Survey Results on ScholarlyCommons Use

The following post is in reference to a survey given in May 2018. For more information on the survey, see previous posts on our Survey MethodologySurvey Demographics, and Survey Questions & Reflections (the full survey is available for download and reuse under a CC0 license). Posts on other survey themes: Survey Results on Open Access Themes.

ScholarlyCommons, Penn’s institutional repository, contains dozens of collections that are managed by departmental administrators, research units, and centers. While our team works closely with these administrators to figure out the right repository structure, metadata profile, and sustainable workflows, we rely on them to keep their collections well-maintained and growing. As such, we were eager to learn about their perceptions of the repository, why they use it, and how it serves their work. We also wanted to gather some basic information about how they acquire materials, how active they are, and so forth. This information will provide starting point for future, more in depth conversations about IR management, workflows, and other needs.

To get at these questions though, we asked all respondents if they had heard of or seen ScholarlyCommons before. 54% of respondents had heard of ScholarlyCommons before, while 45% had not. Of those who have heard of ScholarlyCommons, we then asked if they’ve used it in any capacity.

Q7 – What have you used ScholarlyCommons for?


# Answer % Count
1 I have my own work in ScholarlyCommons 30.89% 76
2 I manage a journal or collection of materials in ScholarlyCommons 16.26% 40
3 I sometimes search for or access materials from the ScholarlyCommons site 23.98% 59
4 I have seen the ScholarlyCommons site but don’t know much about it 28.86% 71
Total 100% 246

Of those respondents who manage a journal or collection of materials in ScholarlyCommons, nearly 73% are managing a collection of papers, reports, ETDs, posters, videos, or some other file type. The remainder manage a journal using the journal structure.

Q10 – What sorts of materials do you manage?


# Answer % Count
1 Collections of papers, reports, theses/capstones, posters, videos, etc. 72.73% 32
2 Journals 27.27% 12
Total 100% 44

Of those 12 journal structures, 100% are led by administrators who are actively uploading new issues or are planning to do so in the future. Five of the twelve journal structures (41.7%) accept submissions through ScholarlyCommons, while the remainder do not. For the other types of structures, which makes up 72.7% of our respondents, more than 93% regularly upload materials or are planning to do so in the future.

Users or research centers who administer a collection in ScholarlyCommons administer cited a few common reasons or themes for why they use the repository:

  • Serves as a publicly accessible and self-managed archive of research center’s outputs, including working papers, research articles, book chapters, and multimedia.
  • Provides easy-to-use mechanism for distributing scholarship, integrating with search engines, and other functions incumbent on scholars seeking to distribute their work broadly.
  • Provides easy access to archived student theses, dissertations, capstones, and other scholarly works.
  • Operated by the Penn Libraries, which has a long-term commitment to stewarding their scholarly materials (as opposed to putting it up on a personal website or third-party academic social network).
  • Promotes interdisciplinary connections between research materials.

If respondents answered in Q7 that they have their own works in ScholarlyCommons, we asked them to indicate which types of materials they have in our repository. The list of materials was generated from internal reports on series types. This question broadened our reach to gather information from faculty, staff, and other researchers who have scholarly material in ScholarlyCommons but aren’t necessarily administering a collection of materials. Unsurprisingly, most respondents said that they use ScholarlyCommons to house more traditional scholarship (journal articles and book chapters), which makes up the majority of ScholarlyCommons content, but we did have respondents for each material type.

Q22 – What kinds of materials do you have in ScholarlyCommons?


# Answer % Count
1 Blog posts 1.26% 2
2 Book chapters 16.98% 27
3 Comics 0.63% 1
4 Journal articles (including preprints and postprints) 38.36% 61
5 Policy briefs 1.89% 3
6 Reports 8.81% 14
7 instrument data, operating procedures, or other administrative research information 1.89% 3
8 Working papers 8.81% 14
9 Conference/lecture materials 4.40% 7
11 Electronic theses or dissertations 6.92% 11
10 Data 1.89% 3
12 Images 1.89% 3
13 Videos 2.52% 4
14 Posters 1.26% 2
15 Presentations 1.26% 2
16 Maps 1.26% 2
Total 100% 159

These figures aligned relatively closely to the overall composition of the repository. Below is a chart indicating ScholarlyCommons uploads by document type for all-time. The amount of multimedia materials uploaded to the repository has been rising over the past couple of years or so, but these materials are still dwarfed by more traditional item types like previously published journal articles or ETDs.

SC Doc Type Composition

Individuals with their own works in ScholarlyCommons voiced similar reasons as their admin counterparts for using the repository to store their work: They add materials to ScholarlyCommons largely because it provides a widely available access point for users to view and download their work, plus it integrates with major search engines, which boosts discoverability. Many of their responses were variations on that theme.

We also surveyed both administrators and individuals with their own materials in the repository on what they liked and didn’t like about the platform itself (i.e., the Digital Commons technology). People generally liked the availability of statistics (i.e., downloads, views) and the download map for visualizing collection-level downloads. Users also mentioned more basic things like the ability to associate metadata with objects, discoverability of content within the repository, and permanent URLs. Both groups were less smitten with the look-and-feel of the repository and the mechanisms for managing content.

To read our annual report on ScholarlyCommons, visit


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