EPrints: "World's Best Practice for an institution commencing an institutional repository"

Steve Hitchcock, EPrints Community Manager, 23rd November 2005

Start any institutional repository (IR) with EPrints, recommends Professor Arthur Sale of the University of Tasmania (UTas), Australia. In a paper presented to institutions in New Zealand, Sale reports on the widely-used software packages for building IRs, favouring EPrints because of speed of set-up, ease of use, and minimal costs for running and maintaining a server. "It just works. No fuss. No maintenance. It's just too easy", Sale remarked in correspondence.

Although others advocate more complex ICT-based approaches to creating an IR, Sale warns that this will involve more significant manpower costs, and may be unjustifiable. "Can people fly flags and ring bells over conquering Everest when it turns out to be Highgate Hill?"

It is better to get up and running in a week or two, Sale argues, noting that: "All of the OAI-compliant software has the ability to do bulk transfers of the databases, should you wish to change in the future."

Not that such a scenario is likely. EPrints, the original IR software in 2000, has an active and growing developer team, and with its recently launched Services (http://www.eprints.org/services/) and Community (http://www.eprints.org/community/) support is ready to respond quickly to the needs of users.

Sale is not a passive observer of IR developments. Having been responsible for setting up the University of Tasmania's EPrints-based IR, he has written software add-ons, available for download, to provide authors with feedback on the usage of their papers in the IR.

"EPrints is quick to install, easy to configure, and needs minimal maintenance. Once installed, it simply works without fuss. There simply isn't a contest."

Software choice

From Sale, Arthur (2005) The Key Things to Know, University of Tasmania Eprints Repository, 16 November http://eprints.comp.utas.edu.au:81/archive/00000223/

This is a no-contest decision when you look at it sensibly. There are really only two widely used packages: EPrints and DSpace. Fedora also enters the picture because ARROW has chosen to implement a sample repository based on it; otherwise it would be below the horizon of packages in common use. EPrints, DSpace and Fedora are all open source free software.
All comply with OAI-PMH protocols; all are supported by a source university or two (EPrints in the UK by Southampton University, DSpace by MIT in the USA, and Fedora by the University of Virginia & Cornell University in the USA). The cost of the ARROW Fedora adaptation has not been announced, but it involves a commercial front-end from VLTS so there may be some cost. All of these three software solutions are viable.
"Institutions that want to develop other uses of their repository software, and which have the funds to devote to significant ICT support of complex packages should be prepared for more significant manpower costs."
World’s Best Practice for an institution commencing an institutional repository is EPrints. The software is quick to install, easy to configure, and needs minimal maintenance. Once installed, it simply works without fuss. Over a year, no maintenance has been required to the UTas server apart from updates. There simply isn’t a contest.
It is quite probable that if you choose an EPrints solution, you will not want to change in the foreseeable future. However, large institutions bigger than any Australian or New Zealand university, or institutions that want to develop other uses of their repository software, and which have the funds to devote to significant ICT support of complex packages, might contemplate DSpace or Fedora solutions. They should be prepared for more significant manpower costs. Both DSpace and Fedora are really digital library packages (not institutional repository packages) and require customization to provide IR (or indeed any) functionality.
Regardless, I continue to recommend that the first repository any institution establishes should be an EPrints one as you can be up and running in a week or two.

Sale's paper is not just about choosing software. He gives practical advice on all aspects of setting up an IR, including how to seek high-level institutional support, and shows graphically the benefit of an institutionally-backed mandate, based on a Model Deposit Policy that he reproduces, for growing the content of an IR.

"Keep the message simple: an IR is in the University's self-interest through increasing its research impact."

According to Sale, the top reason for an institution to establish its own IR is increasing research impact, and positioning the institution relative to its competitors.

Providing a refereed publication available for open access on the Internet increases the research impact of the publication. Citations are measured to increase by 50% to 250% depending on the discipline as compared with papers in the same journal but not online. It is the principal reason why universities are rapidly moving to establish open access repositories for their research output: it positions them better relative to their competitors.

Urging those leading campaigns for IRs to get the senior executive group (Vice-Chancellor, etc) to endorse the setting up of an EPrints archive, Sale provides a shorthand case for gaining their support:

Sale, Arthur (2005) The Key Things to Know, University of Tasmania Eprints Repository, 16 November http://eprints.comp.utas.edu.au:81/archive/00000223/

See also

(this link added 25 September 2006)

Wyles, Richard, et al. Technical Evaluation of selected Open Source Repository Solutions, Open Access Repositories in New Zealand (OARINZ) project, Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, v1.3, 13 September 2006
"EPrints is the best candidate for a self-configuring solution for institutions wanting to set up and host their own repository."

(these links added 07 June 2006)

Stanger, Nigel and McGregor, Graham, Hitting the ground running: building New Zealandís first publicly available institutional repository, Discussion Paper 2006/07, Department of Information Science, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand, 09 March 2006
"What is so remarkable about the Otago IR? First, its speed of implementation at minimal cost is certainly worth noting, especially for other institutions that are considering an IR. ... we used the open source GNU EPrints repository building software, because it was widely used, well-supported, inexpensive and would not lock us into specific technologies or vendors"

Singh, Sukhdev and Pandita, Naina, Building the open access self-archiving repository for the bio-medical sciences at National Informatics Centre, OpenMED@NIC, 10 November 2005, also in National Convention of Medical Library Association of India, Bangalore, 07-09 November 2005
"EPrints is comparatively mature and easier to install, customize and maintain."

Sponsler, Ed, and Van de Velde, Eric F., Eprints.org Software: A Review, SPARC E-News, August-September 2001
"EPrints is a powerful and inexpensive solution for sharing scholarly works with the world"

Add your own testimonial using this blog entry.

For some additional background to this news story, see

IR software: correcting some misunderstandings, EPrints Insiders blog, December 2, 2005