Swinburne University of Technology, Australia
Although there are many excellent examples of Australian subject-based collections of research information, there are few that meet trusted international Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR) inclusion criteria by “[providing] free open access to academic outputs and resources.” In fact, we could find no examples running out of Australian university libraries. The one we focused on is well-used and recommended by librarians Australia-wide.
One such repository is APO (Analysis & Policy Observatory). APO offers a unique service that provides access to publicly available, full text content about public policy matters affecting Australia, New Zealand and beyond that may not be readily discoverable or otherwise preserved. Incorporating science and technology, natural and built environment, health, education and social issues, APO has a strong commitment to enhancing discovery of grey literature and aims to be a central repository for policy outputs that would otherwise fall through the gaps of governmental and research processes. At the time of writing, this repository contains over 38,000 resources and receives over 3 million page views and 350,000 downloads per annum.
APO was founded at Swinburne University of Technology in 2002 and continues to be hosted by Swinburne today. APO currently uses open-source content management software Drupal and is supported by an in-house web developer. APO is included on the Open Access Australasia Directory of Open Repositories, as well as OpenDOAR. Content published under the term ‘open access’ can vary along the spectrum of openness (SPARC, 2021). APO, being a curator of published content from numerous sources, and not the copyright owner of content they host, applies a level of openness according to the copyright terms set by the author or their institution. For example, where copyright permits, APO hosts full text content that may be all rights reserved, and yet free to read. Future use or re-use of such content is restricted to exceptions contained in the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth), or by permission of the copyright owner. Additionally, other full text content hosted by APO may be available under a Creative Commons licence, which permits greater use and re-use rights according to the relevant licence terms.
Access and dissemination of research reports and grey literature has been core business for APO since its inception, and it continues this work and advocacy today. While APO may not control the level of openness of the content it hosts, it manages and controls the type of content that is sourced and accepted by contributors, in line with open access principles and is guided by their Content Policy. For example, to improve the user experience, APO announced in 2019 it would no longer accept resources behind paywalls, and its collection guidelines “strongly prioritizes resources that are ... freely accessible” (APO 2021).
APO has historically been funded largely by several Australian Research Council LIEF grants, as well as support from various university partners, including Swinburne University of Technology. While grant funding has been significant, there are long term challenges relating to sustainability due to a lack of certainty regarding recurrent funding. Further, the general requirement that grant applications incorporate new developments or projects to secure new funding mean that the core business activities and services themselves are not the focus of the funding.
APO’s longevity ensures the repository’s continued contribution to open research. With a long-term view to providing a sustainable repository, APO offers paid services to individuals (e.g. “My APO+ membership”) and groups, curated content options (including promotions and engagement activity), metrics, advertising, partnerships, and document preservation and archiving services for collections.
Using a creative funding strategy that draws on multiple funding sources ensures that there is no financial cost associated with either contributing content or having it included in APO’s collection, nor to the end-users accessing the content.
Dr Jessica Mackelprang is a Senior Lecturer in Psychological Sciences in the School of Health Sciences, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia.
The ability to connect private sector, not-for-profit organisations and citizens to academic literature is a testament to the power of APO as a platform. Dr Jessica Mackelprang’s research focuses on health and wellbeing among marginalised or minoritized communities. In August 2020, Dr Mackelprang published a fact sheet to APO called ‘Traumatic brain injury and homelessness’. The work was intended to be accessed and used not only by other researchers, but also by non-academic audiences, such as organisations that support people affected by homelessness, as well as disability and rehabilitation services.
Dr Mackelprang credits APO as a critical driver in the wide reach of the fact sheet to the intended audience. The fact sheet was amongst the top 10 downloaded items on APO in 2020, which is extraordinary given the niche content of the material.
Contributing content to APO and using APO’s DOI minting service has provided many advantages to Dr Mackelprang’s work. Having a persistent link ensures long-term findability and preservation of her work, which includes several non-traditional research outputs. The My APO+ service has allowed her to track and measure the views and downloads of her research, which are important metrics to demonstrate engagement with and reach of her research.