Learning Center
Plans & pricing Sign in
Sign Out




Alma Swan
Key Perspectives Ltd, Truro, United Kingdom

State of the art
    Digital repositories are coming of age. Globally, on average, there has been a repository built every
day for the past three years. There are currently around 1300 worldwide. It will be a rare research-
based institution that does not have its own repository within a few years. Why the rush? Because the
advantages to an institution of having a repository are so great and the payoff so important.
Repositories are a strategic weapon in an institution’s armoury, providing the means for developing
new institutional processes, enhancing existing ones and promoting the institution to the world.
    There is a higher-level view on the strategic importance of repositories, too. National or regional
level strategies for e-research (or e-science, as some countries call it) articulate schemes where digital
open access repositories form the fundamental data-provision layer. See, for example, the National
Science Foundation’s plans in the US (NSF/JISC Repositories Workshop 2007), JISC’s Repositories
Roadmap for the UK (Heery and Powell 2006); SURF’s Strategic Plan for the Netherlands (SURF
2008), Australia’s e-Research programme (Australian Government 2009) and Europe’s Roadmap for
Research Infrastructures (European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures 2008).
    To enable these strategies, coordination mechanisms for repository developments are growing. On
a Europe-wide basis, the DRIVER Project provides standards and guidelines for the establishment of
digital repositories by research organisations across the continent. National-level repository network
developments are also increasing as a result of national ICT or research funding organisations
coordinating the development of networks of interoperable repositories across the research base. For
example, in the Netherlands the DAREnet network has encouraged and enabled a repository in every
Dutch university.
    Despite rapid developments, the overall situation has not yet shaken down. There are no hard-and-
fast rules that can be applied, though generalities are certainly forming and the main one of these is that
institutions seem to think that having a repository is A Good Thing. But an institution can spend a lot
of money establishing a repository, or very little. Its repository may fill quickly and smoothly, or it may
remain virtually empty for years. It may become firmly embedded in the working life of the
institution’s researchers, or it may be something of which they are barely aware. Critically, the

repository can be the tool that boosts the institution’s presence on the world’s web stage, or it can help
to consign the institution to web obscurity (Swan & Carr, 2008).
    A well-planned repository enables a higher education institution to:
 open up and offer the outputs of the institution or community to the world
 impact on and influence developments by maximising the visibility of outputs and providing the
    greatest possible chance of enhanced impact as a result
 showcase and sell the institution to interested constituencies – prospective staff, prospective
    students and other stakeholders
 collect and curate digital outputs (or inputs, in the case of special collections)
 manage and measure research and teaching activities
 provide and promote a workspace for work-in-progress, and for collaborative or large-scale
 facilitate and further the development and sharing of digital teaching materials and aids
 support and sustain student endeavours, including providing access to theses and dissertations and
    providing a location for the development of e-portfolios

    This list gives rise to the first – and most important – question that any institution must answer
before it even begins to build its repository: what are we doing this for? There are some sparkling
examples of repositories that are real strategic assets in their institutions. They may be the windows on
the institution’s research, they may facilitate didactic activity, they may be caring for the institution’s
precious special collections, but wherever a repository is succeeding, it has always been conceived with
clarity of purpose and implemented with strong focus.

Business planning
‘What are we doing this for?’ begs another question and that is ‘What kind of business model should
our repository have?’ Deciding upon business models for enterprises that do not earn revenue is a
tricky exercise but there is some guidance from what has gone before. In 2004, Clarke discussed
business models for open source software enterprises in the context of a series of questions (Clarke,
   who pays?
   pays what?
   for what?

   to whom?
   why?

    These are questions that must form part of any new repository planning exercise. They should also
be joined by ‘How?’ That is the moment at which the real planning activity begins. Articulating a value
proposition for the repository is a useful first exercise, analogous to the articulation of a value
proposition by businesses to their customers and based upon an analysis of what elements of value the
business can offer. In the case of digital repositories, the value proposition of an open access repository
is made to the wider scholarly community from a position of commitment to the scholarly knowledge
commons and is essentially this:
    On behalf of the research community, a digital repository proposes to:
   maximise the accessibility
   maximise the availability
   enable the discoverability
   enable increased functionality
   enable long-term storage and curation and
   enable other potential benefits …

… of scholarly research outputs at no cost to the user.

