Web Magazine for Information Professionals

Targeting Academic Research With Southampton's Institutional Repository

Jessie Hey describes how user needs have influenced the evolutionary development of 'e-Prints Soton' as the University of Southampton Research Repository.

The University of Southampton has been one of the pioneers of open access to academic research, particularly, in the tireless advocacy of Professor Stevan Harnad and in the creation of the EPrints software [1], as a vehicle for creating open access archives (or repositories) for research. These activities have been supported by a long-standing programme of research into digital libraries, hypermedia, and scholarly communication. In the early days, before the vocabulary of open access issues was so well developed, we talked of the 'esoteric literature' - the 'not-for-profit' academic literature - and the Faustian bargain that the authors made with the publishers [2]. The authors gave away copyright and therefore control of access to work which had been written by academics and refereed by academics but, in an ideal world, would also be read and acted upon by as wide an interested audience as possible. The digital medium, in principle, gave a huge opportunity for change and it was embraced early on by a few disciplines with centrally based archives. Now that change is happening in earnest with new and varied initiatives appearing so fast in the international arena that it is vital to scan Open Access News [3] regularly to keep up with them.

As we aspire to join an age of e-research in global collaboratories, it is fitting that, this year, open access to research should have been a keen interest of the UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee. It published its Tenth Report of the Session 2003-04, Scientific Publications: Free for all? [4] on 20 July. The Committee concluded that the current model for scientific publishing is unsatisfactory. An increase in the volume of research output, rising prices and static library budgets mean that libraries are struggling to purchase subscriptions to all the scientific journals needed by their users. The Report recommends that all UK higher education institutions establish institutional repositories on which their published output can be stored and from which it can be read, free of charge, online. It also recommends that Research Councils and other Government funders mandate their funded researchers to deposit a copy of all of their articles in this way.

Institutional repositories are now being recognised as a significant way of valuing and showcasing an institution's intellectual assets:

'While early implementers of institutional repositories have chosen different paths to begin populating their repositories and to build campus community acceptance, support, and participation, .... a mature and fully realised institutional repository will contain the intellectual works of faculty and students--both research and teaching materials--and also documentation of the activities of the institution itself in the form of records of events and performance and of the ongoing intellectual life of the institution. It will also house experimental and observational data captured by members of the institution that support their scholarly activities.' [5]

Although we are a long way from gathering all these assets there are plenty of unpredictable questions forthcoming about which assets we can store and how. It is useful to compare experiences and the baselines from which other institutions are working. The demands that drive a repository down a particular path may be quite different or may steer others in a common direction if circumstances are similar. User demands have given Lund University in Sweden a related path to ours [6] via a publications database as we shall see later from Southampton's own responses to its current environment.


The TARDis (Targeting Academic Research for Deposit and Disclosure) [7] e-Prints Project benefits from being one of a cluster of complementary projects in the Focus on Access to Institutional Resources (FAIR) Programme [8] funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) which supports Higher and Further Education in the UK. The work of this programme has been inspired by the success of the Open Archives Initiative (OAI) [9] - a simple mechanism that allows metadata about resources to be harvested into services that can be searched by staff and students.

Within this context, TARDis is exploring ways to build a sustainable multidisciplinary institutional archive of e-Prints (currently named e-Prints Soton [10]) to leverage the research created within Southampton University. It is testing the viability of both self-archiving and mediated deposit for a wide range of disciplines. While developing the archive, TARDis is specifically feeding back into the pioneering GNU EPrints software. In looking at a broad-based institution, we are aiming also to gear the software to provide ease of use by archive administrators and end-users from a spread of cultures and practices.

The publications archive developed for use in the Electronics and Computer Science Department, which uses the GNU Eprints software, and held over 800 full text publications as we began to set up our pilot institutional repository in 2003, was well known to the TARDis team. It now holds over 1600 full text items; evidence of continuous use of the kind which might ideally be envisaged for the whole university. Since this is also a bibliographic database of citations to work by departmental researchers, there will already be practical and technical decisions to be made in incorporating this within an institutional database intended originally to house full text publications in electronic form to aid both access and visibility.

