Versions of Eprints - user Requirements Study and Investigation Of the Need for Standards
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General background



LSE and Nereus context


Project outputs

Project outcomes


General background

As the development of digital repositories has progressed during the past few years, thanks to programmes such as the JISC FAIR programme in the UK and the SURF DARE programme in the Netherlands, evidence has emerged of real difficulties experienced in populating the repositories with content.  As has been well documented, the issues are a combination of IPR, institutional, and cultural challenges.  To overcome these challenges repository managers are engaged in high-level advocacy work in institutions to promote and explain the idea of repositories. 

A specific issue is that of uncertainty over different versions of academic papers, how these versions fit in to the lifecycle of the paper as a digital resource and which version of a paper might be deposited in a repository.

Restrictive copyright terms may add to the problem, but even where there is no IPR obstacle, there are problems with the author not having retained a suitable version approved for deposit or with substantive differences between the final author version and the final publisher version. 

The VERSIONS Project addresses the issues and uncertainties relating to versions of academic papers in digital repositories, with a focus on the discipline of economics.

Economics is a discipline already rich in content at all stages of the lifecycle of a document.  Economists have widely accepted the use of pre-prints and working papers online as a necessary part of the process of publishing academic journal articles, to overcome inherent delays in publication.  The time lag varies but can be as much as three years.  The distributed collaborative project RePEc is the best known economics eprints archive to date.  The prevalence of pre-print versions of papers in economics, now often sitting alongside final publisher versions on publisher websites and final author versions in institutional and subject repositories does mean that there is ample material on which to base the investigation of version control and that there is a pressing need to propose clear standards on versions.

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The aims of the project will be:

  • to clarify the position on different versions of academic papers in economics available for deposit in digital repositories, in order to help build trust among academic users of repository content

  • to produce a toolkit of guidelines about versions for authors, researchers, librarians and others engaged in maintaining digital repositories

  • to propose standards on versions to JISC to inform discussions and negotiations with  stakeholders

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Specific objectives of the project will include:

  • finding out about researchers’ understanding of different versions in the lifecycle of an academic paper

  • finding out researchers’ attitudes towards secure storage and open access availability of papers at different stages in the lifecycle

  • discovering any variations in requirements depending on specific stakeholder roles (eg author, journal editor, head of department, teacher, etc)

  • finding out about existing repository use by researchers, looking at both institutional and subject repositories

  • uncovering current practices among academic researchers in retention of their own authors’ versions

  • identifying differences in attitudes and practice relating to versions between UK and European repositories and assessing the reasons for any variation

  • sharing experience gained through membership of the Nereus consortium of European economics libraries in the area of digital repositories with the UK learning and research community

  • reaching clarification and aiming for consensus by gathering information from and liaising with other stakeholders in the digital repositories community:  the JISC Digital Repositories Programme Support Posts, other JISC-funded digital repository projects, repository software communities (eprints.org software, DSpace community), publishers (through ALPSP), metadata experts (UKOLN and Dublin Core groups)

  • contributing to the development of a clear set of best practice guidelines on identifying different versions of electronic academic papers, which will be proposed as a standard to the relevant metadata standards communities

  • producing advocacy materials for academic authors, in the form of a toolkit and web pages, on retention and deposit of appropriate versions of academic papers

  • reporting on results and disseminating these widely to the HE, FE and research communities

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LSE and Nereus context

LSE is engaged in two digital repository projects.

LSE joined SHERPA-LEAP in April 2004 and the repository is implemented as LSE Research Articles Online.  Work to date has included working with authors and other stakeholders  such as LSE’s Research Committee, which approved the establishment of a repository.  Discussions have also been held with the Academic Publications unit, which has responsibility for maintaining a bibliographic database of academic publications and for five LSE-owned journal titles. The VERSIONS project fits well with LSE’s own institutional strategies regarding research output in the run up to the next Research Assessment Exercise and its strategic aim to preserve and enhance the intellectual prosperity of the School. 

LSE is a founder member and lead site of the Nereus consortium of European research libraries specialising in economics.  The consortium has grown rapidly and has a solid track record of working together.  Nereus partners are LSE, Tilburg University, Erasmus University of Rotterdam, German National Library of Economics, Sciences Po, Université Libre de Bruxelles, University College Dublin, University College London, University of Oxford, University of Warwick, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration. The Nereus Steering Committee has given the VERSIONS Project proposal their full support.

