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An Institutional Repository is an online locus for collecting and preserving -- in digital form -- the intellectual output of an institution, particularly a research institution.

For a university, this would include materials such as research journal articles (before (preprints) and after (postprints) undergoing peer review, and digital versions of theses and dissertations, but it might also include other digital assets generated by normal academic life, such as administrative documents, course notes, or learning objects.

The two main objectives for having an institutional repository are:

  • to provide open access to institutional research output by self-archiving it;
  • to store and preserve other institutional digital assets, including unpublished or otherwise easily lost ("grey") literature (e.g., theses or technical reports).

The origin of the notion of an "institutional repository" [IR] are twofold:

IRs are partly linked to the notion of digital interoperability, which is in turn linked to the Open Archives Initiative (OAI) and its Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH). The OAI in turn had its roots in the notion of a "Universal Preprint Service," since superseded by the open access movement.
IRs are partly linked to the notion of a digital library, i.e., the collection, classification, curation and preservation of digital content, analogous with the library's conventional function of collecting, classifying, curating and preserving analog content.

See the Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR).

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