Even though Illinois State University’s institutional repository, ISU ReD, has existed for several years, many students, staff, and faculty are still unfamiliar with this resource.

An institutional repository is a database created by a university to collect, publish, and preserve the research and intellectual output of an institution. These repositories are meant to act as a central hub for the research and scholarship of a university and publish outside of the typical paywall structure of traditional databases. But what does it actually mean for a university like Illinois State to create an institutional repository, and why would someone at the University take the time to submit their research to ISU ReD instead of or in addition to traditional publications?

First, an institutional repository (IR) has the ability to illustrate a comprehensive picture of the research being conducted at a university. Looking at the work in an IR gives the reader an indication of a university’s research strengths and focus. It also highlights the collaborative effort of faculty and departments within the university.

Because institutional repositories focus on the preservation of research material, it is more likely that older pieces added to the IR will be preserved and remain available decades after publication. Scholars are not at the mercy of a publication’s continued existence to ensure that their work remains available. They can be confident that their output will be preserved and maintained. University historians would also find the preservation of scholarly output particularly helpful. Perusing the IR would allow them to analyze research trends and priorities over time.

Getting a quick and clear picture of an institution’s current research priorities would be especially useful for prospective students deciding whether to attend a university. Looking at the submissions to a university’s repository could give potential students an idea of the research interests of the faculty within a department and determine if those interests aligned with their own interests and goals.

Submitting research to an IR also makes it more accessible to fellow scholars as well as to the public. Research published in an institutional repository is not locked behind a paywall and comes up in a Google search. Similarly, allowing one’s work to be openly accessible online makes the statement that research is meant to advance knowledge, not profits. Because there is a focus on reflecting the total research output of a university, institutional repositories often feature work by graduate students, such as theses and dissertations, coursework, conference posters, and other scholarly output. The IR gives them a chance to show off their accomplishments for future employers, as well as leave their legacy with their alma mater.

Last, many institutional repositories go beyond collecting individual articles and other research projects by publishing academic journals. Scholars can create their own peer-reviewed journal, using their university’s IR to collect and publish that work. This increases the influence of the university among academic circles, but also creates another avenue for accessibility of scholarly output. Everything within these open access journals is typically available to all and not restricted behind a paywall.

So, why would someone want to take the time to submit their work to ISU ReD? It adds an individual’s voice to the larger scholarly conversation happening at Illinois State and beyond and helps ISU students and faculty leave their mark at the university for future generations to find. If you would like to add your voice to ISU’s institutional repository, please contact Milner Library’s Scholarly Communication Team at ISUReD@IllinoisState.edu.