From a technical point of view, the task of building a repository has become relatively easy to accomplish. For many research organisations, scholarly societies, and universities, operating a repository is now a routine task. By contrast, recruiting content for a repository usually involves a lot of time and effort. Moreover, repository managers must consider certain legal aspects. With its DINI Certificate, the German Initiative for Network Information (DINI) offers valuable assistance for repository managers and for institutions that are planning to set up a repository. The networking of repositories is of central importance for the discoverability and visibility of the deposited documents and for overlaying value-added services. Topics of central importance for repository managers include building a repository and the service offerings associated with it; content recruitment, especially by targeting scholars and scientists directly; the legal issues to be observed; and availing of opportunities for networking and standardisation. In 2020, ZB MED has published the guide „Leitfaden zum Aufbau von Open Access Publikationsplattformen“ (in German) on services both for green and gold OA.

Building repositories

Repositories can be set up relatively quickly and inexpensively. As a rule, all it takes is a standard web server and open source software.

There are numerous different software solutions for building repositories. They all have similar basic features: documents can be ingested and associated with metadata, and metadata can be exposed to harvesting via an OAI-PMH interface. Most of the software solutions are open source and can be used free of charge.

In its repository statistics section, the directory of OA repositories OpenDOAR offers an overview of the global distribution of the various software programmes. While DSpace dominates worldwide, the software package most widely used in Germany is OPUS. Other well-known and widely used products are Eprints, Digital Commons and - especially in Germany - MyCoRe. In addition, in-house software solutions are sometimes used. However, their share is diminishing.

It takes only a few days to get a repository up and running, and the further technical maintenance can, as a rule, be easily integrated into the institution's existing system of IT-support. However, additional time and effort is involved if greater customisation and import and export interfaces are desired. Even though running a repository is not generally very resource intensive, there are few exact estimates of the actual time and effort required. An attempt to provide such an estimate can be found on the web pages of the DRIVER project.

As a rule, it takes a lot more time and effort to firmly establish a repository as a service at a university or research organisation and, especially, to recruit content than it does to technically operate it. Although many universities expressly request their scholars and scientists to deposit their works in repositories, archiving is not usually mandatory. As a result, a lot of convincing has to be done. However, well-thought-out public relations and advertising strategies are worthwhile because, once they understand the benefits, most scholars and scientists are very willing to deposit their works in repositories.

Content recruitment

Unfortunately, repositories do not fill up automatically. Rather, at most institutions, content recruitment involves a lot of time and effort. However, the content recruitment process is made easier by the fact that grant awards by research funders are sometimes subject to the condition that project-related publications must be made accessible free of charge, for example via an OA repository. This is the case with the European Union's research framework programme Horizon 2020 and the Austrian Science Fund (FWF). The University of Nottingham's SHERPA/JULIET website provides an overview of research funders' OA policies. However, if deposition of contributions in repositories is not mandatory, and the authors are merely requested to archive their works voluntarily, pro-active public relations and advertising are usually necessary.

So what can be done to populate repositories and to establish them firmly in their institutions?

Targeting scholars and scientists directly

Experience at various institutions suggests that a well-thought-out public relations strategy and direct communication with scholars and scientists pays dividends.

The more directly scholars and scientists are targeted, the greater the prospects of success. Authors who have already provided OA to their works in the past are often not only willing to make further documents openly accessible, they can also act as multipliers for the recruitment of texts from their peers. For repository managers, it is particularly advantageous to win the support of renowned researchers who are willing to act as multipliers in this way. Another strategy is to directly address authors who make many of their works available on their own personal website or web page anyway. It is safe to assume that they will not have anything against depositing their contributions in a repository, and the contact established in this way can be used to recruit further documents. Moreover, favourable opportunities should be taken advantage of whenever they arise.

