Sunday, January 30, 2011

Tackling project risk

At the meeting in Leeds, we held our regular milestone review of project issues and risks, and took a look at the technical situation at each of the partner HEI sites. During that review, it became clear that the progress of each institution towards having a fully functioning repository link to advocate is not quite running as was envisaged at the start of RePosit – that advocacy and training would take place in earnest from February through to May in all partner institutions. Having working systems in place in time to run advocacy and training campaigns and see the resulting repository engagement within the time frame of the project is a major part of achieving some of the project outcomes, and any institution that does not have that set-up in time runs the risk of effectively having to bow out – not seeing changes to repository holdings and users nor providing statistics for the project report. Of course, there are still many other benefits that partner institutions gain from the project work, which can be used beyond the project end date, plus inputs that they make to the project, in terms of working on the project materials outputs, dissemination and community building, plus providing support and expertise.

While both QMUL and Keele have caught up swiftly, despite only just going live with their (first-time, brand new) repositories, and now have functioning Repository Tools links between repository and CRIS, the progress at Leeds – which previously had been well ahead – is paused whilst a technical concern is ironed out. The risk having been flagged up at the project meeting, this particular issue is being dealt with as a matter of priority at Symplectic – and is in progress already.

The more difficult situation is that jointly of Plymouth and Exeter, where there are complicated factors in play. Exeter has had both a functioning repository and CRIS for some time, but is currently involved in an internal project to bring its repository in-house. Delays to that IT project have had the knock-on effect that the repository link cannot yet be implemented. Plymouth and Exeter share a CRIS but have separate repositories, and so implementing the repository link is a new technical solution, as well as being a complicated contractual situation. Plymouth went live on the Exeter CRIS last year and have a new repository, which is already in-house, but there have been contractual delays with this complex set-up, combined with a three-week period of ill health for Richard Jones, head of Repository Systems at Symplectic, both holding up implementation work. These two risks having been flagged up at the project meeting, solutions are being worked on as a matter of urgency – the multiple repository link has been developed by other Symplectic colleagues and is in test now, and a contractual work-around has been agreed to allow implementation work to go ahead at Plymouth before Exeter. So the only risk still out of the hands of the RePosit team and those at Symplectic is the timeline of the Exeter internal repository project. Ian Tilsed and Jill Evans at Exeter continue to be heavily involved with RePosit development of advocacy materials, plans, training, survey, etc and have done all their site-specific planning and preparations, with the hope that they will be able to jump back aboard with their linked systems in April, for at least part of the ‘live’ section of the project, which period could also be extended into June if necessary.

One key point to take away from this situation is that multiple partner sites, especially those with complicated shared services, add a breadth of experience and different perspectives to the project, but they also add complications and potential delays.

posted by: Lizzie Dipple

Monday, January 17, 2011

University of Exeter Advocacy Plan available

The University of Exeter has had a publications repository, ERIC (, since 2007 but in common with many UK repositories after an initial surge of deposits tied in with advocacy submissions have dwindled save for a few loyal enthusiasts. The RePosit advocacy work is therefore a timely opportunity to re-think approaches to boosting repository content and engaging a range of stakeholders.

The UoE Advocacy Plan timetable is fairly detailed – we want the option of reaching as wide an audience as possible and in as many ways as possible. Some of the activities can be achieved quickly, for example, we have already included repository training in a new Deskside Training Service for academics and research postgraduates (we had our first taker last week!).

Others require long-term planning, such as including repository training in the Learning and Teaching in Higher Education Programme that all Postgraduate research students who teach are required to complete. Targeting new Postgraduates and early career researchers is high on our agenda – making sure that Symplectic/repository use is embedded in their research lifecycles and passed on in turn to their students.

We will try to use social media as much as possible - it’s cheap, easy, and has the potential to reach a range of people quickly. The aim is to adapt our message and method of delivery according to the audience we’re addressing: for a senior management group, we will take a more formal approach and perhaps focus our talk on economic benefits; for a group of librarians we might emphasise access and preservation. We’ll be using the generic advocacy materials produced during the RePosit project, tailoring them for our own particular needs.

We envisage the advocacy work kicked off by RePosit continuing far beyond the life of the project and forming a blueprint for an ongoing programme of promotional work.

Posted by: Jill Evans

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Advocacy - some further thoughts

At our recent project meeting (more about that in a later post I'm sure) we spent much time testing, exploring and finalising the advocacy materials for the project. As part of that work we 'road tested' two presentations on willing academics from Leeds University. It was an excellent experience, which drew some astute comment and provided much food for thought.

I'm sure that the detail will be covered in a more comprehensive post, but some key points emerged:
  • it's easier to identify and convey the end benefits (greater deposit to the repository) than the benefits of the actual process (utilising an existing process to address another);
  • that whilst some audiences (e.g. senior managers) want to know about the broader benefits rather than the process per se, others (e.g. those actually submitting full text materials) are more likely to be concerned about the actual process and what it means for them.

We spent some time trying to articulate the essence of the process and the benefits in the form of a strapline, for use in the advocacy materials. Looking for inspiration from the world of advertising, we recalled a certain campaign about a universal shampoo and it triggered some useful 'brainstorming'.

However, thinking further about that particular advertising campaign I think we can learn much from it as it addressed the two key aspects identified above, with the strapline ("Wash & Go") and the commentary (why use two bottles when you need only use one) highlighting both the ultimate benefits and the improved process.

Whether this thinking is on the right lines, or not, we can't deny that the 'Wash & Go' campaign has been a massive success! So, why use two systems to record and deposit your outputs, when you need only use one?!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

How does our progress match the original project plan?

We are almost at the halfway stage in the RePosit project, having officially started on 20th July 2010, and with our next big project team meeting tomorrow, it's a good time to pause and take stock. So how is the project progressing and how does that match up to the original timeline we gave ourselves in the project plan work packages?

There are five project outputs in the plan: open-access training materials, training strategies, user survey report, advocacy strategies and a user community space. What became clear as we started fleshing out our approach to advocacy planning is that the line between advocacy and training is actually a blurry one and that it doesn't make sense to keep them apart. Therefore, each of the partner institutions now has an advocacy plan (i.e. a strategy document) which covers all types of communication around the subject of repository use - both advocacy activities and training activities. A short high-level presentation to a pro vice-chancellor is clearly an advocacy activity, but is a discussion with a group of researchers about the reasons to embrace the repository (via the RMS link) with a demo of how to do it at the end also advocacy or has it turned into a training workshop? In a similar way to how the advocacy and training strategies have ended up morphing into one, the materials we're producing have turned out to be a mixture of both training and advocacy materials. At the moment we have the content of the advocacy materials (as per the schedule), and our friends in the QMUL Creative Services team are producing some fantastic draft designs to make everything look slick, and really be useable.

One area where we are a little behind schedule is with creating the user survey. According to the work packages timeline, we aimed to create a draft survey by the start of January, having done some testing in November and December, and thus be ready to start this month. Unfortunately, the amount of input required to get the advocacy strategies in place meant that we had to postpone the work on the survey, since it was less time critical at that point. However, this will not have an impact on the overall project outputs because we have given the survey top billing in tomorrow's project meeting, with feedback on our ideas from real-world invited guests the following day, so we will still produce the survey in time for when the advocacy and training activities start in earnest.

Given that the RePosit project has an ambitious timeline of just one year from start to finish, I am very pleased that we are managing to keep the pace going, despite the pulls of other work commitments.

posted by: Lizzie Dipple

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Notes from fourth project team Skype call on 7th Jan 2011

On Friday, we had another project conference call, this time to discuss the final details and arrangements for our team meeting taking place in Leeds this week.

Skype call meeting minutes 7th Jan 2011

Since the Leeds project meeting is when we should be seeing the first designed advocacy materials, nailing down the project survey and trialling the advocacy presentations, it is important to be as prepared as possible. Amongst many other things, Jodie and Rachel are checking out the technical requirements for filming the presentations and the Skype call to the QMUL designer, as well as the usual meeting room facilities. We had something of a debate over what sort of scene-setting we want prior to Ian and Nicola's presentations - because the first presentation cannot assume the audience has prior knowledge of repositories, RMS systems or the link between the two. We also started thinking about how best to gather feedback from the invitees. It seems that the RSP Winter School is turning into a RePosit team gathering, with possibly two more attendees from the project - and perhaps we can have some printed materials ready by then too. Finally, we all agreed to the new monthly collection of repository monitoring statistics. Roll on Thursday 13th January, when the team meets again in person...

posted by: Lizzie Dipple

Friday, January 7, 2011

New Year, fresh project meetings

Happy New Year to everyone following the RePosit project!

We are currently preparing for the next wave of activity in RePosit, and at the moment our focus is the project team meeting taking place at project partner Leeds University next Thursday and Friday (13th/14th January). The Leeds meeting will be particularly important for two reasons: (i) there are a number of invited guests coming for part of the meeting, and (ii) it is about at the halfway point in the project's lifetime, and therefore is a milestone in terms of starting to move from planning into doing activities. The invitees, a group from a mixture of academic faculties, research office and library, have kindly agreed to listen to and give feedback on two trial-run advocacy presentations using the materials we've been creating - one aimed at senior managers and one aimed at researchers - and will be our first real audience. We should also have the first designs from the QMUL Creative Services team ready for viewing at the meeting, and we are planning a Skype hook-up with one of the designers to discuss our reactions to and hopefully approval of the work.

posted by: Lizzie Dipple