Thursday, 22 March 2012

Alicia López Medina appointed as new COAR Executive Director

  The International Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR) was launched last October 2009 in Ghent with the aim of providing the framework for a global repository organisation. After the DRIVER European project succeeded in building up a network of European scientific Open Access repositories, COAR took over the challenge of extending such network to other continents. With an increasing number of members and partners across the world, COAR is gradually and steadily spreading its network through Asia and Latin America, as well as signing cooperation agreements with international organisations such as SPARC or LIBER.

The recently published COAR Newsletter No. 2 (Mar 2012) announced COAR Executive Board decision to appoint Alicia López Medina (Universidad Española de Educación a Distancia, UNED) as the new Executive Director of COAR.

An opportunity showed up recently to talk to Alicia -whom we warmly congratulate for her new position- on her new duties and responsibilities as Head of COAR. A brief summary of the conversation follows:

What are the most relevant COAR short-term goals as of today?

There are several worklines COAR will focus on in upcoming months. We want to keep on spreading the organization member and partner network throughout the world as successfully as we have done so far. Partnerships will allow COAR to engage with other international organisations for extending and enhancing joint coordination activities. Besides that, COAR Working Groups are progressing with their tasks for supporting OA repositories in various ways – with repository interoperability as a particularly relevant objective. Finally, as a truly international organization, we consider the contents COAR produces should be available in the languages of the participanting geographical areas, so we will make a strong effort to ensure that.

The Research Information Management community seems to be increasingly relying on non-profit consortia for its development- with organisations such as COAR, euroCRIS or, more recently, ORCID. A common challenge to these organisations is their sustainability and their ability to find a specific business model that ensures it. How is COAR planning to operate in this regard?

Regarding COAR business model -which I’d rather call sustainable operational model- the COAR Annual Meeting and General Assembly 2012, to be held next May in Uppsala, will extensively deal with this issue. We consider that it should be based on both an enlargement of the membership basis and on signing of agreements with relevant international partners. The output from COAR Working Group activities may play a relevant role as well.

COAR is developing its network in a particularly effective way in Latin America. Why is it that a region where the implementation of an Open Access repository network is a rather recent initiative is engaging so strongly with COAR?

COAR has been making a strong and persistent effort to engage with the dynamic Latin American Open Access repository community. As a result of this effort, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed last May 2011 with RedClara and Colabora regional networks.

There are multiple reasons for this synergy between COAR and the Latin American OA Repository Network - see the interview with my colleague Dr. Norbert Lossau [Chair of COAR Executive Board] at the Dec 2011 edition of the DeCLARA Newsletter [p. 13] for a comprehensive account of them. Among these I’d highlight the RedClara BID-BPR Project 'Regional Strategy and Interoperability and Management Frameworks for a Latin American Federated Scientific Institutional Repository Network' which was recently awarded funding by the Regional Public Goods Fund of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and which currently makes Latin America the most active region in the world in terms of repository network building. This project represents a very good opportunity for applying repository coordination and interoperability guidelines right from the start of the network development. Besides that, I would also like to acknowledge the effort carried out by the Latin American repository community, whose representatives were keen to join forces with COAR for pursuing common objectives.

COAR is currently carrying out its activity through three Working Groups: WG1 Repository content, WG2 Repository interoperability and WG3 Repository and Repository Network support and training. Do you think COAR could become as successful as DRIVER was in implementing common working strategies in these areas?

COAR is actually a DRIVER follow-up initiative, and at the same time a more sustainable organization than DRIVER –a two-phase European Project– ever was. If the DRIVER guidelines were very successful in building up an Open Access scientific repository network in Europe, COAR is aiming to extend that network across the world. COAR objectives do also cover aspects that were not directly addressed by DRIVER, such as repository interoperability.

In this regard, the COAR Interoperability Project, which aims to provide a high-level overview of interoperability of Open Access repositories, identify the major issues and challenges that need to be addressed, stimulate the engagement of the repository community and launch a process that will lead to the establishment of a COAR roadmap for repository interoperability, is presently our main technical workline.

Finally, to answer your question, we’d certainly be very happy indeed if the various COAR initiatives could match DRIVER success and we aim to work hard to achieve that goal.

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