Your Open Access – statistics and usage

Kyle Brady
Tuesday 24 October 2017

It’s Open Access Week again, and this year the theme is ‘Open in order to…’ This year’s theme is designed to shift discussion away from wider issues of ‘openness’, and instead direct attention to the tangible benefits of open access. This week we will be publishing a series of posts aimed at  highlighting some of these benefits. In this post we will look at some of the statistics we gather about the open access content in our Repository, and specifically the statistics that we’ve chosen to highlight in our new Infographic.

Given the theme of this year’s Open Access Week, the subject of this post could be appropriately described as ‘Open in order to boost downloads’

For years we have been collecting usage statistics about the content held in our repository. Up until now this data has been collected and, for the most part, discussed internally; but not any more. Now we want to show the academic community here in St Andrews, whose work populates the repository, that their archived content is used, and used a lot! So we have created an infographic that shows key data that we feel accurately reflects the health of our repository and wide (even worldwide) interest in our content. At this stage we hope to update the infographic every four months.

So, what statistics have we chosen to highlight? We have chosen to first of all highlight the headline figures for the content stored in the repository, and we’ve decided to break down the headline figures  into two groups – theses and non-theses. This is because by and large our theses receive a disproportionately high number of downloads compared to other item types. One reason for this will be that the repository is the primary source for theses, and another contributing factor will be redirects to our repository from the British Library’s Ethos Service where our theses are also indexed. It is worth mentioning that the content statistics were collected within the repository, requiring quite a bit of manual effort. However the download statistics are collected by an organisation called IRUS-UK. IRUS is a Jisc funded service that gathers download statistics from UK based repositories, allowing for detailed and very accurate analysis of usage. Its accuracy is largely because it uses an internationally recognised ‘COUNTER‘ standard for data collection, meaning that the figures are more likely to be a true representation of ‘real’ usage (i.e. not a robot!).

So for the first infographic – we see that the 2616 theses were downloaded a total of 8817 times, and over the same period 7911 research publications (everything that isn’t a thesis) were downloaded 9706 times. This means that our thesis content is actually downloaded almost three times more than all the other content put together. This really shows the enormous value in the work performed by David Collins and others in the cataloguing team to make our St Andrews theses open access. The non-thesis downloads are not to be sniffed at either, far from it in fact. The headline figures show that there are an average of 1.27 downloads for each non-thesis item in the repository. That is not to say that each item is downloaded 1.27 times of course, but it does give an indication of the repository’s health and shows that at least in general terms someone is accessing this content who might not otherwise have been able to.

It is often difficult to make specific statements regarding statistics as figures almost always have an underlying and heavily nuanced narrative. So the statistics, if they are to say anything, communicate the gratitude of thousands of people every month who are able to access academic material that might have otherwise been out of reach.

Regularly updated infographics will be hosted here –, where they can be viewed in their full interactive form. They will also be archived in our repository in due course.



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