Intro. I’m going to talk about our work with African partners to build an open digital repository of grey literature.
Map of the world as it would have looked in 2001 based on the number of scientific publications produced. Not only is the North-South divide fairly obvious, but Africa in particular is barely visible. But this probably isn’t the whole picture. It’s not just that Africa produces fewer publications (though it does), but the map data is taken from Northern-based indexes of journal articles – this excludes both Southern journals which are not judged to have international impact, AND publications that are outside the journal form. Ie grey literature.
Here are some experts describing this situation and suggesting how institutional repositories might be a way to redress it, by making African research available online, archiving it, and increasing its use and impact… and that’s what we’re trying to do at BLDS and with our partners.
The British Library for Development Studies is a national and international resource for development studies and 60% of the collection is published in developing countries. There’s a high proportion of unique holdings including substantial grey literature collections. These are ideal candidates for digitisation, digital archiving and open access dissemination through repositories, because in many cases they’re not available online or even in other libraries, and are not subject to as many copyright and licensing restrictions as commercially published papers.
The BLDS Digital Library project began in 2010 as part of the Mobilizing Knowledge for Development programme funded by DFID. With a remit to improve the profile and accessibility of Southern-published research, BLDS digitized material from our existing holdings with permission from the copyright holders. We launched our repository containing the digitised material in 2011 and it now contains over 2,500 documents. Work continues until 2016 under the new DfID programme the Global Open Knowledge Hub, and we’ve now extended the project to support in-country digitization by providing equipment, software and training to our partners. Although it’s funded separately, we also have an institutional repository for IDS, which shares the same platform and staff. This platform as a whole is known as OpenDocs.
OpenDocs and the BLDS Digital Library within it are built on the open source repository software DSpace. The site is indexed by Google, Google Scholar and repository directories, but also has its own fully searchable and browsable interface. Each organisation represented in the Digital Library becomes what’s called in DSpace a ‘sub-community’, and within that sub-community are collections of individual items. All the items have full-text attached, which is free to download and reuse under a Creative Commons license.
Our approach to the project was based on a mixture of pragmatism, funder preferences and institutional values. So as well as trying to expose what’s not already online or widely distributed, we looked at: - Low hanging fruit in terms of copyright – so, was it held by the institution and not transferred or exclusively licensed to commercial publishers? - We looked for material published in our funder’s focus countries in Africa and South Asia - And content that reflected our research themes as an institute - And we wanted the repository to provide open access to the full-text in all cases, but we did compromise by choosing the most restrictive Creative Commons license to allay some of our partners’ concerns about IP protection
So who are our partners? These are some of them – altogether we’ve worked with 22 universities and research institutes in 8 African and 6 Asian countries.
Lots of these partners already share publications online, so why join the BLDS Digital Library as well? These are some of the benefits: Discoverability - searchable directly or via general and academic search engines; complete and shareable metadata created for each publication; two-way links with BLDS catalogue records where we hold a print copy Openness - freely available to target audiences within and outside of academic institutions (NGOs, practitioners, policy makers etc); reusable through open licensing (Creative Commons) and harvesting protocols Preservation - long-term storage of file information; unique identifiers; plenty of server space; stable infrastructure Authority - association with the IDS and BLDS brands; and with other organisations in the Digital Library; quality and rights control provided by BLDS librarians Metrics - all abstract views and download statistics are publicly available; BLDS can provide custom statistics on request
We also think there are benefits for us, our researchers and the wider development research community: OpenDocs is enriched as a repository by having not just institutional content but reflecting that we work with international partners and learn from their research. It brings together previously dispersed outputs under a ‘development studies’ umbrella, with equity for Southern-produced research.
What’s in the Digital Library? Types of content include working papers, conference proceedings, reports, briefings and theses. All social sciences are covered but with a focus on economic, social and political development. 2650 documents have been contributed so far – our oldest item is the first in a monograph series from what was then the East African Institute of Social Research (now part of Makerere University), published in 1953. Our newest item at the moment is a working paper published this year by the Zambia Institute for Policy Analysis and Research.