To provide solutions which are meaningful across the whole institution it is very useful to get an understanding of the different publication practices of some of the other University departments. Sampling a range of subject areas has brought some extremely useful observations and our users have suggested some very practical strategies which fit our current environment. More details can be seen in the Environmental Assessment Report [11] which complements the explorations of our project cluster partner Edinburgh University [12].

The Broader University Picture

The University of Southampton is currently ranked among the top ten university institutions in the UK for the quality of its research. As such it seeks to maintain the high profile of outstanding departments as well as encouraging other departments to increase the standard and visibility of their research. The University has greatly expanded in recent years and now has over 19,000 students and around 4,800 staff based on several campuses in the Southampton region.

This exercise has looked at the kind of activity which currently takes place within different communities across the campuses to manage their research output and other publications for external consumption. It also provides some feedback on taking this forward.

However, while thinking about how best to introduce a new venture, it became evident that many other changes were taking place within the University which needed to be taken into account, including major improvements to the Web site and to University management systems. Although the aim is to streamline these processes, these developments all introduce an extra burden on staff as they learn and adapt to the changes. The most significant change was the major restructuring of the University from 1 August 2003. Inevitably this has had an impact on the work of the TARDis Project in various ways. A major part of the restructuring process has been the reorganisation of the University's academic departments into 3 faculties and 20 schools with varying degrees of change to be made.

As this major change took place in August 2003, e-Prints Soton was set up to use the new structures for simplicity. Since there is a need to minimise barriers for authors to deposit their work, a simple framework is an important consideration. For Oceanography there is the added complication of the drive to develop a fully integrated centre of excellence from the NERC Research Division and the School of Ocean and Earth Science, with their different cultures and practices, operating within the new Faculty of Engineering, Science and Mathematics (and therefore under the management of the University), later in 2004. Staff would all be members of a research group (currently 10 in number). This progression might, however, simplify understanding of the various research areas for an outsider: this was certainly a challenge when sampling the research publications of the Southampton Oceanography Centre for this assessment.

For e-Prints Soton it is timely to represent the new structure in a manageable way. From the preceding discussion, it is clearly important to recognise that this structure will not remain static and we will need to endeavour to build the service to accommodate this. While faculties are still part of the vocabulary, disconcertingly, even the traditional word 'department' must be removed and be replaced by 'school'. The original decision has been to try to encompass all schools in one database rather than creating individual databases with software which might otherwise have to be upgraded individually and searched with a separate cross-searching tool. At the same time as this major reorganisation, there are the major changes taking place in the software systems supporting student administration: this suggests that any examination of linking to the core systems would be more beneficial after these systems are more stable.

Exploring the Faculties

The 3 new super faculties are:

We looked at the Web sites of some of the schools or subsets within the individual faculties. Schools, in any case, varied considerably in size. Within the old structure Mathematics was even a faculty on its own.

The following chart looks specifically at the percentage of publications displayed on the sample Web sites with full text. It must be remembered that departments (or schools) often display only selected publications and not necessarily the most recent.

DepartmentTotal number of publications listed on WebFull text on WebPercentage of Publications with full text
Faculty of Law, Arts and Social Sciences
Modern Languages16000%
Maths Education1703420%
Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences
Health Professions and Rehabilitation Sciences33200%
Nursing and Midwifery43900%
Faculty of Engineering, Science and Mathematics
Electronics and Computer Science700886612%
Mathematical Studies84931037%
Ocean Circulation and Climate Group, SOES28693%
James Rennell Division, SOC792689%

Figure 1: Sample Web sites within University of Southampton faculties with percentage of publications in full text

They can also be usefully viewed as a graph:

Bar chart (41KB) : Number of academic publications listed with full text electronically available via exemplar school websites, 2003




1 Archaeology

8 Biology

12 Chemistry

2 English

9 Medicine

13 Electronics and Computer Science

3 Modern Languages

10 Health Professions

14 Ocean Circulation and Climate, SOES

4 Music

11 Nursing and Midwifery

15 James Rennell Division, SOC

5 Politics


16 Mathematical Studies

6 Economics


7 Maths Education


Figure 2: Number of academic publications listed with full text electronically available via exemplar school Web sites, 2003

Shown as percentages, we see that Mathematics with its highly methodical publications listings organised around its 4 research groups already has 37% of its publications available from its site in electronic form. These listings are not generated using the GNU EPrints software, however, and this will need to be taken into consideration within the institutional context.

