Why build an institutional repository? Is it really worth the hassle? What are the benefits it offers to universities and academic libraries? These are valid questions as building and maintaining an effective digital repository does require a significant investment of time, effort, and resources.
To make an informed decision, you must examine the disadvantages of not having an institutional repository and the advantages of having one. That's what this article is all about. It will help you learn more about its uses and impact, weigh them up against your institution's objectives and plans, and help you make the right call.
Let’s explore the challenges and benefits of institutional repositories in detail.
Challenges of Not Having an Institutional Repository
Your institution will have to spend a lot of money and resources to preserve your research and scholarly output when you don't have an online repository. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Here's a list of potential challenges of not having a modern institutional repository:
1. Lack of consistency
Universities have multiple departments, and each department usually has its workflow and policies regarding the preservation and archival of its research output.
2. Fragmentation of Research Output
In the absence of a central repository, the corpus of scholarly work often gets stored in different locations — libraries, discipline-specific repositories, author's personal hard drives, etc.
3. Inaccessibility and Poor Reader Experience
Potential readers have to jump several hoops to access your content, and in some cases, it may not even be freely accessible to them.
4. Poor Visibility
Without a well-maintained digital repository, the institution will find it harder to attract an audience, build credibility, or get citations.
Benefits of an Institutional Repository
Institutional repositories have undergone dramatic change over the past three decades. Initially, when these initiatives started gaining popularity in the late ’90s and early ’00s, the focus was primarily on preservation and archival. Now, its role has evolved beyond that; institutions are using it to host, manage, showcase, and distribute their research output. Read on to find out the benefits of modern institutional repositories for universities and academic libraries.
1. Collates Research Output Fragmented Across Departments and Disciplines
Whether it is black or grey literature, every educational or research institution produces a great deal of scholarly work every year. It is effortless to create content, and there are so many different ways you can present/store it — from hardcopy books, dissertations, online-only journal articles to slideshows and podcasts.
Typically, these documents are stored in different places — central libraries, department libraries, department websites, journals, subject-specific repositories, the author’s personal website or hard disk, etc. Making the content open access will be a challenge. For starters, it will be hard to locate and categorize everything. Moreover, readers are likely to encounter problems with access privileges and inconsistent file formats. Insiders may know what to do or where to search for, but it will be a poor and time-consuming experience for the rest.
In this scenario, universities and academic libraries benefit from having an institutional repository. It lets you host all the content — both grey and black literature from different departments in one central location and allows you to organize and showcase it effectively. What's more, most of these repositories support advanced search functions, enabling readers to find what they are looking for in seconds.
Take a look at the institutional repository of Utah State University. It collates everything from event abstracts, journals, and student theses and dissertations, making them easily accessible to the general public.
2. Increase the Visibility of Your Institution
Most open-access institutional repositories function as massive online content vaults, hosting considerable amounts of authoritative, relevant, and original content pieces. Interested parties and students will be able to access these documents by simply visiting the website instead of physically coming to your institution.
Therefore, more people are likely to read or watch or listen to your content. And once these pages are indexed by search engines such as Google, they will start appearing among top results for relevant search queries. Consequently, the number of interested readers visiting your website could increase exponentially.
In simple terms, greater traffic means more visibility and more awareness around your institution worldwide. It offers numerous advantages to your institution:
- Increase in the number of applications for different courses, including research programs
- Easier to market your institution to potential students and faculty
- Improved social media presence and content sharing
- Greater signups for your online courses
- Easier to attract corporate sponsors for events and conferences
- More chances to collaborate with industry and subject experts from across the world
- Steady rise in file downloads and citation count
The University of Calcutta, in collaboration with Typeset, launched an institutional repository last year. Since the launch, there has been a sustained increase in views and downloads of scholarly work produced by the university.
3. Build Intellectual Leadership and Credibility
When your institution’s research output is accessed and consumed widely, you can expect more people to cite, share, link, and talk about it. Thus, it will help the institution become an intellectual leader and luminary in multiple disciplines.
Now let’s look at how this benefits your institution:
- Citations per faculty are an essential aspect of university ranking methodologies, so increasing citations will definitely help boost your rankings.
- The ranking of your institution/university will improve, making it easier to attract grant funders, faculty, and students of caliber.
- The impact of your scholarly work will be more far-reaching, inspiring further research, contributing to existing studies, and insights gleaned being utilized for practical and commercial purposes.
- You will gain more backlinks to your website, which is excellent for improving the search rankings of your institution.
- The institution will be able to establish a global presence, leading to more international students and funding opportunities.
4. Preservation of Scholarly Work
Preserving scholarly work gets much easier with an online open-access institutional repository. It ensures you don’t have to worry about maintaining delicate decades-old manuscripts or keep up with embargo periods of different papers.
Physical maintenance of decades-old research documents can be pretty resource-consuming. By digitizing and storing them in your repository, you save the physical space required to hold them and the money or resources you need to spend on their upkeep.
Typeset Discovery Suite provides you with modern, custom institutional repositories that come with Copyright Detection technology, allowing you to identify and discover copyright and embargo information of your publication corpus. It ensures every legally available paper is stored in the repository and is freely available to the public — enabling your researchers to meet the mandates and stipulations of funding bodies.
How Do You Create an Institutional Repository?
If reading this has helped you realize the importance of institutional repositories and you want to learn more about the steps involved in building a repository, here’s a brief overview of how to get started:
1. Craft an Institutional Repository Policy
Consider setting guidelines and rules for content submission, vetting and reviewing of manuscripts, and access privileges.
2. Select a Repository Platform
Analyze your requirements and constraints, and select an institutional repository software package that can host, manage, and showcase your research output.
3. Get Compatible and Supporting IT Infrastructure
Acquire the necessary software and hardware required to launch, run and, maintain your repository at all times.
4. Train Relevant Stakeholders and Library Staff
Help concerned teams like librarians and faculty understand their roles and responsibilities, including different processes involved.
5. Populate the Repository With Relevant Content
Get the repository operational quickly by digitizing your print collection and encouraging faculty and researchers to deposit existing work.
6. Develop and Implement a Promotional Strategy
Use marketing channels such as email, social media, and search engines effectively to increase visibility and citations.
7. Actively Track Key Adoption and Readership Metrics
Measure and review critical metrics such as file downloads, backlinks, citations, deposits, and others to find out and fix deficiencies and roadblocks.
For more information, check out this blog post on how to set up an institutional repository quickly.
Whether or not your institution has an Open Access Policy, creating an online repository offers numerous benefits to your institution. It is a great way to gain visibility, increase competitiveness and improve international standing.
Of course, there are constraints and challenges involved, such as securing the funding, hiring technical experts, dealing with complex workflows, and managing copyright issues. But it gets a lot easier when you have Typeset Discovery Suite by your side.
Universities and research organizations worldwide trust our fully managed solution that enables them to collect, showcase, analyze, and report their scholarly activities. We simplify the submission and publishing workflows and ensure that your scholarly output gets the visibility it deserves.
In short, our best-in-class solution can help you gain more visibility and citations, leading to improved university ranking.