Stronger institutional anchoring

Mandated provision of access to all research results and publications generated by members of a university, a faculty, or a research organisation by depositing them in an institutional OA repository is the most sustainable way of populating repositories. In Germany, the present legal situation precludes the realisation of such mandates. However, the Higher Education Act of the State of Baden-Württemberg (LHG; Section 44 subsection 6) at least entitles the higher education institutions in that federal state "to oblige the members of their academic staff by statute to avail of the right of non-commercial second publication after a period of one year following first publication for scientific and scholarly contributions that have been produced within the framework of their official duties and that have been published in a collection that appears periodically at least twice a year". This provision offers Baden-Württemberg's universities the possibility of introducing such a mandate. In Switzerland, individual institutions, such as the University of St. Gallen and the University of Zurich, require their researchers to provide OA to their works provided there are no legal impediments to doing so.

Because university managers who support OA are important strategic partners for repository managers, they should be regularly informed about the ongoing development of the repository and its document holdings. Moreover, an open access officer should be appointed for the entire university/institution, and not just for the library.
It is also a good idea to link the homepage of the university/institution to the institutional repository, or at least to post a notice on the homepage notifying users of the possibility of archiving works in the repository.

Scholars and scientists often complain about the time and effort involved in depositing a document in a repository, and especially in entering the metadata for the document when uploading it. Hence, acceptance is enhanced by measures that make depositing easier, for example the exchange of data with other services where the metadata are already available. These measures include:

  • Linking the institutional repository with the university's annual bibliography (annual report) in which the researchers usually enter bibliographic details of their works.
  • Linking the repository with a research information system used at the university, in which information on publications is centrally collected and linked to personal and project data.
  • Drawing up lists of the publications by researchers, departments, or institutes that are deposited in the repository. Researchers can use these lists in many ways, for example when applying for third-party funding. Institutes or faculties can use publication lists for accreditation reports.

The linking of institute websites, research information system, and repository has been implemented in an exemplary way within the framework of the University of Bielefeld's PubLister project. Repositories sometimes relieve scholars and scientists of the effort of depositing documents and do the job for them.

Convincing arguments

Besides these networking effects, the most effective arguments are those that address the scientific incentives. These include, in particular, the scientific finding that OA documents are cited more frequently than other publications. Other factors in favour of OA that can be used to convince scholars and scientists of the attractiveness of a repository include the guaranteed long-term availability of the documents, the fact that depositing a work in a repository is a way of establishing priority, and the increased findability and visibility that O archiving brings. Reference to influential supporters of OA is likely to be similarly effective. In Germany, these supporters include, for example, the German Rectors' Conference (HRK) and the German Research Foundation (DFG), both of whom have signed the Berlin Declaration on Open Access in the Sciences and Humanities. Anyone seeking useful arguments of this kind will find what they are looking for on the web pages of the Registry of Open Access Repository Material Archiving Policies (ROARMAP). In addition to the aforementioned mandates, ROARMAP provides a list of OA declarations of leading scientific and scholarly organisations.

In Switzerland, the Swiss Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences (SAGW) has formulated recommendations on OA, and the Swiss National Science Foundation obliges its grantees to provide OA to their works. The Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences supports the implementation of OA. Indeed, OA is one of its four main topics.

Information and training events

Possible events include, for example, the presentation of OA and the repository to committees and institutes; training sessions on registering documents, or on OA in general; presentations to colloquia of doctoral candidates; and the integration of the topic into other offerings such as information literacy events. Workshops, conferences, and information sessions within the framework of international Open Access Week appear to be particularly useful. Each year, Open Access Week is availed of worldwide to promote OA and to inform the academic community about its principles and developments. Templates, for example for posters and presentations, can be downloaded from the Open Access Week website and used free of charge. Videos of past events on OA, and other information that can facilitate the development of one's own concepts - including concepts that are not related to OA Week - are also available.

When promoting a repository, it is also advisable to avail of the offerings and services of the university, for example the university press; to announce successes (for example the reaching of a deposit milestone); and to use flyers and posters.

