Institutional repositories and small institutions

On Friday morning I attended an excellent pre-conference workshop at ScienceOnline2010 lead by Dorthea Salo.  You should read her very interesting article about repositories called “Innkeeper at the Roach Motel“.  The workshop was mainly a discussion with librarians and researchers about the uses, possibilities and problems with institutional repositories.  Most of the participants were from larger universities – those with graduate students and larger faculties than the institution I work at.

For a small institution like mine, having our own institutional repository might not make sense.  We probably don’t have the library staff to run it well.  So what are our options?

Well, first there is a SUNY-wide institutional repository.  Each SUNY campus has some space on it – and each campus seems to be using it for very different purposes – some are using it for archiving documents, some are using it for internal communications.  At the moment SUNY Geneseo isn’t even listed.

Other options include disciplinary repositories.  The most well known is for physics, math and other related fields.  Some of our faculty have deposited pre-prints here.  For our faculty with NIH grants, PubMed Central can be the repository of choice.

But for many of our faculty, their only way of archiving their papers may be to post them on their own personal website, where they might not be as easy to find.

How much does this matter?  How vital are institutional repositories to public access to scientific information?  As publishers grant open access to journal archives and more high quality open access publications become available, will repositories have a function in the future?  I don’t know the answers, but I’ll be paying attention to folks like Dorthea to see how this might work out.


7 thoughts on “Institutional repositories and small institutions

  1. (1) If a campus has the infrastructure to host a website at all (as SUNY GENESEO does ), it has the infrastructure to host its own institutional repository (IR) for its own research article output. (If not, it probably does not have the insfrastructure to conduct research at all.)

    (2) Library staff are not needed to host an IR.

    (3) All that’s needed is some disk space on one of the institution’s webservers, plus the installation of (free) IR software:

    (4) Even individuals can install and host the IR software on their own PCs or their personal websites. (There is even a (free) Microsoft Windows version of EPrints.)

    (5) All EPrints IR installations are OAI-compliant, hence harvested for searchability by all of the major search engines: scirus, scopus, citeseer, oaister, base, etc., as well as google and google scholar (the major ports of entry for all IRs). (Worries about IR deposits not being “easy to find” are based on a profound misunderstanding of search over distributed OAI-harvestable contents.)

    (5) CalTech alone hosts 26 EPrints IRs:

    (6) The importance of institutional IR installations is as the convergent locus of deposit for Green Open Access self-archiving mandates (without which all IRs, personal or institutional, are doomed to lie fallow).

    1. Thanks, Stevan for your comments.

      I’m not convinced that setting up and running an IR is as easy as you claim. Yes, our college has a website, but if I went to anyone in our CIT department and asked them to set up another system, I would probably be laughed at. They are stretched to the limit already. And I can’t believe that it wouldn’t take some managing from at least part time staff (in the library or elsewhere) – making sure the metadata was entered accurately and encouraging researchers to participate.

      I also think that discoverability is still an issue for undergraduates. Yes, the contents are available in Google. Some students are doing their research there. But many others are using databases like Scopus, Web of Science or Proquest to do their research. These resources do an ok job of connecting researchers to institutional journal subscriptions, but I’m not convinced that your average undergraduate can handle too many silos for information, and their connection to institutional repositories isn’t always great – students struggle immensely.

      1. I think if you actually try doing what I suggested, you will find it works, and it’s much simpler than you think. And undergraduates are already much better at finding online information than their mentors. The problem is not with their finding it; the problem is that 85% of peer-reviewed articles are still not freely available online. And that’s the problem that would be fixed if SUNYG (and all other research-active universities) installed an IR and mandated deposit…

  2. I think that you should try what Stevan Harnad suggests you. Please read my testimony posted on OA Am.Sci. Forum in 2007
    I was obliged to start with an old slugghish personal computer that nobody wanted in our lab ! And you will understand what was my goal in starting : my idea was that it would have been easy to set up 13 other departmental Eprints archives and to centralize them at a national institutional level.
    My repository still works, even if for internal political reasons there is no more deposits in it since 2007.

    1. Thanks, John. I will have to chat with some of my colleagues about how/if we want to approach this, but I’m sure we’ll be in touch.

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