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FAIR Synthesis: ePrints UK

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Within the context of the Open Archives Initiative, four of the FAIR projects have been establishing themselves as e-print data providers, developing repositories of content and associated metadata.  In order to search across these when they are made open to the wider community, an OAI e-print service provider is required.  ePrints UK, a Resource Discovery Network (RDN) project, has built such a service, with the aim of being able to search across any OAI-compliant e-print repository, primarily in the UK but also abroad where appropriate. Although individual repositories will be accessible at institutions, ePrints UK is envisaged as the route to search across all or a selection of them.  The project has also investigated the use of web services to assist with and enhance searching; these address how harvested e-prints can be checked against name and authority files, as well as provide citation extraction.  The harvested metadata can then potentially be updated accordingly and returned to the host repository to upgrade the local records.


Further information is available via the JISC project page and the project website.


Outputs from this project include the live OAI service provider, the harvested metadatatechnical documentation describing the service and guidance on cataloguing e-prints, a number of  reports examining the environment in which the data providers, institutional repositories, sit, a series of  e-print awareness-raising events, and a range of  publicationsand presentations. There are also a number of  related initiatives.



Marieke Guy
University of Bath
Bath BA2 7AY

Tel: 01225 385105



The ePrints UK service demo version 0.3, providing a selective search facility across a range of repositories. ePrints UK is a service technically derived from the RDN service, and as such, is based on the same technologies, with several customisations. The different components are:

  • the harvester, for which the ARC software is used.  ARC is a java based application, developed by Old Dominion University, which harvests OAI records into a database
  • the indexer, for which cheshire2 is used.  This software, developed and maintained partly at the University of Liverpool, uses XML records
  • the normaliser is the program that sits between the indexer and the harvester.  This program was specifically written for ePrints UK at UKOLN and has been extended to harvest in some cases the full text of the e-print as well as enhance the harvested records.

A series of web services has been investigated to enable metadata harvested from repositories to be enhanced.  The work on these web services, providing automatic access to name authority files, subject classification and citation extracting services, has been experimental and is ongoing beyond the lifetime of the project.  Further information on progress is available from the project manager (see also a technical description of the web services below).

A version of the ePrints UK search box is being developed to enable a search of repositories to be embedded within a web page. This follows the same path as RDN-include and is being developed as an additional service for the RDN.


As of December 2005 over 76,500 metadata records have been harvested from 29 repositories (see the most up-to-date details). This is an ongoing process - please contact the project team if you would like your repository to be included.

Technical documentation

The following documents describing the technical infrastructure of ePrints UK:


The following documents have been writtent to encourage standardisation in the way e-prints are catalogued within repositories.  An OAI service provider is limited in the services it can provide by the data it is harvesting.  The quality of this is in turn affected by the processes in place within the institution for gathering content into the institutional repository (see reports below).  Consistency and high quality of metadata across data providers will enable enhanced services to be provided and greater functionality for users.


The following reports place the role of a service provider in the context of wider institutional repository developments:

  • Prospects for institutional e-print repositories in the United Kingdom, Michael Day, ePrints UK Supporting Study no. 1
  • Institutional e-print repositories: Collection development issues, Michael Day & Philip Hunter, ePrints UK Supporting Study no. 2
  • Institutional e-print repositories: Business and IPR Issues, Philip Hunter, ePrints UK, Supporting Study no. 3
  • Institutional repositories and research assessment, Michael Day, ePrints UK. Supporting Study no. 4


Five ePrints UK workshops to raise awareness of e-prints and associated technical and cultural issues were run around the country between March and May 2004 attracting over 200 people in total.  Details and presentations can be found for each event as follows:

Links with related initiatives and projects

  • CILEA - CILEA provides ICT services to nine Italian Universities in the Lombardy region. They have taken the ePrints UK software for their own use and are collaborating with UKOLN on possible future work.
  • eBank UK - a JISC funded project which is investigating the issues surrounding provenance and the use and re-use of original data for research and learning purposes. 
  • OCLC - OCLC are involved in developing two of the web services; they also have ongoing links with UKOLN.  
  • Resource Discovery Network - ePrints UK is an RDN project and seeks to provide a service that can be used by the hubs of the RDN. Due to co-location, there has been technical cross-fertilisation at UKOLN between ePrints UK, eBank and the RDN during the project’s lifetime.  


Guy, M., ePrints UK: developing a national ePrints archive, ASSIGNation 2004 21(3): 11-16
Guy, M., Powell, A. and Day, M., Improving the quality of metadata in Eprint archives, Ariadne, 2004, Issue 38

Martin, R., ePrints UK: developing a national e-prints archive, Ariadne, 2003, Issue 35


(NB. see also presentations given at the e-prints awareness-raising events held)

ePrints UK and the Open Archives Idea: a workshop for the National Acquisitions Group Conference, Philip Hunter and Greg Tourte, Aston University, Birmingham, 15-17th September 2004

ePrints UK demo, Philip Hunter, JISC Joint Programmes Meeting, Brighton, 6-7th July 2004

The ePrints UK project, Ruth Martin, USTLG spring 2003 meeting, University of Newcastle, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 4th March 2003, available at

See also

Electronic Theses
Theses Alive!