IRUS-UK: statistics and benchmarking for UK repositories

Kyle Brady
Tuesday 23 October 2018

For over 4 years now St Andrews has participated in IRUS-UK – a JISC funded service providing accurate and usable repository download statistics. At the time of writing there are 146 repositories included in the service, which equates to 94% of all eligible UK repositories. This means that as well as being able to track our downloads, we can compare downloads across other institutions too, and this is something that has been enhanced further recently with the addition of a new report, which we’ll look at here. First though we want to look again at an open access book that we’ve written about previously, including in yesterday’s Open Access Week post.

[D]emand for knowledge can be stifled by access barriers, and when those barriers are taken away, the knowledge is opened up and it can finally satisfy demand.

Module theory: an approach to linear algebra. Blyth, Thomas Scott. 

Professor Blyth’s book has been archived in St Andrews Research Repository since February 2018, and in this time it has received a remarkable amount of attention. Prior to its upload to the repository it had previously only been available in print. It has been out of print for a number of years, but even so Professor Blyth would often receive requests for it, so he took it upon himself to reformat it as a pdf so it could be published online for free. We think this is great example of how demand for knowledge can be stifled by access barriers, and when those barriers are taken away, the knowledge is opened up and it can finally satisfy demand. Looking at the figures from IRUS-UK confirms this.

At the time of writing, since February 2018 Module Theory has been downloaded 818 times. For comparison all the books in our repository were downloaded 3720 times over the same period, which equates to an average of 74 downloads per title. When compared to all content in the repository, Module Theory is in the top ten most downloaded items. And in August and September it was the 3rd most downloaded item out of almost 15,000! As you can see in the screenshot below, the top spots are often taken by theses which record a comparatively large amount of downloads. We’ve alluded to this before, but it’s worth restating. The reason theses often receive more download activity than other outputs types, we think, has to do with the fact that the repository is the primary publishing venue, and similarly the primary venue for Module theory is the repository too, so this perhaps explains the high downloads. That isn’t to diminish the download figures of course, and perhaps what it shows is evidence that the repository is comparable with any other when is comes to primary distribution of research

This brings us onto another recent addition to the suite of reports available from the IRUS-UK service – the addition of CORE data and ‘consolidated statistics’. Now IRUS-UK allows you to see downloads across multiple repositories, including the aggregator CORE. CORE is an incredible comprehensive repository aggregator that harvests content from over 3,600 repositories worldwide, and currently hosts over 135 million articles! One of the new reports allows us to see how much our content is downloaded from CORE. Over the past 12 months (sept’17- sept’18) roughly 10% of our total downloads were derived from CORE – totalling 34,962. So, over 34 thousand downloads were brought about due to the fact that our repository communicates effectively with other systems – so called ‘interoperability’. Indeed one of the strengths of institutional repositories is their commitment to work together to enhance the impact of research, as this example highlights:

Untangling academic publishing: a history of the relationship between commercial interests, academic prestige and the circulation of research

Here we can see that St Andrews receives the largest proportion of downloads. Although clearly encouraging, this example perhaps also supports a point made at the beginning of this post – that the original publication venue of an output tends to attract the highest proportion of downloads. But there is still value in multi-site hosting, and what is perhaps more interesting is how this collective effort is translated into actual usage which is most often evidenced with Almetrics. Altmetrics, as the name suggests, are alternative metrics such as mentions in policy documents, news outlets, twitter, blogs, etc. Altmetrics therefore show a wider picture of reuse than just citations alone.

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