COAR - Confederation of Open Access Repositories - wants to encourage repositories to adopt good practices and there's a new framework for that, the COAR Community Framework for Best Practices in Repositories. So we spoke with Kathleen Shearer, the confederation's executive director, about their latest initiative. What's the motivation behind the framework? Was it well received? Who was involved? Find the answers in this exclusive interview.
1. What was the motivation behind creating this framework and can you tell us a bit about why it is important that repositories adhere to good practices?
There are already a number of repository certification methodologies and other types of assessment frameworks, but they address different objectives. For example the “CORE Trust Seal” focuses on preservation, while FAIR requirements focus on discovery and reuse. Some frameworks focus on data repositories, others on literature repositories. So, if you are a repository manager, you need to find all these different frameworks, and then assess your repository against each one. The COAR community framework brings together criteria from many different frameworks, making it easier for people to have a global view of best practices across several objectives. Additionally, some requirements in existing frameworks are simply out of reach for a significant portion of working repositories around the world (especially in less resourced environments) and therefore become irrelevant and are ignored. What we wanted to do with the COAR Framework was to help repositories adopt good practices, without setting the bar too high. The criteria in the framework were reviewed and vetted by a very diverse, international group to ensure they are relevant and appropriate across different repository types and geographic regions.
It is important for repositories to adhere to good practices so that their content is discoverable and interoperable with other content, and integrated into the research information landscape. Otherwise, the content in repositories becomes siloed. Good practices also ensure that repositories are trusted by users by being transparent about their commitments to preservation, governance and practices.
2. Following on, do you think that a framework is the right approach or does it put too much burden on repository managers?
I hope it does not unduly burden repository managers. The framework was not developed to undertake formal certifications, it’s more of a tool for self-assessment that can assist the repositories in improving their own local practices. It also may be helpful for repositories to justify resource allocations for things like DOIs / handles, improving metadata quality, and so on.
3. Can you tell us about the collaborative approach to writing such a framework, who was involved etc?
It was quite a lengthy process. The COAR office compiled together criteria from all existing frameworks. We then launched a Repository Assessment Working Group with people from several different regions (Asia, Europe, Latin America, and North America) to review the criteria, make comments, and so on. The draft framework was then revised and the Working Group reviewed it again, providing further input. The second draft was then shared with all COAR members and other regional groups associated with COAR, so that it could be vetted by many repository managers in all parts of the world. This feedback was then incorporated into the third draft, which was vetted once again by the Working Group. The framework was then finalized and published.
4. Has COAR already received feedback from the community regarding this document?
I think many in the community have welcomed the framework as it has addressed a much needed gap. Already, it has been translated into Portuguese and will also be translated into French and Spanish. We have also received input from other organizations, such as cOAlitionS, that they will be aligning their own local requirements with ours. Of course, it may not be perfect (nothing is) and requirements change over time, this is why we will be reviewing the framework each year.
5. In your opinion, what kind of synergies are necessary to develop a tool that would enable repositories to promptly evaluate their level of compliance with this framework?
The requirements are rather diverse and therefore repositories who do not currently meet them will have to address several different layers: some of the criteria may require technical development, some may require the adoption of new policies, and some may require the redirection of resources towards certain practices. I don’t think it would be hard for most repositories to currently assess themselves against the framework, the challenge is around the work required to comply.
6. What are the goals and priorities for COAR in the coming years?
Our next step for the framework is to provide more detailed guidance for repository managers to help them comply with the best practices. This work will be started in November 2020 with the Working Group. In some cases, this may involve just linking to some examples, but in other cases, we may have to create some resources to help. We will also be reviewing the framework annually, in August each year, so that it is up-to-date and remains relevant.
Thank you so much!