Universities can pay for a scientific repository that will hold all their research in one place and control whether it’s public or private

The open access research repository figshare, already used by individual researchers, has announced a new software platform designed for universities and institutes.

Figshare, a London-based start-up backed by Digital Science, a division of publishers Macmillan, describes its new ‘figshare for Institutions’ as ‘simple and cost-effective software’ that can be used by institutions to securely host and make publicly available all academic research outputs.

Figshare founder Mark Hahnel tells Chemistry World that the institutional data management system allows users to maintain full control of their research, including when and what they want to make public. Public research outputs are grouped together at institutional and departmental levels, allowing easy filtering based on file type, tags and impact.

Previously, institutions using figshare did not have the departmental and metric filtering capabilities, he says, adding: ‘Instead of just public or private research, they can create private working spaces which can be made available to specified colleagues or collaborators. These spaces allow all parties to upload files or notes and comment on each of the uploads.’

While individual users can publish their research outputs on figshare for free and receive 1GB of private storage space, Hahnel says institutions will be charged an annual licence fee. In return, institutions are allocated huge amounts of private storage space, unlimited public space and an easy to use data management system.

Figshare, launched in 2012, made 200,000 files publicly available during its first year of operation and now has about 1 million research objects available.

Peter Murray-Rust, a chemist at the University of Cambridge, UK, says he likes the figshare model, allowing researchers to ‘publish first and sort out the problems of formats quality, et cetera later. It has echoes of Wikimedia and other bottom-up efforts.’

He has no problem with figshare as a business model generating income from services, but adds: ‘My biggest concern is that open resources often become closed. As long as figshare avoids becoming a walled garden for Macmillan or others, then great.’

He ‘totally’ disgagrees with critics of open access who warn that scientists will drown in too much data, much of which will never be seen. ‘If the material is discoverable then software will manage this problem,’ he says. ‘No, we are asphyxiating in the vacuum of space. I suspect the whole of published derived chemistry data could fit in a few terabytes.’

Stephen Curry, a structural biologist at Imperial College London, UK, also sees open access online publishing as part of the solution. ‘We are already drowning in data and need to find ways to cope, part of which will involve making it accessible so that the full value can be realised,’ he says, adding that new methods are needed to manage the data. ‘We shouldn’t be burying our heads in the sand on this but looking for good solutions.’