Category Archives: ORO

World Digital Preservation Day 2023 – Open University Legacy Research Papers

To coincide with World Digital Preservation Day on 2nd November 2023, the Open University Library announce a new collection of over 450 Legacy Research Papers on ORO. In partnership with the University Archive and academic colleagues at the University, ORO now holds papers published by: 

Libraries and Archives are the Memory of their Institution

Maintaining the publication record of research groups remind us of what the University has done and how we got to where we are now. These papers have been collected from various sources: 

  • The Open University Archive 
  • The Open University Library 
  • Offices at Walton Hall 
  • Websites 
  • Shared network drives 

These collections were disparate and scattered lacking consistent metadata and a digital platform to help find their reader. We organised the collections, created metadata and issued persistent identifiers (Digital Object Identifiers) for each paper. They can know be browsed alongside each other on ORO and searched for on the web as they have been indexed by internet search engines. 

The ORO service is ready to add further legacy research collections.  Moreover, the architecture has been built to enable active research groups to disseminate their self-published research outputs – let’s make the most of our research and our repositories! 


The Collections 

Development Policy and Practice (DPP) 

The DPP working paper series comprise nearly fifty working papers and joint working papers from the DPP research group. Emeritus Professor David Wield supported this work with donations and advice, he writes about the group: 

Development Policy and Practice at the Open University was a very early initiative to integrate high level academic research in International Development with strong emphasis on policy and Practice impact. It attracted a large proportion of world class academics with similar interests in building a local and global critical response to the prevailing neo-liberal wave of destructive financial policies. It was the first group to analyse north and south relations together, including research on local development in the ‘north’ and major research on east and central Europe before the collapse of the Soviet Union. 

On investigation this collection had already been part digitised by the AgEcon – a subject repository for Agricultural and Applied Economics. We worked in partnership with AgEcon to complete their collection of DPP papers and create a complete collection in ORO. We harvested reports from AgEcon, missing papers were digitised by our digitisation partner, the British Library, which we shared with AgEcon. Both ORO and AgEcon now have complete collections of these working papers. 

DPP Front Cover

Browse the Collection: Development Policy and Practice 

Design Education Research Programme 

The University Archive and Library held a small collection of 13 Design Education Research Notes published by the Design Education Research Programme. This was within our small digitisation budget, and they were sent for digitisation to the British Library. Emeritus Professor Nigel Harris supported this work and contextualised the work of this group: 

This programme of research was based in the Design Discipline, Faculty of Technology, 1978 – 1988, funded by the Faculty and the University. It aimed to articulate and establish fundamental aspects of education in design so as to underpin the growth of design as a subject in general education and to support the concept of design as a discipline of study for the Open University’s students. This led into further research into design epistemology, the nature of design ability, design thinking and designerly ways of knowing. 

DERN Front Cover

Browse the Collection: Design Education Research Programme 

Design Innovation Group Reports 

The Design Innovation Group (DIG), which was founded in 1979, conducts research on the role of product design and technical innovation in the competitiveness of industry, both in the UK and overseas.

Frontmatter of DIG Report 5: The Commercial Impacts of Green Product Development 

Some reports from the Design Innovation Group (DIG) were already in ORO. They had been added some years ago by members of the group. We found other DIG reports in the University archive, online copies were retrieved via the Internet Archive and some found on researcher’s hard drives. Emeritus Professor Robin Roy supported our efforts, and work continues to complete the collection of DIG Reports in ORO. 

Browse the Collection: Design Innovation Group 

Alternative Technology Group 

Late in 1976, the Faculty of Technology at the Open University took the imaginative step of funding two full-time research workers, to work in the area of Alternative Technology and to begin a research group (the Alternative Technology Group), which would act as a focus for the research interests of a number of the teaching staff. This was the first attempt in Britain to mount a formal research effort in this field. 

Frontmatter of ATG Report 5: Self-sufficiency and the future of work 

ATG Front Cover

The eleven papers in this series were digitised from paper copies held in the University archive and include prescient work on recycling, renewable energy sources and green cars.  (Moreover, they have exquisite covers!) 

Browse the Collection: Alternative Technology Group 

Co-operatives Research Unit 

The Co-operatives Research Unit (CRU) has three main aims: 

  • to encourage and develop thinking and research on issues of importance to the social economy sector; 
  • to support the development of co-operatives and other organisations trading for social or ethical purposes; 
  • to work with practitioners, policy makers and researchers at European, national and local levels to develop comparative analyses of issues for improving policy, development and management. 

from the Co-operatives Research Unit webpages 

Initially, I intended only to digitise a small number of CRU case studies held in the University Archive. However, when I contacted Emeritus Professor Roger Spear of the CRU, he advised that a number of these publications had already been digitised and were available on network drives. Roger provided access for me, I harvested them, performed Optical Character Recognition on the PDFs to make them searchable and added them to ORO.  

