Getting started with open repositories - Part 2 - What you need to know

In part 1, I made it very clear that you can deposit your open archaeological data for FREE and here is more information about open repositories that will get you started doing this.

What is an open repository?

An open repository or open-access repository is an online platform that provides free, immediate and permanent archiving of research outputs. They are not just for data and pre-prints of articles as they can be used to deposit all sorts of outputs such as code, educational materials and presentation slides and videos. This means that anyone can use, download and distribute the content on these platforms.

I want to put a slight caveat on this last point as these repositories allow you to add a license to your outputs and this determines how open each output is and therefore how they can be modified and reused by others. This gives you greater control over your outputs.

Some repositories allow you to embargo outputs to be released at certain times and there are also repositories that have the option to keep some outputs completely private. So they are not necessarily for open outputs but are generally used in this manner.

There are open repositories that you pay to deposit data and then those that are free (usually those run by large research institutions). They both essentially do the same thing, which is to provide long-term archiving of research outputs and give free open access to anyone who wants to use this data.

There are different types of repositories:

  • General repositories that cater for any research output from any discipline, for example Zenodo, Open Science Framework and figshare.
  • Domain-specific repositories, such as Archaeological data service or tDAR.
  • Output-specific repositories, such as pre-print repositories. Examples are EarthArXiv and bioRxiv.
  • Institutional or National repositories used by members of a particular institution or country.

The quantity of repositories is sometimes rather overwhelming if you are not used to using them and also how to use them can be confusing.

Hopefully by reading the rest of this blog you will feel more confident to start to use them for your own research outputs.

What are the benefits of using open repositories?

The benefits are on a number of levels: for you as a researcher, your own discipline, the wider scientific community and also the general public.

  • They make your research outputs accessible worldwide to potentially anyone that wants to read and reuse them.
  • The increased accessibility maximises the visibility and impact of your research and consequently the research of your institution.
  • It makes your work more sustainable by archiving it for long-term storage.
  • It makes all your outputs citable by providing a persistent identifier such as a digital object identifier (DOI).
  • It can provide a workspace for your project and enable collaborative projects to work more effectively.
  • The use of research outputs are measured using usage statistics such as number of views and downloads.
  • They provide versioning to track the history of research outputs.
  • They can facilitate the development and sharing of resources for teaching.
  • They can aid the dissemination of grey literature such as dissertation theses.

The main benefit of using a free open repository, apart from the fact that it is free!, is that you have much more control over when and how you deposit your outputs. The use of the repository can be throughout your project rather than waiting until a certain moment, usually towards the end, to deposit the final outputs. This suits projects that are working with an open research approach and so want to make all their outputs available when they are created. You can even work in free open repositories that can openly share work in progress.

They also enable you to work more flexibly in collaborative projects especially if you are working in a distributed team with a number of different institutions. The use of version control to track outputs makes the work of the project more transparent and you can easily track the history and give credit for contributions of your different team members. This way of working therefore helps to establish reproducible workflows.

How do you choose an open repository?

As I have already mentioned, not all open repositories are free.

There is the option to pay for an open repository for all your data depositing needs with the Archaeological Data Service (UK based) and Open Context and tDAR (US based). These repositories serve a particular purpose as they take away some of the extra work involved in data management and deposition. They can also provide you with an expert to help you. This is an option if you have planned for it in your research budget and if it suits the way you want to work with data and outputs in your project. Many commercial organisations use this option.

However, these services are obviously exclusionary to those that cannot afford them, but I also have concerns with using commercial organisations in terms of the longevity of storage. Choosing a repository based at a well established research institution seems a better option in this regard. These research institutions, such as CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) that established the free to use Zenodo repository, have committed to providing a free open repository for the life of the institution.

So for certain researchers, using a free open repository is a better option because they are more inclusive and flexible for any project, an individual researcher, and it really is not that hard to do it yourself.

Key considerations when choosing a free open repository

  • Does it provide a persistent identifier for my outputs?
    • You want a separate DOI for each output so that they can be individually cited.
  • Is there a choice of licenses and does it allow the license I want?
    • Some repositories require you to use CC0 for data, which is a completely open license and this is a good choice for data. But it may not suit the sensitivity of your data or legal requirements of your work so more flexibility of license may be needed.
    • Also other research outputs, especially documentation and software, tend to need other licenses such as CC-BY. See Creative Commons for more information about different licenses.
  • Does it have enough space for your research items?
    • Not really a consideration as the space you get is usually large or unlimited but it is worth checking.
  • What other features are available on the repository?
    • Do you need outputs to be embargoed or private?
    • Do you want all your outputs in one place? Including pre-prints, data, code, etc.
    • Do you want to link to other tools such as Google Drive or Github. This makes it easier to deposit outputs in some of the repositories.

For archaeological projects, you can choose one of these general free open repositories that are open for use by researchers from any discipline for any research output.

Free open repository table

Links to these free open repositories:

In part 3, I will give some suggestions about how you can start to use these free open repositories.

You can cite this blog by using this citation:

Emma Karoune, Esther Plomp, & Jennifer Bates. (2021, July 2). EKaroune/The-Open-Archaeobotanist: The Open Archaeobotanist blog October 2020 to July 2021 (Version v1.0). Zenodo.