Open Library: Connecting the University to the public

The Sydney eScholarship Repository allows academics to archive and disseminate their work as well as fulfilling the University’s obligation to open access in research. Sten Christensen, from the University Library, explained how researchers can use the repository to show the public ‘what’s happening behind the sandstone walls.’

By Tim Groenendyk

Sten Christensen and the Library

“Now, the public can actually see what’s happening behind the sandstone walls; it’s not as mysterious.” Sten Christensen

The University’s Repository makes it easy for researchers to store and disseminate their work in a safe environment.

“It’s a digital archive,” said Sten Christensen, Digital Repository Co-ordinator at the University of Sydney Library.

“What the Repository does is safely store academic material and wrap metadata around it so it can be easily managed and found.

“The material gets a persistent URL that will never change - so even if the university alters its domain name that link will still remain the same.”

Everything in the Repository is indexed on search engines and the persistent URL means that people may cite the work without concerns that the link will become ‘broken’ in the long term.

The Repository stores not only articles but other types of media including small data sets, images, audio and video. Full copyright over the material is retained by the author.

“We’re raising the visibility of material that gets missed and helping elevate a researcher or academic’s profile,” he said, adding that the archive could give renewed life to research that might not have had the attention it deserved previously.

In conjunction with the ARC’s new Open Access policy, released in January this year, the repository allows greater public access to the University’s research activities.

“We can’t forget that the University is still a publically funded institution. Tax payers should be able to see the bang they’re getting for their buck.

“The general public wouldn’t normally get access to the greater majority of academic literature because they have to pay for it.

“Now, the public can actually see what’s happening behind the sandstone walls; it’s not as mysterious.”

With the Sydney eScholarship Repository the University can easily meet its obligations under the ARC and the NHMRC open access guidelines which require that all publications arising from funding provided from these bodies be deposited into an institutional repository within twelve months from the date of publication.

“We have the ability to instantaneously meet those obligations by giving academics the opportunity to put their material into the Repository.”

Christensen said that the Repository also means the University meets its social obligations in the ‘spirit of collegiality’.

“The work that Mat Todd does, in the open science movement, gets the research out there, especially to regions where they don’t have access to the great body of journal literature that you have to pay for, like in sub-Saharan Africa.”

Christensen said that using the Repository is easy, but to give the research material the best publicity the onus is on the researcher.

“The trick is to be a little bit proactive with your research if you want to get maximum exposure. If you just put it in there, it’ll just sit there.”

Christensen cites academics like Simon Chapman, Kai Raimer and Deborah Lupton who have used social media to publicise their work with great success.

“Some of their usage statistics are phenomenal. Two or three days after publicising they’ve got three to four hundred hits already.

“They probably wouldn’t get that if they published through an academic journal.

“It doesn’t necessarily translate into hard citations, which is the metric that we use, but it helps push those up in an indirect fashion.”