Faculty of Law, Arts and Social Sciences

To illustrate some of the disciplines within the faculty we will examine some specific examples firstly within the School of Humanities:

Discipline of Modern Languages

The former department of Modern Languages is one of the leading centres in the UK for the study of foreign languages and cultures, and was awarded the highest grade (5*) in the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise. PhD supervision is offered in line with the expertise of the members of staff in the primary areas of language, culture and society.

The list of all members of Modern Languages is available [13]. Each member of staff has a Web page that briefly covers his/her biography, teaching and research interests and recent publications. Typically a member of staff lists about 3-7 examples of the recent works, the majority of which are books. Only one person refers to titles of the journals she published her works in as opposed to the list of the publications she produced. There are 69 books listed among 51 members of the research staff and some staff display front cover shots of the published books. However cover shots of the books are not linked to, say, a publisher's catalogue description for more information. Many staff also list the books they have translated in the publication list. One member of staff provides a link to the full list of his publications in addition to the standard profile; the list contains 96 publications but has as yet no links to abstracts or any electronic text.

Overall, staff members in Modern Languages do not provide links to either any full text or abstracts of their publications and do not have any additional links to personally maintained Web sites. However, there appears to be further potential for putting some publications, or even parts, online or simply linking to additional useful information about them, which can be further explored. Although the range of publications differs considerably from some science subjects, there is already the possibility of adding cover images built into the GNU EPrints software.

Discipline of Music, School of Humanities

Although the University has created an Arts campus, Music remains on the main campus where it is adjacent to the renowned Turner Sims Concert Hall. The discipline of Music carries out international-level research across a broad spectrum of topics, encompassing music history, theory and analysis, issues in contemporary music and popular culture, performance research, and composition. Departmental research falls into six broad themes, with several staff working in each; this overlapping of interests contributes significantly to the vitality of our research environment. These themes are listed [14] with links to the appropriate sections of the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise return, which summarise work done in each field between 1994 and 2000, and publications resulting. A list of annual departmental publications can also be found on the University's Corporate and Marketing Web site. Neither list of themes nor departmental publications listed here have links to abstracts or full text.

All University-hosted Web pages of the teaching staff members follow guidelines [15] for maintaining a home page. According to the guidelines it is Music Department policy that every staff member maintains a home page including a summary biography and publication list. The publication lists also include a section on current projects or work in progress. The Music Department stipulates a specific format for publication lists because it draws information from the publication lists (for research returns, postgraduate brochures, etc.), and for this purpose it is requested that everyone uses the same conventions.

Apart from this, staff members are free to lay out the home page as they prefer and some staff members have highly sophisticated home pages (for example, see Pete Thomas [16]). In addition to a conventional list of publications that normally includes books, book chapters, journal articles and reviews, Music department members also list compositions and performances. Some staff have created links to MP3 files to enable a Web site visitor to listen to compositions. Some books may also be linked to a publisher's catalogue description.

The new School of Humanities includes the incredibly diverse areas of Archaeology, English, Film, History, Jewish History and Culture, Modern Languages, Music and Philosophy. Clearly disciplines such as Music will have its own special requirements within the new broad School of Humanities.

Economics, School of Social Sciences

Within the Social Sciences we see evidence of other traditions such as working papers and here we see a clear picture of a transition towards provision of full text in electronic form. Discussion of the ideas within the papers is likely to be more timely if the full text of the document is easily accessible [17].

The University of Southampton Economics Division has been publishing discussion papers in Economics since 1992. Abstracts for papers from 1997 onwards are available on-line. For papers from 1999 onwards, authors have included on-line files of their work, always in PDF (Acrobat) format, although paper copies can be sent on request and are available on subscription.

