Open Access and the Institutional Repository

Many universities have started implementing an “institutional repository” as a way of opening research to interested scholars. Clifford Lynch, writing for the Association of Research Libraries in 2003, defined an institutional repository as “a set of services that a university offers to members of its community for the management and dissemination of digital materials created by the institution and its community members.”

This means that in addition to scholarship being published in peer-reviewed journals, it is also published on a digital platform maintained by the university. Initially, many scholarly publishers balked at the thought of having articles available through a ‘competing’ resource. Over the course of the last decade more and more publishers are embracing this new model as a way of showing their commitment to the scholarly process.

In addition to providing a location to publish the research generated at an institution, an institutional repository can also be a place to make other materials available that may be of interest to the community, such as conference proceedings, learning objects, student work, and archives. (For example, The University of Tampa currently makes available the digitized versions of The Minaret, and The UT Journal through the library website. An institutional repository might hold this and other digitized archival materials.)

If you want to learn more about institutional repositories check out the Directory of Open Access Repositories.

In a briefing paper, Alma Swan lists the following benefits of the institutional repository:

  • Opening up outputs of the institution to a worldwide audience;
  • Maximizing the visibility and impact of these outputs as a result;
  • Showcasing the institution to interested constituencies – prospective staff, prospective students and other stakeholders;
  • Collecting and curating digital output;
  • Managing and measuring research and teaching activities;
  • Providing a workspace for work-in-progress, and for collaborative or large-scale projects;
  • Enabling and encouraging interdisciplinary approaches to research;
  • Facilitating the development and sharing of digital teaching materials and aids, and
  • Supporting student endeavours, providing access to theses and dissertations and a location for the development of e-portfolios.
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