Marketing Open Access Institutional Repositories in Ghana: Context and Prospects.

Author:Martin-Yeboah, Ebenezer

Background to the study

Academic institutions have looked for ways to realign the means of scholarly communication, and institutional repositories seem to be the new platform for disseminating intellectual productivity due to the inherent benefits they possess. Lynch (2003) considers IRs to be a set of services that a university offers to members of its community for the management and dissemination of digital materials created by the institution and its community members. Due to their focus on the removal of limitations, open access platforms such as institutional repositories have benefits which transcend academic institutions, researchers, funding agencies, publishers and a country (Giarlo, 2005; Canada, 2009; Cullen & Chawner 2009; Abukutsa-Onyango, 2010; Willinsky, 2010, Suber, 2012). In the view of Jain (2012), repositories are effective vehicles to information exchange between and among countries. With the availability of insufficient funding to libraries, Christian (2008) believes this type of unrestricted access to information helps researchers in the developing world. Canada (2009) further stresses that, considering the limited financial resources available, the potential for researchers, educators, and institutions in developing countries to benefit from open access platforms is great. Due to features such as reduced cost and unrestricted access, the repositories option enjoys higher level of acceptance among many academic institutions (Giarlo, 2005; Grundmann, 2009).

Owing to the strategic position libraries occupy in supporting the teaching, learning and research mandate of academic institutions, they tend to be highly instrumental in the development and operations of repositories. Adeya (2002) insists that libraries, through open access, are now instruments of education, thereby contributing to users' intellectual development. The Association of College and Research Libraries (2003) Environmental Scan recognized IRs as an emerging issue that may affect the future of academic libraries.

Moahi (2009) observes that in many universities, the library is often solely responsible for the development of repositories. As Cho (2008) succinctly puts it, libraries are becoming alternative publishers through open access institutional repositories. Kiran and Yip (2009) also contend that in Malaysia, academic libraries are the pioneers of open access institutional repository initiatives.

The rate of deployment of institutional repositories in Africa is very low as compared to other areas of the world (DOAR, 2014; OPENDOAR, 2011; Moahi, 2009). Consequently, the development of sustainable repositories implies a completely new approach within the campus community regarding why others have failed and how to prevent such failures.

Statement of the problem

Africa accounts for less than 5% of the world's research output notwithstanding the many research activities occurring on the continent (Moahi, 2012). This, Alemna (1998) and Alemna (2005) found out to be due to the fact that a lot of research findings from Africa fail to see the light of day owing to inadequate indigenous sustainable journals as well as issues of copyright. Thankfully, the use of repositories to widely disseminate intellectual discourse has received wider acceptance on most academic institutions. However, a cursory look at the literature concerning institutional repositories in Ghana and Africa suggests that many of the institutional repositories crash out shortly after their take-off, often attributable to reasons of inadequate materials, technical and human resources (Corletey, 2011, Moahi, 2009; Campbell-Meier, 2008; Rieger, 2007; Bailey, 2006). These ascribed reasons may well be, since much effort is concentrated on software and engineering protocols at the design stage to the detriment of other equally important issues relevant in the sustainability of repositories.

Limited research exists on the critical issues such as marketing and promotion of repositories to attract higher patronage by the academic community. The quest to meet the changing expectations of patrons, compounded by the information overload has led many not-for-profit institutions such as libraries to adopt marketing and promotion to keep and win existing and new patrons respectively. It is for this reason that this study sought to empirically assess the issues pertaining to the campus-wide collaborative marketing and promotion of institutional repositories leading to a sustainable use by the academic community and beyond.

Objectives of the study

The study largely assessed how operational institutional repositories are marketed and promoted for use by the academic community of two private and two public universities in Ghana. Specifically, the study sought to:

  1. assess the overview of repositories in the study area

  2. identify the key actors in the marketing and promotion of IRs

  3. find out the strategies for marketing and promoting institutional repositories;

  4. explore the factors affecting the marketing and promotion of institutional repositories; and

  5. establish the challenges faced in the management of institutional repositories. Significance of the study

    The study will contribute to the process towards developing an acceptable standard for the promotion of repositories as alternative means of scholarly communication within academic institutions. Policy makers could thus rely on the findings of this study to model the marketing of their repositories. Practitioners could, through this study, also identify the existing best practices which have worked elsewhere, in mobilising human and material resources to enjoy the buy-in of all members of the campus community.

    Above all, this study will also contribute to the body of literature of, especially, the marketing and promotion of open science platforms. That is, it will situate institutional repositories from a Ghanaian perspective within the global or world view.


    Intellectual productivity and scholarly communication

    In most developing economies, especially in sub-Saharan African countries, there are often restrictions to scholarly materials which curtail the advancement of intellectual productivity. Academic librarians have, for a number of years, been vocal on the topic of a "serials crisis", which is the situation in which the cost of journal subscriptions has taken up an increasing share of stagnating library budgets. Lawal (2002) established that libraries were paying three times for 7% fewer journal titles in 2001 than in 1986. This situation explains why many librarians have misgivings about the traditional journal system and publishers. Well-established journals wield the power to control the process of professional advancement but are in turn dependent on faculty content to also survive (Tiamiyu & Aina, 2008). Wellcome Trust (2003) claims that the monopoly held by publishers in the current system does not act in the interests of either the academic community or the public, but rather it further worsens the disparities that exist between resource-rich and resource-poor countries. Issues of professional recognition, scholarship contribution and career progression have often been high on the radar for academic authors. Authors are willing to give away the copyright to articles they have written in exchange for the services of the publisher in the form of peer-review, quality labelling, marketing and disseminating (Bjork, 2004). In return, the author gains recognition in the academic field and career advancement. This situation could however not stand the test of time as content providers such as lecturers as well as curators began to consider a rather cost- effective and impactful alternative for disseminating intellectual output. This then called for an entirely free access to online scholarly materials for all users would widen the audience and recognition, and increase the impact and number of citations, thus advancing scholarly communication and research (Lawrence, 2001; Correia & Teixeira 2005).

    Open Access Institutional Repositories

    As a concept, Open Access (OA) means an unlimited access to online peer-reviewed scholarly research works such as thesis, dissertations, book chapters, and scholarly monographs (Schopfel & Prost, 2013; Schwartz, 2012). Being an ardent advocate of this phenomenon, Harnad (2008) describes the characteristics of open access as information which is free, immediate, permanent, full-text, on-line and accessible. Several authorities have defined online digital open access repositories differently. Johnson (2002) views a digital institutional repository as any collection of digital material hosted, owned, controlled, or disseminated by a college or university, irrespective of purpose or provenance. Swan and Chan (2009) consider open access institutional repositories as digital collections of the members of a university's research community that make their contents freely available over the internet for archiving and long-term preservation.

    Crow (2002), Johnson (2002) and Shearer (2003) have summarily described the key attributes of online digital institutional repositories as being institutionally-defined, scholarly, cumulative and perpetual as well as open and interoperable. This essentially implies that beyond academic institutions, agencies such as governmental departments, non-governmental or inter- governmental organizations, museums, independent research organizations, federations of societies, and commercial entities that wish to capture and openly disseminate its intellectual product could set up a digital repository, thus contributing to scientific/scholarly discourse and benefiting from global organizational visibility.

    The concept of online institutional repositories is remotely rooted in a movement in 1994 when Stevan Harnad called authors to deposit their work on internet File Transfer Protocol (FTP) servers (Cho, 2008). The main motivation behind...

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