Online repositories, including Columbia’s Academic Commons, extend the traditional role of libraries to support research at all stages and preserve, manage, and provide access to many types of digital materials in a variety of formats.


Repositories support scholars and researchers in all disciplines by creating a permanent archive of their digital research output. The contents of digital repositories are backed up regularly and stored on secure servers. Also, repository staff comply with emerging standards for digital formats that support long-term access regardless of changes in popular software.


Repository staff provide guidance on how to describe the materials you deposit. You can provide keywords and copyright information, stipulate how materials can be reused, and create a record of your research work that will validate priority claims. The Web-based repository interface allows you to collect your digital research output in one location and efficiently share it with collaborators, colleagues, and funders.

Assistant Professor of Biomedical Informatics Raul Rabadan discusses how he has benefited from depositing in Academic Commons.



Materials in online repositories are curated to enable search, discovery, and reuse. Items, or collections of items, have a permanent URI for citations. Also, citations for items that have the proper permissions are available for harvesting by subject-specific or region-based repositories. Repositories can help fulfill funder or journal requirements by providing a publicly accessible location for your research data.

Encouraging Innovation

Interoperable research repositories have great potential for facilitating novel ways of using and reusing deposited materials. The staff of Columbia’s Academic Commons, like that of many other repositories, is developing innovative services that will enhance the discovery, visualization, management, and reuse of resources held in the repository. In addition, faculty in disciplines without a strong emphasis on digital scholarly communication can use research repositories to experiment with new modes of scholarship.

Challenges Facing Repositories

Promoting the continual addition of research materials and the development of innovative services for repositories will require an active and sustained effort by stakeholders, including libraries, IT centers, administrators, and faculty. Some of the challenges facing repositories are:

Evolving digital formats

Repositories will have to respond to changes in format standards for digital materials and must plan for data migration in order to maintain accessibility to deposited resources.


As research outputs increasingly include large datasets and video, repositories will require ever-greater storage capacities.


Scholars and researchers in diverse disciplines value different kinds of research output, and the variety of file formats that may be placed in a repository will be challenging to manage.


Repositories require staff to curate materials, train faculty, customize software, acquire storage capacity, and migrate data. Because these are recurring costs, repositories cannot function well without sustainable business models and long-term commitments from their parent institutions.


Some scholars and researchers may have nondigital materials that they want digitized and placed in the repository, but repositories often do not have adequate staff or funding to offer this service.

Notable Examples

At U.S. universities:

In Australia and Europe:

Repositories Resources

Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities  This declaration defines an online repository in the section “Definition of an Open Access Contribution.”

Repository Resources page  This page on the website of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) has many useful links.

Open Archives Initiative  One of many organizations working towards developing interoperability standards to facilitate distribution of and access to scholarship and research online.