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cOAlition S and repositories (part II)

The many benefits of repositories

In the previous blog, I examined the cOAlition S mandate for depositing copies of articles in repositories. One of the main drivers for this requirement is a commitment to long-term preservation[1].

Moving on to the purpose of repositories[2]. Repositories – particularly institutional repositories – are much more than the rather quaint efforts to challenge major publishers that they are sometimes made out to be. They serve many important functions and, as they continue to develop, enhance the research support infrastructure of their institutions.

The advantages and benefits of repositories are numerous:

  • Repositories maximise visibility, dissemination and use: for example, Harvard DASH repository recently reached 40 million downloads (15/12/2020).
  • Repositories enable metadata harvesting of their content which amplifies visibility and discoverability, especially by aggregators such as BASE, OpenAIRE, and CORE which recently reached 30 million visits per month.
  • Repositories provide additional publicity for individual works and usually include item record DOI links to the publisher’s version.
  • “Try before you buy.” Many people and organisations do not have paid access to articles: charities, businesses, retired researchers, patients, the general public, and so on. In addition, many universities have limited subscriptions. Repositories enable these users to decide if it’s worth them spending £30 – £40 or so on the publisher’s version of record (VoR). This function is especially useful when running a major (i.e. potentially expensive) literature search.
  • Repositories impose no additional costs or limits on supplementary supporting content, including word count, extra pages, colour diagrams and images, etc. that were not able to be included in the publisher’s version of record (VoR). For example, as stated in a recent Tweetthere is a lot more work that we wish we could have cited. But honestly, it’s tricky with the journal’s very tight length restrictions, so we had to cut quite a lot of text/discussions, refs, etc., unfortunately.” Additional supporting content can be archived along with the paper.
  • Trustworthy repositories make a commitment to digital preservation or, at the very least, a robust exit strategy.
  • Repositories are not limited to author accepted manuscripts (AAMs) – open access versions of record and other versions can be deposited as preferred.
  • Repositories provide control of the scholarly corpus that is not dependent on commercial priorities or whims.

In addition, institutional repositories (IRs) provide the following benefits:

  • The repository acts as a ‘shop window’ of the organization’s research.
  • All research item types can be deposited including research theses, conference papers, posters & presentations, book sections, reports, working & discussion papers, and increasingly data, etc. It is this feature that makes the repository the organization’s research archive and ‘shop window’.
  • IRs are particularly useful for publicising individual book sections and chapters that are ‘hidden’ within an edited volume.
  • They keep a local copy for the institution. In my opinion, it is shocking that, in the past, HEIs have not habitually retained local copies of the works published in their own names – their own ‘crown jewels’ of research findings. Why would the responsibility for these valuable works have been cast to the four winds and a variety of external third parties, without keeping a local copy as well?

cOAlition S encourages high standards for repositories

By including repositories as a major strand for OA, cOAlition S is keen that high standards are maintained, implemented and, where relevant, aspired to. To this end, the group is in close contact with COAR (Confederation of OA Repositories) and other repository standards ‘influencers.’

Scholarly communications infrastructure, particularly in relation to metadata, is something of a leviathan. However, when it is universally implemented meeting common standards, it has the potential to simplify and improve research dissemination and discovery. This is especially true as persistent identifiers (PIDs) are becoming ubiquitous (see for example project FREYA that aimed “to build the infrastructure for persistent identifiers as a core component of open science, in the EU and globally”). In the Plan S technical requirements for repositories, cOAlition S encourages widespread adoption of common, interoperable, and machine-readable PIDs that comply with commonly adopted community standards, as well as other descriptive and administrative metadata.

To assist repositories in meeting these high requirements, cOAlition S has provided FAQs and practical advice for repository managers. cOAlition S is working with the repository community so we pull in a common direction, and the group deeply values collaboration with COAR, CORE, and representatives from repositories in France, Finland, Jisc (UK) and other countries.


In the final blog, I shall describe how the cOAlition S rights retention strategy fits with the repository route to OA.


[1] On this topic I recommend reading the final chapter (Why we will always need libraries and archives) of Richard Ovenden’s recent work ‘Burning the books: A history of knowledge under attack.’ John Murray Publishing 9781529378757

[2] I should state my personal bias here as a former repository manager from 2004, at both LSE and at Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford.

Sally Rumsey

Sally Rumsey is cOAlition S OA Expert and an employee of Jisc. She was previously (to Dec 2019) Head of Scholarly Communications & RDM, Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford where she managed the University’s repository service for all types of research outputs, Oxford University Research Archive (ORA and ORA-Data), advised on all aspects of scholarly communications, and drafted University policies and documents on open access. She liaised with Oxford researchers to define library support requirements for Open Scholarship. Sally is a member of the UKSCL (Scholarly Communications Licence) group and a member of the Knowledge Exchange Open Scholarship Experts Group. Sally represented Oxford University on the LERU (League of European Universities) OA Info-Group. She has given numerous presentations about OA topics, including at RLUK, FORCE19, ESHRE, Open Pharma, Oxford-Berlin Open Research Summer School, and across Oxford University.