There is no doubt that a very good way to embed an institutional repository across campus is to encourage people to create publication feeds from it. For example, in indivudal staff pages, research group pages, or (as we are doing here at the OU at the moment) in an online research degrees prospectus. Not only does this help demonstrate to Faculty that the repository has uses, it also encourages academics to keep depositing their publications, so as to not adversely affect the content of the feeds created.
The most commonly used feed system is of course RSS, and all repository software comes RSS-ready, out-of-the-box. But exactly how useful are RSS feeds for the type of content a research repository contains? I would argue not very, and this has long been a concern of mine. The reason is, like RSS, really simple: standard RSS feeds do not deliver repository content in an order which is useful for Faculty pages, i.e. by date of publication.
I mentioned above that we are embedding publication feeds from ORO in our soon-to-be-launched online research degrees prospectus. When I was approached about this I explained that RSS feeds would be very easy to implement, but that they would deliver the most recent content added to the repository, and not necessarily the most recently published items. Nevertheless, it was decided to go ahead, mainly due to tight time schedules. I suspected that when the prospectus went out for approval to Faculties this decision would come back to bite, and I was right.
RSS feeds provide a reflection of recent activity in the repository, and not necessarily recently-published research. We are in the process of uploading a selection of exemplar (but old) PhD theses at the moment, so naturally these appeared in the RSS feeds for the prospectus. Also, in another area, one particular person had been spending some time depositing a large number of his publications, and so the RSS feed consisted only of that person’s work.
Of course, there are solutions. It is quite easy to re-write RSS for it to be delivered in a different way, and this is indeed what we are doing for the research degrees prospectus. However, RSS is a standard, and so we cannot really change it for the whole site. Just because someone wants their RSS feeds delivered like this, does that mean the next person will? But, I return to my original question of this post: exactly how usefel are standard RSS feeds for research repository content? Although “recently added” probably has a use, I think “recently published” has more.