        Slight modifications of this need to be made if opening access to research is not to be the
primary purpose of the repository. For example, if the primary purpose is to facilitate teaching and
learning, then this should be reflected in the value proposition.
        A different value proposition must be put within the institution to the senior managers who will
sign off the cost of establishing the repository. Here, the value of the repository in assisting the
institution in fulfilling its mission to encourage and engender the creation of knowledge and to
disseminate it must be stated. It is part of making the business case for the repository within the
institution and is a critical step in ensuring the repository’s success. This topic is discussed again later
in this chapter.

Possible business models for repositories and related services

A number of typologies have been suggested for business models for web-based businesses (see for
example, Timmers1998; Rappa 2000). We have previously distilled these to a list of five operational
models that seemed applicable to repository-related developments (Swan & Awre 2006):
   Institutional model: institutions own and run the business to further their own goals and strategies
   Public sponsors model: public bodies sponsor the business for the public good
   Community model: the business runs on a community basis, sustained by the communities they
   Subscription model: the business runs on a subscription basis, selling products or services to
    customers paying cash
   Commercial model: the business runs on a commercial basis (other than subscription-based): a
    number of sub-types are covered by this term, for example an advertising model

    These models are set in a matrix with Clarke’s five questions in Table 1.

[Table 1 here]

       There are examples of each kind of business model in operation amongst existing institutional
repositories and the services built around them. The institutional model is, of course, most common.
The French national repository, HAL (Hyper-Article en Ligne), is an example of a public sponsor
model, sponsored by the national science funder CNRS. The White Rose Repository, a community
model, is a collaborative venture from the universities of York, Sheffield and Leeds in the UK. And
paid-for services exist that exemplify the subscription and commercial models: for example,
Southampton and Tilburg universities offer repository-hosting services for other institutions and the
University of Utrecht offers print-on-demand sales of dissertations and theses. Open access repositories
are not, then, completely incompatible with income generation and those planning a repository may
wish to investigate the opportunities for creating some revenue streams further down the line. The
important thing when planning a repository is to ensure that the activity is manageable, can be put into
effect with the resources available, is viable and sustainable, and is rooted in the values of the
institution so that the business case holds water. The next section provides a framework for thinking
about these things.

Business analysis

Clarke’s five questions – who pays, for what, how much, to whom and why? – cover the overall
business scheme of a repository. Within that scheme, three main business issues need to be addressed
in the context of the ongoing health of the repository, including the additional ‘How?’ question. Issue
one, viability, concerns the factors that make the repository happen. Issue two, sustainability, is
concerned with resourcing the repository. The third issue, adaptability, is about securing the longer-
term future of the repository. Table 2 is a business analysis matrix that summarises these planning
issues and the topics that need to be addressed under them as a series of questions (Swan, 2007). This
table may act as a useful guide for discussions during the business planning process.

[Table 2 here]

Making the business case for the repository
The business case must address the needs of stakeholders both within and outside the institution –
institutional managers, research managers, repository managers, researchers-as-authors, researchers-as-
readers and research funders. Institutional and research managers will view the repository as a potential
management and marketing tool; repository managers want to create a system that runs smoothly and
can be managed within normal constraints; authors want the repository to provide a simple-to-use
interface, a secure storage place for their work and data on how that work is being used; readers want to
be able to find and access content easily; funders wish to be able simply to monitor and track the
research in which they have invested.
       Taking these needs into account when planning the repository is crucial, but the justification for
a repository must be made to the institution or community that will own and sustain it. The emphasis
must therefore be on business reasons that hold most sway in a particular institution: for example, for
institutions with a strong focus on research the business case should highlight the role of the repository
in increasing the visibility of the institution’s research and the resulting profile and impact. The main
business reasons for a repository, with their institutional payoffs, are listed below:

                   Business reasons                            Payoffs will be measured in terms of:
 To increase the visibility and dissemination of          Improved visibility of the institution
    research outputs                                       Improved impact of its outputs
 To provide free access to research outputs               More effective ‘marketing’ of the institution
 To preserve and curate research outputs                  Better management of the institution’s

 To collect together the research outputs of the          intellectual assets
    institution in one place                            Easier assessment of what the institution is
 To provide a place for collaborative research            producing and creating
    programmes to share material                        Facilitation of workflow for researchers and
 To enable the assessment and monitoring of the           teachers
    institution’s research programme                    Facilitation of collaborative research
 To provide a place for teaching and learning
   To enable the development of special (or legacy)
    digital collections

