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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Interpreting current IR practices

Olyerickson, Collective Intelligence in the Institutional Repository:  Making DSpace Personal, PF-DSpace, October 17, 2007.  Excerpt:

Surveys of open repository adopters over the past two or three years have clearly highlighted the "institutional" nature of institutional repositories. The motivations for implementing IRs have always been those of the host institution, while the stated benefits to the individual user and contributor have either been those of the institution projected "down" to them, or happen to be shared goals such as enabling greater access to information or providing managed, long-term preservation of artifacts. Meanwhile, some of those same surveys identify sustaining a constant stream of contributions from the community as the chronic threat to the health of repositories; while all open repository platforms have been designed for self-service ingestion, it is a fact that the strongest and most current repositories are those that have professional staff who are responsible for content management, a luxury few institutions can afford. Even those institutions who have implemented mandatory submission policies, especially in light of increasingly "enlightened" publishers' policies on Open Access, still have not been able to achieve high levels of participation. The simple truth is that participation in an IR today represents extra effort for the busy scholar, effort that doesn't add real value to their research, their authorship, or their collaboration with others in their field.

We'd like to give researchers strong incentives to "live" within DSpace --- features that motivate them to spend significant time there, manage their content there, and make formal submission of content into the IR an easier and more natural part of their work. In general, we'd like their personal space or "desktop" within DSpace to be an amplifier of their research activities. For starters, we believe the user should have basic (but in this Web2.0 world, expected) capabilities available to them for relating their current activities and interests to other artifacts in local collections, so we're experimenting with features like item bookmarking and tagging within local collections and using this constructed "context" as a basis for recommending related items. We'd like to leverage this further as a basis for identifying and retrieving related items within that repository's federation (see our earlier notes on pf-dspace in this blog and elsewhere) and especially for identifying colleagues with related interests. And we want to apply this to identifying and harvesting related materials from other, heterogeneous sources such as external blogs, wikis, and web sources....

As scholarly journals increasing demand research to be submitted as "packages" containing not only text but also data sets and other content that has been culled from the set of collaborators and authenticated using robust techniques, the proper management of research artifacts in more active ways will become a central function of the IR....


  • By all means add new layers of utility to an IR, partly to help users and partly to increase incentives for authors to deposit.  But don't draw the wrong conclusions from the evidence of current practices.
  • For example, it may be that the most successful repositories have staff to make or assist with deposits, and it may be that the rate of author-initiated deposit is still low.  But it doesn't follow that the "effort [of self-archiving]...doesn't add real value to [authors'] research...."  It adds enormous value, primarily by increasing the author's audience and citation impact
  • Nor does it follow that busy authors labor under a real "extra burden" as opposed to a real but groundless fear of an extra burden.  Les Carr and Stevan Harnad have found that the time required for self-archiving averages 10 minutes per paper.  Alma Swan and Sheridan Brown have found that "Authors have frequently expressed reluctance to self-archive because of the perceived time required and possible technical difficulties in carrying out this activity, yet findings here show that only 20% of authors found some degree of difficulty with the first act of depositing an article in a repository, and that this dropped to 9% for subsequent deposits." 
  • Finally, it's not true that "Even those institutions who have implemented mandatory submission policies...still have not been able to achieve high levels of participation."  For the counter-evidence that mandates work to drive deposit rates toward 100%, see the empirical studies by Arthur Sale (one, two, three).