In terms of usage, there are around 20,000 downloads from the Digital Library every month, and about 13% of those are from Africa. Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda are all consistently in the top 10 countries by user location, with these users mostly accessing content from and about African countries.
I’m now going to illustrate the different ways we have worked with our partners using three examples, the Forum for Social Studies in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, REPOA in Tanzania, and the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.
FSS were one of our early partners, giving permission for us to digitise a small number of documents from our library holdings. We then worked with them, in collaboration with the Royal Tropical Institute, to set up their own institutional repository, and provided scanning equipment and local training. This local training workshop sowed the seeds for further workshops at Addis Ababa University, and wider developments led by the Consortium of Ethiopian Academic and Research Libraries. A national repository is now planned, and 23 research institutions have signed an MoU to collaborate on increasing the availability and use of research outputs in Ethiopia.
REPOA in Tanzania were the first of our partners to get in touch about joining the Digital Library, rather than us contacting them. They wanted to use the Digital Library as an additional dissemination channel for their existing digital publications, so this was a fairly simple process of making copies (though we still added our own detailed records to enhance the publication metadata). Their publications have been downloaded about 10,000 times since 2012.
UKZN have worked with us in several different ways to build up a rich and unique collection in the Digital Library – initially we digitised material from our holdings, and this was supplemented by other materials sent by the development studies librarian there. They then became the first organisation to take part in our new decentralised approach – we transferred funds directly to them so they could buy their own equipment and software, and allocate staff time to digitisation. The Digital Library now contains almost 300 publications from former research centres such as the Institute for Social Research and the Centre for Applied Social Sciences, dating back to the late 1950s and online here for the first time. This material is really popular with around 2000 downloads from the UKZN collection every month.
What about sustainability? Our current funding ends in 2016. The platform (and to some extent the staffing) is secure by virtue of sharing Dspace software with the IDS central repository. The BLDS Digital Library could therefore be a self-sustaining, Southern-populated service as participating organisations are free to continue adding content. But this does require partners to develop their institutional capacity internally in order to make continuing use of equipment, software and training materials. This capacity would be lost if for example funding was used to outsource digitisation. Something we’re interested in working more on is strengthening capacity to support the sustainable use of open access technologies – implementation or start-up projects can often run aground later on if the skills and resources to upgrade and fix software, maintain servers etc are not there. Being able to recruit new content and stay up to speed with policy, copyright etc is also essential.
I’ll end on some issues we encountered and lessons we’ve learned. Some of our biggest early challenges were with seeking permission to digitise – the initial response rate was low but once the repository was established this turned around and we began to get requests to join, for example from REPOA as mentioned. Where we received refusals it was usually because of concerns over loss of publishing revenue and copyright violation or plagiarism. As the project developed and digitisation started to move to our partners’ own countries, institutional politics became a factor. As we were inevitably communicating remotely most of the time, it could be hard to get an accurate picture of how things worked, and there were risks with capture of funds for other purposes, especially in resource-poor contexts. We also found that what our partners were interested in getting out of the arrangement wasn’t always what we could provide under the terms of our funding. And the main lesson is – although we could find some efficiencies through standard templates, one size really does not fit all and drawing up collaborative agreements was therefore a very time-consuming process. But the flip side is that it has led to deeper relationships and mutual learning, which we can take forward into other collaborations and projects.
The BLDS Digital Library: open access to African research
The BLDS Digital Library:
open access to African grey literature
British Library for Development Studies
11 September 2014
Scientific and technological information
and knowledge is critical to the
development of Africa. However, very
little research output from Africa finds
its way into the international journals.
Much of it is in the form of grey
literature … and is not visible and easily
accessible to potential users
By making available
research generated in poor
countries in addition to knowledge
created in well-endowed
repositories could play a role in
bridging the global knowledge gap.
“grey literature,” which
libraries used to receive from
departments and research
centers in paper, now often
exist[s] only on the web; the
risk of loss is great if there is
not an archival system like an
IR in place.
(Kennison et al., 2013)
Downloads per item are
often higher for grey
literature than for
(Schopfel et al.,2012)
National and international
resource for development studies
Over 200,000 titles, 1 million
60% published in developing
High proportion of unique holdings
including grey literature
= good candidates for digitisation
Project background and funding
Mobilizing Knowledge for Development (2010-2013)
improving the profile and accessibility of
Southern development research
digitisation of BLDS holdings
BLDS Digital Library (2011-)
Global Open Knowledge Hub (2013-2016)
supporting local (Southern) digitisation
OpenDocs and IDS institutional repository linkages
The BLDS Digital Library
DSpace open source
Searchable and browsable
Indexed by Google,
What’s not already online/widely distributed?
Low hanging copyright fruit
Focus countries in Africa and South Asia
IDS research themes
Openness vs IP protection
22 universities and research institutes
Based in 8 African and 6 Asian countries
BLDS Digital Library benefits
Searchable, harvestable, described, linked
Free, reusable, CC licensed
Stored, backed up, uniquely identified
Brand association, quality controlled
Public and custom usage statistics
OpenDocs enriched as a repository – not just
Wide range of research/voices in one place.
Brings together dispersed outputs
Equity for Southern-produced
What’s in the Digital Library
Working papers, conference proceedings, reports,
briefings, theses etc
Social sciences especially economic, social and
2650 full-text papers so far
1953 – 2014
Usage and demographics
Around 20,000 downloads per
Around 13% of all downloads come
High usage in Kenya, Nigeria,
South Africa and Uganda
Demand for African research about
1. From 10 digitised documents to national agreements:
Forum for Social Studies, Ethiopia
2. From supply to demand:
Research on Poverty Alleviation, Tanzania
3. From BLDS collections to local capacity:
University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Forum for Social Studies, Ethiopia
1. Initial digitisation from BLDS holdings
2. In-country capacity building and equipment
3. Development of own repository
4. CEARL, national planning and MoU
1. Request for inclusion
2. BLDS download of born digital
3. Copies added to BLDS Digital
University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
1. Initial digitisation from BLDS holdings
2. Further material supplied by partner
3. BLDS funding for human resources and equipment
4. Remote training and support
5. Full in-country digitisation, unique material now
Our funding ends in 2016 – what
Secure IDS institutional
infrastructure (shared Dspace
Potentially self-sustaining, but…
…requires internal institutional
capacity of partners
CEARL National Digital Repository Workshop, Addis Ababa, February 2013
Photo by BLDS
Technology is not enough
Issues, barriers and lessons learned
licensing and IP/revenue protection
Partner needs vs funder restrictions
No one-size-fits-all approach
Image credits and references
All graphics from The Noun Project, public domain or CC By as below:
Search designed by Gianni - Dolce Merda
Document designed by iconoci
Statistics designed by Nate Eul
Team designed by Stephen Borengasser
Chan, L. (2004). Supporting and Enhancing Scholarship in the Digital Age: The Role of Open
Access Institutional Repository. Canadian Journal Of Communication, 29(3).
Chisenga, J. (2006) ‘The development and use of digital libraries, institutional digital repositories
and open access archives for research and national development in Africa: opportunities and
challenges.’ Presented at the Workshop on Building African Capacity to Implement the
Outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in the Sphere of Libraries
and Access to Information and Knowledge, Addis Ababa, Tuesday, 28 March 2006.
Kennison, R, Shreeves, SL, Harnad, S. (2013). Point & Counterpoint: The Purpose of Institutional
Repositories: Green OA or Beyond?. Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication
Schöpfel, J., Prost, H., & Le Bescond, I. (2012) Open Is Not Enough: Grey Literature in Institutional
Repositories. In GL 13: Thirteenth International Conference on Grey Literature: The Grey
Circuit. From Social Networking to Wealth Creation. Washington, 5-6 December 2011.