The scientific research and associated development in Palestine has gained a considerable attention in the past few years. Researchers in Palestine do important research on issues essential for the development of appropriate programs to solve problems at both local and international levels. The output of this research is often essential for policy makers and development practitioners to identify the exact needs of the local community and to optimize their policies and investments according to these needs.
Despite the affordances of research activities in Palestine, the access to the results of implemented research has been severely limited due to publishing and access inabilities (IAP, 2002; Sweileh, 2014). Because of the common trend among scholars to publish their research findings in highly reputed journals, most of the Palestinian scholarship is either unpublished or delayed. In addition, the traditional system of scholarly publishing and the high costs of publications have contributed to the limited growth of the Palestinian scholarship (Qumsiyeh & Isaac, 2012). Apart from the research, the visibility of research outcomes is also kept to the minimum, due to financial restrictions limiting the publication and distribution of national research outcomes. In addition, information important for the resolution of problems specific to developing countries is not often published in journals from the developed world.
As a result, the research outcomes, which most of is imperative to address local and regional developmental issues, die at the institutional level as they remain invisible to those who may need them. Although some results may eventually get published in local journals, the outcomes may not be widely disseminated due to the poor distribution and recognition of these journals. This disappointment comes despite the so much commitment of efforts and resources that may be devoted to undertake research in Palestine.
Driven by the above challenges, providing access to volumes of national research has become a national priority in recent years. This is indispensable in order to raise the profile of research performed in the PS HEIs and integrate it into the international knowledge pool. In this work, we propose an initiative to build capacity for managing research output in the PS HEIs through enabling Open Access Institutional Repositories (OAIRs). Evolving from the open access movement, OAIRs have developed into a widely accepted means of preserving and disseminating research findings around the globe. OAIR are believed to be the only possible remedy for raising awareness of the local research and promoting its integration into the global research community.
Little attention has been paid to the development of OAIRs in the Arab academic institutions. Recent studies investigating the status of OAIRs in the Arab world (Carlson, 2015; Syed Sajjad Ahmed & Al‐Baridi, 2012) concluded that the devoted effort in this field is still at the early stages. Some reports (Alkhaja, 2014) estimated the total number of open access repositories in the Arab region in 2014 by 34 repositories as compared to about 70 repositories in Europe. There was no clear investigation, as at the time of this writing, regarding the status of institutional repositories (IRs) in the PS HEIs. But with reference to the "Ranking Web of Repositories" in order to obtain an initial indicator, we noticed the total absence of IRs in Palestine. Although few HEIs have recently started to provide access to research assets through online library services, they do not adopt formal procedures and policies covering the submission of scholarly work, long-term preservation and issues related to intellectual properties.
Establishing OAIRs for PS HEIs will improve not only the visibility and the management of scientific research, but will also support the advocacy in support of open access to research outputs. IRs can also foster scholarly communication and coordination between PS HEIs and eliminate duplicated efforts despite the mobility restrictions that complicate face-to-face collaboration. Moreover, IRs with long-term preservation solutions will significantly help to preserve the national digital content such as health, education and personal archives. In areas of unrest, such as Palestine, the survival and sustainability of such archives is constantly under threat of deterioration and/or access-denial.
In a recent study about the future of knowledge sharing in a Digital Age (Gregson et al., 2015), the authors look at the ways in which digital technologies might contribute to or damage development agendas. The authors mentioned that over the next 15 years more and more people are accessing and contributing digital content which has the potential to improve people’s lives by making information more available, increasing opportunities for political and economic engagement, and making government more transparent and responsive. But globally, participation in the Digital Age remains uneven, and thus carries dangers of a growing knowledge divide. The study recommend that developing countries should participate in developing knowledge infrastructure and systems that benefit them; universities should encourage publishing through cooperative, peer-reviewed open access platforms; and the governments and development agencies should invest in developing more effective knowledge sharing systems and digital repositories. Therefore, we believe that the development of IRs at the PS HEIs will be hugely significant not only to enable for better management and preservation of intellectual properties, but also in shaping the lives of Palestinian citizens and addressing development challenges in an inclusive and equitable manner.