 Bar Chart (8KB):The transition to full text of Economics Discussion Papers at Southampton

Figure 3: The transition to full text of Economics Discussion Papers at Southampton

This snapshot shows the publications now containing full text as a norm. When looking at the whole institution there is obviously a need to consider how to manage the integration of this established practice as well as the established publication listings of the school as a whole.

The Centre for Research in Mathematics Education

The Centre for Research in Mathematics Education (CRIME) is an example of an established interdisciplinary centre within the University. CRIME, one of the centres within the former Department of Education, was established in 1970. It includes academic staff from the Faculty of Mathematical Studies and the Research and Graduate School of Education. After the restructuring the School of Education has been assigned to the Faculty of Law, Arts and Social Sciences and the Faculty of Mathematics is now part of a much larger Faculty of Engineering, Science and Mathematics. The centre already makes a percentage of its work available online. A potential bonus of an institutional repository is that, in such an interdisciplinary area a work need be entered only once and can be immediately reflected in both disciplines for use in University reporting of research and wider. The centre expressed interest in acquiring a simple conversion service for creating pdfs. Elsewhere in Education there is keenness to show through the visibility of full text the strength of the research record particularly in newer fields such as e-learning.

Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences

Medicine, in particular, has an existing structure with access to publications leading to abstracts and sometimes full text of which it is necessary to take note. An institutional e-Print archive would need to build on this previous work. Medicine operates a highly focused research strategy with large interdisciplinary research divisions which bridge traditional subject boundaries. It provides a highly organised Web site for research based on the six research divisions [18] reflecting the School's major strengths.

The list of recent publications presented by a staff member is normally a list of references with links to either an abstract of the article or full text or both. The abstracts are always linked to the PubMed database [19] which can contain a link to the full text version of an article on the Web site of the relevant publisher. The full text is normally linked directly to a publisher's Web site by-passing the PubMed database. It appears from the School of Medicine (SOM) Web site that research profiles of individuals are normally maintained by the school or the relevant sub-division. Only a few academic staff members maintain their own Web pages in addition to their research profiles.

It is possible to view a typical example of the School of a Medicine staff member Web page [20]. Of 9 recent papers all have an abstract and 5 also have links to journal text in pdf format although none of the pdfs are stored in-house. Southampton researchers have also submitted 10 items of research to BioMed Central, the open access publishers, including a conference paper published in January 2004, a review, a commentary and oral presentations. Nursing, by contrast, does not yet have any links to full text publications but a seminar for research staff showed there was a keenness to increase visibility and profile.

Faculty of Engineering, Science and Mathematics

School of Electronics and Computer Science

The department [21] started a database to list its own research publications in 1998. Researchers in the Intelligence, Agents, Multimedia Group have also created the open source GNU EPrints software for use by others around the world to create their own eprint archives. The original 'Jerome' database has become a useful exemplar for the EPrints software and now uses the latest version. It includes bibliographic information (now over 8000 publications) and offers the option to add full text (now 1600 documents). It became departmental policy for all staff and research students to contribute their publications adding full text where possible. Thus in 2003 the database was successfully used as the basis for the department's input to the University's 2002 research report. Lists were generated which highlighted missing fields enabling staff to check metadata quickly. Reports were then easily generated in the appropriate format specified for the input to the University.

Elsewhere in the Faculty there is interest in eprints for a variety of reasons. In Chemistry there is potential interest in electronic publications because of the number of international students. Linking to data is also a particular interest being pursued as part of the eBank UK Project.

In Physics and Astronomy there is a perceived need for a publications database with full text deposits or links as appropriate. The traditional High Energy Physics Preprint list would also benefit from a simpler method of deposit. Astronomy already provides a live search on the subject-based archive 'arXiv' for the publication list on their Web pages. There are strong links with arXiv and the library-based complementary database called SPIRES for some but not all physicists.

Southampton Oceanography Centre

A contrasting approach is taken by the Southampton Oceanography Centre (SOC) which as we have seen has two specific overlapping entities which will be coming together more closely in the future. The current distinctions are emphasised in our look at the Web sites of interrelated groups.