       In making a case to senior institutional management, the espida project, carried out by the
University of Glasgow, may prove useful. This project developed a framework for helping to articulate
the value of digital materials and the need to manage them properly (espida 2007).
       It is wise to plan for a pilot repository, one that can be run and tested for six months or so before
the official launch. A pilot phase enables the evaluation of processes, staffing requirements and how
content can be recruited. It also allows repository managers to assess how they will cope with peaks
and troughs and with new demands placed upon the repository when it is fully functioning. Altogether,
a pilot phase is a sensible and important business planning tool. This phase may be informed by the
findings from the TARDis project, which examined the critical factors for success for an institutional,
multidisciplinary repository (Simpson 2005). The project described distinct differences between subject
communities in terms of how the repository relates to their work and these issues must be planned for.
       In addressing sustainability in the business plan, the costs of implementing and running the
repository come to the fore. These are dealt with in detail later in this chapter.
       Future adaptability of the repository requires building flexibility into the plan as far as possible.
New norms and practices may arise. One example might be a future requirement – by the institution,
funder or authors themselves – for the repository to house and look after digital datasets. As well as
demanding considerable storage capacity, such a requirement may involve file format manipulation and
more elaborate metadata schemas. These things need not be in place from the outset but the business
plan should consider how they might best be provided and at what cost, when the time comes.

Business scope and development
Repositories may hold many kinds of digital item. It is important at the planning stage to decide upon
the scope of the repository for the immediate and longer terms. It is also important to recognise that
accepting items into the repository and guaranteeing to preserve them in the long term are two different
things. Preservation of some complex digital objects needs considerable expertise and it is as well to at
least acknowledge this at the repository planning stage. In some countries, help may be at hand from
national-level libraries or data centres. Where this is not so, repository managers must be aware that
there may be some costs and challenges ahead if the repository’s policy is to accept any digital items
that users wish to deposit and to undertake to preserve them in an accessible state over time. Formats
and standards change and format migration is not necessarily a simple task, especially where complex
objects are concerned. This issue has been addressed in a number of projects and studies which readers
may find helpful (PREMIS Project, PRESERV Project).

        The other main issue here is that of repository services. It is clear that services are a key to
repository acceptance and use. Repository software mostly comes with deposit aids and some sort of
search interface, but other things can also be implemented to attract users and increase the deposit rate.
Perhaps the most popular is implementing a usage reporting package that provides authors with data on
how many times their articles have been viewed and downloaded. The more sophisticated of these
packages also provide more granular data such as from which countries or domains the downloads
        Services that provide information on publisher rights and permissions for self-archiving (e.g.
SHERPA RoMEO), authoring tools (e.g. for file format conversion) and copyright advisory services
and tools (e.g. the SURF/JISC Copyright Toolbox and the SPARC/Science Commons Scholar’s
Copyright Addendum Engine) are also extremely useful in enabling authors to manage the
dissemination of their work optimally. The business plan should include provision for including such
services in the repository offering. Some consideration, even at the initial planning stage, should also
be given to future enhancements. Some examples of other repository services that might be
incorporated are RSS/Atom feeds, metadata enhancement, the creation of subject-specific views on the
repository, simple mechanisms to export content to authors’ home pages and to their CVs or grant
proposals, interoperability with the institution’s CRIS (Current Research Information System),
establishment of collaborative working infrastructures based on the repository (a so-called
‘collaboratory’), and so forth.

Business management
In terms of the overall initial viability of the repository one of the key questions to address under this
heading pertains to the resources available in relation to the tasks that need to be carried out. There is
the possibility of outsourcing, for example. Might it be better to pay for a third party to build the
repository, or to host it, or to create user services, than to do these things in-house? Can they be done
in-house? Are the resources available? What advantages are there to each of the options? Other key
issues to consider are:
   evaluation: what performance measures should be used to assess progress? Examples are the level
    of content recruitment (such as the proportion of annual output from the institution that is collected
    in the repository), the level of awareness and understanding of users and depositors, financial
    monitoring and so on
   policies: repositories need a range of policies. They include policies on the types of content that
    will be accepted, on who may deposit items, a take-down policy to cover cases where material must
    be removed and whether authors may withdraw their items at will, and an institutional policy on
    whether researchers are required (or simply requested or encouraged) to place their outputs in the
    repository. In the case of open access research material, for example, the evidence shows clearly
    that only mandatory policies produce the required level of deposit (Sale, 2006)
marketing the repository: the repository must be promoted to the research community, to the
    institution’s administration and to the wider world. Researchers must be made aware of the
    advantages to them in depositing their work in the repository, senior managers must be made
    informed that there is now a useful management information tool available, and the wider higher
    education community should know that your institution’s outputs are now available for use.
    Business planning should make provision for these marketing activities.

