Get the latest articles and downloads sent to your inbox in a monthly newsletter.

Get the latest articles and downloads sent to your inbox in a monthly newsletter.

Automating IR updates: The University of Florida and Elsevier answer questions about their institutional repository pilot project

By Judith Coffey Russell, University of Florida, and Alicia Wise, Elsevier | July 13, 2015

University of Florida institutional repository

In 2014, the University of Florida (UF) Libraries began talking with Elsevier about expanding access to UF-authored articles published in Elsevier journals within the university’s institutional repository (IR @ UF). The discussions led to plans for a pilot project to automatically feed ScienceDirect data and links to the university repository through application programming interfaces (APIs) that are freely available to libraries. The APIs include:
  • A search API to retrieve metadata including abstracts for all articles authored by researchers affiliated with the institution
  • An entitlements API to check whether the user has access to the full text on the ScienceDirect Platform 
  • A full-text API to display and embed articles from ScienceDirect 
The project addresses several university needs: 
  • showcasing its body of work
  • providing a better user experience for researchers who use its repository
  • facilitating compliance with US policies on public access to federally funded research
The project will also help Elsevier understand the metadata required by institutional repositories via the ScienceDirect APIs.
Figure 1: Portfolio analysis of University of Florida articles by publisher 2013

How will access to ScienceDirect APIs help enrich UF’s institutional repository?
Figure 1 depicts articles published by UF authors in 2013, with each ball representing one publisher’s journals. Elsevier published the largest number of UF articles, and they represent a large share of citations. For this reason, UF Libraries began talking with Elsevier about processes to improve open access, interoperability and compliance challenges. Though working with Elsevier alone is not sufficient, Elsevier is liaising with other publishers on industry approaches to these shared challenges and is seeking to widen involvement.
Should an institutional repository host manuscripts and not just metadata?
UF librarians were initially committed to hosting copies of articles by UF authors. However, as planning evolved, they began to think of the repository as a vehicle for discovery. ScienceDirect can share article metadata and full text directly with the institutional repository, so the university’s output has a better chance of being found by users and showcased within the institutional repository, while the display will be the published article from the ScienceDirect platform. In addition, ScienceDirect tracks metrics on the impact and reach of an article. By linking to the full-text article on ScienceDirect, university users add to aggregated metrics tracking article use for both the author and the institution. These aggregated metrics would not be available if different versions of the article existed across multiple platforms. Further, the structures for metadata and full text support within the institutional repository also support hosting the full manuscripts, if it is later determined that there are benefits and needs for doing so.
What will users find in the institutional repository?
If a repository user has access to the article on ScienceDirect — as members of the UF community do — the final published article will be available through the article retrieval API. It will also be available to other entitled users, not affiliated with UF, who access the article through the IR @ UF. The method is similar to how LinkedIn users view videos: it looks like the video is hosted on the site, but it is actually being rendered from YouTube or another video-hosting service. 
Other repository users will see the first page of the ScienceDirect article embedded in the repository.  With this view, they will be presented with a reminder note that interlibrary loan is an option for free access as well as the standard information for paid access at the article level. They will also be able to access the accepted manuscript for outputs funded by US federal agencies working with CHORUS,1 and this accepted manuscript will be available on ScienceDirect. If the author has self-archived they will also be able to see the accepted manuscript held locally in the repository. One challenge that remains to be addressed within the pilot project is how to optimize the presentation of these options for the repository user.
What will authors think about this system?
Using the ScienceDirect API relieves authors of the burden of depositing their manuscripts in the institutional repository, and reduces the need for repository staff to chase articles down. Even though an author’s accepted manuscript may be very similar to the published article, many authors are not comfortable with providing access to anything other than the final article. The published article also appears in a broader context within a journal issue, often with similar articles and possibly with supplementary resources such as datasets and audio files. Using the ScienceDirect API with the institutional repository further promotes the author’s work without requiring effort by the author and in the manner that authors want. In doing so, supporting the author needs also showcases the value and importance of the institutional repository for supporting author needs more broadly. Therefore, authors should generally welcome this approach.
Will the ScienceDirect APIs work with any repository?
Yes. The goal of this and similar pilots is to develop ScienceDirect services that are scalable to a variety of institutional repository platforms. UF built its repository with SobekCM open source software developed at the university. To take advantage of the ScienceDirect API, it has to be easy and cost effective to use the APIs that Elsevier provides and the information extracted using them. Like UF, other repository managers will be able to access the ScienceDirect API via the ScienceDirect developer’s portal
Are data and links available for older publications?
Yes. The University of Florida has already downloaded metadata for articles written by UF authors in the past to get a critical mass of metadata into the repository. This will allow UF to build a retrospective collection of UF’s intellectual output, as well as a prospective one.
Ultimately, UF will set up automated routines to pull metadata for any future articles that their researchers publish with Elsevier. 
Through planning the UF pilot project, Elsevier discovered a need to enhance its article metadata by including some open access features, such as identification of the embargo period for public access to manuscripts.
Why should the library be concerned with compliance?
Figure 2: University of Florida - Article output by US federal funding source 2013
The library serves the institution and, particularly in a research-intensive environment, works closely with various stakeholders within the research enterprise. Looking at the funding sources underpinning UF journal articles, it is immediately apparent that more than 50 percent flow from US federal agency funding. The library will work with the university to ensure that researchers have a support system in place to comply with access policies.
If funding agencies, publishers and universities work on interoperability, they can reduce duplication of effort and ensure compliance.
What about articles from other publishers?
Looking to the future, projects like these could scale up and work through CHORUS. There is also an opportunity to explore more how CHORUS and SHARE (an ARL, AAU and APLU initiative)2 can work together to deepen and strengthen existing collaboration.

1. CHORUS is the first initiative of CHOR Inc., a nonprofit organization. Supported by more than 100 publishers, CHORUS facilitates a simple compliance process, optimized search and dashboard services, and multi-party archiving and preservation capabilities. For more information, see

2. Association of Research Libraries (ARL), Association of American Universities (AAU), Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU)