Repository Fringe 2013

Repository Fringe 2013 (31 July – 2 August 2013)
Lynette Summers, Information Advisor at Cardiff Metropolitan University

Repository Fringe, now in its 6th year, may not have had the radical beginnings of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (when, in 1947, eight theatre groups turned up uninvited to the inaugural Edinburgh International Festival determined to perform their alternative theatre), but it certainly provides a stimulating platform for new ideas and innovations.

Repository Fringe was inspired by and born out of the annual international conference, Open Repositories, and takes place once a year in Edinburgh. The “unconference” brings together repository managers, administrators and developers so that thoughts can be shared and insights given into technologies and drivers (such as the Finch Report and research funder policies) in the open access repository world.

This was my first Repository Fringe and, as a relative new comer to repositories, I was provided with much food for thought (and much actual food). One delegate, a freelancer, summed it up quite nicely when he explained that 2-3 days at Repository Fringe offers an awareness of, and insight to, developments and technologies that would takes weeks to research on the web — one simply needs to go away and do a bit of “grokking”. I had never come across this term before and,  at first, I thought that he might have some of the carrot cake that was in abundance (they really did look after us very well!) stuck in his throat. However, I was promptly reassured that all was well when he quickly explained that the term ‘grok’ was coined by Robert A. Heinlein for his 1961 science-fiction novel, Stranger in a Strange Land, and has come to mean ‘to understand intimately and completely in a worldview transforming way‘. Although I cannot claim to have yet grokked all the information gained at Repository Fringe, I can certainly agree with the overall sentiment and I came away with a much broader knowledge.

So, without further ado, I will briefly outline the Repository Fringe 2013 presentations that especially sparked my interest:

  • Jacqui Taylor, Co-Founder and CEO of FlyingBinary, delivered an excellent whistle stop tour of recent developments in the open data arena in her keynote presentation, Curating the future. The G8 Open Data Charter — which aims to ‘unlock the economic potential of open data, support innovation and provide greater accountability’ and includes the commitment to “open by default” data — was touched upon; the inspiring 2011 launch video of the Open Government Partnership aired; and the themes of privacy, data quality and open data explored.
  • Dave Tarrant, Research Fellow at the University of Southampton, demonstrated the power that open data can wield with his tale of a peer-to-peer mortgage lender that speedily reduced its minimum investment as a result of financial data, published in an ODI report, Show me the money, that revealed they were pricing themselves out of the market.  Dave’s presentation, Little buttons make a big difference, also challenged the five stars of linked open data, making the point that this should not necessarily be about technology but policy.
  • Angela Laurins and Theo Andrew reported on the implementation of Open Journal Systems (OJS) at University of Edinburgh and the potential that it offers for universities to regain control over the publishing of articles — of important note when it could cost as much as £26, 296 to publish just 8 Gold OA articles with certain publishers.
  • Stuart Lewis’ presentation, ResourceSync and SWORD, helpfully explained the difference between the two protocols (ResourceSync = GET and SWORD = POST/PUT/DELETE) and how they can be used to aid repository management.
  • Tim Gollins, Head of Digital Preservation at The National Archives, gave a lively account of Parsimonious Preservation with regards to the file format threat. The message was:  1. know what you’ve got  2. keep bits safe (the ‘bits’ being any strange file formats; others will look after the popular formats).

Most of the videos and some slides are now available on the Repository Fringe 2013 Programme and I would urge anyone involved with repositories or open access to take a look there for further topics that might be of interest. There is also a Repository Fringe 2013 Blog.

Comments, clarifications and questions welcome. 


Open Repositories:

Definition of grok:

Curating the future:

Open Data Charter:

OGP launch video:

Open Government Partnership:


Show me the money:

Little buttons make a big difference:

OJS at University of Edinburgh – no link available


ResourceSync and SWORD:

Repository Fringe 2013 Programme:

Repository Fringe 2013 Blog:

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