Last year at Butler University, I began the process of systematically reviewing the impact of our institutional repository platform, Digital Commons @ Butler. In addition to measures of total download rates and number of total objects deposited, a major focus of the assessment of the repository was the global impact of the repository in terms of international downloads (depth) and the diaspora of Butler produced content (breadth). Because of the small size of Butler, it’s highly beneficial when communicating to stakeholders to be able to indicate just how large the impact of our locally produced content can be when disseminated utilizing an open repository model. Because Butler utilizes the Bepress repository platform, there were several tools available that help communicating this information, including a googlemaps API powered World Readership Map that measures global readership in real time. This enables the timely and systematic communication of the global scope of the repository.
In Relation to What?!
These approaches to measuring the global impact of our repository services are highly beneficial to communicating to stakeholders the success of repository. Yet, there was still a burning question in my mind as I began this process: who are we successful in relation to? The Ranking Web of Repositories (RWR) tool, an initiative of the Cybermetrics Lab, a research group belonging to the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), the largest public research body in Spain, provides us with the ability to quantify the overall success of our repository based on a series of criteria against other repositories nationally and worldwide.
On a whim, I decided to investigate this data last year just to see where Butler’s repository stacked up against other repositories in the world with regard to size (total number of objects), visibility (how findable is our repository content through major search engines), Rich Files (how many full text objects are available), and our visibility in GoogleScholar. It turns out that we were ranked 128 in the U.S. in 2015! This list included huge programs like Arxive.org. Needless to say, this metric provides a lot of incentive for us as an institution to prioritize our repository services because they indicate that even a small school like Butler can have a large impact and strengthen the global reputation of its researchers and the scholarship they produce. This year, the results were even more promising as we broke into the top 100 repositories in the U.S. at number 97, number 352 worldwide (See our 2016 ranking below).
The kind of broad analysis that this tool provides us is highly beneficial when telling the story of our scholarship. But competition against several schools that have far superior budgets isn’t the only justification for using this tool. It also provides us with a means of benchmarking our success in key performance areas as determined by the RWR. In the last year, due to this data we were able to strategically determine what aspects of our services we needed to focus on. For us, based on these rankings we were able to focus on growing our repository as the visibility of our platform is doing quite well. I did, however, expand my analysis of the rankings available through RWR to determine the strength of our rank against the repositories of our peer and aspirants and the large 1R schools in Indiana and in the last year, we were able to gain significant ground on many of our aspirant institutions.
Everyone Wins this Race
As I write this piece, I realize I run the risk of sounding smug about Butler’s success with its repository program. We were admittedly early adopters and considered this program a strategic priority perhaps even earlier than an institution our size necessarily needed to. However, even as I talk about rankings and “gaining ground” and “stacking up” against other schools, the real goal here is to demonstrate that even small schools have a role to play in the open dissemination of scholarly content and their libraries have a role to play in scholarly communication and the open exchange of information. The real power of a tool like RWR isn’t that we can rank ourselves against schools with bigger budgets than us or for us to hold our own success over the heads of similar institutions who don’t have the operating budget for a platform like Digital Commons. It’s the fact it gives us a tangible way to measure the ways in which we can all contribute to the open access movement. A small school with an open-source repository or a fledgling Digital Commons instance has access to the same benchmarking capacity that Cornell and Indiana University do and this allows us all to run the same race together: facilitate access to the research necessary for people, worldwide to succeed.