Expanding access to UMN research

University Digital Conservancy makes it easier to find U of M research

Wanda Marsolek, left, and Shannon Farrell
Wanda Marsolek, left, and Shannon Farrell

By Jon Jeffryes

One hundred and fifty papers downloaded nearly 8,000 times.

That’s the result of a duo of librarians working to make University of Minnesota research more open and discoverable to the public. Strategically seeking out partnerships with high profile researchers, Shannon Farrell and Wanda Marsolek are creating collections of local research in the University Digital Conservancy.

The University Digital Conservancy, or UDC, is an online archive created and managed by the University of Minnesota Libraries to “provide free, public access and long-term preservation to work created at the U of M.” says Erik Moore, UDC co-director.

Farrell and Marsolek partnered with the University’s Bee Lab and Regents Professor Peter Reich to create collections of their published work. Each item in the UDC has a persistent URL, high quality files, and links to the full-text materials in Google Scholar search results. To date, Farrell and Marsolek have added 150 papers, which have been downloaded nearly 8,000 times. This is work that previously may have been blocked from researchers and the public due to paywalls.

‘How to best preserve a legacy of data and research’

“I have learned a lot from Shannon Farrell about how to best preserve a legacy of data and research,” says Professor Marla Spivak, Bee Lab researcher, about the benefits of the partnership with the Libraries.

Researchers do not need to wait for librarians to reach out to them to create research collections. Subject librarians advise on workflows that researchers can adopt to add their work to the UDC. The UDC co-directors can also help researchers create collections.

‘It is a lot of work’

Creating a research collection in the UDC takes a lot more work than merely posting a pdf to the website. Farrell and Marsolek detail a process that starts with identifying the list of the researchers’ works. Marsolek then checks each publisher’s policy on posting to University repositories and makes a list of articles where the publishers don’t allow posting. Farrell follows up with those publishers to request special permission — a process that can include sending many messages back and forth.

“It is a lot of work,” Farrell says, “I don’t want to pretend it’s easy.”

After the team has a finalized list of publications Marsolek locates good digital copies and posts them to the UDC. She also adds metadata to each record to ensure they are thorough and easy to discover. The librarians say that their expertise in accessing publishing rights information and fluency with scholarly communication issues were keys to their success in the project.

Negotiating rights

The quickest way to get the rights to post an article is for the author to negotiate those rights when signing a publication contract (those interested in learning more can visit Ownership of Scholarly Works or consult with their subject librarian.)

Farrell and Marsolek are working with many publications that pre-date institutional repositories and require post-publication negotiations.

Extending access

Both Farrell and Marsolek speak about the value they derive from making work more accessible as evidenced by the download statistics provided by the UDC.

“I think that’s so cool that people are getting access to this, that might not have been able to do so otherwise.” said Marsolek.

Adds Farrell: “You can look at it and say ‘wow that really had an impact.’”

For more information visit conservancy.umn.edu or email udc@umn.edu.

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