Monday, April 07, 2008

How to make your IR effective as a publishing platform for grey literature

"I know nothing about IRs", admits Toby Green, "but I once wrote a paper about tidying up our grey literature at OECD, which seems to have garnered a lot of interest." Today he tells us he'll cover:
  • Post-it-and-hope-Google-finds-it approaches to dissemination of content
  • What does it take to satisfy the needs of various stakeholders
  • What did the OECD do with its working papers
Post and hope
Out of 40 starters at this year's Grand National, 14 finished. Rank outsiders enter what is one of the country's hardest courses - perhaps hoping that everyone else will fall over and allow the rank outsider to win. Is "post it and hope" an equally unlikely strategy for success? It relies on a single discoverability system (search) which puts considerable pressure on metadata to be of sufficient quality to drive successful discovery. And it's a "survival of the fittest" environment: if you are not part of the "short head" (the blockbuster opposite of the long tail) your chances of discovery through major search engines are also limited. It's a passive strategy that is author-, rather than reader-centric. Ultimately, says Toby, it doesn't work. The website is a platform for authors to upload their content - which they do - and 90% of it is *never* downloaded.

Stakeholder needs
What do the various stakeholder groups require from literature repositories? As a group - made up of representatives from libraries, publishers, agents, intermediaries - we brainstormed some of the things that different user groups require from a publishing system.

  • need a channel for dissemination
  • need visibility/recognition for career development
  • need to be read
  • need to claim ownership of ideas
  • need to fulfil mandates (from funders, institutions)
  • need an easy process, preferably with others doing as much as possible
  • need reports on how the work has been used
  • need archiving
  • need links/dissemination to other platforms where they want to be visible/involved
  • need full text but don't want to have to read it
  • need integration with other workflow tools
  • need easy discoverability - and access - for free
  • need related data and inter-literature links
  • need an indication that the content is authoritative
  • need reliability/predictability of content's location
  • need awareness and other contextual services
Institutional administrators; bosses
  • need reports on usage, financial aspects (value for money), who has been published
  • need prominent branding / enhancement of reputation
  • need budget - and usage - a critical mass of deposits
  • need quality to meet institution's standards and reduce later work
  • need more time, resource and better equipment
  • need training
  • need standards
  • need tools to support processes
  • need clearer legal guidelines from publishers
  • need reports (on usage/what's been published) to show that grants are producing sufficient material
  • need visibility, research profile
  • need dissemination to expedite ongoing research
  • agents
  • aggregators
  • publishers need copyright and brand to be respected/protected; credit where due
What did the OECD do to meet these needs?
Originally, authors could post what they wanted, when they wanted. Readers, however, struggled to find this material. Administrators were concerned about quality control and reputation; funders were asking questions about impact and ROI. Librarians - were laughing - despairingly? Authors weren't asking for OECD's assistance; administrators didn't think it had anything to do with OECD. Papers were presented in a jumble on the OECD website
  • no metadata standards
  • no quality control
  • no underlying database/workflow
  • no common vision
  • no knowledge of what readers need
  • no understanding of discovery systems
OECD's solution was to get the publishing staff involved to
  • establish metadata standards
  • establish quality control steps
  • create underlying database/workflow
  • build common vision
  • research readers'/librarian needs
  • exploit discovery systems
  • monitor results.
Metadata is key:
  • analyse the papers to identify metadata fields
  • add additional fields to meet industry standards
  • sign off fields so database can be built
  • QA existing metadata; fix numbering problems
  • Fill and QA the database
OECD then created a workflow to minimise effort and create efficiencies - converting the paper to a PDF for hosting and onward dissemination. A single webpage now categorises the papers and links through to organised lists of papers within categories. Metadata is consistent and comprehensive (DOI, abstracts, keywords etc.), and is submitted to RePEc - vastly improving that database's coverage of this content, since authors had previously not been diligent in uploading their own content. And at the full text level, the workflow system adds a templated cover page with improved, consistent branding and clear, exportable citations.

Following this overhaul of the workflow, traffic to the working papers has more than doubled.
  • authors needs are being met: data is more visible in more locations, the data is marketed within the OECD platform, reports are available from OECD and its partner platforms, and authors are not required to carry out any of the processes
  • readers can access the full text and improved metadata helps them understand it without reading it, citations can be exported, content is discoverable, background data is linked, citation linking and "more like this" links are forthcoming, the content is clearly trustworthy and well serviced with awareness alerting
  • administrators can download usage reports and assess financial value, branding has improved, quality is controlled (inappropriate content is rejected)
  • librarians are not required to carry out any of the processes, legal guidance is clear
  • funders are getting good value for money without additional expenditure.
In conclusion:
  • QA - requires filtering to protect institution's reputation
  • Distribute to disseminate - content needs to be widely discoverable with supporting capabilities such as MARC records
  • Promotion - internal awareness-raising with authors so they understand why the process is valuable to them
  • Reports and 'ego' tools (RePEc has good ones); reader tool
  • Institutional repositories need to either outsource to a publisher, or employ people with publishing skills to manage the process effectively

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