As Open-Access Chatter Grows, U. of Rochester Debuts New Repository Software

The University of Rochester spent about $200,000 to get an institutional repository up and running in 2003. The hope was that professors would rush to fill it with the fruits of their research.

For the most part, they didn’t.

The problem: The repository was a faceless digital container that failed to highlight individual professors or help them manage their article-writing process.

Now, after studying professors’ habits, library officials hope they’ve solved those problems by creating new, freely available open-source institutional repository software. The idea is to get professors and graduate students to contribute their papers and dissertations to the repository by combining it with a Web-based workspace that accomplishes lots of other stuff they need to write up that research. Stuff like creating folders, managing files, and collaborating with colleagues. Also, they get to showcase their work on customized “researcher pages.”

The project comes as proposed legislation in Congress is elevating the volume on campus discussions about open access to research. The legislation, called the Federal Research Public Access Act, would require that federal agencies make publicly available online the manuscripts of journal articles stemming from research they support.

“Suddenly people are talking about open access on campus in a way they hadn’t before,” says Susan Gibbons, vice provost and dean of River Campus Libraries at the University of Rochester. “And it’s going to push the need for repositories front and center again.”

Rochester’s isn’t the first open-source system to tackle this problem; the big name in the genre is DSpace, a product developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries and Hewlett-Packard. Among the differences, Ms. Gibbons says, is that DSpace is for finished documents and doesn’t support editing.

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