Repositories have long played a critical role in providing equitable access to scholarly outputs, and SPARC is working in partnership with Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR) on an initiative to strengthen ties between professionals who operate institutional repositories in the United States.
The goal of the initiative is to create an inclusive community that will collaborate and broaden access to research in ways that are both equitable and sustainable. Nearly 70 representatives from a variety of institutions have stepped forward to help with the effort. The U.S. Repository Network (USRN) held its inaugural steering group meeting in September, organized by SPARC's Visiting Program Officer Tina Baich and co-chaired by Vicki Coleman of North Carolina A&T State University and Martha Whitehead of Harvard University.
"There is a pressing need to break down the silos and have greater coordination across U.S. repositories," said Baich, senior associate dean for scholarly communication and content strategies at IUPUI University Library in Indianapolis. "We need shared practices and shared expertise to strengthen the community — and then leverage that strength to enhance our technical infrastructure to promote the interoperability necessary to make research held across U.S. repositories more easily discovered. The community clearly expressed those needs during the vision development process."
A description of the initiative's vision, action plan, and listing all of its participants was recently posted on the new USRN home page, hosted on the SPARC website.
The project encompasses all open research repositories based in the U.S. regardless of content, host, or platform. They may contain articles, data, gray literature, and emerging forms of scholarship. The repositories could be hosted by higher education institutions, research centers, or other nonprofit organizations. The network is supported by COAR, which includes 157 members and partners from around the world representing libraries, universities, research institutions, government funders and others.
"We couldn't be more pleased to see the diversity of institutions coming together to make this national research infrastructure a reality," said SPARC Executive Director Heather Joseph. "We're particularly interested in working with institutions who don't have their own repository on campus, but want to explore ways to take advantage of shared infrastructure."
The effort is especially timely in the wake of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) memo requiring all U.S. taxpayer funded research to be open and broadly available to the public in the most equitable way.
"The OSTP memorandum places an emphasis on the default mode of compliance being repository deposit," Joseph said. "It also calls for community contributions in helping to define desirable characteristics of publications repositories. There's a deep wealth of experience and expertise in the community represented by the USRN, and it is well positioned to ensure that implementation of the OSTP Memo is as effective and as efficient as possible."
COVID-19 also ushered in a growing use of preprints and new engagement in the open landscape.
"The pandemic increased the urgency of fast sharing of reputable research and helped people understand new possibilities," said Whitehead, vice president for the Harvard Library, co-chair of USRN and chair of COAR.
There is a strong commitment to the innovative role of repositories internationally and the USRN work is specifically designed to align with COAR's Modernizing the Global Repository Network initiative "But an international network is only as strong as each of its parts," Whitehead said. "We saw that within the U.S., and realized we have some work to do — even to build an understanding of the importance of a distributed network of repositories and then figure out how we can support each other in creating that capacity."
Coleman, dean of library services at North Carolina A&T State University and USRN co-chair, said that it's a pivotal time now as faculty are looking for quicker ways to access research and share research data to solve global issues. Since not all institutions have access to the same resources, this effort can help expand access to repositories beyond individual campuses.
"Many institutions are underfunded and can't afford access to certain journal titles," Coleman said. "This effort helps to enable equitable access to federally funded research…We want to come up with an action plan that allows U.S. repositories to be interoperable with repositories all over the world."
Next, the USRN will focus on developing its action plan, which will focus on governance, relationship building, desirable characteristics and best practices, and support for repository managers. Sign up for updates on the USRN landing page.