The nearly ubiquitous deployment of repository systems in higher education and research institutions provides the foundation for a distributed, globally networked infrastructure for scholarly communication. However, repository platforms are still using technologies and protocols designed almost twenty years ago, before the boom of the Web and the dominance of Google, social networking, semantic web and ubiquitous mobile devices. This is, in large part, why repositories have not fully realized their potential and function mainly as passive, siloed recipients of the final versions of their users’ conventionally published research outputs.
The mission of a repository is to manage and provide access to the valuable and diverse intellectual output of the community it serves. In this way, it offers a vital local service. Equally important, however, is that repositories are nodes in a larger network, contributing their collective contents to a global knowledge commons on top of which value added services can be built.
While part of their success relies on their relevance and usefulness for their local institutions, from a global perspective few individual repositories are important in and of themselves. However, collectively, repositories have the potential to offer a comprehensive view of the research of the whole world, while also enabling each scholar and institution to participate in the global network of scientific and scholarly enquiry. As intended by the original initiatives around repositories and their interoperability (like the Open Archives Initiative – OAI), a distributed network of repositories can and should be a powerful tool to promote the transformation of the scholarly communication ecosystem, making it more research-centric, innovative, while also managed by the scholarly community. In this context, repositories will provide access to published articles as well as a broad range of artifacts beyond traditional publications such as datasets, working papers, images, software, and so on.
In order to leverage the value of the repository network, we need to equip it with a wider array of roles and functionalities, which can be enabled through new levels of web-centric interoperability. One of COAR’s major objectives for 2016-17 is to identify the core functionalities for the next generation of repositories, as well as the architectures and technologies required to implement them; and to work with the repository community to help adopt these functionalities. We also aim to create a global brand for repositories that establishes repositories as a central place for the daily research and dissemination activities of researchers.
To position repositories as the foundation for a distributed, globally networked infrastructure for scholarly communication, on top of which layers of value added services will be deployed, thereby transforming the system, making it more research-centric, open to and supportive of innovation, while also collectively managed by the scholarly community.
- Discovery: Develop global interoperability of repositories through web-friendly repository technologies and architectures. The current reliance on OAI-PMH is not optimal for discovery and interoperability. Future repositories and repository networks should rely less on passive aggregation and develop services based on active dissemination such as peer-to-peer architectures, and subscription and notification-based information exchange.
- Assessment: Develop repository functionality related to the quality assessment of content. The aim is to define a model for overlay services on top of repositories using standardized registration, peer-review and quality assessment services thereby increasing the value of repositories significantly and expanding their role in the ecosystem. These types of services will generate symbolic value and provide researchers with the means to share their research, and be recognized and rewarded accordingly.
- Workflows: Expand the workflows and functionalities of repositories to better support the full lifecycle of research. The aim is to integrate tools into repositories that support researchers throughout the research process. This will also involve improving cross-repository workflows which will allow assets from one repository to be easily reused in different contexts, and result in better repository ingest mechanisms, as well as support the automated and continuous publishing of research artefacts.
- Impact: Define and adopt reliable and interoperable impact metrics for repository content. Usage statistics and other impact metrics demonstrate to users the value of contributing content to repositories. The aim is to define standardized impact metrics across repositories in order to establish trust and ensure reliable, community accepted measures.