Along its workline for making available new tools that will contribute to developing general Open Access infrastructure, GrandIR has recently gathered a set of usage modules for Institutional Repositories and is now campaigning for widely spreading its implementation. The goal of this campaign is to enable repositories to assess their content usage on-the-fly, thus fostering scholars' involvement in the repository development.
Usage modules: a key factor for the development of Institutional Repositories
Usage is a critical element for the progress of content ingest into Open Access Institutional Repositories. It may often happen that despite having an attractive platform interface, a solid team of Open Access experts among the project staff and even effective tools for finding out contents to ingest into a repository, the level of contents filed in the repository database remains way below what could be expected due to a low author involvement in the project development.
A usage module is a key tool for achieving this author involvement. The possibility to offer the repository users updated information on the usage levels for the resource as a whole and for every specific filed item means an author may always know the visibility level reached by her/his research works as a result of their being available Open Access, and which of them receives more attention from the repository users. Besides that, the repository managers will be able to assess the increase in usage figures as the level of contents filed into the repositoy grows with time, as well as to tell the source of document visits and downloads. Finally, repository managers will also be able to tell which repository sections have more impact among users, which will be of help when planning strategies to strengthen or enhance those other sections with lower usage levels.
The opportunity to devise instruments for measuring impact other than the traditional ones -the Impact Factor from journals where papers get published- is an answer to an old aspiration of the Open Access movement. Running a usage module gets us close to the ideal of measuring the impact of a research work per se and not through the journal where it's published, and does also offer the possibility of measuring such impact in terms of real time usage, instead of based on data from previous years (see in this regard the paper "Alternative Impact Measures for Open Access Documents?" published by Ulrich Herb in the Proceedings of the 76th IFLA General Conference and Assembly (Gothemburg, 2010).
A good proof for the fact that the availability of a usage module represents a large stimulus for a repository development is provided by the analysis of the most successful repositories in terms of contents at a national level in Spain. As displayed in the image where content evolution is graphed for the most important Spanish repositories, all those repositories featured in top positions are running a usage module openly available to the repository users (those which run usage modules are represented in thicker lines).
It's a fact that many repositories have internal tools available for monitoring their usage, such as Google Analytics. This tool, which is very useful to repository managers, is however not available for external users, who as a consequence cannot know the repository usage, nor to the authors themselves, who are therefore banned from presonally checking the impact of the works they filed or submitted to be filed in the Open Access repository. Finally, although Google Analytics supplies plenty of information on the visits to the platform, it does not provide -unless a lengthy customization process is performed- information on downloads of full-text files attached to the document descriptions. Usage modules on the other hand were specifically designed to monitor repository usage and provide detailed information on visits, downloads, source countries and most viewed and downloaded documents among other features.
GrandIR has then collected a set of open source usage modules for implementation on DSpace-based repositories, namely those devised by the University of Tasmania in Australia and the Universidade do Minho in Portugal. Functionality of the Tasmania usage module, initially designed as an add-on to the EPrints software, may be tested on the currently available implementations on the RUA repository (Universidad de Alicante) and on the Universitat de Barcelona Dipòsit Digital on DSpace 1.6. The usage module developed by the Universidade do Minho does presently not have any implementations in Spain, since the Universidad Carlos III e-archivo repository, which operated this module, was upgraded to DSpace 1.6. The UMinho module is nevertheless available in plenty of Portuguese repositories such as Universidade do Minho RepositóriUM or Universidade de Coimbra Estudo Geral.
GrandIR members want to very specially acknowledge the valuable contribution while preparing these usage modules from a group of colleagues from different institutions in Spain. Their support was a great help, and we want to thank them for it in the framework of a collective effort to improve repository infrastructure.