    Sustainability means planning for change and change is mostly unpredictable in its detail but
predictable in its likelihood! Fleetness of foot is an asset for repository managers. Repositories that start
out with deposit mediated by the repository staff may need to switch to author-deposit if levels of
materials for deposit start to rise (perhaps as a result of new policies or requirements from institutional
management). Indeed, the issue of mediated deposit is one that repository planners must carefully
assess. There is an argument that a truly sustainable repository is one where mediation is minimal (Carr
and Brody, 2007). Metadata represent another area where change may be expected: new requirements
and standards will emerge over time. Finally, the need for a change of business model (the repository
may develop some paid-for services, for example) may also arise.
    Long-term adaptability requires some agility and flexibility from repository management.
Resilience can be achieved if the plans make provision for adjustments in response to altered
conditions. One new condition might be the implementation of an institutional policy that requires
authors to place all their outputs in the repository. Considerable advocacy and advisory effort will then
be needed from the repository staff to support such a requirement. The recruitment of content to
repositories, including the effectiveness of advocacy programmes, has been studied by Proudman
(2008) who describes best practice from a series of case studies. And whatever changes occur in the
environment in which the repository operates, performance indicators will have to be adjusted
accordingly. The repository will never be a static entity existing in an unchanging habitat: it will need
to be responsive and resilient to continue to play its important role in institutional life.


An institutional repository represents quite a new argument for institutional support. Over the past few
decades, institutions have allocated growing sums to their IT budgets and libraries to enable them to
acquire, disseminate and look after institutional inputs (books, journals, etc). A repository, however,
collects together, disseminates and looks after institutional outputs, a new concept for most research-
based institutions, at least in terms of digital products.
        In most cases, the institution’s library is the instigator of the repository (in a minority of cases it
is the IT department), and often the repository is established using existing library budgets. There is an
argument to be made, founded on the benefits the repository will bring to the institution, for centralised
support for the repository project, with a realistic budget line being established for the purpose.
        The cost of setting up and running a repository can be millions of euros or just a few. It is
perfectly possible to implement a fully-functional repository on a small budget. The actual costs of
setting up and running repositories presented in Table 3 below have been collected from a sample of
existing repositories (Swan et al, 2004; Houghton et al, 2006). The figures have been converted to
euros in all cases.

[Table 3 here]

        It should be noted that the most popular repository softwares (EPrints, DSpace, Fedora) are
open source. Average figures, collected from a sample of eleven European repositories, are as follows:

Set-up costs:
(i) In-house building and hosting
- hardware and software: €9250
- staffing: 1.5 FTEs
(ii) Outsourced
- repository built out-of-house and hosted in-house: €7000
- repository built and hosted out-of-house: €38000

Running costs:
Average staff allocation to running a repository is 2.5 FTEs, but this average figure represents a
substantial underlying variation, beginning at 0.2 FTE.

       The benefit side of the equation cannot be measured in cash terms, at least not easily. Instead, it
is articulated in other terms, notably increased visibility and impact for the institution and the
community benefit from opened-up scholarship, the latter localising the argument around a return to
the core academic values of creating and sharing knowledge. High visibility attracts prospective
students, researchers and teachers to the institution, along with funding flows. The visibility and impact
advantage that a repository can bring in terms of comparative ranking for an institution is huge (Swan
& Carr, 2008).
       In addition to these marketing advantages the repository brings other benefits to the institution.
It is a management information tool, organising research outputs for internal (and external, if
applicable) research assessment procedures and for research monitoring and management processes. It
is also the institutional archive, looking after digital items of value to the institution, which may include
special collections.

Institutional repositories are becoming an integral part of the life of research-based institutions. Their
main role to date has been in disseminating research and that promises much that has yet to be realised.
We are also seeing cases of repositories aligning with university presses to provide the basis for future
dissemination practices that reflect the values and traditions of the past when a central part of university
missions was to spread their knowledge far and wide.
       The role of the repository as a management information tool is also gaining traction. For
example, some Australian universities have integrated national reporting practices with their
repositories and EPrints has developed a plug-in that supports the reporting requirements for the UK’s
national Research Assessment Exercise (Carr and McColl, 2005). Institutions (and external funders)
have not yet fully grasped the utility of the repository in this regard but as reporting demands increase
the repository will come into its own as the locus for collection and generation of data.
       Other roles for repositories may also gain in importance – as collaborative workspaces, for
fulfilling funder requirements to have electronic copies of outputs freely available, in adding context to
published outputs, as an integral part of the publication process itself, and more.
       Future-proofing repositories will always be a challenge. Some aspects are fairly predictable:
software upgrades, for example. New user services to help researchers and better embed the repository
in institutional life will be important. The issue of mediation will come to the fore: for all its
advantages in terms of quality control and content recruitment, mediation has a cost and the benefits
must be carefully weighed against it.
        One final point relates to repository management skills. A new career path is opening up and
expectations are that professionalisation will follow as repositories grow in stature. Repository
management will be an interesting and challenging career option in future.

