I’m a bit reluctant to publish lists of top downloads from ORO as they only tell the story of those items that get an exceptional number of downloads from ORO. Sometimes these numbers are questionable and can be the result of non-human downloads that haven’t been filtered out by either the e-prints software (on which ORO runs) or the Jisc service IRUS which we also use to capture download counts. But more importantly it doesn’t capture the more modest downloads accruing on ORO – the repository has, if you like, a long tail of downloads where the majority of downloads are actually gained by lots and lots of outputs getting smaller amounts of downloads.
So I’ve expanded our list from 15 to 50 to see what we capture. It’s still the exceptions (the top 50 makes up about 0.6% of the total Open Access items in ORO) but there are some interesting stories to tell.
First and foremost is the top of the list: Petre, Marian (2013). UML in practice. In: 35th International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE 2013), 18-26 May 2013, San Francisco, CA, USA. Marian’s paper has been a very popular paper in ORO for a very long time but last month was extraordinary with 1,784 downloads. Fortunately, I think we can explain this, ORO is telling me that it the item is being referred to from Wikipedia and it appears the paper was added as a reference to the Wikipedia page on UML sometime in August last year. Additionally, in June traffic to the ORO item appears to have referred from social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, and sites like Y combinator (a start-up incubator) and feedly (an aggregator service). I think it’s fair to say the presence of the paper on Wikipedia has led to it’s greater dissemination across various web platforms – maybe it’s time for the OU to have a Wikipedian in Residence!
Secondly we have the fifth item on the list: Sharples, M.; Adams, A.; Alozie, N.; Ferguson, R.; FitzGerald, E.; Gaved, M.; McAndrew, P.; Means, B.; Remold, J.; Rienties, B.; Roschelle, J.; Vogt, K.; Whitelock, D. and Yarnall, L. (2016). 创新教学报告2015 —探索教学、学习与评价的新形式 [Innovating Pedagogy 2015]. 开放学习研究 [Open Learning] (2016.1) pp. 1–18. Now this is the Chinese translation of the 2015 Innovating Pedagogy Report which appears in the Chinese language journal Open Learning. Last year we wouldn’t have accepted this item in ORO as is. Rather than a discrete item with associated metadata in the source language we would have just added the file alongside the original English language version. However, last year during Open Access week we were challenged to accept these items as discrete records in ORO to support discoverability and make ORO a more global resource. We changed our policy and the benefit is evident here. Interestingly, it seems that the majority of downloads, at least in June, are coming from the U.S.A. (187) rather than China (43).
Thirdly, there are three theses on the list. Theses occasionally get a bit higher ranked than this and make the top 15 – but they are consistently highly downloaded. Institutional Repositories have a major role supporting the dissemination of materials that do not get published via the standard routes of academic publishing – I’m thinking particularly about theses and reports that may not get a good platform for dissemination elsewhere. So whilst there has been such an emphasis recently on ORO and the HEFCE Open Access Policy – we shouldn’t lose sight of the key function ORO can play in the dissemination of these other research outputs.
Finally, and perhaps most fundamentally, this Top 50 draws into stark contrast the benefits different faculties get from ORO. There is only one item from the Science Faculty on this list. The route to Open Access for Science is well supported by disciplinary repositories and Gold Open Access publishing (frequently, but not always, funded by the RCUK block grant). Notwithstanding the requirement for a university to be aware of, and showcase, all its published research outputs, the value of the institutional repository can be discipline specific – and we need to pay close attention to that when advocating its usage.