This fascinating range of papers range includes a case study of the Milton Keynes radical bookshop Oakleaf as well as numerous studies of co-operatives from across the UK. 

Browse the Collection: Co-operatives Research Unit 

Open Discussion Papers in Economics 

The Open Discussion Papers in Economics were a different scenario. They already sit on a website and (to my knowledge) will remain there.  The purpose in harvesting these files was to be proactive in the preservation of content on a live website – of not waiting for the worst to happen 

Having gained consent from Head of Economics, Professor Susan Newman, to do this work, we found a few gaps in the collection. We tracked print copies down in the University Archive and digitised them. So, we were able to complete the collection as well as providing it with a second home. 

Browse the Collection: Open Discussion Papers in Economics 

Department of Computing Technical Reports 

Most challenging of all the collections in terms of scale and complexity were the Technical Reports published by the Department of Computing. In 2022 the University archived received a call to archive these papers as the website was being deprecated by local IT services. The University Archive harvested the PDF files, and we began the process of adding them to ORO. Dr. Amel Bennaceur, Director of Research for the School of Computing and Communications, writes: 

The website hosted technical reports to share research findings before publications, appendices or longer versions of published work, or students reports. While ORO offers a much superior way to host and archive technical reports, the website contained legacy reports that were referenced in published papers. By helping us add those reports to ORO, the OU librarians allowed us to retain those reports in line with today’s best practice.

An established series (with an ISSN) the reports ran from 1997 to 2017 and number more than 250 papers. Some of these papers were early working versions of published papers that were also in ORO – so I have done my best to not duplicate these records! These papers also included student dissertations from M801 Master of Science Degree in Software Development, which have been catalogued accordingly. Moreover, some numbers in the series appear to have been replaced at some point during the lifetime of series – so what we currently have in ORO is a snapshot of the series at point of its closure. 

Browse the Collection: Department of Computing Technical Reports 

ORO Annual Infographics 2022/23

ORO OU Infographic

We have created infographics from ORO usage data. We have infographics for each faculty and IET, with some commentary on Downloads, Deposits and % Open Access for both the year 2022/23 and trend data going back to 2011/12.  PDFs and data are available at the end of this post.

PDFs for each faculty / Institute:

Library Services ORO Update 202223_OU

Library Services ORO Update 202223_STEM

Library Services ORO Update 202223_FASS

Library Services ORO Update 202223_WELS

Library Services ORO Update 202223_FBL

Library Services ORO Update 202223_IET

Full data is also available from a spreadsheet: Infographics Data 2023-09

Please get in touch if this data is useful to, or if you have any questions about them:

Creating a mailbox alert for new items in ORO

If you wish to be kept up to date on new items being added to ORO you can do so by pushing an RSS alert into your Outlook Mailbox. (If you don’t use Outlook you can use services like Blogtrottr to transform RSS alerts into email alerts.)

  1. Identify the set of items you want to be alerted on. You can choose to be alerted on all new items by department or a subset of items by faculty, or any way you can conduct an advanced search in ORO.
  2. Go to ORO Advanced Search and enter your search terms. In this example I have selected Item Type : Thesis AND Computing and Communications
  3. Image of ORO Advanced search page with thesis and Computing and Communications selected.Select “Search”. From the ORO results page go to the Subscribe to these results page. Right click on the RSS 2.0 icon and select “Copy Link Address”.
    Image of ORO Subscribe to these results pane.
  4. Now go to your Inbox in Outlook and navigate to the RSS Subscriptions subfolder.
  5. Image of RSS subscriptions subfolder in MS Outlook.Right Click on “RSS Subscriptions” and select “Add a new RSS feed”. The New RSS Feed dialog box will pop up and you can paste the url you copied from ORO. Click “Add”.
  6. This should return any relevant results and update in real time for new items added to ORO.

Image of populated ORO results in email folder in Outlook.

PDF Version of instructions: Creating a Mailbox Alert for new Items in ORO [PDF]

Open Research Online (ORO) Update 2020-21

Deposits in 2020-21

There were 3,103 deposits to ORO in the 2020-21 academic year.  Importantly, that’s not the same as published research outputs of OU research staff and students in the academic year, which would be around 1,200.  The reason the number is greater is because ORO includes:

  • PhD theses
  • Student projects
  • Publications deposited in 2020-21 but published earlier (or later!)
  • Items published by current OU staff who were not affiliated to the OU at point of publication

The deposit rates across faculties both reflect the different sizes of the faculties and different practices in scholarly communications across the faculties.  Simply put, AHSS disciplines have fewer, longer form single authored research outputs, whilst in STEM disciplines there will tend to be more short form multi-authored papers.

