Some thoughts on institutional repositories

At the beginning of July, the Repositories Support Project (RSP) team visited the University of Lincoln, to discuss developments for their institutional repository (The Lincoln Repository) and identify recommendations and improvement strategies. On my way back to Nottingham, on the train, my mind kept thinking of all the issues that were raised in the meeting. Some of these issues presented in this blog posting are successfully implemented by The Lincoln Repository, while some others may be not; the rest of the text will not focus on the case of the University of Lincoln Repository, it will only present my thoughts concerning institutional repositories, their management and value.

GCW University Library, Lincoln University.

Who is in your team? (or who should be in your team): Although an institutional repository may have a repository manager, there is a wider group of people from the institution who should be affiliated with it. A repository needs the support of the research office, which is dealing with the researchers’ grants and consults them on how to comply with the funders’ policies. These are also the people who should urge the researchers to deposit their manuscripts to their institutional repositories. The subject librarians should also be your friends; they can accept the manuscript submissions into the repository, proof check their copyrights, consult the authors on the deposited version, and manage the metadata. All the librarians who work in the institution’s libraries, if they are not your friends already, should become so too; they can spread the word both on open access and the repository on their daily conversations with the library’s users. Since the number of the people involved with the repository could be large, regular meetings can help, to discuss all issues related to the repository and the manuscript deposits. A strong cooperation between these different departments within the university will improve the provided services and increase the submission rates.

Visibility of research (or “publish or perish”): Academics publish because they want to advance their subject fields, upgrade their careers and, of course, boost their ego. An already used practice, where the institutional repository can successfully increase both the staffs’ and the institution’s research visibility as a whole is, when the staff directory webpages are fed by their institutional repository submissions. Since there are little chances that a user will directly visit your repository’s URL, but high chances that he will end up to one of your repository’s manuscripts or authors’ pages through a search engine, the repository should depict a complete publications list for each author. This list can include both items that are openly accessible and immediately downloadable, and items that only include metadata due to the publishers’ embargo. Therefore, a clear indication to your users of the items that can be accessible is necessary, by adding for example the PDF icon right next to the document that can be downloaded.

Composing reports (or just making your life much easier): The research office regularly needs to produce reports to identify where the research money was spent and to demonstrate the value of the research itself. A knowledgeable “techie” on institutional repositories software can help you so that these reports are being dynamically created, on the fly, harvesting all the relevant information from the repository. This automated procedure saves a great amount of time of composing these reports yourself, and will also send a message to the institution’s staff that “if you are not in our repository, you will not be in our report too”!

To mandate or not to mandate (or to state it or not to state it): Does your institution have a publications deposits policy? Is it a mandatory policy or a voluntary? Although, personally speaking, I would favor that every single academic institution and every single funder has a mandatory policy for depositing into the institutional repository I have seen cases, where a voluntary institutional policy brings a quite respectable number of submissions too. Irrelevant of the type of the policy, the “Repository Policies” section can include this information. This section could be used by the authors to get informed about their responsibilities in clear language; avoiding jargon in this area is always a good idea. In addition to the policy’s terms, clear instructions on the copyright of the deposited items would be helpful to be included. Issues related to copyright can intimidate authors; providing access to the contact information of the person in your team who can assist them with copyright issues, both in general and in relation to their submissions into the institutional repository, would probably ease their worries.

Research Excellence Framework (or just getting ready for the REF): Open access material submitted into an institutional repository gains increased citation rates [1], [2]. The existence of a complete collection of the institution’s “fruits” demonstrates also a favorable outcome when REF is concerned. Irrelevant of the institutional repository software you are using, plug-ins have been developed, which automate the process of getting ready for REF.

Statistics (or who visits my repository and who downloads what?): It is always fascinating to know who visits your repository, from which part of the world, which material is being downloaded, how many times, etc. Apart from this basic information I just mentioned you can retrieve more detailed statistics from the variety of tools that exist already. These are being used from the repository managers for quite some time now, such as Google Analytics, InCites from Thomson Reuters, IRS from JISC, Eprints statistics, Scopus Data, and this is not an extensive list. Collecting these numbers not only will help you understand your users, but will also bring your staff closer to your repository, when you demonstrate to them the statistics and the traffic of their deposited material.

The institutional repositories in the UK have gone a long way and there is more improvement to come, but this requires the cooperation between all the institutional repositories’ stakeholders. An institutional repository should be clearly connected with every aspect of an institution’s research and its researchers,  and help demonstrate the value of the research outcome per se, the value of the institution as a whole and its contribution to the development and improvement of all types of sciences in general.

One Response to Some thoughts on institutional repositories

  1. czernie says:

    This is very useful! Thanks, Laura

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