UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

What I Like and Don’t Like About

Posted by Brian Kelly on 27 Apr 2011

I was recently told about the 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

Hmm. The service harvested its metadata from other repository services, such as the University of Bath’s Opus repository but does not allow others to reuse its content. This seems to undermine the benefits provided by permitting (indeed encouraging) others to make use of open data. In addition the service appears to be hypocritical, as the University of Bath’s repository policy (which was created using the OpenDOAR Policy tool) states that “The metadata must not be re-used in any medium for commercial purposes without formal permission“. Now the service does not appear to be a commercial service – but its privacy policy states that “To support the Services we provide at no cost to our Users, as well as provide a more relevant and useful experience for our Users, we serve our own ads and also allow third party advertisements on the site“. If advertising does appear on the service, won’t it then be breaching the terms and conditions of the service from which it harvested its data?

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.

Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]


8 Responses to “What I Like and Don’t Like About”

  1. What I would love to see is a service (or services) like this take up a diaspora model so that they provide a social network for their organisation, and parts of discussion can never leave ‘campus’ but they allow login to externals with openid credentials from other sites to leave comments and have discussions in public areas.

    Maybe I’m just over optimisitc of what Diaspora could be, but not everything belongs in the cloud.

  2. Chris Armstrong said

    I have just had a quick look at iamResearcher and signed myself up. It seems to me it is less of a current research database – of the late lamented sort once made available via LISA – but rather just another bibliographic database with ‘social’ or horizontal linking. A more accurate social database, given that it is populated by the authors and does not rely on culled data, is the getCITED service ( currently with 3,393,363 publications from nearly 400,000 individuals, and available from about 2000, which does about the same job.

  3. Miranda Mowbray said

    Iamresearcher sent me an unsolicited email asking me to join. I replied saying that I was not interested and asking them to remove me from their email lists. Today they have sent me another unsolicited email asking me to join. I don’t like that.

  4. […] in April 2011 I wrote a post in which I described What I Like and Don’t Like About about the IamResearcher service.  I can recall how, having signed up for the service, I had to […]

  5. […] and appear to pr0vide. It should also be noted that, as described in posts on What I Like and Don’t Like About, Thoughts on Google Scholar Citations and Will the Real Scott Wilson Please Stand Up, Please […]

  6. Please for all readers, we have updated our website term and conditions. This is a dated blog post, we would like to make more open enviroment in research. We will not use your data in any commercial way, your data can be hosted on our website or anywhere online.

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