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Tony Reid, Medical Editor
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been doing operational research for a number of years and have published a significant number of papers based on our experience. However, there was no way to showcase them.
MSF wanted to make this research freely available, particularly for healthcare workers and policy makers in developing countries. We also wanted to strengthen our reputation as a medical organisation, and knew showcasing such a collection of scientific output would help accomplish this goal. Also, due to high staff turnover, a repository was needed to maintain the “institutional memory” of work produced by MSF.
MSF did not have the in-house capacity to create a repository, so we decided a hosted solution was the best choice.
Open Repository was an established company that had experience in setting up this kind of archive. They were recommended at an open access conference in London and their website displayed a number of other repositories that seemed to be similar to what we wanted to have. The staff were also very helpful in answering all of our questions about establishing the repository. Other benefits were that the design of the homepage and search patterns were customisable for our purposes.
From the experience of other institutes, we knew that populating the repository from PubMed would be very easy. A recent new feature of Open Repository to “View Statistics” allows us to see which individual articles are being downloaded, how many and from where, which is a big benefit to us.
The repository administration team encourages MSF authors to publish in open access journals wherever possible. However, due to the wide range of subjects, some articles are published within subscription journals.
Additional population of the repository has been very easy with requested PubMed feeds implemented for us by Open Repository. At MSF, the process of uploading content is predominantly done by 3 or 4 people who have uploading privileges, as the decision was made to manage the repository centrally. This is because MSF has a number of authors who have only published a few papers and so are not facile with the repository. To ensure recent publications are in our repository, we regularly check with all MSF sections, as well as check PubMed for MSF affiliation.
The MSF repository has been received extremely well, both internally and externally. The medical departments within MSF have all contributed to the repository and the research staff are pleased to see their work showcased in this way.
Outside organisations have also made favourable comments, predominantly surprised at MSF’s considerable output given we are an organisation not known for research. Most importantly, it has made MSF research and experience available to health workers and policy makers in developing countries free of charge. The success of this is reflected in the “View Statistics” box which shows an average of an impressive 5,000 downloads in the last 6 months, with many from developing countries in Africa, Asia and South America.
We hope to make it more interactive for the epidemiologists and researchers within MSF. There are plans to have a specific chat/sharing section for them alongside the repository.
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