Repositories and linking research and teaching

I was at the JISC Repository and Preservation end of programme meeting over the last couple of days (search for #rpmeet for more info). The subject of linking research and teaching activities came up two or three times in a way that I thought was interesting.

The first time was in a forum discussion about repositories for learning materials which got onto the question of whether research outputs and learning materials should stored in the same repository. (Aside: I’m inclined to think the answer is no, the purpose of the repository is different, a learning material isn’t an output, sharing means something different for the two resource types,etc. If you think a repository is a database and a bit-store then you may come to a different conclusion, but I think a repository is a service offered to people and your choice of starting point in offering that service will affect how easy your journey is.) Someone said that they kept learning materials and research outputs in the same repository because linking research and learning was important to their institution. I rudely (and involuntarily) blurted out that it wasn’t the right way of making that link. Apologies to the person concerned, it wasn’t a constructive remark, it really was just a reflex reaction that leaked out.

On the second day of the meeting two speakers raised points that allow me to make a more constructive contribution. Simon Coles of the eCrystal federation, speaking about data repositories, said that 40 years ago solving three crystal structures would be enough for a PhD thesis, now you can do that in a few days. That sort of advance is what has made activities that used to be long research projects something that students can do. Then Jeff Heywood said that one of the spin-off benefits of open access repositories was that students are finding primary research literature through Google and engaging with it in a way that hasn’t happened for a long time. I think the same applies to open research data of the type that Simon was talking about. That, I think, is where there is potential for repositories to link research and teaching activities.

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