Bibliography and references

Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (2009) e-
/ (accessed 12 February 2009)

Carr, L. and Brody, T. (2007) Size isn’t everything: sustainable repositories evidenced by sustainable
deposit profiles. D-Lib Magazine 13 (7/8) (accessed 14 February

Clarke, C. (2004) Open source software and open content as models for eBusiness. Presented at 17th
International eCommerce Conference, Slovenia, June 2004. (accessed 14 February 2009)

espida (2007) The espida project. (accessed 10 February 2009)

European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (2008) European Roadmap for Research
Infrastructures. (accessed 12 February 2009)

Heery, R. and Powell, A. (2006) Digital repositories Roadmap: Looking forward. (accessed 11 February

Houghton, J., Steele, C. and Sheehan, P. (2006) Research communication costs in Australia: Emerging
opportunities and benefits. A report to the Department of Education, Science and Training.

0381F441B175/13935/DEST_Research_Communications_Cost_Report_Sept2006.pdf (accessed 14
February 2009)

Carr, L. and McColl, J (2005) Institutional Repositories and Research Assessment: RAE software for
institutional repositories ( IRRA Project white paper) (accessed 14 February 2009)

NSF/JISC Repositories Workshop (2007) April 17-19, Phoenix, USA. (accessed 11 February 2009)

PREMIS (Preservation Metadata Maintenance Activity) project (accessed 14 February 2009)

PRESERV (Repository Preservation and Interoperability) project (accessed 14 February 2009)

Proudman, V. (2008) The population of repositories. In: A DRIVER’s Guide to European repositories.
K. Weenink, L. Waaijers and K. van Godtsenhoven (Eds). Amsterdam University Press

Rappa, M. (2000): Business models on the Web: managing the digital enterprise. North Carolina State
University, USA, 2000. (accessed 14 February 2009)

Sale, A. (2006) Comparison of IR content policies in Australia. First Monday, 11 (4). (accessed 13 February 2009)

Simpson, P. (2005) TARDis Project Final Report. Southampton UK, University of Southampton,
University Library, 14pp. (accessed 8 February 2009)

SURF (2008) Strategic Plan: ‘Thinking Ahead’. (accessed 12 February 2009)
Swan, A. (2007) The business of digital repositories. In: A DRIVER’s Guide to European repositories.
K. Weenink, L. Waaijers and K. van Godtsenhoven (Eds). Amsterdam University Press (accessed 14 February 2009)

Swan, A. and Awre, C. (2006) Linking UK repositories: Technical and organisational models to
support user-oriented services across institutional and other digital repositories: Scoping study report:
(accessed 14 February 2009)

Swan, A. and Carr, L (2008) Institutions, their repositories and the Web. Serials Review, 34 (1). (accessed 14 February 2009)

Swan, A., Needham, P., Probets, P., Muir, A., O’Brien, A., Oppenheim, C., Hardy, R. and Rowland, F.
(2004). Delivery, management and access model for E-prints and open access journals within further
and higher education (Report of a JISC study). pp 1-121. (accessed 10 February 2009)

Timmers, P. (1998) Business models for electronic markets. In: Gadient, Yves, Schmid, Beat F, Selz,
Dorian, EM-Electronic Commerce in Europe. EM- Electronic Markets, 8 (2) 07/98. (accessed 14
February 2009)

Bullet point summary

   Institutional repositories are growing in number and have been doing so at an average rate of one
    per day for the last three years
   Repositories maximise the visibility and impact of the institution, and provide a shop window for
    the institution’s research and a safe place to store outputs
   The business planning process involves making the business case, defining the scope of the
    business and how it will be managed and addresses viability, sustainability and adaptability

   The business case includes addressing stakeholder needs and preferences, costs and adaptability of
    the business model
   Business scope and development incorporates the development and launching of the repository, its
    current and future costs and its resilience
   Business management covers how the business will be managed, how flexible the model is and a
    consideration of future developments, within and without the institution, that might affect the


To top