Harvard leads the way on building institutional academic communities

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Recently, Harvard University’s Institute of Quantitative Social Science released OpenScholar built on Drupal using popular modules such as Organic Groups and getting help from the Spaces and Features. The Biblio module provides the great bibliographic feature. I haven’t spent enough time with it yet to completely suss out how it’s put together in the Drupal way but it seems a lot of custom code work has gone into this, as well. But that doesn’t really matter. The outcome is impressive (although, I can’t wait to see a build of OpenScholar taking advantage of the many UI and other improvements in Drupal 7).

I’ve been saying for years that all academic institutions should provide this kind of service and Drupal always seemed like an ideal platform which is why I chose it to built http://research.edu.uea.ac.uk. Now, with OpenScholar and the potential of hosting and support from Acquia, this should be a nobrainer for any institution with half a brain.

If you’d like to see what Harvard’s implementation looks like, go here http://scholar.harvard.edu. But if you’d actually like to see what it’s like to build your own site inside OpenScholar, I put up an OpenScholar demo on http://openscholardemo.researchity.net. It’s only there for testing, not to run actual sites. But if people like it, they should go to their institutions and demand this.

Why is this important for universities? Universities often think of themselves as corporations when it comes to the provision of services but OpenScholar would allow them to present themselves as constellations.

Of course, we still need a proper federation facility. OpenScholar uses PURL but an export function would also be useful. Moreover, in the long run, it is key that scholars can build connections across institutions. That should be the next step! But this is a good first one.

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