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Institutional Repositories: Home

Institutional Repositories are widely used as a mechanism for making scholarly works freely accessible on the web. Academic libraries are often involved in the creation and management of institutional repositories that focus on preserving and disseminating the scholarship produced by their institution’s faculty and students. This can include article pre-prints and manuscripts, technical reports, conference proceedings, data sets, and software, as well as theses and dissertations.

The development of institutional repositories (IRs) is tied to the "Open Access" movement in higher education. As subscriptions to important scholarly journals continued to soar throughout the late 1990s and into the next decade, faculty and librarians sought ways to exercise greater control over the access and dissemination of their institutional scholarly work. The idea of each institution providing free and "open access" to the work of their own scholars was thought to be an approach that, not only would be more cost effective than subscriptions, but would allow the work to enjoy wider visibility.

Among the 6000+ repositories listed at OpenDOAR, 2149 of these repositories are "open access" and 1700+ of the open access repositories are identified as "institutional" repositories.  According to this same source, a little over 1200 of these open access (IRs) host dissertations and theses. 

Over time, a good number of the institutions hosting these repositories have successfully increased the variety of content deposited to their IRs.  Along with dissertations and theses, IRs are hosting journal articles, working papers, multimedia, conference and workshop papers. As the open access ethos and depositing to the IR are normalized activities among successive generations of faculty, dissertations and theses material will be dwarfed by the other types of content.  In time, setting costs aside, IRs will be institutionalized. 

-from ProQuest LibGuide

There are also Disciplinary Repositories, such as arXiv (physics, mathematics, nonlinear sciences, computer science, quantitative biology) which perform the same sorts of services as institutional repositories, but for scholars within particular disciplines or groups of disciplines. Finally, grant funding agencies, such as federal agencies, create and maintain their own repositories to preserve and disseminate the research they support. These repositories include not only scholarly articles but also the data produced and compiled in the process of the funded research.

Columbia University Librarian James Neal discusses the multifaceted role online repositories, such as Columbia's Academic Commons, are playing in the scholarly communication system.

The Drexel University Archival Collections platform is the new home for the University’s digital archival collections. Drexel Research Discovery, a new research repository portal, provides access to Drexel-generated research assets.

These new systems support the Libraries’ work to enable preservation and discovery for all Drexel digital objects and research outputs so they are findable, accessible, interoperable and usable through an efficient integration of search and discovery tools. 

This migration splits Drexel-generated research and the University’s digital archival collections into two systems. Previously, Drexel-generated research (such as research outputs, theses and dissertations) and the University’s archival collections were maintained in iDEA, the University’s digital repository. iDEA has served the University well since 2014 but is now reaching its end of life.

Both platforms connect to DragonSearch, the Libraries’ online discovery search tool, allowing members of the Drexel community to identify and locate University-affiliated research outputs and archival collections, as well as to access books, articles and licensed databases all through one search tool.

The Libraries also migrated all Drexel-generated research assets (including theses, dissertations and graduate student projects) previously hosted in iDEA to the new Drexel Research Discovery portal.

This new research portal, hosted on the Esploro research services platform from Ex Libris, broadens the impact of Drexel's research output, offering a single platform to showcase all Drexel research assets, including publications, data sets, and creative works, with integrated search and display.

The portal also integrates with Pivot-RP, a tool that provides access to global funding opportunities and facilitates collaborator discovery.

Other features include faculty profiles which can showcase the full depth and breadth of faculty expertise, facilitate collaborations, attract funders and enhance Drexel’s academic reputation. Drexel faculty have the option to create their own profile, which can be populated with information on their publications, awarded grants, achievements and academic activities. Currently, faculty profile information is provided only on an opt-in basis. For more information about creating a faculty profile, contact  

The new Drexel University Archival Collections platform makes it easy for students, faculty and researchers to explore digital archival materials from the Drexel University Archives and the College of Medicine Legacy Center Archives & Special Collections from a single search tool. The platform includes digitized materials from the two collections, including historical images, audio recordings, video and text. Enhancements to the platform are ongoing, along with the addition of new collections and digitized materials as they become available. For information about the collections at the Academy of Natural Sciences, Drexel University College of Medicine and Drexel’s student newspaper, The Triangle, follow the links provided.

There is often confusion about whether to include your publications in ResearchGate or or your Institutional Repository or all three. The University of California Office of Scholarly Communication provides some valuable information that is extracted here:

ResearchGate and (both commercial companies) "are social networking platforms whose primary aim is to connect researchers with common interests," like Facebook or LinkedIn, but for the research community. Users create profiles on these services, and are then encouraged to list their publications and other scholarly activities, upload copies of manuscripts they’ve authored, and build connections with scholars they work or co-author with. Although has a “.edu” URL, it isn’t run by a higher education institution. The domain name was registered before the rules that would now prohibit this use went into effect.

Institutional repositories are generally library-run websites that enable authors to upload a version of their manuscripts for public “open access” display. Drexel Libraries support two institutional repositories: Drexel Research Discovery and Drexel University Archival Collections. The primary aim of institutional repositories is to make the scholarly outputs of the university as widely available as possible and to ensure long-term preservation of these outputs.

Subject-based repositories collect publications in a particular discipline or a range of disciplines, so that authors in a field can share and solicit feedback on their work from colleagues in that field, regardless of where they work.

Here are some of the major differences:

Repositories vs vs ResearchGate

Openness and Interoperability:

  • ResearchGate and do not permit their users to take their own data and reuse it elsewhere.
  • Institutional repositories are largely committed to complete openness and re-use of data, which makes them good places for publications you want people to be able to find.

Long-term Preservation and Access:

  • and ResearchGate are independent for-profit companies that could theoretically close up shop at any time.
  • Open access repositories are usually managed by universities, government agencies, or nonprofit associations and are likely to be around for a long time.

Bottom Line:

In the end, both types of services have unique offerings, and both likely hold some value for researchers. Academic social networking sites, such as ResearchGate or, might be valuable when trying to find others in your field conducting related research, or for providing access to your papers to those people you know use the site.

The value provided by the institutional repository, however — particularly the long-term preservation and commitment to open access, should not be overlooked.


In addition to credit given for various images, parts of this guide were adapted from work/guides by:

Old Dominion University, Association of College & Research Libraries, University of California: Office of Scholarly Communication, Montclair State University

Used with permission or in accordance with Creative Commons Licensing.