Operating a Repository

Publishing in Repositories

The key takeaways from this article are


To create a repository, you need, among other things, suitable software. Most software options are open source and usable free of charge.


You should publicise and anchor your repository well in your institution.


It is important that you integrate your repository well in order to meaningfully embed it into value-added services. This integration is also of central importance for the findability and visibility of the deposited documents.

Creating the Basis

Beringer and Arning's (2020) German-language guide to building open access publication platforms provides a good initial overview of how to build repositories.

To start a repository, you basically need a server and suitable software. What setting up and operating a repository entails – especially from a technical point of view – should not be underestimated. If the institution at which the reposito­ry is to be located does not have IT staff who are qualified to build a repository, it is advisable to use external service providers such as libraries or library consortia. In the German state of Baden-Württemberg, for example, various repositories are hosted by BSZ and in the states of Berlin und Brandenburg by KOBV. The library network GBV is active in this field in the states of Bremen, Hamburg, Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania, Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein, and Thuringia. In addition, there are commercial providers, such as OpenRepository.

In Germany, most repository software options are open source, available free of charge, and have similar basic functionalities:

  • They can make materials available after uploading and assign metadata to them.
  • They can harvest metadata via various standardised interfaces (e.g., OAI-PMH) and make them available.

Commonly used applications for open access and research data repositories, university bibliographies, and digital collections include, for example, DSpace, EPrints, OPUS, Invenio/CDSware, and MyCoRe, whereas e-journal repositories work mostly with OJS (Weimar, 2020).

The Deutsche Initiative für Netzwerkinformation (German Initiative for Network Information, DINI) provides an overview of which publication service is used by which platform. Moreover, in its DINI Certificate, it describes the technical and organisational requirements that repositories must meet (for more on this, see the section entitled How do I integrate my repository with other services?). Although DINI certification might seem a long way off, especially in the initial phase of a repository, alignment with these requirements is expedient.

Publicising a Repository & Recruiting Content

The usefulness of repositories is not immediately clear to all researchers (Euler, 2018). Especially in cases where authors are encouraged but not obliged to provide open access to their works, persuasion is necessary. So what can you do to motivate them to use your repository?

Experience shows that public relations and open communication with researchers are suitable ways of publicising repositories and recruiting content (Rodrigues et al., 2017). The more targeted the address is, the greater the prospects for success are (Euler, 2018). 

Reach out to researchers who are making their work publicly available on their own homepages. Experience shows that they will quickly grasp the advantages of repositories. Moreover, these researchers are suited to the role of multipliers and can thus convince others to use the repository. The same goes for researchers who already have experience of open access. Many of them may not be aware of the role of multiplier, so reach out to them directly. The higher the reputation of the multiplier is, the greater their success tends to be.

The attractiveness of an institutional or disciplinary repository increases when it is perceived as a networked service with added value for various target groups, for example, authors (Müller & Scholze, 2012; Euler, 2018; Macgregor, 2020; Rodrigues et al., 2017). So, advertise your repository.

Theoretically, the best way to fill repositories is for institutions to mandate that their scholars and scientists self-archive their research output in the institution’s repository. In Germany, as legislation stands, this is not feasible. However, the Higher Education Act of the State of Baden-Württemberg (section 44 subsection 6) entitles higher education institutions to 

oblige the members of their academic staff by statute to avail of the right to make scientific contributions that have been produced in the course of their official duties and have been published in a collection that appears periodically at least twice per year available to the public for non-commercial purposes upon expiry of one year after first publication. 

Thus, this form of mandate can be used by institutional repositories, at least in some cases. 

The situation is different in Switzerland and Austria, and in the case EU-funded projects. Institutions such as the University of St. Gallen and the University of Zurich oblige their researchers to provide open access to their works provided there are no legal impediments to doing so. Since 2020, the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) requires grantees to make all the results of the projects it funds available to the public in open access. The same principle applies to results of projects funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) and to publications that result from EU-funded projects (European Commission, 2021, p. 108).