The Southampton Oceanography Centre is a joint venture between the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the University of Southampton and embodies the previous Institute of Oceanographic Sciences (IOS) and the departments of Geology and Oceanography. Historically (since 1949) the National Oceanographic Library (NOL) within IOS was responsible for the recording of all research output and between 1950-1980 produced and distributed worldwide, an annual volume of Collected Reprints (an obvious paper analogue to the present intended e-Print activity). The NOL is required annually to report on 'Output Measures' of SOC and since 1995 (the inception of SOC) has taken responsibility for recording research output of both NERC and University researchers.

The NOL plays a central role in the scholarly communication process. It lists all research papers from submission to publication, orders and distributes the reprints of research papers and is responsible for the production and distribution of SOC Reports. It produces throughout the year updates of papers published to line managers and makes the SOC Staff Publications database available on the NOL Web site. Over 600 research publications are produced each year of which nearly 300 are peer-reviewed. There is a formal process between researcher and the NOL in place to ensure that a definitive listing can be provided both for NERC and the University Research Report. We are using this fertile environment to pilot e-Prints Soton which, nevertheless, also provides a challenge in that certain procedures are already in place although without an emphasis on full text currently.

This tour of some of the diverse disciplines of the University showed a variety of practices, styles and formats. Most importantly it showed that we are not starting from scratch which might be a simpler task in many ways. However, it shows there is plenty of potential for adding or linking to full text until it becomes second nature as it has already become for Economics Working Papers or for Astronomy journal articles.

As we met with pilot depositors we assembled a variety of practical suggestions to inform our own route to Open Access.

Summary of Perceived Needs of University Authors and Suggested Services

Academics are asked to provide information about their publications for a large variety of demands and for which the format required varies each time. The following needs were some of those identified, but not prioritised, by our academics:

A specific annual burden on academics is the University Research Report. Traditionally in paper form it provided publication lists in pdf form for departments in 2002. Normally seen as a request for large amounts of information well after the event it would be a considerable bonus if an e-Prints archive could provide the basis of a more proactive service which could, at the same time, improve the visibility of Southampton research in a simpler fashion. These demands sway the decision on whether the eprints database can remain solely a full text database or whether it must be an integral part of a publications system to obtain support from the academics who must help create it.

To enable all these needs to be fulfilled successfully, a number of services were suggested by individuals which e-Prints Soton or other publication services might offer to facilitate these processes.

The one that authors might well appreciate the most was their being able to input data just once and to use this for multiple outputs. Bibliographic information and also the document itself may, however, be updated when an article is published. The deposit process is more complicated in disciplines where authors already contribute to subject-based archives such as arXiv or RePEC or contribute to major project databases such as AKT. Import for high energy physicists could perhaps be aided by being able to ask the SPIRES library system for bibtex output and importing that directly into the departmental database. The School of Physics and Astronomy has already been experimenting with EPrints software because of the numerous demands for publication information. They propose that the publications database created could also provide a store for the electronic document when it is not already stored elsewhere e.g. in arXiv.

Other useful services suggested included the capacity to:

It was suggested that the e-Prints community might produce/ build up a bank of filters over time. It might be possible to take advantage of mark up schemes devised for special purposes such as Mathematics or Chemistry.

Key Issues for e-Prints Soton

A key consideration for the TARDIs Project is how to ensure e-Prints Soton collaborates effectively with the new Schools. At this sensitive time of transition, there is a need to ensure our service can add value and save time rather than entailing significant extra work for individual researchers. This is where mediated support may prove a bonus even if it later becomes less necessary. In some areas, in which up until now there has been little move to make full text available electronically, it will be more straightforward to provide a new service as less duplication is involved. Here, however, advocacy and support may become a greater priority.

Although it throws up additional issues to tackle, an exploration of current electronic publication recording practices, particularly involving full text dissemination, around the University has provided a firmer basis and constant reminder on which to proceed towards an Open Access vision for research within specific faculties and schools. Providing a number of value-added services to meet perceived needs could help create some valuable incentives to deposit publications proactively in e-Prints Soton. Research recording demands provide a framework within which to position the institutional repository if indeed it is to become an essential component of the infrastructure for the digital age. A preliminary look at our user-centred route map is shown in the following figure:

Diagram (62KB) : Back to the future with the TARDis Institutional Repository route map

Figure 4: Back to the future with the TARDis Institutional Repository route map

To achieve the original vision we are moving around the clock, now working hard in the lower half, to get around to our goal at midnight!


