I was recently told about the Iamresearcher.com service, a repository of information about researchers and their research activities. “Not another one!” was one reaction I heard. But is there anything that can be learnt from this service, which has been developed by Mr Yang Yang, an MSc student at the University of Southampton? Les Carr, over on his Repository Man blog has been “Experimenting With Repository UI Design” and describes how he is “always on the lookout for engaging UI paradigms to inspire repository design“. Might this service provide any new UI design paradigms?
Things I Like
I have to admit that I was pleased with how easy it was to get started with the service. I signed up and asked the system to find papers associated with my email address. It found many of my papers, with much of the metadata being obtained from the University of Bath Opus repository. I them searched for other papers which weren’t included in the initial set and was able to claim them as belonging to me – including one short paper which had been published in the Russian Digital Libraries Journal in 2000 which I had forgotten about.
I can now view my 49 entries and sort them in various ways: in addition to the default date order I can also sort by item type; lead author; co-authors and keywords. The view of my co-authors (illustrated) was of particular interest: I hadn’t realised that I had written papers with 55 others.
In comparison the interface provided on my institutional repository service does now seem quite dated. However this is perhaps not unexpected as according to the Wikipedia entry the ePrints software (which is widely used across the UK) was created way back in 2000.
Revisiting the question as to whether we need another service which provides access to research information I would say ‘yes’. Such developments can help drive innovation. In this case ePrints developers are in a position to see more modern approaches to the user interface. In addition the service describes itself as “Web 3.o ready application” by which they seem to mean that the service “connects researcher and research students anywhere in the world using an intelligent network”.
I haven’t seem much evidence of Web 3.0 capabilities in the service, apart from being able to download details of my papers in FOAF format, but perhaps the “ready” word is providing a signal that such functionality is not yet available.
Things I Don’t Like
There are some typos on the data entry forms and some usability niggles, but nothing too significant – indeed after attending a recent Bathcamp Startup Night and hearing the suggestion that “If you’re not embarrassed about the launch version of your software then you released it too late” (a quote from the founder of LinkedIn) I welcome seeing this service before everything has been thoroughly checked.
The language used in the terms of service are somewhat worrying, however:
No Injunctive Relief.
In no event shall you seek or be entitled to rescission, injunctive or other equitable relief, or to enjoin or restrain the operation of the Service, exploitation of any advertising or other materials issued in connection therewith, or exploitation of the Services or any content or other material used or displayed through the Services.
It also seems that as a user of the service I undertake not to:
Duplicate, license, sublicense, publish, broadcast, transmit, distribute, perform, display, sell, rebrand, or otherwise transfer information found on iamResearcher (excluding content posted by you) except as permitted in this Agreement, iamResearcher’s developer terms and policies, or as expressly authorized by iamResearcher
Personally I have no problem with advertising being used to fund services where, as in this case, there are multiple providers of services. Indeed those who argue for openness of data should be willing to accept that data may be used for commercial purposes. However services which accept the opportunities provided by open data should accept that they should be providing similar conditions of usage.
The final concern that I have about the service is that currently it can only be accessed if you sign in. I feel this is counter-productive – indeed one person I mentioned this service to asked why he should bother. That’s a fair comment, I think. And seeing that the terms and conditions also state that users of the service are not allowed to:
Deep-link to the Site for any purpose, (i.e. including a link to a iamResearcher web page other than iamResearcher’s home page) unless expressly authorized in writing by iamResearcher or for the purpose of promoting your profile or a Group on iamResearcher as set forth in the Brand Guidelines;
I now wonder what benefits this service can provide to the research community. Developers of other repository services, however, should be able to learn from the technological enhancements the service provides, even if the business model is questionable.
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