19 October 2010

Open Access Week Profile 1: Forced Migration Repositories

In 2009, Forced Migration Online (FMO), a project of the Refugee Studies Centre (RSC), received funding to develop an Open Access Repository System (OARS), migrate its information resources to an open source platform, and make its grey literature digital library more interoperable with other open systems. This move immediately enhanced the visibility of documents that were formerly housed in a proprietary database. Titles now regularly appear in web search results and as a result, FMO's user base has greatly expanded.

A repository like FMO benefits both those who seek content and those who contribute content. The forced migration research community is quite lucky to have access to a wealth of full-text information online. But the downside of web-based information is its unreliability over time. I am reminded of this every time I check URLs in my forced migration research guide. Every month, I come across a URL that has changed and is no longer valid. Or a web site has disappeared. Or a site has been upgraded and re-organized, with some information removed in the process. When this happens, I generally try to track down an archived version of the document and pass the text on to FMO because I know it offers stable, long-term, and reliable access to its collection.

Another issue is "findability." A report may indeed be posted online, but can it actually be tracked down? Or you might discover multiple references to a title of interest but it is unclear if the full-text is actually available. OA repositories like FMO overcome these limitations by making research easier to locate. They also use a technical protocol to make their content more easily harvested by search engines, thereby raising the visibility of information and ensuring predictable access.

Ultimately, when an author's research is findable and accessible by content seekers, it has greater impact. This is a key advantage of OA repositories like FMO.

Despite budget restrictions and staff changes, FMO has remained at the forefront of facilitating access to information through the use of innovative approaches and technologies. Please send (your documents and) your thanks for their efforts to promote open access within the forced migration research community!

Other repositories at various stages of development include:

Tagged Web Sites/Tools.

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