Case Study: Northampton Electronic Collection of Theses and Research (NECTAR)

Type of case: Embedding of repository as core research publications database (Scenario 1)

Scenario 1 section

Strategic goals of the university

Northampton is a new university which was given its status in 2005, though it has been an educational institution since 1924. As such it is keen to foster research and to showcase its strengths. The university aims “to be the top university in the UK for social enterprise by 2015.” It places a strong emphasis on working with local authorities, business and the wider community to deliver benefits for the region.

Strategic goals of NECTAR

  • To showcase and preserve the research outputs of the university
  • To help the university to track research performance and make submissions to national assessments
  • To facilitate engagement with the community and region through making research outputs accessible

History of the repository

The original impetus for the repository came both from Information Services and from the research management team, and at roughly the same time. There was a meeting between the Director of Research and Knowledge Transfer and the Library’s Director of Information Services in early 2007 as a result of the plans for the RAE submission and it was decided to go ahead and set up the repository.

A small steering group was set up and both the Director of Research and Knowledge Transfer and the Director of Information Services were on it. The Director of Research and Knowledge Transfer was deputy chair of the Research Committee and Chair of the Research Degrees Committee so had the clout to push it forward.

The repository was clearly not duplicating the functions of an existing database (as in many other institutions) as there wasn’t one, and in some ways this helped the case for it. Before NECTAR the Annual Research Report was put together by the central administration on the basis of reports submitted from the six schools. Some administrators used local databases in EndNote to record the outputs.

NECTAR was conceived as a repository for research outputs, not for teaching and learning materials, so the key issue is to make sure the repository meets the needs of researchers. The process of engagement began with a focus group of research leaders which showed what was important to the stakeholders. The priority was to ensure that outputs in the repository met a quality criterion; as a showcase for the university there must not be inappropriate content in there.

This in turn dictated the adoption of a mediated deposit mechanism, where deposited material was checked by Information Services staff to ensure its appropriateness and that it does not violate copyright, and also to add some metadata.

An important principle has always been that key decisions about what the repository was for, what should be in it, and how it is used have always been taken and therefore ‘owned’ by the research committee, not the library.

Embedding the repository

In effect, the NECTAR repository is the only research database in the university and as such it has become the de facto research reporting system. Researchers know that research not recorded in NECTAR will not appear in the university’s Annual Research Report. That has certainly raised its profile, but perhaps at the cost of a focus on populating it with full-text and other research outputs to fulfil its Open Access goals. Making it easier to deposit and helping researchers who want to make non-text outputs more accessible are ways to address this issue.

The objectives of the project “Bringing a Buzz to NECTAR”, funded under JISC’s embedding repositories programme, were:

  • To modify university procedures for submission to NECTAR increase researcher involvement, encourage the deposit of full content and further embed NECTAR in researcher workflows.
  • To implement technical and procedural changes as necessary to ensure NECTAR is compatible with the requirements of the British Library’s EThOS service, for theses.
  • To implement technical and procedural solutions (when available) to ensure NECTAR is ready to support the Research Excellence Framework (REF).
  • To better display the creative research outputs of the institution through implementation of the EPrints Kultur plugin
  • To rebrand the repository interface and visually embed NECTAR within The University of Northampton’s new website

The mediated deposit process has changed recently to one where the researchers put in their own details, which are checked by administrators who complete an extra field to verify their review and then pass to information services. This retains the gatekeeper element required by the Research Committee but spreads the workload more widely. Resources are a key constraint on the repository team, particularly checking copyright issues.

In order to align better with the strategic aims of the university, NECTAR has ensured that any outputs with relevance to the local community and region are tagged with Northampton Observatory subject categories, to aid retrieval.

The Kultur arts plug-in is now being tested with researchers.

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