As a manager of an institutional repository, you should inform the university management on a regular basis about the current status of your repository. University managers who support open access are important strategic partners for managers of institutional repositories.

Make sure that your repository has as wide an online presence as possible – institutional repositories should be visibly embedded in the institution’s website, while disciplinary repositories should be mentioned at web locations that are of central importance for the discipline in question.

Base your arguments on the reasons in favour of open access (e.g., citation frequency, visibility, long-term availability). Also be aware of reservations towards open access, so that you can put forward convincing counter-arguments.

Many institutions and organisations support open access. Mention this in conversation with researchers; also mention advocates who are relevant in the respective research contexts.

Take advantage of the fact that project funding approvals are often subject to the condition that project-related publications must be made accessible free of charge. Repositories are ideally suited for this purpose.

Researchers often find keying data – especially metadata – into repositories laborious. 

You should therefore design these processes to be as time-effective as possible for researchers – or you should take the work off their hands. This will increase their willingness to use the repository (Euler, 2018; Tobias, 2018; Voigt & Dittmann, 2019). Another possibility is to integrate the repository with services in which the information has already been deposited (see also Müller & Scholze, 2012; Macgregor, 2020; Rodrigues et al., 2017), for example, the university’s annual bibliography or a research information system. In this way, less data, or no data at all, have to deposited manually.

To support their researchers, many institutions, including the University of Augsburg and the University of Konstanz, offer a self-archiving service. Self-archiving guides can also be of help to researchers.

Make it possible for personal publication lists to be generated from the repository for reuse in other services. As researchers can use these lists in different contexts (e.g., to raise third-party funding), their willingness to use the repository will increase.

Talks and workshops are important for creating an awareness of open access. So, deliver presentations on your open access services in committees, at institutes, or in colloquiums, as well as at symposia and conferences. Events during Open Access Week can also be useful.

Address also the technical aspects of relevance to researchers, for example, the uploading of documents.

Zweitveröffentlichungsrecht für Wissenschaftler*innen. [German] (CC BY 3.0 DE)
Source: Brehm, E. (2021). Zweitveröffentlichungsrecht für Wissenschaftler*innen, open-access.network. https://doi.org/10.5446/49536

Legal Aspects

Video: Open Licenses for Open Research. (CC BY 3.0 DE)
Quelle: Brinken, H. et al. (2021). Offene Lizenzen für offene Wissenschaft, open-access.network. https://doi.org/10.5446/49536

Documents may be deposited in repositories in a pleasingly large number of cases.

Sherpa Romeo provides information on the policies of many publishers with regard to the self-archiving of the texts that they publish (Tobias, 2018; Voigt & Dittmann, 2019). Note that when permitting self-archiving, publishers often differentiate between the making available of preprints and post-prints. The publisher’s version may not always be made available online; in many cases, only the author’s accepted version may be used.

It must be borne in mind that when documents are unlawfully deposited, liabi­lity mechanisms are brought into play. Thus, the question arises as to who is liable for the making available of the content to the public. It is best to have the authors commission you to deposit the document in question in the repository (Voigt & Dittmann, 2019). This deposit licence should indicate the legislative basis on which the document is held in the repository. An example of such a li­censing agreement can be found on the Osnabrück University Library website. In any case, in order to be able to assess and contractually limit the risk in ad­vance, you should be aware of the legal liability consequences of a potential in­fringement (see also: Country-specific info on liability law in our legal section). 

Documents that are released under an open content licence are legally more unambiguously defined than documents where the rights are (possibly) held in part by a publisher. Because open content licences are standardised, the extent to which the document can be made available in your repository is easily under­standable to you. This is particularly true of the Creative Commons licences, which are very widely used in academia.

Interconnecting with other services

It is important that you integrate your repository with other services in order, for example, to successfully embed it into value added services (Müller & Scholze, 2012; Rodrigues et al., 2017). Integration is also of central importance for the findability and visibility of the deposited documents (Müller & Scholze, 2012). How exactly this integration can be implemented is explained in what follows on the basis of initiatives and projects that are committed to it. 

