Thursday, February 5, 2009

Repository Stats

For anyone that's implemented an institutional repository that has some level of researcher support, the issue of statistics is an unavoidable one. Just like a javascript counter on a web page, people like to see that their paper was downloaded n times. Now, we all know that this doesn't lead to funding in the same way that citations do but there's evidence that open access leads to increased citations.

So, as IR people you can put in a stats package that really just counts hits. Something like AWStats or the like. With a bucket of aspro you might even try IR Stats. You can provide your users with trend data that indicates if the link given in their conference presentation attracted hits. These are useful indicators and depositors like them.

But you might also sit there and ask if there isn't something more that the IR can give you. Well, consider what you've got in your IR. There's information about institutional staff, what they study and what they write. In this world of complex/chaotic problems your IR could be mined to provide possible research collaborations that teams hadn't even dreamt of.

Expand this to a system like the NLA's ARROW Discovery Service and you extend beyond the campus. You have a national body of knowledge that can be mined to exploit possible research cross-overs.

I mentioned this some time ago to a colleague and their response was "most researchers know others in their field - they know who to contact". Yup, agreed. But that's within their field. What about this linkages that they'd never thought of? I K Brunel is often noted as someone who didn't excel at inventing but combining: steam + iron + screw propellor = SS Great Britain. Would I be wrong to say that new "big" problems are now distributed and rather more complex? Where one person could be the innovator, we then looked at teams. But maybe the teams thing is dead - maybe it's a Fourth Blueprint world of networked organisations. Maybe the IR can be mined to discover links that we didn't think of.

Maybe it's also a good way to find a superviser for that thesis you're wanting to write.

There's some work going on about visualisations and mining within repositories and it'll be interesting to see if that wave makes the beach.

Lies, damn lies, and statistics