Open Access Week: Supporting open access through my work at Symplectic

25th October 2017

To celebrate Open Access Week, we asked Kate Byrne, our Repository Platforms Product Manager to reflect on her first year with us:

Open Access week provides us with a wonderful opportunity to celebrate and champion Open Access, but also to reflect on the progress made in the year gone by.

Back in Open Access Week 2016, I had only recently moved to London to take up my new role as Repository Platforms Product Manager with Symplectic. Coming from a decade of working in academic libraries in Australia, I not only had a new job to explore, but a new country as well. Before joining Symplectic, I had been a part of the Symplectic community in Australia and knew firsthand their collaborative style. The possibility of working with so many internationally-renowned institutions to help shape open access infrastructure was one of the main attractions of the role.

The creation of my position represented new ground for Symplectic as well. Symplectic had first entered the world of repository integrations nearly 10 years previously, driven by a request from a single client and supported by a single developer. Open Access has continued to change and evolve since then and the key role of repositories and open access in research information management has become very much evident in recent years. Responding to this growing trend, the Symplectic team embarked on work towards a next generation of repository integrations and I joined to lead not only development but also community engagement in this space.

Fast-forward 12 months to Open Access Week 2017 and the team here at Symplectic now  supports over 60 repository integrations for more than 55 leading research organisations in 7 countries. I lead a team dedicated to supporting these repository integrations and the development of new functionality to help researchers engage with open access repositories. We consider ourselves lucky to work with an amazing group of institutions, many of whom are passionate champions for open access, working tirelessly to ensure as much of their institution’s research is available via OA as possible. Working closely with our community remains a very important part of our development process and we value the feedback that our community shares with our team. I continue to be delighted by their appetite for trying new things and personally I am continually inspired by the impressive information professionals I get to work with around the globe.

We integrate with a wide range of open access platforms and while they all may be designed to accomplish a similar goal, they vary in their scope, design and functionality. So it is essential that we maintain a strong connection to each repository community through the institutions we work with, staying abreast of developments across each platform, being responsive to their work but also contributing feedback when we see new opportunities emerge. When it came to moving forward on our next generation of repository integration Repository Tools 2, we needed to consider each repository platform individually, making the project expansive and at times a little challenging. However, with our new team structure in place, progress has been rapid: we’ve released new integrations for DSpace and EPrints, we’re getting very close to a new integration with figshare for institutions, and we continue to make progress towards our first integration for Samvera. It has a been a major undertaking for us to completely rebuild our repository integrations using a new philosophy and new technology. However, it has already been worthwhile, opening up possibilities to further streamline the deposit experience and making it easier for institutions to create rich networks of metadata supporting open publications and datasets.

To say it is an exciting time in repository development and open access infrastructure is an understatement. Platforms are expanding and changing all the time. We are seeing constant progress in the repository space both technically, such as the work towards DSpace 7, and the progress on Hyrax and Hyku, but also in terms of adoption and prominence within the research community. Just yesterday, the University of Cambridge’s announcement about making Stephen Hawking’s thesis available via open access made global news and had over 60,000 requests in less than a day, up from 199 requests for the print copy. This was an incredible piece of advocacy showcasing tangibly the value of making materials open access.

I continue to be inspired and excited by the possibilities of open access to make research more accessible, and I’m so grateful to our community for making me so welcome over the past year. I very much look forward to continue to working with the research support community to build better infrastructure and make it easier for researchers to share their work with the world.

Kate Byrne, Symplectic

Keep celebrating Open Access Week with us

Want to hear from some of our amazing community members about the open access activities at Virginia Tech, Cambridge and Oxford? Join us for a free webinar on Thursday 26/10 at 2pm GMT, on Fostering Open Access – Drivers and Motivations. You can register over on the Digital Science Blog.

About Kate
As the Repository Platforms Product Manager, Kate leads for open access and repository related product development and community engagement at Symplectic. Kate’s background is in libraries, research information management and open access. She joined the Symplectic team in London in 2016 relocating from Sydney, Australia. Kate is passionate about making research information management easier for all involved.