Considerations before setting up an institutional repository

What to think about when setting up an institutional repository

In our literature searches we could not find any articles that specifically focused on best practice guidelines for setting up an Institutional Repository (IR) in the NHS. We have created the following using information gleaned from our searches.

Before you start

At an organisational level there must be a demonstrable need for an IR and an understanding of how it can add value.

In designing an IR, several technical, policy and managerial issues need to be recognised and addressed in depth.

Stakeholder engagement

The challenge for any IR initiative lies in trying to serve the needs of a variety of stakeholders.

To do this successfully,

  • Identify the different groups in your organisation interested in the IR
  • Understand their motivations and needs
  • Find out what they would like to be included in the repository including content and format
  • Understand the conflicting requirements as to what is wanted. Researchers and managers may have different requirements
  • Manage expectations of all involved in setting up an IR including your own
  • Promote benefits of IR to the contributor e.g. greater visibility and impact of citation factors for published research, time saved 
  • Develop a business plan with a broad mission statement i. Decide on a name and articulate the value of an IR.

See also the blog posting NHS healthcare libraries supporting research.

Awareness and visibility of content

Marketing and publicity

    • Create a brand. It can be as simple as ensuring that each item uploaded into your IR bears the organisational logo or the adoption of a house style for the layout and typography
    • Targeted communications are more successful than generic emails
    • Promote and run workshops
    • Use social media. Salford R&D department have created a quick guide to those using Twitter to promote their research. 

How to construct healthcare tweets (opens in a new window)

Continued Advocacy

To be successful there should be a clear continuing advocacy campaign.

  • Be clear about the benefits of depositing material in the IR
  • Be clear how all can contribute.
  • Make the process of depositing papers simple and compatible with existing practices if possible

If promotion and advocacy of the IR is not done successfully, the lack of knowledge about the IR can become a considerable barrier to ensuring the IR continues to be populated.

Choice of software

Repository software solutions need not be stand-alone systems and can work effectively with other systems in the information architecture of an organisation. Content management systems, library management systems, portals or collaborative working environments can all be used to create an IR.

One-size does not fit all, and a comprehensive assessment of functionality requirements is needed, and an analysis of existing systems undertaken.

Content management and acquisition

Plan for the short, medium, and long term.


  1. Purchase and installation of the software
  2. Maintenance costs
  3. Staffing costs

What to include?

As Institutional Repositories capture, share, utilise and enable access to the knowledge output of the NHS organisation served, a wide range of material can be included. Not all material needs to be full text although clearly it is beneficial if full-text can be provided where possible.

Some examples of the type of material included in an IR are listed below.

  • Research papers commissioned and published
  • Staff publications in professional newsletters as well in journals
  • Book chapters
  • Conference presentations
  • Posters
  • Dissertations and theses
  • Innovations
  • Patient Case Histories and Stories
  • Policies and Guidelines
  • Lessons learnt
  • Patient leaflets
  • Internal bulletins
  • Organisational Strategies and Reports
  • Research studies where staff participate but are not included as authors in published research
  • Presentations
  • Service/departmental guidelines
  • Joint strategic needs assessment data
  • Video/YouTube clips
  • Articles about the organisation

Design and content

Before setting up an IR, be clear about its design and content. Cate Newell of Exeter health library (Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust) has created the following checklist of considerations.

  • Data Collection
  • Bulk Upload
  • Structure
  • Your organisational authors
  • Submission Process
  • Researcher profile pages
  • Subject headings
  • Publicity
  • Full text or not?
  • Publication type
  • Honorary Contracts

Creation of Metadata

Metadata can be collected at various stages during the ingest of an item into the IR.

In the context of an institutional IR, metadata is needed to facilitate discovery of your IR content. Resource discovery of IR content is enabled through assigning relevant criteria to content items.


  • Helps users identify resources
  • Brings similar resources together
  • Distinguishes dissimilar resources
  • Gives location information
  • Is essential to facilitate harvesting of IR content by external systems
  • Helps to organise IR content and supports archiving and preservation

Intellectual Property Rights and Copyright

Please view our guidance on institutional repositories.

Managing a sustainable archive

An essential requirement is a critical mass of content. Also, having policies and guidelines that indicate how you are going to protect and maintain the quality of the information held.

  • Ensure the system used for the IR is fit for the needs of your users. You don’t want to be spending a lot of time adding in or manipulating data not likely to be used.
  • Clarify who is going to upload the content and in what format.
  • Is self-archiving required? Ensure there is a clear understanding of time, effort and skillset required needs to be made explicit.
  • Offer clear signposting to Intellectual property rights, copyright, and any publisher restrictions of Open Access material.
  • Provide content packaging guidelines and templates
  • What metadata must be collected?
  • For how long will the repository retain items?
  • How will documents be updated when content becomes obsolete?
  • How will documents be removed when incorrect?
  • Ensure back up files are kept
  • Have a withdrawal policy. Are items deleted altogether or just hidden from public view?
  • Avoid multiple versions of a document

Open access solutions

Please see the Open Access document created as part of our toolkit.

Quality Assurance and Risk

There are risks associated with repositories.

  • Content must be copyright cleared.
  • A ‘take-down’ policy with a defined process should be adopted when any content is questioned and promptly removed from public view before it is re- submitted if needed after consideration.
  • Ownership needs to be clear with responsibilities and terms of reference defined.
  • Consider establishing a repository steering group, who can promote standardisation, consistency and make strategic decisions.
  • A group of subject matter experts can help with the moderation of deposits made. They can respond to any questions. They can also be involved in the coaching and mentoring of learners and contributors.
  • Ensure back up files
  • Have a withdrawal policy. Are items deleted altogether or just hidden from public view?
  • Avoid multiple versions of a document