Institutional and Central Repositories: Interactions

The JISC/SIRIS “Report of the Subject and Institutional Repositories Interactions Study” (November 2008) “was commissioned by JISC to produce a set of practical recommendations for steps that can be taken to improve the interactions between institutional and subject repositories in the UK” but it fails to make clear the single most important reason why Institutional Repositories’ “desired ?critical mass? of content is far from having been achieved.”

The following has been repeatedly demonstrated (1) in cross-national, cross-disciplinary surveys (by Alma Swan, uncited in the report) on what authors state that they will and won’t do and (2) in outcome studies (by Arthur Sale, likewise uncited in the report) that confirm the survey findings, reporting what authors actually do:

Most authors will not deposit until and unless their universities and/or their funders make deposit mandatory. But if and when deposit is made mandatory, over 80% will deposit, and deposit willingly. (A further 15% will deposit reluctantly, and 5% will not comply with the mandate at all.) In contrast, the spontaneous (unmandated) deposit rate is and remains at about 15%, for years now (and adding incentives and assistance but no mandate only raises this deposit rate to about 30%).

The JISC/SIRIS report merely states: “Whether deposit of content is mandatory is a decision that will be made by each institution,” but it does not even list the necessity of mandating deposit as one of its recommendations, even though it is the crucial determinant of whether or not the institutional repository ever manages to attract its target content.

Nor does the JISC/SIRIS report indicate how institutional and funder mandates reinforce one another, nor how to make both mandates and locus of deposit systematically convergent and complementary (deposit institutionally, harvest centrally) rather than divergent and competitive — though surely that is the essence of “Subject and Institutional Repositories Interactions.”

There are now 58 deposit mandates already adopted worldwide (28 from universties/faculties, including Southampton, Glasgow, Liège, Harvard and Stanford, and 30 from funders, including 6/7 Research Councils UK, European Research Council and the US National Institutes of Health) plus at least 11 known mandate proposals pending (including a unanimous recommendation from the European Universities Association council, for its 791 member universities in 46 countries, plus a recommendation to the European Commission from the European Heads of Research Councils).

It is clear now that mandated OA self-archiving is the way that the world will reach universal OA at long last. Who will lead and who will follow will depend on who grasps this, at long last, and takes the initiative. Otherwise, there’s not much point in giving or taking advice on the interactions of empty repositories…

Swan, A., Needham, P., Probets, S., Muir, A., Oppenheim, C., O?Brien, A., Hardy, R., Rowland, F. and Brown, S. (2005) Developing a model for e-prints and open access journal content in UK further and higher education. Learned Publishing, 18 (1). pp. 25-40.

Swan A, Needham P, Probets P, Muir A, O ‘Brien A, Oppenheim C, Hardy R and Rowland F (2004). Delivery, management and access model for E-prints and open access journals within further and higher education Report of JISC study. pp 1-121.

On 30-Nov-08, at 9:08 AM, Neil Jacobs (JISC) replied in JISC-REPOSITORIES:

“Thanks Stevan,

You’re right, of course, the report does not cover policies. The brief for the work was to look for practical ways that subject/funder and institutional repositories can work together within the constraints of the current policies of their host organisations. There are discussions to be had at the policy level, but we felt that there were also practical things to be done now, without waiting for that.”

Hi Neil,

I was referring to the JISC report’s recommendations, which mention a number of things, but not how to get the repositories filled (despite noting the problem that they are empty).

It seems to me that the practical problems of what to do with — and how to work together with — empty repositories are trumped by the practical problem of how to get the repositories filled.

Moreover, the solution to the practical problem of how the repositories (both institutional and subject/funder) can work together is by no means independent of the practical problem of how to get them filled — including the all-important question of the locus of direct deposit:

The crucial question (for both policy and practice) is whether direct deposit is to be divergent and competitive (as it is now, being sometimes institutional and sometimes central) or convergent and synergistic (as it can and ought to be), by systematically mandating convergent institutional deposit, mutually reinforced by both institutional and funder mandates, followed by central harvesting — rather than divergent, competing mandates requiring deposits willy-nilly, resulting in confusion, understandable resistance to divergent or double deposit, and, most important, the failure to capitalize on funder mandates so as to reinforce institutional mandates.

Institutions, after all, are the producers of all refereed research output, in all subjects, and whether funded or unfunded. Get all those institutions to provide OA to all their own refereed research output, and you have 100% OA (and all the central harvests from it that you like).

As it stands, however, funder and institutional mandates are pulling researchers needlessly in divergent directions. And (many) funder mandates in particular, instead of adding their full weight behind the drive to get all refereed research to be made OA, are thinking, parochially, only of their own funded fiefdom, by arbitrarily insisting on direct deposit in central repositories that could easily harvest instead from the institutional repositories, if convergent institutional deposit were mandated by all — with the bonus that all research, and all institutions, would be targeted by all mandates.

It is not too late to fix this. It is still early days. There is no need to take the status quo for granted, especially given that most repositories are still empty.

I hope the reply will not be the usual (1) “What about researchers whose institutions still don’t have IRs?“: Let those author’s deposit provisionally in DEPOT for now, from which they can be automatically exported to their IRs as soon as they are created, using the SWORD protocol. With all mandates converging systematically on IRs, you can be sure that this will greatly facilitate and accelerate both IR creation and IR deposit mandate adoption. But with just unfocussed attempts to accommodate to the recent, random, and unreflecting status quo, all that is guaranteed is to perpetuate it.

Nor is the right reply (2) “Since all repositories, institutional and subject/funder, are OAI-interoperable, it doesn’t matter where authors deposit!” Yes, they are interoperable, and yes, it would not matter where authors deposited — if they were indeed all depositing in one or the other. But most authors are not depositing, and that is the point. Moreover, most institutions are not mandating deposit at all yet and that is the other point. Funder mandates can help induce institutions — the universal research providers — to create IRs and to adopt institutional deposit mandates if the funder mandates are convergent on IR deposit. But funder mandates have the opposite effect if they instead insist on central deposit. So the fact that both types of repository are interoperable is beside the point.

Une puce à l’oreille (not to be confused with a gadfly),


The Immediate-Deposit/Optional Access (ID/OA) Mandate: Rationale and Model

Optimizing OA Self-Archiving Mandates: What? Where? When? Why? How?

How To Integrate University and Funder Open Access Mandates

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum