Virtual Work Space for Academics Promises Greater Access to Research
Along with providing a virtual work space for researchers, UR Research is also a digital archive. The growing collection already offers an eclectic mix of more than 8,800 papers, photos, pre-prints, lab manuals, experimental data, and other academic material. Here\'s a sampling of what you can find (and download).
The Eastman Dental Center collection of 348 historic images depict the rich history of dentistry in Rochester during the early 20th century. In this 1920s photograph, a doctor examines a child after tonsillectomy surgery at the Rochester Dental Dispensary.
For the past two decades, undergraduates in Emil Homerin\'s Speaking Stones religion class have created case studies of gravesites in Mt. Hope Cemetery and who is buried there. Now 200 papers in the Speaking Stones collection are stored in UR Research, where they have been downloaded more than 4,400 times in the past three months. Shown above is the monument for Laura Luedeke \'26, who died in 1994.
With 5,313 musical scores, the Sibley Music Library hosts by far the largest single collection. Supported by a 2009 National Endowment for the Humanities grant, the library is posting PDFs of up to 12,000 musical scores in the public domain. The scores, which have been downloaded more than 2 million times, include such gems as the string sextet, by Michael Gotthard Fischer, of Beethoven\'s Pastoral Symphony and trio by the composer G. Catoire (pictured here.
Despite the general enthusiasm for open access to academic knowledge through the internet, universities all over the country have experienced limited success getting researchers to post their work to online archives. Now the University of Rochester has created a virtual work space that not only gives academics the online functions and storage they need, but by doing so, promises to make the dream of unrestricted access to scientific and scholarly discoveries a reality.
Created by a team at the University\'s River Campus Libraries, UR Research (https://urresearch.rochester.edu/home.action) is a one-stop Web site for managing the academic workflow. The suite of online tools meets an array of research needs, from authoring manuscripts to showcasing work to storing digital materials securely and when needed, permanently.
The system is designed to give researchers the incentive they need to upload their work to Web-based archives. \"It\'s a win-win relationship,\" explains Suzanne Bell, the librarian charged with introducing the system to the University community. \"Researchers get the tailor-made functions and online storage they need, Internet users get free and open access to academic research and priceless collections.\" For libraries, the program was designed as open-source software available for download to other institutions at no cost.
\"It\'s a cyber work space that\'s collaborative,\" says Natalie Klein, a doctoral candidate in brain and cognitive sciences who quickly became enamored with the site after its recent launch. Klein particularly likes the ability to create and share documents in virtually any format. As a psycholinguist, her research data is quantitative and requires specialized text formatting, coding that is typically stripped when using popular online text sharing programs like Google Documents.
Klein also loves the user control built into the program, allowing her to create a customized researcher page and to easily post and update her CV and research. \"I can upload documents myself instead of harassing a Web developer,\" she points out. \"And the support has been great. I can\'t get that with Google Documents or even my department\'s Web site.\"
Doug Guiffrida, associate professor of counseling and human development in the Warner School of Education, agrees. The library\'s support team has always been \"fantastic,\" he says. \"They have made using this super easy.\"
Guiffrida uses the online archiving system to keep his work organized in one place and available for search engines and the public, who are free to download documents from the system. (Users also may have private work areas that cannot be searched or viewed by the public.) When a colleague asks for a paper, Guiffrida emails the UR Research link; when he gives a presentation, he posts the PowerPoint file on the system and shares the URL, a more earth friendly practice than printing out stacks of handouts, he points out. Even in his own office, Guiffrida says, \"I actually use it instead of keeping hard copies around, if I need to look at something that I\'ve written. I\'m kind of a minimalist.\" And, unlike most departmental Web sites, the system tracks how often files are downloaded. \"It\'s nice to see what people are reading and what they are ignoring,\" says Guiffrida.
An early adopter of UR Research, Guiffrida first began using the system when it was originally introduced in 2003 as simply a digital repository, a place for scholars to preserve and make available online preprints, dissertations, working papers, photographs, research data, music scores, and other work. But five years after its launch, only 6,500 documents had been entered into UR Research, says Nathan Sarr, the library\'s senior software engineer who designed the expanded system.
So the development team went back to the drawing board to find out what was wrong. Under the leadership of Susan Gibbons, Vice Provost and Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly Dean of River Campus Libraries; David Lindahl, software development director; and Nancy Fried Foster, director of anthropological research, they conducted an anthropological study of faculty members and a second study of graduate students. What they discovered was that researchers needed software for working collaboratively with their colleagues, whether down the hall or across the globe. They needed online tools for sharing different versions of manuscripts in a safe and secure environment. And they needed a place to showcase their research. Graduate students, in particular, needed safe storage for their theses and the ever growing mounds of digital data from research. And all researchers, juggling demanding schedules, needed a system that saved time and was easy to use.
\"We saw there was a disconnect between the repository and faculty needs,\" says Gibbons. \"Then we set out to build a system that addressed all of the misalignments we found. Every significant feature of this system can be traced back to a finding of our faculty and/or grad student research.\"
\"What\'s novel about this system is that it has been built around user needs,\" adds Mike Bell, assistant dean for information technology. \"Most other repositories have been focused on systems architecture and public access, not on what is most important to contributors.\"
As a new user, Klein concurs that the researcher tools are what sold her on the enhanced system: \"I guess when I finish my thesis, someone will archive it and that\'s nice, but that always seems to me like a one-time, end-stage action, like renting a robe for graduation. This new software is a work in progress that you can use from day one.\"
About the University of Rochester
The University of Rochester (www.rochester.edu) is one of the nation's leading private universities. Located in Rochester, N.Y., the University gives students exceptional opportunities for interdisciplinary study and close collaboration with faculty through its unique cluster-based curriculum. Its College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering is complemented by the Eastman School of Music, Simon School of Business, Warner School of Education, Laboratory for Laser Energetics, Schools of Medicine and Nursing, and the Memorial Art Gallery.