Over the last few months we (the ORO team) have been working with the Development Policy and Practice (DPP) Research Group from the Department of Design, Development, Environment and Materials (DDEM) to produce a feed of their group members’ publications from ORO to their website. I’m extremely pleased to be able to report that, aside from a few minor formatting issues, this has now been finished and is fully up and running.
The challenge came about initially because DPP used to be a department in their own right under the old Technology Faculty. When Technology merged with the then Maths & Computing Faculty to become Maths, Computing & Technology (MCT), DPP lost its browse area of ORO and thus the “shop window” for its research output.
The feed, developed by our Programmer/Repository Web Developer (Chris Yates), is embedded in an iFrame within the Research > Publications area of the group’s website. It has been set up in such a way that ORO’s data is downloaded nightly and stored locally on DPP’s server, thus avoiding delay caused by retrieving the feed in real time from ORO’s database.
To establish the feed, we have made use of the fact that everyone’s publications in ORO are linked to their unique university ID. If we did not have this, it would have been pretty much impossible to do. We would have been limited to querying ORO for the names of the people in the research group, and of course common names might be repeated elsewhere around the campus, and thus we may have ended up with publications in the feed which did not belong to DPP. So, providing we know the membership of a research group, we can put together a feed using a query string based on that membership’s unique user IDs. And that is exactly what we did.
There was of course the option of running a search based on the research group members’ user IDs and then creating and embedding an RSS feed into their website. However, this would have generated a feed ordered by the most recently added items to ORO, and not by publication year. Perhaps we could have tinkered with the RSS coding, but then this would have altered the output for all RSS feeds generated for searches, which we didn’t want to do for obvious reasons. Also, the more and more we spoke to DPP, the more tailored we realised the feed needed to be. Not only did they want their publications ordered by year of publication, but they also wanted all publications from 2002 to date displayed, and then within each year they also wanted the publications ordered alphabetically by first author. It was clear from this that quite a bespoke solution was required.
The result is not only great for DPP, in that they now have an area of their website they can direct people to for their group’s publications (e.g. perhaps useful when writing up grant proposals); but it is also great for ORO too, because in order for DPP members’ publications to appear on their own site they first have to deposit them in ORO, which of course pretty much guarantees ORO will receive the vast majority of DPP’s research publications going forward.
Longer-term, we hope to create a page within ORO which users can visit to generate their own feeds. So, perhaps some kind of web form whereby a person can select the criteria for their feed from a series of drop-down menus (e.g. all publications, by this set of authors, from such and such a date range, ordered by article type). When the person clicks “Generate Feed” at the bottom of the page, the result would be a string of code and accompanying instructions which can be passed on to whomever manages the website in which they want the feed embedded. Clearly this will take some time to develop, and in the meantime we are happy to generate bespoke feeds for people, as we have done for DPP. However, going forward, a system whereby users can manage their own feeds (rather than relying on us changing the feed if, say, the personnel of a particular research group changes), we believe would be a great service for ORO to offer.