Deposits – 10 year trend data

When you look at the trends, the significant story is the peak in 2019 when the library digitised 1,600 PhD level theses and added them to ORO.

Consistent deposit of items across the years has been supported by our adoption of mediated deposit via Jisc Router and publisher alerts – we no longer rely solely on authors to add their papers to ORO.


ORO continues to receive a significant number of downloads of Open Access content.  According to IRStats2 (the native ePrints counter) of downloads ORO received over 2 million downloads of Open Access content last year.  But remember many of these will be downloads from web bots, let’s not confuse a download with a human actually reading a paper!   Another count from IRUS, that provides more rigorous filtering of bots, provides a more conservative estimate of 880,612 downloads over the same period.

Downloads – 10 year trend data

Not surprisingly, trend data shows an increase in downloads (however you choose to filter them) over time.  Inevitably as the repository grows in size, counts of downloads will grow year on year.  These are the impressive results of having a repository indexed by Google and Google Scholar.

Open Access

ORO strives to be a valuable University asset in providing Open Access to the research outputs of OU research staff and students.  Last year 52% of items added to ORO were immediately Open Access, these will either be:

Gold Open Access – where the published version is freely available from the publisher and added to ORO,

Green Open Access – a non-final version (often the accepted version), will be available in a repository like ORO.

When looking at Faculty breakdown it’s apparent how Open Access remains contingent on the dominant modes of scholarly communication within academic disciplines.  Books and book chapters remain harder to make Open Access than journal articles.

Open Access – 10 year trend data

Nevertheless, ORO trend data show a growing increase in Open Access over time.

The dip in the last 2 years is due to publisher embargoes on Green Open access papers added to ORO.  Often, commercial publishers will prescribe embargoes of up to 12 months for STEM and upwards of 24 months for AHSS disciplines.  This embargoed content is not counted here as Open Access as it’s not freely available, however once the embargoes end they will count as Open Access (at least for the purposes of these ORO data!)

This upward Open Access trend in ORO deposits has been bolstered by the Open Access mandate on OU PhD theses and the digitisation of legacy theses.

University and Faculty Infographics

All these data (and more!) are available in PDF renditions.

University 2020-21 Update

FBL 2020-21 Update

FASS 2020-21 Update

STEM 2020-21 Update

WELS 2020-21 Update

IET 2020-21 Update

Open Research Online and Web of Science publication alerts

To maximise the number of OU authored publications recorded in our Open Research Online (ORO) repository, we have set up a weekly alert service from Web of Science, Scopus, and Science Direct. This provides us with a listing of new publication records from their sites that we can check to see if the item is already in ORO or not. I check the weekly Web of Science alerts. As part of our #VisualisingResearchSupport series, here is a brief overview of how I manage these alerts and the findings so far.

Firstly, I check if the publication record is genuinely affiliated with The Open University. Alerts are not perfect. In fact, some records will include authors who are affiliated with other open universities around the world, for example, the Open University of the Netherlands! This is the first and possibly the most important check of all.


Once affiliation is confirmed, a search in ORO will determine if the publication is already in ORO or not. If it is, brilliant! At that point, the ORO record will be checked, making sure all metadata is accurate and full text is made available wherever possible. If the publication is missing, further checks are needed to make sure it can be added. Some types of publications, such as obituaries, are not usually included in ORO. If the item is a journal article, book chapter, edited book, conference/workshop item, or a book review, we can go ahead and add it to the repository.

What the data shows

Since 3rd June 2021, 11 alerts have been processed, covering a total of 291 records. Out of this, 40 new publication records were added to ORO; 15 book reviews, 5 book chapters, 19 journal articles, and 1 conference proceeding. 28 items didn’t make it into ORO. 10 were not applicable forms of publication i.e., obituaries or similar, and 18 publications featured authors that were not affiliated with the OU.

The good news is that the majority of publications, 223 in total, were already in ORO! 65 records were accurate and needed no further intervention, and 158 needed editing in some way.

The alerts exercise seems to show that a great deal of publications do make it to ORO, whether they are added directly by the author, by the ORO team, or via services like the Jisc Publications Router. It also shows there is room for improvement to ensure that record metadata is as accurate as possible. Although it can be time consuming, I think continuing the alerts exercise is worthwhile. It gives the team the opportunity to review what we do and make changes to our ways of working where necessary, and most importantly ensures that our OU author publications lists are up to date!