The more repositories are perceived as networked services with added value that promise authors advantages such as facilitated collaboration and increased visibility rather than as isolated data stores, the more attractive they become.

Making documents openly accessible in repositories: legal issues

In practice, both authors and repository managers frequently ask themselves: Are we allowed to make this document openly accessible in a repository? Fortunately, in many cases the answer is an unequivocal yes. The SHERPA/RoMEO listings provide details of publishers' self-archiving policies - that is, the extent to which they permit authors to make articles published in their journals openly accessible in repositories. It should be noted that publishers often distinguish between permission to archive preprints and postprints.

If a document is made openly accessible in a repository although this is not permitted by law, liability mechanisms are brought into play, and in the case of an infringement of rights the question arises as to who is liable for making the information publicly available. Besides the responsibility of the individual author, it is necessary to identify the liability-related consequences that can arise for the repository operators. In this way, liability-related risks can be assessed in advance and can be limited by means of appropriate actions or contractual provisions. More information can be found under liability law.
Should works be available under so-called open content licences, the legal situation is more transparent than in cases where authors have (possibly) transferred rights in works to publishers. Such open content licences are standardised, and they make clear the extent to which the dissemination of the contents is permissible, and whether, for example, it is permissible to make a document openly accessible in a repository.

Well-known open content licences that are widely used in the field of science and scholarship are first and foremost the Creative Commons licences.

DINI Certificate

The declared aim of the German Initiative for Network Information (DINI) is to improve the information and communication services at higher education institutions and scholarly societies and the development of the requisite information infrastructures. Building document and publication servers at universities, research organisations, and scholarly societies creates the possibility of making scholarly and scientific publications accessible worldwide and ensuring their long-term preservation. DINI supports these developments with the aim of achieving the qualitative improvement of scholarly communication both nationally and internationally. To assure the quality of repositories, it created the DINI Certificate for Open Access Repositories and Publishing Services. For certification purposes, DINI regards these servers primarily as services, which necessarily include not only hard- and software but also people, organisations, and processes. Moreover, DINI examines whether applicant repositories fulfil current international standards. Because electronic scholarly publishing is subject to rapid change, the DINI Certificate is regularly updated.

With its certificate, DINI pursues three main objectives:

  • to provide a detailed description of the demands on document and publication servers as a service for scholarly publishing and/or archiving that comprises technology, organisation, and processes;
  • to demonstrate desirable technical and organisational development possibilities of such a service;
  • to document compliance with standards and recommendations in a way that is visible for users and operators.

With the award of a certificate, DINI facilitates quality control for document and publication servers.

Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR)

The Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR) also plays a coordinating role, albeit with an international reach. It aims to achieve greater visibility, dissemination, and usability of scientific and scholarly documents in OA repositories by means of technical and organisational agreements, thereby making these repositories more attractive for scholars and scientists. Of central importance in this regard is the networking of repositories with other electronic scientific infrastructures, and the development of models and strategies for content recruitment. Also of primary importance are exchanges among repository managers.

OpenAIRE compliance and the visibility of repositories

The indexing and the visibility of documents in OA repositories are improved significantly when they are deposited in repositories that comply with the OpenAire guidelines. These guidelines have their origins in the OpenAIRE (Open Access Infrastructure for Research in Europe) project, which was funded by the European Commission within the 7th Research Framework Programme and which ended in 2012. OpenAIRE defines metadata elements with the help of which repositories can tag documents in order to be able to link them with research data, project funding information, and information about the authors (in accordance with the principle of enhanced publications). The developers of repository software develop interfaces that ensure OpenAire compliance, for example for Dspace or Eprints. Should the metadata of a local repository not comply with the necessary metadata schemas for linking documents according to the OpenAIRE guidelines, the documents can be manually linked via the OpenAIRE portal. The portal facilitates a targeted search for indexed publications, data, projects, or persons.