Wednesday, June 23

Online archives run by universities struggle to attract material

Papers Wanted:

"An ambitious effort by MIT to build a free electronic archive of the scholarship the institute produces has hit a snag. Released in November 2002, the archive, DSpace, was seen by many in academe as a beacon for open-access scholarship. It would promote collaboration among researchers, spark ideas for new studies, and make MIT's intellectual output freely available to the world. If such archives arose at other colleges, proponents argued, they could eventually offer an alternative to high-priced scholarly journals.

But the enterprise has failed to catch on with many of MIT's own professors, who have been asked to voluntarily place their research papers, data sets, and journal articles into the archive. University officials had hoped to have as many as 5,000 items in the archive by the fall of 2003. But now -- eight months after that deadline -- the archive contains only 3,911 items. And of the more than 100 research units at MIT that can contribute to DSpace, whose name means "digital space," only nine have.

In 2002, when the Massachusetts Institute of Technology started DSpace, its online archive of MIT scholars' research, about 90 professors were asked their concerns about placing their work in the collection. Below are the percentages of respondents who chose each concern as one of their top three:

Prefer that only formally published works be available for public consumption 50%

Worry that publishing a paper in MIT's archive might constitute prior publication and prevent submission of the work to journals 48%

Hesitant to assign distribution rights for scholarly works to MIT 46%

Hesitant to submit work to a repository that lacks a formal review policy or other quality-control process 23%"