Cumulative and Perpetual

Cumulative and Perpetual

Essential to the institutional repository’s role both within the university and within the larger structure of scholarly communication is that the content collected is both cumulative and maintained in perpetuity. This has two implications.

First, whatever the content submission criteria for a repository, items once submitted cannot be withdrawn—except in presumably rare cases involving allegations of libel, plagiarism, copyright infringement, or “bad science.” Institutions must develop criteria and policies—and implement rights management systems—for allowing access to a repository’s content, both inside the institution and from outside, that balance the goal of the broadest available access with the reality of encouraging faculty participation.

The cumulative nature of institutional repositories also implies that the repository’s infrastructure is scalable. While initial processing and storage requirements might prove modest, institutional repository systems must be able to accommodate thousands of submissions per year, and eventually must be able to preserve millions of digital objects and many terabytes of data.

Second, institutional repositories aim to preserve and make accessible digital content on a long-term basis. Digital preservation and long-term access are inextricably linked: each being largely meaningless without the other. Providing long-term access to digital objects in the repository requires considerable planning and resource commitments. While it is possible for an institution to dictate digital formatting standards for students—in the submission of electronic theses and dissertations, for example—prescribing such formats for faculty, for both attitudinal and practical reasons, proves far more problematic.

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