'All rising to great place is by a winding stair' - Francis Bacon

To achieve a sustainable repository we need to integrate our archive within the natural processes of its staff and students; this gives them the bonus of a reusable resource. While immediate visibility leading to increased research impact is the primary aim of Stevan Harnad's campaigns, we can achieve this by example, practice and cooperation. No doubt we will find other benefits as resources reach a critical mass. The route we are taking has been driven by our users and even if it is a more circular route than we might have first supposed it will be the more sure for taking it. So although the way Dr Who's TARDIS travels through space time is something of a mystery, Southampton's TARDis is travelling back to the future in a more clearly defined mode, steered by its users. The TARDIS contains a lot of rooms including libraries and swimming pools. Our TARDis libraries become more visible week by week as we encourage a culture of open access.


  1. GNU EPrints archive software http://software.eprints.org/
  2. Harnad, Stevan and Hey, Jessie, "Esoteric knowledge: the scholar and scholarly publishing on the Net" in: Lorcan Dempsey, Derek Law and Ian Mowat, eds, Networking and the future of libraries 2: managing the intellectual record, London: Library Association Publishing, 1995, 110-116
  3. Open Access News http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/fosblog.html
  4. Great Britain Parliament House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, Tenth Report of Session 2003-04 "Scientific Publications: Free for all?" HC 399-I, 2004,114p http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200304/cmselect/cmsctech/399/39902.htm (pdf also available)
  5. Lynch, Clifford A., "Institutional repositories: essential infrastructure for scholarship in the digital age", ARL BiMonthly Report, 2003, No. 226, 1-7 http://www.arl.org/newsltr/226/ir.html
  6. Eriksson, Jorgen and Kjellberg, Sara, "Summary of how we have approached the task of setting up an institutional archive", LU:Research http://www.lub.lu.se/lucep/documents/lu-research/description_of_experiences_040211.shtml
  7. TARDis Project http://tardis.eprints.org/
  8. FAIR programme http://www.jisc.ac.uk/index.cfm?name=programme_fair
  9. Open Archives Initiative http://www.openarchives.org/
  10. University of Southampton Research Repository (e-Prints Soton) http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/
  11. Hey, Jessie M.N, "An environmental assessment of research publication activity and related factors impacting the development of an Institutional e-Print Repository at the University of Southampton.", 2004 Southampton, UK, University of Southampton, 19pp. (TARDis Project Report, D 3.1.2) http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/archive/00006218/
  12. Andrew, Theo, "Trends in Self-Posting of Research Material Online by Academic Staff" Ariadne Issue 37 2003 http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue37/andrew/
  13. Languages at Southampton: Staff list http://www.lang.soton.ac.uk/profiles/stafflist.htm
  14. Music University of Southampton : Music research http://www.soton.ac.uk/~musicbox/research.htm
  15. Guidelines for creating home pages http://www.soton.ac.uk/~musicbox/home_page.htm
  16. Pete Thomas: music producer / composer / saxophone http://www.petethomas.co.uk/
  17. University of Southampton Economics Division: Discussion Paper Series in Economics and Econometrics http://www.socsci.soton.ac.uk/Economics/Research/Discussion_Papers/default.php?NavContext=Discipline
  18. University of Southampton School of Medicine Research http://www.som.soton.ac.uk/research/
  19. PubMed, a service of the National Library of Medicine http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/
  20. University of Southampton - School of Medicine: IIR - Allergy and Inflammation Sciences, Members:- John Warner, Professor of Child Health http://www.som.soton.ac.uk/research/ais/members/jow.htm
  21. School of Electronics and Computer Science http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/

Author Details

Jessie M N Hey
Research Fellow
TARDis Institutional Repository Project
University of Southampton

Email: jessie.hey@soton.ac.uk
Web site: http://tardis.eprints.org/

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