Session A1: views from the floor

By San | May 16, 2007

An overriding theme of the A1 session, Self-Archiving or Self Storage, was empowering data producers to participate in creating and providing metadata for their materials. Another way to describe it: involving researchers in these processes by meeting them where they’re at with the most flexible tools possible. I must also mention that this was an extremely popular session, drawing a standing-room-only crowd. So this roving blogger found a comfy seat in the back of the room on the floor, next to the fake potted palm. Hence, she was unable to see any of the visuals! So those of you fortunate to really see the complete presentations must chime and tell me what I missed! Most if not all presenters will be at Thursday’s poster session.

Ken Miller and Graham Pryor discussed the background of StORe (Source-to-Output Repositories), generally envisioned as a mechanism to link literature to its underlying data. The most recent phase extended the concept to non-social science disciplines and involved surveying the practices of about 3,000 researchers. There is an overriding opinion that although open access to data is great for consumers,, producers still rely on well-established professional networking to learn about and access specialized data. Based on the concept of institutional repositories, a middleware gathers essential study-level metadata elements from researchers (in a reasonably painless fashion!). Its goal is to be simple; permit searching to replicate the browsing experience; be reasonably “unbureaucractic;” permit data self management; and provide researchers with latitude to determine such elements as which items will be public, who has access to the data products, and how long data would be embargoed. For further information, see the extensive StORe wiki at

Marion Witenberg and Rutger Kramer of DANS presented on the EASY initiative. Again, the focus is on providing a relatively painless mechanism for researchers to deposit datasets themselves using a flexible and customized tool. (And yours truly again missed out on the cool visuals in the presentation!) As a unit, DANS is responsible for storing and providing access to research data in the social sciences and humanities. EASY was designed so that depositors supply core metadata with a minimal intervention from a data archivist, if desired. The product is intended to be flexible for them while aiding the data workflow associated with metadata assignment, uploading, ingesting, announcing, and delivery. Among the glitches encountered are that EASY is intended to be English-language based, whereas much information researchers provide is in Dutch. This will be further complicated as the 40 years of Steinmetz archive data to be incorporated are in English, although DANS hopes to develop a bilingual search engine to address this. Actually, this summary doesn’t do justice to the paper, so check out the EASY site at and come to the poster on Thursday.

Charlie Thomas represented UC Berkeley’s SDA team. SDA 3.1 was released a few weeks ago and includes an application for loading datasets. Said application, an “archiver,” employs a graphical web-based interface and requires three files (ascii data, meatadata in DDL format, and a grouped variable list). The archiver is highly customizable and serves a dual function: an internal management tool and a way to make SDA support more available to external users. Charlie mentioned specifically classroom applications, such as professor making a survey available so students gain experience with SDA for analysis. The presentation handout can be viewed here:

Regarding the presentation by Kristin Partlo and Rachael Barlow on social bookmarking tools, dear readers, your blogger must confess: She was almost entirely ignorant of the potential of such social bookmarking tools as and, let alone how effectively they could be applied as instructional, collaborative, and professional tools. And judging from the number of people in the room who had much experience with these things, she wasn’t alone! Bookmarking tools can create a very dynamic resource environment to be shared and that is enhanced by such sharing. Key features of FURL and include creating bookmark lists accessible from anywhere, using tag “clouds” or groups of like sites, identifying other users who have tagged the same items and access to their lists. (Major presenter tip here: Think about all those neat links sent to you by colleagues that are just languishing in your mail inboxes when you could be really using them. Now why didn’t I think of that?) The presenters emphasized the value of these resources for collaborative work among students. Trinity College has incorporated the ability to post items to a user’s account and this will be one of the topics incorporated as part of the poster session, IASSIST 2.0

Submitted by Pam Baxter