March 28, 2017

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This feature article is part of our Open Access in Action series, sponsored by Dove Press, which tracks the evolution of important open access (OA) issues through a library lens by presenting regular original articles, video interviews, news, and perspectives. To learn more about how librarians like you are driving practice across the lifestyle of open access, be sure to visit Open Access in Action.

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Increasing Participation in Your Institutional Repository

IRgraphicSo you’ve established an institutional repository (IR), where users can put papers, theses, and experimental data on file, making it easily accessible to the larger world. While getting an institutional repository up and running is no small feat, it’s only the first step. To make the most of this tool, you have to fill it, and that means getting ongoing participation from faculty and students.

While making information as broadly accessible as possible is a high priority for most librarians, the same can’t necessarily be said for all the faculty members producing that information. To drive participation by potential contributors, librarians have to show students and faculty what’s in it for them in addition to making a principled appeal. One way of doing that is helping to tie participation to things that already matter to academics, like tracking (and increasing) citations and other proof of usage of their work.

One stop Altmetrics shop

Analytics tools can help to measure those citations, both in the repository and elsewhere, said Andrea Michalek, cofounder of the company that provides one such tool set, altmetrics firm PlumX. Being able to aggregate and analyze multiple metrics on a single article from multiple hosts lets the folks who produced it get a clearer idea of where it is actually having impact, and that can be a powerful talking point for institutional repositories.

“You can gain further insight into who is interacting with it and what they are saying,” Michalek told LJ. “This can help you and your researchers make future decisions such as who to collaborate with on new research, where to publish and even who could potentially provide funding.”

Providing this analysis of a publication’s impact, Michalek said, can help faculty members see making contributions to a repository less as a chore, and more as a way for them to learn about the life of their work, from citations to mentions on blogs and social media.

“Pulling all of this information together in one place, and making the IR the place to get to it, drives repeat use to the IR,” Michalek said.

Georgia Southern University (GSU) implemented this solution alongside the Digital Commons institutional repository in 2014, integrating this data with existing Selected Works profiles. Librarian Ashley Lowery presented on the results at 2015’s The Digital Shift (TDS) virtual conference, which can still be viewed for free in the archive.

To integrate, GSU librarians first copied the works in their Digital Commons into PlumX to generate profiles of faculty, their works, and the metrics associated with them. Works that may exist in more than one place—on a Digital Commons repository and on a Selected Works page, for instance—are combined into a single page to ensure usage being counted wherever it is getting accessed. The integration also allowed Lowery’s team to offer contributors to the Digital Commons a suite of services.

“For the price of one, faculty can get a Selected Works profile, a PlumX profile, and then also be included in lists such as expertise search,” Lowery told the TDS audience.

Once the integration of PlumX, Selected Works, and the Digital Commons was up and running, the library marketed it to faculty using educational brochures, as well as by discussing the benefits of the new program with deans and department heads who could take the information back to their respective departments. They’re continuing to educate faculty about the new program with chat sessions, demonstrations, and reports from PlumX about how the works are being accessed. The result has been a positive response from faculty to the new systems and the information it gives them on how their work is being used.

Gamify the IR

Making an appeal to institutional pride can also go a long way toward getting buy-in—especially when a little friendly competition is brought into play.

At the Iowa State University Digital Repository, coordinator Harrison Inefuku was lucky enough to have faculty leaders who were enthusiastic about using the repository from day one. But to grow participation to the next level, he leveraged the school’s long-standing rivalry with the University of Nebraska–Lincoln to fire up faculty from the Agriculture and Biosystems Engineering Department to deposit more of their work. All content placed in bepress repositories shows up via the bepress Digital Commons Network, so Inefuku could show that while the Iowa State faculty were going strong, Nebraska was leading the pack.

“I challenged the faculty to beat Nebraska and become the largest contributor, a challenge that was welcomed enthusiastically by the faculty,” Inefuku told LJ. “By the time I met with the faculty in the spring, we had passed Nebraska as the largest contributor of agricultural engineering publications to the Network. Today, almost 75 percent of open access publications in agricultural engineering in the Digital Commons Network is from Iowa State University.”

While exploiting rivalries is a fun way to drive participation, Inefuku was quick to point out it is not enough. Repositories offer many tools for demonstrating the ripples coming off of a piece of work—it’s up to the library to use these tools to the best effect.

“One thing I started doing from the launch of the repository was to geolocate each conference proceeding, poster, or presentation uploaded to the repository,” Inefuku said. “Using this information, Digital Commons generates maps pinning the various work on a world map. I thought this would be a great way for departments to demonstrate their global impact, based on where their faculty have been able to speak.”

Of course, this benefits the library as well as the faculty. “For librarians, IRs keep the library a visible and important partner in the research efforts of the university,” Inefuku pointed out. “It’s another tool we have to understand the research interests and needs of our faculty and is a way to build strong relationships with our faculty.”

Getting a mandate (literally)

Even using all the tools above, encouragement will only go so far to convince busy faculty to add yet another task to their overloaded schedules. Another option, then, is laying down a mandate that any research produced by your faculty will go into the repository.

At the University of Liege in Belgium, university rector Bernard Rentier demonstrates the potential of this approach. Rentier was in charge of the academy organizing its own repository as part of the open access repository known as ORBi, in late 2008. By 2011, the University of Liege faculty had deposited 37,497 works in the repository, a great success that Rentier attributed to the university’s policy of making deposits mandatory.

In an interview with OA advocate Richard Poynder at that time, Rentier made clear that the mandate didn’t punish researchers who failed to deposit their work—it simply made it impossible for the administration to reward that work.

“What happens is that when we make decisions about promoting a researcher, or awarding a grant,” Rentier told Poynder. “We can only take into consideration those publications that the researcher has deposited in ORBi.”

Since then, the university has achieved a rate of about 90 percent of work produced by its faculty being deposited into the IR, and a recent survey indicated that 91 percent of faculty rated themselves as either satisfied or very satisfied with the system, which many observed increased the visibility of their work.

“If ORBi was to be discontinued today, it would cause an uproar in house,” Rentier told LJ.

Open Access In Action

Ian Chant About Ian Chant

Ian Chant is a former editor at LJ and a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in Scientific American and Popular Mechanics and on NPR.

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