There is a wide variety of definitions of repository, but according to Melero (2005, p. 260), repositories can just be conceived as archives where people can store digital materials (text, images, sound). They emerge from the -so named- e-print community worried about the impact and dissemination of scholarly communication.
Repositories are digital archives containing scholarly information, generated from universities and other research institutions, that is open and accessible through the Internet. Repositories provide benefits to the scientific world and they are supported by a large number of institutions of many countries. They retrieve, reuse and preserve research outputs and promote disseminations and visibility of scholarly information, guaranteeing the advancement of Science.
López Medina (2007, p. 3) defines digital repository as a networking system constituted by hardware, software, data and processes with the following features:
Most authors agree that there are two kinds of digital repositories: discipline or subject based repositories, and institutional repositories. The first type include contents depending on the subjects or knowledge areas. Lynch (2003) defines institutional repository as "a set of services that a university offers to the members of its community for the management and dissemination of digital materials created by the institution and its community members. It is most essentially an organizational commitment to the stewardship of these digital materials, including long-term preservation where appropriate, as well as organization and access or distribution."
López Medina (2003) ascribes the following functions to institutional repositories:
Melero (2005), in turn, ascribes them the following functions:
Interoperability is another technical characteristics of institutional repositories. "The Open Archives Initiative (OAI) develops and promotes interoperability standards that aim to facilitate the efficient dissemination of content. OAI has its roots in the open access and institutional repository movements. Continued support of this work remains a cornerstone of the Open Archives program. Over time, however, the work of OAI has expanded to promote broad access to digital resources for eScholarship, eLearning, and eScience”.
As Melero (2005, p. 261) states, the OAI promotes the building of open and distributed repositories containing, at least, descriptive metadata of their digital objects. It aims at creating and furthering interoperability standards, which contribute to an effective dissemination of the contents of the archives. The OAI-PMH (Open Archives Initiative-Protocol for Metadata Harvesting) "is a low-barrier mechanism for repository interoperability. Data Providers are repositories offering structured metadata via OAI-PMH; whereas Service Providers make OAI-PMH service requests to harvest such metadata. OAI-PMH is a set of six verbs or services that are invoked within HTTP".
The history of this protocol is described by Barrueco and Subirats (2003). The version 1.0 was published in 2001, and version 2.0 came out one year later. Its architecture is formed by service providers based on metadata harvested by means of the OAI metadata harvesting protocol (OAI-PMH) and data providers which are the specific repositories. All this information can be codified in Simple Dublin Core Metadata.
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