JISC’s work over the last few years in encouraging the growth of institutional repositories means that the UK now has a virtually unparalleled and impressive infrastructure of institutional repositories that virtually covers the research-base of UK higher education.
Of course the issue which faces us all in this area is one of content. The repositories are there, but the content — at least measured against the potential content — isn’t.
It is therefore an interesting development with Funder policies requiring deposit, that some of these require deposit in Funder-repositories. While I quite appreciate the political and organisational benefits from having a Funder-based repository, the experience of Funder mandates so far is of low compliance. The Wellcome Trust report a compliance rate of around 36%. Some of this lack of compliance is down to individual authors, some down to publishers seemingly not fulfilling their contract to deposit in return for their open access publication fee.
The situation that we seem to have, therefore, is of an already existing network of repositories with institutional staff assigned to deal with deposit, but without any overriding incentive for authors to use them: and the development of a complementary network of Funder-repositories, where there is an incentive for authors to deposit, but with no on-site assistance and low compliance.
As I have suggested elsewhere, I think the best solution is to engage with institutional repository managers, who would be able to provide authors on the spot assistance with depositing material, give person-to-person advice on the suitability of various materials to deposit, and, significantly, to be able to monitor and facilitate compliance.
Of course, the question is then what do the institutional repository managers — and the institutions — get out of it? This is where the collaborative nature of repository holdings comes in. If funders ask their authors to deposit into the institutional repository, then it is a simple matter for the Funder-based repository to harvest material (metadata and full-text) from the institutional repository.
The advantage of institutional deposit lies in the support and compliance checking that can come from institutional staff, and of course, the author having a “one-stop shop” for deposit. If all funders harvest material from institutional repositories, then the author only has one interface to learn. Where an institution offers mediated deposit, then they do not even have to do this — but can let repository staff deposit on their behalf.
Of course, this then brings benefits for the institution, in that it collects a record of the intellectual output of its own staff in its own repository, which can then be used to drive other services within the institution — the generation of publication records, facilitating collection of material for REF, generating staff-web pages, generating research group web pages, etc.
The fact that the material is open means that harvesting into a Funder-repository is straightforward. Effectively, it means that the institutional repository becomes a personally supported interface or ingest mechanism for the Funder-repository.
There is the issue that some Funder-repositories may require different metadata fields, or different metadata standards than a typical institutional repository. Again, a Funder-repository might require a particular format of deposit — such as XML.
These are certainly issues to consider, but balanced against the support and compliance which could come from such a system, surely an enhanced institutional deposit mechanism to match funders’ requirements is not beyond joint development?
One possible way forward would be for principal UK funders to agree a joint deposit-requirement and suggest this to be adopted by institutional repositories, in exchange for mandates requiring deposit within institutional repositories.