Traditional assessment of ways in which open access initiatives and institutional repositories have provided a return on investment normally use pragmatic measures such as download counts and citation benefits. This pragmatic approach misses out on the powerful altruistic impact of improving access to international and/or marginalized communities. Using a frame of social justice, this article considers the importance of developing altruistic measures of repositories, particularly for institutions with missions specifically related to social justice and related themes.
Methods: Using web analytics data for search keywords from eight institutions and geographic usage data from nine institutions, the authors were able to determine how well social justice related content is accessed by search engines and how much overall content is accessed internationally, particularly by lower-resourced countries. A social justice term list was developed to permit corpus overlap analysis with each institution’s search keywords, while the World Bank country income lists were used to determine international access by low and low-middle income countries. Results: Universities with mission statements explicitly mentioning social justice or Catholic social teaching had greater overlap with the social justice corpus. Low and low-middle income countries as defined by the World Bank were among the most engaged users. All institutions had at least one social justice search term in their top ten; Marquette University had five. Collection development in social science and environmental sustainability at Loyola University Chicago successfully increased this term overlap year-over-year and increased user engagement as measured by session length.
Discussions: The results of this exploratory study indicate that it is possible to use repository data to evaluate the success of an institution’s open access and social justice initiatives. The year-over-year improvement of Loyola’s numbers suggest in addition that it is possible to increase social justice impact through collection development. Performing an analysis of social justice impact can be used as an overall strategy for repository success and outreach on campus, particularly for institutions where social justice is an important part of the campus identity. For repositories in need of further resources, the ability to quantify impact for university administrators and decision-makers may be of use.
Conclusion: For institutions with a social justice mission, improving social justice content may improve repository ranking in social justice related search results. Collection development strategies should focus on departments and/or individuals who are working in social justice related areas, which defined broadly could encompass much of an institution. For institutions that emphasize social justice, it may be easier to approach faculty who might not otherwise have an interest in open access issues.