Steve Hitchcock, EPrints Community Manager, 7th April 2006
A new feature built into EPrints software could dramatically increase the rate of growth of open access (OA) content deposited in your repository while - perversely, it may seem - allowing authors to opt out of providing OA. It's extremely simple, and if implemented carefully by the repository can produce immediate results without additional cost or resource implications.
We call this new feature the "Request eprint" button. Here is how it works.
To deposit a work using EPrints an author creates a record for the eprint by filling metadata fields in the repository deposit interface. Ideally we would like the eprint described to be uploaded and made freely accessible. However, not all authors are comfortable with this, so rather than dissuade authors from depositing the eprint altogether, EPrints offers authors the options of making the eprint accessible, restricting visibility to designated viewers, or making it invisible (although the eprint is still stored in the system).
There are a number of reasons for allowing this flexibility. One of the main concerns authors have over providing open access is copyright and the possibility of infringing their agreement with a publisher. Institutions that might introduce deposit policies have similar concerns.
So far, none of this is new.
The key need of the repository in terms of growing content is persuading authors to perform the deposit keystrokes, i.e. the input metadata, and deposit the eprint without prejudice as to what might happen next. Once that data is captured we can start to work with the author to maximise its usefulness and usage.
This is where the "Request eprint" button comes in. Where a record of a stored eprint tells the user that an open access copy is not available, a form box appears inviting the user to paste in their email address and send a request to the author for a copy of the paper. This request is emailed automatically to the author, offering three choices in return: to email the requested eprint, to reject the request, or to make the eprint open access in the repository.
Since the requested eprint is already in the repository, but just not visible, a simple process enables the author to make a selection and activate that choice with a single click. It is intended, for example, that choosing to make the eprint open access simply adds a link to the eprint record.
This is simple for requesters, authors, repository implementers and policy makers as it allows them a full range of choices without any implications for the usual worries that otherwise deter or delay this type of dissemination. For example, there are no implications for copyright.
It achieves the objectives of increasing deposit and dissemination through the repository by reducing barriers and fears. It allows authors to gauge interest in their work. While it may not immediately increase the amount of open access, think of the possible impact. Popular authors may eventually see the benefit and prefer to set to open access.
How might this affect growth of your repository? It is generally estimated that institutional repositories are capturing 15% of the materials that could be made open access. There is thus an 85% gap to fill. We have speculated on many reasons for the reluctance of authors to fill this gap. The "Request eprint" button enables us to overcome most of these concerns. It gives even authors who are wary of self-archiving the chance to begin depositing in the repository, it improves access - even if it is not immediately open access it is better than no record at all - and it offers the prospect of conversion to open access when authors realise the level of interest in their work.
Allow authors to fill the 85% metadata gap. The "Request eprint" button will provide the full-texts.
If you wish to test this feature, or find out more, contact Tim Miles-Board, EPrints Services Manager.