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Institutional repositories

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Do repositories make publishers redundant?

"Scientists cannot and do not want to abandon the publication of their articles in scientific journals. The main reason for this is the peer review process guaranteed by the publishers. This quality control and the attendant gain in reputation linked to this process provides an incentive for academic authors to publish preferably in such journals. Repositories – especially the multidisciplinary repositories of universities – cannot offer a comparable mechanism for quality control" (Herb and Muller, 2008).

While institutional repositories may appear on the SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) threats of publishers, the above quote makes it clear that the threat cannot be that great, simply because the former is a different animal to the latter.

Publishing is essentially about quality control, which is the expertise of publishers. The situation is summed up as follows by Rebecca Marsh, publishing director of Emerald:

"Institutional repositories seek to be a complete holding of an institution's research: everything from reports and conference papers to journal articles and book chapters, and so there is a lot of grey literature as well as published content. What publishers add in the information chain is the management of the peer review, the administration of the publication process, and continued investment in new ways of delivering and disseminating knowledge. The core activities for an academic are research and teaching; therefore, the coordination of the quality control process is not their main priority. For us as publishers, it is our business; we invest in it and constantly look at ways to innovate and develop the publishing processes. So I don't think repositories present a great threat to publishers and we can work alongside one another quite effectively."

We have seen how institutional repositories can provide an elegant solution, both to the wider academic community by providing a timely distribution mechanism which can increase impact, and to that of the institution by offering a central place to park research in a way that can easily be retrieved. But academic journals are by their very nature communities of researchers working across institutions. Without peer review, the quality would not be assured, and the whole point of the enterprise lost. The scholarly world needs publishers to work together with IRs to ensure that research has the impact it deserves.