Staff Profile: Simeon Warner

Making scholarship work better.


Who he is: Simeon Warner, director of repository development and services.

What he does: I manage a number of projects around repository systems – places to put articles and information – and I’m involved in various standards activities for sharing data and metadata between library systems and repositories. One thing I’m working on is a framework allowing libraries and other cultural-memory institutions to share images in a way that allows people to use them from anywhere, but without requiring institutions to move high-resolution copies across the Internet. That’s going to be used in our digital collections portal, which is going live very soon.

Why it’s important: Open and effective access to information is just really important. It makes scholarship work better. It’s good for the world, it’s good for the appreciation of scholarship by the public. It’s just how science and scholarship in general ought to work.

Where you come from: Guildford, England. I’ve been in the states since 1996, and a U.S. citizen for few years.

Background: I’m an electronic engineer turned experimental physicist turned computational physicist turned librarian. I did a postdoc in Syracuse, working on high-energy physics. I moved to Los Alamos National Laboratory, partly to work on arXiv and partly to do physics. While I was there I found arXiv more and more interesting, and when arXiv moved to Cornell, I decided to drop physics and focus on arXiv and other library and information science work.

As a researcher I focused on my particular area of physics, and it was fascinating to get really deep into it, and there are 10 people in the world who care about it. But suddenly when I was working for arXiv, I was working on a resource that tens of thousands of people cared about, and even people who weren’t using arXiv were really interested in the way it was reshaping scholarly communication. It was the first and most successful example of changing the way articles are distributed, to be driven by researchers in an open-access format available to everyone. That was and still is exciting.

Education: I went to the University of Southampton for undergrad in Electronic Engineering, and got my PhD in Physics from the University of Manchester.

How long at Cornell: Since 2001.

Best part of your job: Finding out that people are using either the standards or information systems I worked on in unexpected ways. One example is, with arXiv we did work to make application program interfaces for the data, and shortly afterwards we found that two or three people had created mobile apps over arXiv to build the interfaces they wanted on their mobile devices.

In his spare time: I’m outside. I rock climb, ice climb, bike, kayak, canoe, hike and windsurf. I spend quite a lot of time in the Adirondacks. I think winter is wonderful.