Institutional repositories

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Last Update

  • Updated.jpg 20 Feb 2016


See also Data management | Digital libraries | Open access | PubMed Central Canada (PMCC) 800px-Flag of Canada.svg.png | Resource Description and Access (RDA) | Research Portal for Academic Librarians

What is an institutional repository? IR is fundamentally about the services it offers the core of IR services are the twin goals of preserving the intellectual output of the institution and making it widely accessible to members of the general public. — Rieh, 2008

An institutional repository is an online scholarly platform or archive where research outputs, digital assets and other knowledge objects are made available for each of access. As repositories or libraries of information, IRs amass and maintain the intellectual output of organizations through forms of self-archiving, tracking (un)published materials from journal articles and book chapters, data sets, grey literature, theses and dissertations, and other knowledge objects. As a matter of principle, an institutional repository offers access to scholarly research openly and freely to anyone. As more scholarly outputs are born digital, institutions must work to identify, collect and make them accessible not only to those within these organizations but also to a wider public. This is particularly important in science. There is a long tradition in the physics community around sharing; for example, astrophysics and computer science are two domains in which open access preprint repositories have existed for many years. The idea of openly-accessible repositories is a logical outcome of the advocacy of scholars in the e-print and pre-print movements and because of academics such as Paul Ginsparg who created ArXiv. The ArXiv repository is perhaps the gold standard model of open repositories; it is both widely-accessible and cost-efficient to maintain. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was among the first to launch an institutional repository with its DSpace software. In 2002, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) issued "The Case for Institutional Repositories: A SPARC Position Paper" and put IRs in the spotlight. IRs require considerable support and strong service models for them to work. Librarians taking on responsibility for developing IR infrastructure are busy gathering, organizing and managing digital collections. One would assume librarians are the logical gatekeepers of this content given their mandate. However, the challenges posed by extending our responsibilities beyond traditional library work will continue to be important in the future. In health libraries, some librarians assume key roles in managing institutional repositories and in teaching others how to use the open source software to load their pre-print articles. Some research suggests that academic librarians are not very positive about IRs, which will deter their colleagues who are working to successfully market IRs to faculty and students.

IRs to support medical science

Many medical journals have online publishing operations in place and contribute to a growing corpus of visible, findable published material on the web. This literature must be preserved in order to ensure its stable access over the long term. This is why many universities now maintain IRs, and why health libraries are involved. The US National Library of Medicine's (NLM) PubMed Central (PMC) is a digital repository of full-text, peer-reviewed biomedical, behavioral and clinical research. It is publicly-accessible, stable, permanent, and searchable. Publishers provide their final versions of documents and access to the final version is arranged for the public. Through Wellcome Trust, the UK commenced its own PubMed Central archive in 2007.

In 2009, Canada established its own version of the online depository with the launch of PubMedCentral Canada. 800px-Flag of Canada.svg.png

Canadian & international contexts 800px-Flag of Canada.svg.png

See also PubMedCentral Canada

Institutional repositories (IRs) in the sciences have generally evolved in Canada out of the advocacy and foresight of librarians at the largest research universities (e.g., University of British Columbia, University of Alberta and University of Toronto). In the United States, IRs have grown where exponentially thanks to significant endowments and technical support of their growth. Some IRs in the United States also receive top-up and seed funding from the National Science Foundation under the Digital Libraries Initiative and the National Science Library program. Development of IRs in Canada has been somewhat slower to evolve. IRs are considered useful for institutional publications, but are not always appropriate for some kinds of research. There has been steady growth in both the number of IRs and ETD programs in Canada in the last five years; three Canadian IRs, for example, are ranked in the top 100 global repositories. There is a drive in some institutions towards data curation, and librarians taking on the management of data repositories. The next step in this evolution is undoubtedly data literacy.

Several Canadian universities have established repositories to store faculty publications and self-archived copies of lectures, papers and digital objects of various kinds. In health care and hospitals across Canada, IRs have considerable potential to open up research and make it available for all to see. In Canada's research community, more than 80% of CARL / ABRC libraries have an institutional repository (see CARL's Metadata Harvester.) For a full listing of IRs internationally, see Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR).

IRs in Canada, A to Z

  • ContentDM, DSpace, Eprints, Fedora, Digital Commons, Hydra, Greenstone

Search engines

See also Open search

  • OAIster was a project at the University of Michigan whose goal was to create a collection of difficult-to-access, academically-oriented digital resources, easily searchable by anyone ~ this content can now be found in OAIster WorldCat
  • Google scholar is an academic, peer-reviewed channel for researchers familiar with Google; it crawls many of the repositories mentioned above for easy, one-stop searching


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