Bielefeld Academic Search Engine (BASE), which is operated by Bielefeld University Library, specialises in academic web resources, inter alia texts in repositories. As it is currently one of the largest specialised search en­gines, it is important that the documents in your repository can be found via BASE. You can check here whether your repository is already indexed as a content provider by BASE. If this is not the case, you can suggest that it be indexed. One essential prerequisite for indexing is that the meta­data of the documents be provided via a valid OAI-PMH interface.

Last but not least, your repository should also be optimised for popular search engines, such as Google (Rajski, 2018), so that documents are easily findable. After all, Google Scholar, in particular, is an important starting point when searching for scholarly articles (Rajski, 2018). In this connection, the repository sitemap should be understood as a machine-readable table of contents. It is important that this table of contents con­tain all the links that you wish to be indexed by search engines. It is also important to indicate when the pages were last updated. Moreover, they should be assigned descriptive metadata, which should be concealed together with the link to the full text in the machine-readable < head > section of the HTML page. The more comprehensive these meta tags are, the more reliably the search engine can aggregate different resources. In this way, full texts of up to 5 MB in size can also be discovered and indexed via Google Scholar (Rajski, 2018).

The Deutsche Initiative für Netzwerkinformation (German Initiative for Network Information, DINI) has set itself the goal of improving informa­tion and communication services at academic institutions. This goal is to be realised inter alia by further developing the institutional information infrastructures.

In this connection, DINI supports the building of repositories. The aim is to qualitatively improve scholarly communication nationally and inter­nationally by means of publications that are accessible worldwide and stored on a long-term basis. The DINI Certificate for the quality assu­rance of open access repositories and publication services was created within this framework. It pursues three main aims with regard to repositories (Müller & Scholze, 2012):

  • It describes in detail the requirements that repositories are expected to fulfil. Repositories are understood as scholarly publication servi­ces. These services comprise the following components: technology, personnel, organisation, and processes.
  • It demonstrates how repositories can develop themselves further – technically and organisationally.
  • It documents whether standards have been met and recommenda­tions implemented. This documentation is accessible to repository users and managers. Because electronic publishing and the stan­dards associated with it are subject to rapid changes, the certificate is updated regularly.

Documents can be discovered and indexed much more easily when they are deposited in repositories that comply with certain standards.

These standards were originally developed in the project OpenAIRE (Open Access Infrastructure for Research in Europe), which started in 2009. In this context, metadata elements were defined, with the help of which repositories can tag documents in order to link them with other resources in accordance with the principle of enhanced publication (Kaiser & McNeill, 2019). In this way, for example, documents can be linked with research data or project funding information. Information about researchers can also be embedded.

Various software solutions for repositories now provide interfaces to ensure OpenAIRE compliance. If, for example, a local repository does not implement the necessary metadata schemas for DSpace or EPrints in accordance with OpenAIRE standards, the linking of documents with other resources can be carried out manually via the OpenAIRE portal. This portal enables targeted searches for publications, data, projects, or persons.

It is advisable to have your repository listed in the Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR). In OpenDOAR, aggregators find relevant repositories in a targeted way and analyse the technical information for reuse.

The Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR) also pursues the objective of making repositories more attractive for researchers. This is to be achieved by enhancing the visibility, dissemination, und usability of scholarly materials in open access repositories by means of organisa­tional and technical agreements (Rodrigues et al., 2017). In contrast to the DINI Certificate, this is taking place on an international level.

Of central importance in this regard is the integration of repositories with the existing infrastructure (Rodrigues et al., 2017). Moreover, exchanges among repository managers and the development of content recruit­ment models and strategies are of great importance (Rodrigues et al., 2017).

Practical Tip

Find helpful tips and advice on how to operate a repository in the COAR Community Framework for Best Practices in Repositories.


Further Reading