Institutional vs. Central Repositories

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 25 Nov 2009 13:10:59 +0000

On Wed, 25 Nov 2009, Armbruster, Chris wrote:

> Much hope and a lot of money has been invested in institutional
> repositories - but, for example, in the UK the significant mandates are
> now research funder mandates and all the life science RCUKs have joined
> UK PMC. It would thus seem important and urgent that IRs reconsider
> their strategy and take a closer look at the idea of being a research
> repository or joining forces for building a national (or regional) system.

It is not at all clear that the "significant mandates" are the funder
mandates, especially in view of the past year's burst in institutional
mandates (UCL, Harvard, MIT, Stanford...):

The ones who need to reconsider their strategy are the (few) research
funders who have needlessly and counterproductively stipulated that
locus of deposit should be central rather than institutional.

(1) Institutions are the universal providers of all research output --
funded and unfunded, across all subjects, all institutions, and all

(2) Institutions have a vested interest in hosting, monitoring,
showcasing and archiving their own research output.

(3) OAI-compliant Repositories are all interoperable.

(4) Either funders or institutions can in principle stipulate any locus
of deposit for a mandate, either institutional or central.

(5) But mandates are still growing too slowly, and one big reason is
that *no one wants to do -- or andate -- multiple deposit*.

(6) There are potentially many diverse and divergent central loci for
any piece of research output: subject collections, national collections,
funder collections, multidisciplinary collections, etc.

(7) The metadata and/or full-text deposits of any OAI compliant
repository can be harvested, exported or imported to any OAI compliant

(8) The natural, economical, rational and systematic solution
(one-to-many, unitary-local to multiple-distal) is for all researchers to
deposit locally, in their own institional repository -- and for central
collections to harvest, import or export -- not the reverse (many-to-one,
distal to local), or both, or neither.

(9) The only thing that stands in the way of that optimal solution --
whereby institutional and funder mandates can collaborate, converge, and
mutually reinforce one another -- is the arbitrary and ill-thought-through
requirement by some funders (but by no means all) to deposit centrally
instead of institutionally.

(10) This obstacle is neither a functional one (it has nothing to do
with the relative functionality of institutional and central
repositories -- they are interoperable and equipotent) nor a "cultural"
one (since self-archiving culture is still very new and all too rare):
the problem is simply the needless adoption of arbitrary and
ill-thought-out locus-of-deposit by some of the initial

(11) The solution is to fix the funder locus-of-deposit specs, not to
switch to central locus of deposit.

(12) Prediction: The notion of a "central repository" -- new as it is --
is already obsolescent: Is Google a "central repository" or merely a
harvester of local content?

Stevan Harnad

> Armbruster, Chris and Romary, Laurent, Comparing Repository Types:
> Challenges and Barriers for Subject-Based Repositories, Research
> Repositories, National Repository Systems and Institutional Repositories
> in Serving Scholarly Communication (November 23, 2009). Available at SSRN:
> Regards, Chris
> -----Ursprüngliche Nachricht-----
> Von: American Scientist Open Access Forum im Auftrag von Leslie Carr
> Gesendet: Di 11/24/2009 18:11
> Betreff: Re: Comparing repositories - subject-based, institutional,
> research and national repository systems
> On 23 Nov 2009, at 17:22, Armbruster, Chris wrote:
> > After two decades of repository development, some conclusions may be
> > drawn as to which type of repository and what kind of service best
> > supports digital scholarly communication, and thus the production of new
> > knowledge.
> >
> I think "two decades" is a bit misleading: although what we think of as
> the big subject-based repositories may predate the Web itself it's only
> just 10 years since the conception of OAI-PMH and (just) less than 8 years
> since the Budapest Open Access Initiative. Even the notion of an
> Institutional Repository is still relatively young - and when did we start
> calling them "repositories" rather than "archives"? I'm sure that the
> archives of this list will have the answer!
> --
> Les Carr
Received on Wed Nov 25 2009 - 13:13:27 GMT

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