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LSE will conduct the user study and questionnaire, drawing on existing partnerships and contacts in the Nereus member libraries for assistance. The questionnaire will be conducted as a web-based survey, using the Bristol Online Surveys (BOS) software, to which LSE subscribes. The appropriate target group for the questionnaire will be determined in consultation with the Project Steering Committee and the Digital Repositories Programme Manager. The investigation of current availability of usable author copies for open access repositories will be carried out partly through a series of questions included in the user study described above. In addition, a detailed quantification of availability of author copies among the 50 plus Economists Online researchers will be carried out by LSE using already existing data to be supplied by the partner libraries. This will bring to light the availability of author copies among the group of researchers and any reasons for unavailability of a copy suitable for deposit. The project team will make comparisons of availability by cross tabulating against the ROMEO list of Copyright Policies now hosted at SHERPA. A comparison of data to indicate variations by date of publication, by country of repository will also be carried out. The development of a toolkit of best practice guidelines on versions will be taken forward in coordination with the JISC Digital Repositories Programme Support Posts and the Programme Manager. The proposed standards will be presented to JISC and the Project team will liaise with JISC over how to take them forward with key stakeholders, including authors, researchers, librarians, metadata standards communities, OAI community and repository software developers and publishers. Publisher involvement in the development of standards is crucial of course, as has been demonstrated by the successful COUNTER initiative. LSE has begun discussions with the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) and hopes to continue to have a dialogue with publishers and their representative bodies during the project. ALPSP are beginning to look into the issue of international standards for versions and are hoping to work with Niso on this.  Dissemination activities will include writing articles, maintaining the project website, presenting papers at workshops and conferences and producing a series of Powerpoint presentations outlining the key issues relating to versions and outlining the proposed standards. These will be made available for re-use by the JISC community for advocacy and dissemination.   

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Project outputs  

The tangible deliverables from the project will be:

  • a toolkit for authors, researchers and repository administrators, explaining the importance of retaining author versions of academic papers, the standard descriptions of versions that are being proposed, and providing other useful information on self-archiving

  • a set of proposed standards for describing the different versions of an academic publication throughout its lifecycle - to be taken forward by JISC in national discussions and negotiations with stakeholders

  • an analysis of current practice among academic researchers in storing and retaining author versions of papers, based on responses to the survey and on analysis of the publications of 50 researchers in Economists Online. A comparison with publishers’ stated policies on self-archiving will be included

  • a questionnaire hosted by Bristol Online Surveys (BOS) which could be made available for re-use by other libraries subscribing to BOS

  • a series of publicity tools (PowerPoint presentations and web pages) on versions of electronic papers to be made available to the JISC community

  • a report highlighting how the issue of versions in digital repositories in different European countries has an impact on the relative success of populating repositories with content. The report will take into account differing IPR conditions, national repository programmes (eg DARE), and cultural differences

  • the core documents required of all JISC-funded projects

Intangible deliverables will include:

  • sharing of experience from different EU countries of how issues about versions impact on the population of digital repositories

  • increased understanding of authors' and researchers' needs and expectations in relation to versions of academic papers in digital repositories throughout the lifecycle of a paper

  • coordination with other JISC-funded projects

  • contribution to the development of standards on versions

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 Project outcomes

This innovative project looking at the question of version control and how it relates to the development of digital repositories in the UK and in several other EU countries will have a significant impact for the JISC community:

  • the findings report on user requirements and expectations in relation to versions and lifecyle of academic papers will be widely available to the JISC community and will provide important data on this part of the puzzle surrounding patchy or low deposit of content in digital repositories to date

  • the findings report on the extent to which authors have actually retained usable copies of their work (author versions) for deposit in digital repositories and cross-comparison with the ROMEO list of publisher copyright policies, will provide a reality check. It will be possible for the JISC community to quantify the likely proportion of usable papers for deposit and to use this data to inform negotiations with publishers over IPR

  • the comparative report on how the question of versions interacts with IPR and cultural issues differently from country to country, even within the EU, to produce divergent policies and practices in digital repositories, will serve as a benchmarking exercise on digital repositories which will have important benefits for the JISC community. UK researchers collaborate with European colleagues on joint projects, they co-author publications and frequently read, review and publish in the same journals. Therefore any difference in provision of open access content in the UK as compared with our European partners will need to be understood by the JISC community and the knowledge used to inform discussions with stakeholders on future directions

  • working with publishers, metadata standards communities, librarians and authors will mean that the project has a broad base and that the solutions proposed will have a lasting effect and widespread take up

  • the toolkit for authors and researchers will be professionally designed and produced and will be available for dissemination to researchers throughout the UK. It will also be made available via the project website in order to share experience internationally

  • a successful toolkit for describing versions of academic papers will have wider impact for the JISC community, for example by transporting the methodology to the FE sector and applying it to versions of learning objects and coursework

  • the proposed standards relating to versions will contribute to the building of trust and confidence in the content of digital repositories among all stakeholders, authors, publishers, researchers, librarians. This is naturally of great importance for the learning and research communities who are the key stakeholders in academic content and it is necessary to ensure the long term development of digital repositories

  • open access digital repositories together with initiatives such as the Common Information Environment group will open up academic research papers to the general public as never before. This user group will not typically be familiar with the stages in the evolution of an academic paper and will need guidance. As the recent MORI report commissioned by the Common Information Environment group has demonstrated, trust is a major factor in the general public’s choice of information source on the Internet. By clearly defining and labelling which version of a paper the layperson is looking at, this project will assist the JISC community in continuing to earn the trust of the general public

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page last updated: 23.04.2007

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