Re: Poynder Again on Point on Institutional Repositories

From: Andy Powell <andy.powell_at_EDUSERV.ORG.UK>
Date: Thu, 9 Mar 2006 16:34:54 -0000

> A reasonable question, but I think that you'll find that the
> answer is not a matter of "simply" anything, because evidence
> is that (left to themselves) researchers don't deposit their
> articles on the web either!

Sure. I'm happy to conceed that "simply" doesn't come into it! :-) And
as you say below, the reason for non-deposit is probably more to do with
the lack of mandate than with a particular technical or operational

> In an environmental assessment that Jessie Hey and Pauline
> Simpson undertook for the TARDis project, they discovered
> that most departments in Southampton University had some
> research papers on the web, but that these web pages were on
> average two years out of date.

Fair enough. But, in the absence of a mandate, there probably isn't
much reason (your department in Southampton and a few others excepted?)
to assume that the situation will be any different in repositories. The
value-added advantages of repositories that you list below may be
sufficient to ensure that they are kept up to date. On the other hand,
they may not.

In suggesting that we focus on the issue of "making research papers
available on the Web" I'm not necessarily suggesting that we encourage
an unstructured, free for all type approach - just that we use language
that is readily understood and where the primary aim is clear.

> The web (of itself) does not encourage more self-deposit of
> research papers or data. And why should it? It can be quite
> an onerous task to keep a web site up-to-date.


> So whether a Web Page or a Repository you need a mandate to
> ensure that research output is captured. And given a mandate
> (and hence accessible research), the added benefits of a
> repository over a website seem clear - a repository provides
> a focus for interoperability and services, maintenance of
> documents/data and for monitoring policy and practice.

One could argue that a content management system might achieve the same
aims? (And, as an aside, there is no reason why a content management
system or even a plain old-fashioned Web site can't be made to support
the OAI-PMH, whether or not we decide to call the resulting thing a
'repository' or not). In fact, at that stage, all one is doing is
disagreeing about the label ('repository' vs. 'content management
system' vs. 'Web server') that one attaches to a service component on
the network. My, somewhat flippant, point is that we might be better to
focus on an aim that everyone can understand ("making stuff openly
available on the Web") rather than getting hung up on a particular
technical or operational mechanism for achieving the aim ("the

> And
> through targeted collection of metadata it should provide the
> opportunity for information reuse for all sorts of academic
> tasks (CV building, bibliography lists, administrative
> returns, RSS feeds etc) to provide immediate help to
> researchers and managers.


Consider two approaches to policy makers in funding bodies and/or

"We want you to mandate that all academics make a copy of their research
output freely available on the Web" and further "we suggest that the
best way to achieve this is through the use of an open access

"We want you to mandate that all academics deposit a copy of their
research output in an open access repository".

Which is clearer? I think that the first is, because it emphasises what
is important in a way that everyone can understand. But, perhaps that's
just me - perhaps my use of 'on the Web' is just as open to
mis-interpretation and confusion as 'in a repository'?

Head of Development, Eduserv Foundation
+44 (0)1225 474319 
Received on Thu Mar 09 2006 - 19:03:42 GMT

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