Research Support Win!

Hi I’m Maxine. I’ve been a member of the Research Support Team since 2017 and part of my role has been to support and liaise with our PGR student community. In 2019 we trialled getting the submissions made to the annual Graduate School Poster Competition uploaded to ORO, with a winning collection of posters added to ORDO.

This was a great success, with students feeding back that having their posters in these public repositories has allowed them to share their research more readily with colleagues, friends, and family. Winning entries uploaded to ORDO also receive a DOI (a permanent, citable web link), allowing students to get better recognition for these outputs.

The winning collections of posters on ORDO from 2019 and 2020 have been viewed over 1400 times, which is not only great for the students in terms of exposure, but great for the OU too, as it helps to highlight the amazing work our PGR community is engaged with and the breadth of research being undertaken. Topics have varied from developing robots with common sense to researching 50 million-year-old fish teeth to determine ocean currents.

Although the results were great and we felt it was important to continue sharing these posters more widely, the amount of additional work this generated was too high to justify. Not only did we need to contact students to seek permission to upload their entries to an open access repository, and ask them to choose from a number of available licenses to share their work under, we also had to check students hadn’t included any third party copyright materials in their work. This inevitably generated a lot of chasing emails and a high volume of copyright and licensing queries. Even within our team, the nuances of copyright law and the different Creative Commons licenses can be tricky to navigate!

This year I’ve managed to work with the Graduate School to streamline the process. We are now asking students at the point of submission whether they’re happy to add their poster to the repository, as well as offering advice on copyright within the entry guidance, and we have restricted the license options to minimise the volume of queries generated. This means it should be far quicker to upload the content so that we can continue to showcase the excellent work of our PGR community!

The winners for this year’s Poster Competition are due to be announced at a celebratory event on 23 June 2021, led by the new Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, Enterprise and Scholarship, Professor Kevin Shakesheff. So, look out for the 2021 entries landing on ORDO and ORO soon!

Minting Digital Object Identifiers at The Open University

Digital Object Identifier logo

Digital Object Identifier logo

Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) are the de facto standard in identifying research publications and data on the web.  They work by providing a unique identifier to an object (a research paper or dataset) which does not change even if the url that locates that object changes (e.g. if a journal article changes publishers).  DOIs should provide a persistent access point to your paper or data.

DOIs are often minted by academic journals or other academic platforms where research publications and data are published. The Open University already mints DOIs for research data uploaded to its research data repository: Open Research Data Online and now DOIs can be minted from its publications repository: Open Research Online.

Open Research Online (ORO)

DOIs can be issued for any publication where the OU is a publisher (or co-publisher) and a (co-)author is a member of OU staff.  We are not issuing DOIs where The Open University is not primarily (or in part) responsible for the publication (e.g. we are not issuing separate DOIs for an accepted version of a paper where a DOI already exists for the published version on the journal website.)


DOIs have been minted to all OU awarded theses in ORO and will be minted for all newly awarded OU theses.  DOIs exist for theses either with full text or bibliographic information only.  Theses will be minted with DOIs automatically.

Other OU Published materials

Other OU published materials can have DOIs minted on request. We expect research reports published by The Open University to be the other prime use case for DOIs, but we will consider issuing DOIs for any OU published outputs on a case by case basis. Publications can already exist in ORO or be new additions – but they have to be in ORO!

Items already in ORO

To request a DOI for an item already in ORO:

  1. Click Report Issue / Request Change in an ORO record and in the workflow add a note requesting a DOI in the “Notes to Library Staff”, or
  2. Contact the Library Research Support mailbox with details

New items

To request a DOI for new items add a note in the “Notes to Library Staff” at point of deposit to indicate a DOI is required. ORO staff will issue a DOI which will be made public when the record is made live in ORO.

Open Research Data Online (ORDO)

One of the major benefits of storing your research data on ORDO is that you receive a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) for every output published, giving you a permanent, citeable link. This ensures you get the recognition for all your research materials, whether they support a publication or not, and means your data can be more readily shared and discovered by others.

DOIs are automatically created for every output published on ORDO (with the exception of permanently embargoed items), and there is the option to create a metadata record and link to datasets deposited or published elsewhere that have not been assigned a DOI.

Not ready to share your data just yet? You can even reserve a DOI, meaning you can add the link to article data access statements ahead of publication. For more information and support on using ORDO, visit the Library Research Support webpages.