SSRN In Lieu Of Institutional Repository

Institutional repositories (IR) are great for institution's lucky enough to have one.

Bepress Digital Commons is a wonderful example of an IR management system that "showcases the breadth of scholarship produced at an institution - everything from faculty papers, student scholarship, and annual reports to open-access journals, conference proceedings, and monographs. Scholarly material and special collections in Digital Commons repositories are highly discoverable in Google, Google Scholar, and other search engines."

Digital Commons "does the work for you" so to speak.  But in the current law school climate, not all institutions have the funds for a hosted IR. One way to overcome the expense of a hosted IR is to use the free Social Science Research Network to upload the same types of material that would traditionally be found in an IR - faculty papers, student scholarship, etc....

SSRN is keyed into Google search results, which means that the scholarship is discoverable. While SSRN does not allow search engines to index the full-text of the uploaded PDF article, the search engines will index the abstracts and keywords. One of the criticisms of faculty scholarship is that no one reads it. Anyone in charge of scholarship, say a Scholarly Communications Librarian, needs to consistently market scholarship in multiple places so that it is discoverable and read by the populace.

SSRN not only makes scholarship discoverable, it also tallies downloads and views, which are good metrics for scholars to use to determine their impact factor.

To upload scholarship to SSRN, you need to have a PDF copy of the article that is not subject to copyright restrictions (you should not use HeinOnline PDF copies, for example, because they are restricted through licensing agreements). Generally a PDF of an offprint works well. Then you need to write an abstract and attach keywords to your article.

There is an art to writing an abstract (see tomorrow's post), and the keywords need to be common sense terms that will allow people searching for your article to find it - remember this is how the search engines index for discoverability. If the article was published, you should also identify the journal - you may need to check your publication agreement to determine if you are allowed to upload to SSRN without violating your agreement.

Once you have the articles uploaded, abstracts written, and keywords attached, each article has its own page on SSRN (see this paper as an example). Most law faculty have institution-sponsored faculty bibliographies that lists their scholarship on the school's website. This is a perfect place to link the bibliography citation to the SSRN page so that anyone interested in the scholarship can view and download it instantaneously.

If your institution is lucky enough to have an IR, I would recommend uploading your articles in both the IR and SSRN. But if your institution does not have an IR, SSRN may be the next best thing. If your institution is relying on SSRN, you should also be sure to archive the institution's scholarship in another way because SSRN is for-profit, and there is no telling if it will be around forever (thanks Ben Keele for reminding me to mention this.).


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