Research Libraries UK (RLUK), The National Archives (TNA) and Jisc have published a report to kickstart a discussion about citation practices, and how to standardise references to unique and distinct collections (UDC’s) held in repositories across the UK.

Every year, tens of thousands of citations are included within the footnotes and endnotes of academic publications despite the fact that a widely agreed and coherent system of referencing UDC repositories does not currently exist. A TNA survey conducted in 2015 revealed that only a small percentage of archives proactively gave guidance to users about citation.

Creating a more consistent framework for how academics cite UDC repositories will deliver two main benefits. By standardising references to repositories and the collections within them, it will be easier for archivists, librarians and collection managers to gauge usage and will support collection management decisions. Secondly, it will provide valuable metrics for repositories to evidence impact of their collections and activities, and make the case for funding.

The report, delivered by The Research Base, looks at the challenges and opportunities related to improving the consistency and accuracy of current citation practices for UDC materials, as well as the strategies and tools required to effectively capture data for citations. It is divided into three key strands: model citation guidance; embedding best practice; and citation capture software. They recommend that focusing on these three strands will prove most effective in meeting the long-term outcomes specified in the original tender.

A workshop is being planned to discuss the recommendations and implications of the report and further details will be announced in due course.

Key findings from the report:

  • Key criteria for the development of a standardised citation model for UDC repositories include integration with existing conventions; accessibility for academics and non-academics; having a single point of access for guidance; and relative brevity of references.

  • Possible citation models include reference to the full repository name for the initial citation, followed by an abbreviated letter code based on the repository name for subsequent citations; or a model based on existing ARCHON codes.

  • Evidence from primary research points towards three-letter codes as the most appropriate citation model. The principal benefit is that it can be integrated with current practice. While this model would lead to duplication of certain codes, this is not viewed to be a barrier to citation capture across academic publications as long as the full repository name is cited in the initial citation.

  • Validation workshop findings indicate that a model based on existing ARCHON codes may offer greater integration with emerging digital infrastructures, such as ORCID codes, as well as ensuring that each repository would have a unique identifier without duplication. Challenges associated with this model include that not all repositories currently have ARCHON codes, and that the model would create a greater emphasis on users knowing and accurately reproducing repository codes.

  • Further challenges associated with both models include the ability to adapt to repository name changes; capturing online and social media citations; and the time and financial investment which is likely to be required to ensure that the guidelines are adopted by users.

  • Strategies to embed best practice and ensure buy-in for a standardised model include the widespread publication of guidelines; support from publishers; encouraging the uptake of catalogue plug-ins to increase the accuracy and consistency of UDC citations; and the delivery of a publicity campaign to raise awareness and increasing the knowledge and skills required to capture citations.

  • Investing in bespoke citation capture tools to automate the citation capture process is likely to be beneficial to ensure accurate and comprehensive data collections; another advantage would be the ability to respond to changes in how UDC collections are used, both now and in the future.

  • Challenges associated with using existing data capture tools include data protection limitations which may limit future partnership working; low usage of existing tools among academics (raising questions about the effectiveness of such tools from the user perspective); and the lack of technical knowledge among UDC repositories to capture and analyse the data.

  • Key implementation partners identified include learned societies, software companies, publishers and funders. Any partnership working with publishers and editors is like