How to create an subject repository in four languages and keep a lot of economists happy
One of the most recurring (and sometimes tiresome) debates in our area is the one about the relative merits of institutional and subject-based repositories. Which if the two is better for the long-term curation of content? Which is likely to be more trusted by researchers? What option is favoured by funders? Etc, etc.
I’ve just come back from a conference which, rather more intelligently, sought to demonstrate that the choice between the two options is largely a false one. A major theme of this event, on European subject repositories, was that institutional and subject repositories can actually feed off each other in a mutually beneﬁcial way. The conference focused on economics, using the opportunity to launch the Economists Online (EO) service, created under the auspices of the EU-funded Network of European Economists Online project. (NEEO)
EO was referred to at the conference varyingly as a repository or a portal. OK, it’s probably more akin to a portal, but semantics aside, it’s clearly a subject-based initiative that draws from the institutional repositories initially of 16 and soon 22 institutions (the numbers are growing), mostly from various European countries. EO is quite an impressive offering, in four languages, already containing over 900,000 bibliographic references, many with links to open access full text. It has a rather neat interface, with nice searching and ﬁltering features, and seemingly pleasant to use… well, to my untrained eyes anyway (but I’m not an economist…). The point is that, by supplying an integrated service geared towards one particular academic community, EO provides an incentive towards the population of institutional repositories, and also towards increased awareness of open access.
Is there scope for such a model to be developed in other subject areas? Perhaps, but the process wouldn’t necessarily be straightforward. NEEO will have received almost ?1 million from the European Commission for its pains, half of the overall budget of the initiative; and much effort and investment was required from the partner organisations, not least Tilburg University, in the Netherlands, which has taken the lead in establishing the service. So not an easy or cheap act to follow.
Incidentally, although all the early indicators point to a success with regard with EO’s initial content, one area remains disappointing: the number of datasets contributed by tne partners is less than anticipated. It’s the usual story about researchers’ reluctance to provide their data, concerns about ownership, protective attitudes and all the arguments that we at RIN are familiar with in a UK context. Plus ça change…