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Digital preservation for Institutional Repositories: building on a collaborative approach

Hey, Jessie M.N., Hitchcock, Steve, Brody, Tim and Carr, Leslie A. (2005) Digital preservation for Institutional Repositories: building on a collaborative approach At 9th European Conference on Research and Advanced Technology for Digital Libraries (ECDL 2005). 18 - 23 Sep 2005.

Record type: Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)


Over the past decade, pioneers such as Stevan Harnad have not only steadfastly advocated what is now simply called ‘open access’ but have also strived to provide easy mechanisms for academics to enable this open access - particularly to their research. Providing easy-to-use software effectively breaks down one barrier. Software such as EPrints is now used globally for a wide variety of repositories. While subject based solutions (such as arXiv and RePEc) have worked well in disciplines such as Physics and Economics, we are now seeing a dramatic increase in the number of institutional repositories being set up. Subject based repositories and institutional repositories are now seen as complementary solutions. These institutional open access archives aim to showcase their institution’s output including their research material and other intellectual assets. International initiatives such as OAI (Open Archive Initia-tive) have enabled service providers to develop search services for OAI compliant databases (the data providers) and these will become increasingly sophisticated as the volume of material deposited justifies the investment of effort. The collaborative approach to shared problems is paying dividends.
We demonstrate first steps in a collaborative approach to specific issues now being encountered by institutional repositories using EPrints software as an exemplar. The FAIR (Focus on Access to Institutional Resources) programme in the UK has enabled projects such as TARDis (Targeting Academic Research for Deposit and Disclosure) to explore the problems encountered by early exemplars of institutional repositories, in particular, how to make them sustainable. Providing a database of institutional output with immediate access to full text has the potential of providing huge benefit for the individual academic, the institution, for future research and future teaching and learning. However, the investment in time and effort by both authors and database administrators has to be balanced against these inherent benefits. Traditionally many universities and their departments recorded their publications and activities, often on an annual basis. Although a chore at the time of creation, this simple list may then often have been forgotten - perhaps hidden in the physical archives of the library. The problem of preservation of the materials referred to was a problem – for the publishers and libraries – but a separate problem. A fundamental attribute of these new repositories is the variety of materials and file formats which may be deposited – the institutional nature of these repositories means that they may reflect practices of a spread of disciplines both in range of formats and styles of working electronically. Macs, PCs, Windows and Unix, LaTeX, Word and PDF are just some of the digital environments and tools that people use – rarely are they comfortable and skilled in all of these and familiar with formats which will withstand the progress of time. In the TARDis project, administrators identified management of files as a key problem of complexity which could be simplified by the provision of expert services. The immediate task was to provide early access to material in digital form but this did not avoid the background task of ensuring these files were also available in the future. The problem of preservation becomes both a digital problem and, in principle, a local rather than remote problem. For both the author and archive administrator, a collaborative approach could also bear fruit. The sustainable repository is a necessity if it is to become an integral part of institutional processes.
Digital preservation issues have also demonstrated a history of collaborative discussion drawing on the skills of a wide community. In this instance, it is the OAIS (Open Archival Information System) reference model – no relation to the technical initiative OAI – which has provided a theoretical framework for the development of digital archives. The current digital library challenge is to move practice forward effectively, and grounded in sound theory, in specific identified areas. The PRESERV (PReservation Eprint SERVices) project is building on the practical experiences of developing repositories with EPrints software. We are examining the ingest process (as identified in OAIS) of the EPrints software and are performing experiments in collaboration with the PRONOM software for the identification and verification of file formats. The National Archives in the UK have a depth of experience in dealing with a broad spectrum of formats and a natural responsibility for preservation. The collaborative approach gives a two way opportunity to both improve the digital preservation elements of institutional repositories by building on the expertise of external services such as the National Archives’ PRONOM service and also to feed back into its future development and enhancement.

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Submitted date: 2005
Venue - Dates: 9th European Conference on Research and Advanced Technology for Digital Libraries (ECDL 2005), 2005-09-18 - 2005-09-23
Related URLs:
Keywords: digital preservation, institutional research repositories, open access


Local EPrints ID: 18167
PURE UUID: 392ff2c2-30fa-4d57-a97c-b8ed59021274

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Date deposited: 14 Nov 2005
Last modified: 17 Jul 2017 16:36

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Author: Jessie M.N. Hey
Author: Steve Hitchcock
Author: Tim Brody
Author: Leslie A. Carr

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