Open Access Subject Repositories – an Overview

Subject repositories are open web collections of working papers or manuscript copies of published scholarly articles, specific to particular scientific disciplines. The first repositories emerged already in the early 1990’s and in some fields of science they have become an important channel for the dissemination of research results.

Using quite strict inclusion criteria 56 subject repositories were identified from a much larger number indexed in two repository indexes. A closer study of these demonstrated a huge variety in sizes, organizational models, functions and topics.

When they first started to emerge subject repositories catered to a strong market demand, but the later development of Internet search engines, the rapid growth of institutional repositories and the tightening up of journal publisher OA policies seems to be slowing down their growth.


Trends in Large-Scale Subject Repositori…

Trends in Large-Scale Subject Repositories :

“Noting a lack of broad empirical studies on subject repositories, the authors investigate subject repository trends that reveal common practices despite their apparent isolated development. Data collected on year founded, subjects, software, content types, deposit policy, copyright policy, host, funding, and governance are analyzed for the top ten most-populated subject repositories. Among them, several trends exist such as a multi- and interdisciplinary scope, strong representation in the sciences and social sciences, use of open source repository software for newer repositories, acceptance of pre- and post-prints, moderated deposits, submitter responsibility for copyright, university library or departmental hosting, and discouraged withdrawal of materials. In addition, there is a loose correlation between repository size and age. Recognizing the diversity of all subject repositories, the authors recommend that tools for assessment and evaluation be developed to guide subject repository management to best serve their respective communities.”


The Economists Online Subject Repository…

The Economists Online Subject Repository—Using Institutional Repositories as the Foundation For International Open Access Growth :

“A new subject repository, Economists Online (EO), has recently been launched. The pioneering model upon which it is built, aggregating the subject specific content of a consortium of participating institutions and their repositories, is examined in this article. An overview of existing subject repositories is given, along with an analysis of the scholarly communications landscape in economics and how the new EO subject repository fits into this environment. This paper makes a case for collaboration between institutional repositories as a way of increasing Open Access (OA) access to research.”


Representation and Recognition of Subject Repositories

Subject repositories are under-studied and under-represented in library science literature and in the scholarly communication and digital library fields.

A study of practical literature on subject repositories reveals a relatively small proportion of practical articles to total articles found that discuss subject repositories in some way — where practical refers to articles that would help inform decisions on repository development and management.

In addition to the lack of practical literature on subject repositories, registries, software, publishers, and database thesauri do not define subject repositories consistently, do not recognize subject repositories as distinct from other types of repositories, or do not recognize subject repositories at all.

At the same time, subject repositories are frequently cited as highly successful scholarly communication initiatives, especially in relation to institutional repositories.

The lack of subject repository recognition within the literature and among commonly used repository tools may be attributed to the isolated development of the largest subject repositories and a general lack of awareness about small-scale subject repositories.

The authors recommend an increase of literature and research on subject repositories, development of standard language, guidelines, and best practices, and the formation of a community of subject repository professionals.