21 March 2016

#fundTrove letter to my MP and the Opposition Leader

The #fundTrove campaign has gone up a notch today:

So I finally decided to get off my bum and write to my local MP (Labor's Graham Perrett in Moreton) and to Bill Shorten. Tim Sherratt is gathering statements from peak bodies, sample letters, and a list of things that we as individuals can do - thanks Tim! These are a great help if you want to write your own letter (which I would strongly urge you to do). My letter is below.

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Dear Mr Shorten and Mr Perrett

I am calling on you to reject the proposed funding cuts to the National Library of Australia, to stop the detrimental impact it will have on the NLA’s Trove service.

Since these cuts were announced, there has been a huge groundswell of support from thousands of individuals and from a wide range of organisations. The growing list of national bodies expressing their dismay at this decision include the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA), the Australian Society of Archivists (ASA), the Council of Australasian Museum Directors (CAMD), the Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL), the Federation of Australian Historical Societies (FAHS), the Australian Academy of the Humanities,the Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences and the Australian Historical Association Statement.

I work in the university sector. Many universities provide information to Trove about research publications, including journal articles, books, conference papers and PhD theses. Trove is an important access point, visited more than 25 million times per year, where anyone can easily discover Australian research across all subject areas. 

Under Australian Research Council policy and National Health and Medical Research Council policy researchers must make versions of their work freely accessible to anyone with an interest in that research. The rationale is that the Australian Government makes a major investment in research and that to maximise the benefits from that investment, publications resulting from research must be disseminated as broadly as possible to allow access by other researchers and the wider community. 

To achieve this, researchers deposit their open access versions in institutional repositories, which are managed by university libraries. Through a process called harvesting, universities provide Trove with information about these publications. Exposure through Trove means access to a wider audience for the research, enhancing the government’s investment; by capturing the links between publications and grants through university contributions, Trove also provides a mechanism for the ARC and NHMRC to monitor compliance with these policies.

Trove also helps university research to be more easily adopted by industry and professional groups. One such group is policy professionals. A 2014 report from the Swinburne Institute for Social Research found that research that is not published commercially, including reports, conference papers and theses, “is a key part of the evidence produced and used for public policy and practice… However, finding and accessing policy information is a time-consuming task made harder by poor production and management of resources and a lack of large-scale collection services”. The authors of this report argue that searchability via Trove is an important step in efficiently and cost-effectively helping policy professionals to find the information that they need.

The proposal to cease aggregating unique content from content partners (unless fully funded to do so) will damage Trove. The comprehensive nature of the contributions from Trove’s content partners makes it the world-leading resource it is today: as a gateway to aggregated content, regular updates from current contributors and the ability to bring on new partners are paramount.

New contributing institutions will be unable to add content to Trove without paying. This will be a major obstacle to exposing new collections. The NLA has also informed its content partners that they will require payment should any changes to our institutional processes and systems impact existing harvesting arrangements.

This effectively means that universities who are already content partners are now restricted in their ability to improve their underlying software and systems and to send new types of content. At my own institution we were already part-way through redeveloping our institutional repository at the time Trove cuts were announced. We are now faced with uncertainty about our ability to contribute valuable research content to Trove and to meet our obligations to the ARC and NHMRC; we are likely to need to find additional internal funding to ensure our data can continue to be harvested successfully.

The development of Trove as a platform has already proven to be of enormous value to organisations that want to maximise the investment in research and in cultural collections by exposing their unique content to the massive global audience that Trove has garnered. I urge the Australian Labor Party to commit in your election agenda to funding the National Library to continue to maintain and enhance Trove.

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