Cross searching of institutional repositories

With the accelerating growth of institutional and subject repositories comes the need to be able to search across multiple repositories simultaneously. Such functionality enables repository content to be discovered easily and cost effectively, regardless of location.

Fortunately most institutional and subject repositories have adopted a common standard for describing their contents which enables the metadata to be ‘harvested’ by search engines and repository-specific search services that allow you to cross-search multiple repositories with one search query.

This issue has been mentioned to INASP by a number of its country partners and came up most recently during discussions at an INASP strategic planning meeting, held for library consortia and other national representatives in Oxford at the beginning of December.

Seeing as this is a topic of some interest, I wanted to list some of the available search engines that enable this cross searching.

What search engines exist?

  1. BASE. This search engine is the one that is cited most often. It is “a multi-disciplinary search engine for academically relevant OAI-Sources worldwide, which was created and developed by Bielefeld University Library. BASE makes it possible to search for more than 50,000,000 documents across 2,700 repository servers worldwide and is one of the biggest search engines for academic OA documents and publications”.
  2. CORE is a search engine from the Open University Knowledge Media Institute. It covers over 18 million open access resources
  3. SHERPA Search  is for UK repositories only.
  4. OpenDOAR searches the contents of the repositories listed in OpenDOAR.
  5. Digital Commons Network provides free access to 842,756 full-text scholarly articles and other research, drawn together from 310 universities and colleges worldwide. “Curated by university librarians and their supporting institutions, this dynamic research tool includes peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, dissertations, working papers, conference proceedings, and other original scholarly work”. It covers the following subjects: Arts and Humanities; Business; Education; Engineering; Law; Life Sciences; Medicine and Health Sciences; Physical Sciences and Mathematics; Social and Behavioural Sciences.
  6. Institutional Repository Search started as a project that came to an end in 2009 but the service has been running continuously since then. This service pulls together disparate content from over 130 UK repositories, making it easier to search and discover in ways that meet personal or contextual needs.

These tools provide the opportunity for individual repositories to make their content discoverable and accessible to the wide international scholarly research community. Unfortunately not every repository has been registered with ROAR, the Registry of Open Access Repositories, or with OpenDOAR. This should be a high priority for institutions that have, or are in the process of developing, their own local institutional repository.

Peter Burnett
Peter Burnett is the Programme Manager of Library Curricula/Network Management at INASP and part of the Research Access and Availability team.

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