sell their first-born (ok, so maybe not the last one) – if the publisher even so much as hints at “No pre-publication”, it ain’t going into a repository
  • Where is the actual, physical, statistical, evidence that an IR improves actual citation

Basically, he points out, researchers have no problems with things that raise their profile (this improves “Fame”), however the question is one of work outlay for the return (in terms of “cash” and/or “power”)

Also, he admitted somewhat ruefully, academics are slow to change: they will keep to their known, and familiar, processes for as long as possible, which means the “Google Generation” will be discouraged for as long as possible.

Bruce closed with an experiment he is proposing: He is going to take all of the REF applicable articles, and split them into two groups, chosen to be of equal “weight” for Author(s) and Journal. One half will be deposited into the Cranfield Repository and the others will remain a control set. What he wants to determine is if the IR actually improves the citations.

Neil Jacobs – the national picture

Neil gave is a quick overview of the national picture: Acknowledge the existance of supra repsoitories (aXive, Uk PubMedCentral, etc), the broad spectrum of Intitutional Repositores (almost 80, with the Depot as a back-stop), and a range of middle-ware services (OpenDOAR, ROAR, Intute Search, etc)

JISC has been plowing a lot of money into “mashup” projects, spending money on the throw-away projects that may produce that silver bullet.

Like all managers, JISC needs to know if the money they are putting into this area is going to give a return – they need evidence to show that IRs are working – not hyperbole, not evangelism. Evidence.

Breakout session 1

The morning breakout session for the group I was in has two questions: “Can you identify a prevailing culture at your institution” and “To want extent does this determine the behaviour of your users and the development of the repository”.

We had quite a wide-ranging discussion, but some of the highlights for me came down to

  • If the repository is seen as a library tool, the academics don’t see the benefit of using it
  • If the ideas of Open Access are not promoted, then academics won’t see the benefit
  • If the repository is not marketed, then the academics won’t know about it
  • If the repository is not resourced, then it will die away as other work takes precidence


Excellent lunch. Meetings and the like should be ranked by the lunch: this one scores highly!

Michael White

Michael White talked about the repository at Stirling: where it came from; what the official position is; and how they process items deposited.

Stirling started their repository in 2002, but it took the Scottish Declaration on Open Access (‘We believe that the interests of Scotland will be best served by the rapid adoption of open access to scientific and research literature.’) to make the senior managers of the University sit up and take an active interest in an Institutional Repository.

Stirling have mandated that all Thesis have to be deposited electronically as well as in paper form (they cannot submit the paper copy until the electronic copy has been accepted!), and this has applied to all students from September 2006.

Stirling also have an ePrint mandate, from September 2008 (but backdated 20 January 2007), which required the authors Final Accepted Draft. The academic deposits the binary, and a minimal set of data, and then the repository staff process the from: checking RoMEO; correcting the names for Stirling authors; adding DOIs and LCSH classification; etc. In terms of numbers, the Stirling repository had just 20 items author-deposited in the two years before mandate (with the rest being located and added by the library) whereas in the three months after mandate, they have had 200 author-deposits. Clearly the mandate, and the enthusiasm from the top of the university, has had an effect.

Michael estimates they have ~730 papers per year, so need 56 days (FTE) to process that – but things may change with the REF.

John Harrington

John spoke about the review they did of CERES (the Cranfield repository), where they looked at why the takeup of their repository was so low.

There were a number of factors:

  • There was a low awareness of the repository in general (there had been no Launch, for example),
  • A lack of dissemination,
  • Confusion over copyright and ownership issues,
  • Simply being too busy to devote the time to depositing, and Bruce pointed out
  • The journal is king.

They decided to have a three-fold approach to their advocacy:

  • A top-down re-branding and re-launch, with a formal presentation and dignitaries on hand.
  • A bottom-up exercise in building community support and finding champions or evangelists
  • A way of keeping CERES in the media – doing more than just emailing people.

There were a number of lessons that were brought sharply into focus:

  • The message must be clear, distinct, and succinct
  • The advocacy must be sustainable, and sustained
  • You must deliver on your promises, and your procedures must be backed up by effective systems
  • NEVER underestimate the personal touch (leave the comfort of your office and go visit people)

William Nixon

In many ways, William’s story is very similar to Michaels: Glasgow set up their repository in 2002; they have strong Senior Management support; they have a strong advocacy team; and they have the Scottish Open Access Declaration.

Where they differ is in the smaller details: Glasgow have positioned their repository as their publications database; they have capitalised on their RAE work and got support across the university; and (as one of the 22 pilot institutions) they have tied their REF assessment into their repository.

Glasgow have a very strong support team with their repository, and have staff time dedicated to the service. They offer (and most of their work is) based on the researchers file being emailed to the library and the repository staff doing all the work. Pre mandate, the library processed about 20 such requests over a 3-year period, but that number has risen post tenfold in a single year.

Breakout session 2

“Change is inevitable

  • What are the possible implications for institutions faced with having to manage the inevitable
  • What are the threats and the opportunities
  • How would you position the repository to derive optimum benefit from these changes

Again, we had a free-flowing discussion around this area, and flagged several issues.

My personal stance here is one that was reflected by Repository Fringe ’08: The current technology is a library led solution; that focuses on a single aspect of scholarly output; and is an isolated silo of information.

We need to share information; we need a common Authoritive Authors database; we need be able to query intute for existing titles ensure duplicates are duplicates; we need to accept there will be duplicates, and share the data; we need to reduce the overheads for getting a deposit into the “repository”

Why can the respository be just the public information in a publications database? Why can the publications database tie into the universities M.I.S.? Grant numbers, Principle Investigators, associated researchers?

Why can’t we collect the relevant metadata at the time it’s known, not several years after the research was done?

We have to have gone through the current IR process to learn what works and what doesn’t work. We know what we want to do, but haven’t been able to articulate or define what is really quite a complex interwoven problem clearly, and JISC was right to support those who are trying to the problem, and to frame a coherent definition.

There is probably no simple solution for such a complex problem, but if research was easy everyone would do it.


I am heartened: Stirling and Glasgow universities have said that in the couple of years between launch and mandate, they had about 20 author-deposits into their repositories, with the rest coming via library staff finding and adding themselves. The depot has 21 items in it, with basically zero advocacy.


2 thoughts on “Understanding Organisational Cultures, the workshop

  1. Pingback: Understanding organisational cultures : Information Environment Team

  2. Pingback: Understanding organisational cultures : Digital Infrastructure Team

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