If you’re familiar with Connotea, our free online information management tool, or with the general idea of social bookmarking then you’ll know what we mean when we say that we’ve released some software that adds tagging and social bookmarking to EPrints-based institutional repositories. On top of that, it uses tags and bookmarks to recommend related articles.
If not, then I’ll try to explain.
Institutional repositories are online document archives in which researchers can deposit and share copies of their work. Perhaps the best known is PubMed Central, run by the NIH, but there are many others and NPG encourages its authors to use them. EPrints is a popular package, developed at the University of Southampton, for creating these repositories.
Social bookmarking is the process of saving your bookmarks (or links, or favourites, whichever term you prefer) on a website and making them available for others to see. Most social bookmarking services use tags to help users organize their collections. Tags are just keywords or labels for bookmarks — for example, if you bookmarked this article you might tag it with “institutional repositories”, “connotea”, “bookmarking” and “NPG”. Del.icio.us is perhaps the best know social bookmarking service. Connotea is a similar service that is tailored specifically for use by scientists and other academics.
But back to institutional repositories: each article in a repository has an information page listing the title, authors, where and when it was published, and giving a link to the author-deposited copy. What we’ve done is to create an extension to EPrints that supplements this information with a Tags and Related Articles section, plugging it into either del.icio.us or Connotea. In fact, since the software behind Connotea is open source, this tool will work with any service based on Connotea Code.
The Tagging Tool, as we call it, lists tags that have been applied to the article you’re viewing in the repository. Clicking on a tag brings up a list of other articles that share that tag. You can
also quickly save the article to your own collection on del.icio.us or Connotea. All this happens within EPrints, without you having to leave the article information page.
The tool also shows related articles directly. It calculates these based on shared tags and popularity — articles that share more tags with the one you’re looking at will appear higher in the list, with articles that have been bookmarked by more people appearing higher than less popular articles. This method is a bit experimental, and we’re hoping for feedback from repository users about this, as well as the other features. If you’re an institutional repository administrator, download and install the tool — it has minimal impact on the rest of EPrints, so is easy to experiment with. If you’re an IR user, please point your administrator in the same direction.
What does this development mean for institutional repositories? At a functional level, it offers an alternative way of navigating the repository content and finding relevant material — one that is based on readers’ behaviour and opinions. At the wider lever, because repository content will be bookmarked directly in online, public services like Connotea or del.icio.us, it will increase the exposure of that content, and connect it more directly with the rest of the academic literature. All good things, we hope.
The work behind this development was funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee, as part of their PALS Metadata and Interoperability Projects 2 programme.