Institutions

Registries, research and jobs

Lorcan 2 min read

A colleague drew my attention to an advert for a Bioinformatics Curator at the University of Manchester, which interestingly touched on several different issues that have been on my horizon recently. Here is an excerpt from the ad:

We have an opportunity within the highly successful myGrid project for a bioinformatics curator. myGrid provides a set of tools for bioinformaticians that supports their research by providing a personalised workbench to describe, store and analyse in silico experiments. myGrid currently has around 3000 web services and this number is increasing rapidly. In order for our users to identify the services they need and discover how to use them in workflows, we need a bioinformatics curator to provide functional descriptions of the available services. The service descriptions will be used by several myGrid components; Feta semantic discovery, a service registry and the metadata/provenance store; and will be a fundamental part of the myGrid offering.

The curator will also be responsible for cataloguing and describing our growing corpus of workflows to allow re-use and repurposing. [The University of Manchester: Bioinformatics Curator. jobs.ac.uk Reference: EPS/188/06]

So, three things:

  1. E-research. The ways in which the practice of science is changing (and this ad gives an example) calls for research and learning support services to change or emerge in response. Over the next few years, it will be interesting to see how such support gets configured, at what levels (department/institution/discipline/national), and what services may be expected from libraries. I was at a CENDI meeting at the National Agricultural Library last week, where Cliff Lynch was talking, among other things, about issues of data curation in this context.
  2. Registries. I like to think of metadata as data which relieves a user (a person or an application) of having to have full advance knowledge of the existence, characteristics, or behaviors of resources within a particular framework. In this sense, metadata provides ‘intelligence’ which supports more efficient operations on resources. Library systems have typically supported operations such as discovery, selection, acquisition, management and circulation of information objects such as books and journals. As more activities move onto the network – again, look at the example in the advert above – so more resources need to be managed and to interact with each other in automated ways. Examples of resources are information objects (of many types, compound and simple, metadata and content), collections, services, institutions, instruments, policies, and so on. Examples of operations are discovery, execution, preservation, purchase, reformatting, embedding, analysis, extraction of components, and so on. To facilitate smooth operation we need more ‘intelligence’ in the system, more metadata which reduces the burden of interaction. This is one reason that we have seen growing interest in registries, services which manage metadata about resources in the system. So, the example above talks about a service registry, where data about available services is managed. In this environment, users will want to discover and use appropriate services. It is also interesting to see the requirement to describe workflows to support use.
  3. Curation and information management. jobs.ac.uk is a central jobs site for the UK academic community. One of the interesting things that it has to do is to categorize jobs in various ways for presentation. Currently, it has an ‘information management’ category. And in that category it has ‘curatorial studies’, ‘information science’, ‘librarianship’ and ‘other’. ‘Curatorial studies‘ is a new addition. At the moment (and of course this will change) this section includes ads for a ‘curator of topography’ at the British Library, for the job above, for an academic post developing courses for curating modern art, for an archivist, and for a senior library post with oversight of collections in the British Library. This array is an interesting example of how different and emerging curatorial practices and traditions exist alongside some converging interests between them.

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