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Professionalising Open Access Repositories in Germany and Beyond


talk with Marcel Wrzesinski

The project "Professionalization of the Open-Access Repository Infrastructure in Germany" (Pro OAR DE), launched in October 2023 at the Berlin School of Library and Information Science, aims to support institutional repositories in advancing systems based on the current needs of the research community. Initially, these repositories focused on storing electronic documents and ensuring their long-term availability. Today, they are integral components of the scientific information infrastructure, evolving significantly since the first institutional repository was introduced at the Technical University of Chemnitz in 1995.

In 2003, the German Initiative for Network Information (DINI) established the DINI certificate, a standard for Open Access repositories that enables the networking of document and publication servers based on international standards. The current version 7.0 of the DINI certificate reflects the expanded range of services offered by Open Access repositories. DINI now lists 540 publication services, 224 of which are classified as institutional Open Access repositories. However, these repositories face the challenge of evolving to support the scientific workflow and offering various services.

Marcel Wrzesinski and his research group have conducted interviews and workshops to identify current issues and provide practical recommendations to advance the Open Access culture and professionalise the repositories. We interviewed Marcel Wrzesinski and discussed the challenges and strategies associated with the professionalisation of repositories. 

Integrating Repositories into the Scientific Workflow:

Who are the stakeholders involved in integrating repositories into the scientific workflow, and what are the main issues they are focused on?

The stakeholders we interviewed include researchers, librarians, IT professionals, and institutional administrators. They want to make repositories more active in supporting open research, not just storing data. This means managing publications, bibliographies, and creating opportunities for researchers to connect with their research output in multiple ways. They also focus on making sure repositories work well with other systems, follow metadata standards, and preserve data for the long term.

How do you include existing institutional repositories and how can they participate?

Our project very much relies on the participation of the repository community, which we include through expert interviews and a follow-up workshop series. In the interviews we ask for the major challenges the community encounters, e.g. regarding repository software, interoperability with CRIS, or referencing research data and secondary publication rights. We also consider each institution's specific needs and how well the repository integrates with other research tools and platforms within the respective network. The interview study is the basis for workshop series starting in Fall 2024, where we try to address the challenges and summarise the solutions in very practical manuals. Our goal is to empower the repository community and contribute to their further professionalisation.

How do researchers, librarians, IT professionals, and institutional staff react to the professionalisation of repositories?

Stakeholders are keen on transitioning repositories from passive databases to active services that support the entire research lifecycle, including publication management, bibliographies, and other ways to researchers with their research output. Ensuring interoperability, adherence to metadata standards, and long-term preservation are also critical issues. For researchers looking to publish their findings in an Open Access repository, we advise understanding the repository's submission guidelines and copyright policies. Typically, the steps involve preparing the manuscript according to the repository's format requirements, often submitting the author's final version if the publisher's version is restricted. Researchers should also consider rights retention, including any embargo periods, and consult with their institution's legal department or Open Access officer to navigate these complexities.

The Path to Professionalisation: 

Could you give us some insights into the process of transitioning to the professionalisation of repositories?

Professionalisation involves several key aspects. Being more present and engaging in professional networks is in demand by the community, as many repository managers feel disconnected from certain professional aspects. One major aspect of professionalisation involves the standardisation of services, focusing on the technical level. However, it also means providing training and guidelines for repository managers. In Germany, there is no standardised education or training tailored to manage a repository, often leaving these responsibilities to research librarians supported by IT staff familiar with repository software like DSpace. There are workshops and self-education opportunities, but there is no formalised training akin to what exists for lawyers, IT professionals, or physicians. Formalising such training could improve the efficiency and interconnectedness of repositories.

This could involve creating common education or training setups, guidelines, and certifications. Currently, Germany has a repository certification, but the exchange of best practices can always be improved. Internationally, the situation is even more complex, with repository managers coming from diverse backgrounds such as IT, librarianship, and even philosophy.

"Standardising and formalising training at an international level could help repositories become more efficient and integrated. While this idea is somewhat utopian, it highlights the need for a more structured approach to repository management."

Marcel Wrzesinski
Future Pathways:

What are the next steps and future outcomes for the project?

I believe that the first step should be standardising and formalising training at an international level. It could help repositories become more efficient and integrated. This does not imply that current practices are unprofessional, but rather that a standardised framework could enhance the overall effectiveness of repositories. In the evolving landscape of Open Access repositories and the potential pathways to their professionalisation, the Pro OAR DE project hopes to foster a more connected and efficient repository infrastructure that better serves the scientific community and supports the broader dissemination of knowledge. 

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