Social Sciences E-Prints Come of Age: The California Digital Library's Working Paper Repository

Article excerpt

The growth and potential of digital scientific working papers, particularly as pioneered by the Los Alamos arXiv e-print project, poses challenges to the accepted tenets of scholarly publishing. Physical sciences developers set the stage for Web-based repositories, easing access and giving digital publishing a big boost. But what about the social sciences, which also publish working papers? Social sciences, the perennial poor cousins as measured by available funds, have since followed the physical sciences' lead in developing digital repositories and in fact have benefited from the debugging and experience that came before. Now, as with so many other trends in Web-based information, social sciences working paper repositories are poised for a quantum leap.

The University of California's new Social Sciences eScholarship Repository of working papers dramatically eases the editorial and administrative labor of creating e-print repositories. The project is part of eScholarship, the California Digital Library (CDL) digital publishing initiative [http://repositories.cdlib.org]. It uses new software that was collaboratively developed with the Berkeley Electronic Press [www.bepress.com]. The Institute of Industrial Relations (IIR) is a founding participant in the repository, and its experience with the platform illustrates the benefits of collaboration among authors, editors, institutions, and software developers. As a result of the library's experience with the project, I will offer four recommendations to help information professionals who manage Web archives to assess their options as their workloads increase.

FACULTY WORKING PAPERS: A NEW PUBLISHING SOLUTION

Many universities regard faculty working papers as key strategic resources, primarily because professors pay close attention to their colleagues' work. At UC Berkeley's Institute of Industrial Relations [http://iir.berkeley.edu], a convergence of events made its faculty working papers the "stars" of its Web site. During the 1990s, the dynamic California economy spawned a new labor activism, with corresponding interest in the impact of workforce strategies. The new ferment in employment issues triggered an uptick in faculty research about work in California. With so much going on, the Institute's Library staff perceived that the IIR Web's main offering was its working papers. Web traffic reinforced this point; a new paper might receive thousands of visits in its first few days online.

The Library developed effective, if tedious, protocols for uploading working papers in PDF format, announcing them, and maintaining them over the long haul. What the Library lacked was a single platform to ease the hassles of managing lots of documents. What if we could manage submissions, editorial review, version management, and "persistence," all in one package? With traffic on the IIR Web doubling every year, such a full-service package seemed too good to be true.

Others felt the same way. UC Berkeley professor Robert Cooter, who had edited print journals at the Boalt Hall School of Law for many years, was very aware of the labor involved. He gathered some colleagues, developed a business plan, and launched the Berkeley Electronic Press. BePress developed a full-scale publishing solution for peer-reviewed e-journals that manages the process from start to finish, with an insider's know-how.

LIBRARIANS' PRESERVATION STRATEGIES

At the same time, UC librarians had long worked on their own preservation strategy for pre-print materials. The CDL launched eScholarship in the late 1990s with support from UC president Richard Atkinson, who was aware of the crisis in academic publishing as well as the opportunities that digital libraries presented.

Catherine Candee, director of Scholarly Communication Initiatives at the CDL, saw a need for a new suite of publishing tools that specifically addressed working papers and made it easier to manage them. …