Project History

ORBi is the result of a reflection started in the 2000s. The first version of ORBi was launched in 2008.

First initiative in the Wallonia-Brussels Region of Belgium

In 2001, the members of the BICfB (Bibliothèque Interuniversitaire de la Communauté française de Belgique) started the development of the first Open Access institutional database initiative: BICTEL/e.

The goal of the project? To collect the full texts of theses produced within the French-speaking Belgian universities on a single platform and to make access to them open to everyone.

In 2006, the Board of Directors of the University of Liège took the decision to make it compulsory for all PhD students within the institution to submit their thesis, in whole or in part, to the BICTEL/e directory of the University of Liège. In 2007, the Board of Directors of the University Faculty of Agronomic Sciences of Gembloux (FUSAGx) decided to follow suit.

First steps towards an institutional database

Since 2004, the BICfB had been considering the possibility of organising, in university academies, institutional databases that included all types of publications. The pilot phase of this study started for the Wallonia-Europe Academy in January 2005, thanks in part to a budget allocated for this purpose by the BICfB.

At the University of Liège, a team was formed at the request of Bernard Rentier, Rector of the University of Liège, and under the supervision of Paul Thirion, Director of the Library Network, both fervent promoters of Open Access.

The pilot phase had the following objectives:

  • To analyse the target groups' publication self-archiving policies and publishers' Open Access policies
  • To identify the specific constraints related to these policies
  • To develop a typology of documents and associated metadata in accordance with international standards
  • To develop the methods, procedures and tools necessary to implement the database at institutional level
  • To choose a software platform and define its development axes to meet the Institution's needs sufficiently
  • To select and develop value-added services
  • To develop an institutional policy for self-archiving to be submitted to the University of Liège authorities

Four target groups took part in this pilot phase:

More than 1,500 publications were analysed during the pilot phase.

Analysis of editorial policies

The publications of the target groups were reviewed on the basis of the copyright and self-archiving policies of the publishers as reported by SHERPA-RoMEO. 

The study showed that:

  • Nearly 50% of the articles from the target groups could be immediately placed in an institutional database
  • Approximately 20% of the target groups' articles were not suitable for inclusion in an institutional database
  • About 30% of the publications concerned were not listed on Sherpa

The publishers with no available information were questioned, the answers received were transmitted to SHERPA/Romeo, and a collaboration was set up.

Problems of author's postprint

The pilot phase demonstrated that authors do not necessarily keep a copy of the text of their articles accepted for publication. This posed a problem, as most authors will only allow their author version to be submitted to an institution.

After research, a procedure for reconstituting the author's version of the articles was developed, allowing for rapid and efficient processing.

Choice of software and development of the tool

The open source software DSpace, developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology-MIT, was chosen for the development of the institutional database. This choice was justified by the performance and the potential of the tool, and also by the fact that several large institutions in Belgium and the world had already adopted this internationally recognised platform (University of Ghent, Université Libre de Bruxelles, MIT Libraries, University of Cambridge, University of Toronto, Université de Montréal).

A number of additional functions were added to make it better suited to the needs of the Institution, notably: 

  • A user-friendly web interface to submit, manage and upload documents via a personal workspace
  • Forms adapted to the different types and subtypes of documents 
  • The possibility to upload several documents associated with a single reference (for example, a monograph divided into several chapters); several versions of the same publication (preprint, author's version, editor's pdf) and to add additional documents (photos, graphs, raw data, powerpoint presentations, data files)
  • The option to save an unfinished reference as a draft
  • All the publications of co-authors from the same institution would appear as soon as one of them started inputting
  • The addition of the authors' details (name, first name, e-mail, affiliation and identifier) from the information available in the University of Liège database
  • The addition of data related to scientific journals (full title, short title, ISSN, e-ISSN, publisher, mention of peer reviewing) from a database created and managed by the ORBi team
  • An automatic link to the SHERPA/RoMEO database which lists editorial policies regarding self-archiving
  • Interactive lists of institutions, funding agencies, research centres and European projects
  • Contextual help accompanying the applicant throughout the submission process
  • The option to import bibliographic references from international databases (Pubmed, Web of Knowledge, Scopus...) or from personal bibliographic management tools (EndNote, Zotero)
  • The setting up of a procedure for the appointment of a proxy by the person making the submission
  • General statistics concerning the evolution of the archive and its use (number of downloads) as well as statistics for each reference and personal statistics for the University's authors
  • The generation of publication lists according to international bibliographic standards
  • Easy management of reprint requests for restricted documents
  • The addition of a "Get It" button to find a publication in the University Libraries' catalogue
  • The integration of ORBi in the SSO (Single-Sign-On) of the University of Liège to allow access to institutional tools such as MyULg
  • The generation of reference lists via a widget allowing the inclusion of dynamic content in personal, departmental or faculty web pages

In addition:

  • Categorisation and classification systems were developed to meet the needs of the entire University.
  • The structure of the metadata was checked to ensure it complied with the OAI-PMH protocol, allowing the harvesting of ORBi references by OAI search engines and meta engines (OAIster, Scientific Commons, Google Scholar) as well as interoperability with the European project DRIVER (Digital Repository Infrastructure Vision for European Research).
  • A link to the list of the author's publications on ORBi was added to the University of Liège directory.
  • A pre-importation of about 20,000 references corresponding to the publications of the University of Liège referenced in the Web of Science, Medline and the publications of the target groups of the pilot phase was also carried out in ORBi.

Tean and collaborators

An ORBi team led by Paul Thirion was set up within the Réseau des Bibliothèques de l'Université de Liège. This team was made up of:

  • librarians Myriam Bastin and Dominique Chalono
  • a team of computer scientists led by Fabian Smagghe

Legal issues were reviewed by Laurence Thys, the Library Network's legal officer.

They also received help and support from a number of colleagues from within the Library Network.

Within the University, they collaborated with:

  • the Legal Affairs Department of the University of Liège
  • the Research and Development Administration
  • the Web Unit
  • the Graphic Design Unit
  • the General Computer Service (SEGI)

As well as with: 

  • Sherpa Romeo
  • The people in charge of the DRIVER-Belgium project
  • Scientific Research Fund (F.R.S.-FNRS) 

Official launch of ORBi

At the suggestion of the Rector, the Board of Directors of the University of Liège, decided on 23 May, 2007 as the date for launching the ULg digithèque (The ULg mandate).

On 29 June, 2007 and 28 September, 2007, the Board of Directors of FUSAGx officially decided to join the project and adopted an institutional policy identical to that of the University of Liège.

Finally, November 2008 marked the official launch of ORBi, "Open Repository and Bibliography". ORBi also refers to the Latin phrase meaning "for the world", underlining the University's desire to make its scientific production available to everyone, without financial or technical constraints.

In the space of one year, all the ergonomic and desired functional development, as well as the necessary support tools had been developed and implemented. The authors of the University of Liège were now able to submit their references and the full texts of their publications.

The referencing on international search engines has been set up progressively increasing the visibility of the Institution’s scientific output.

The mandate

The Board of Directors of the University of Liège decided on 23 May, 2007 to make it mandatory to:

  • Include all the references from every publication made by a member of the University since 2002
  • Submit the full electronic version of all articles published by members of the University since 2002

The reference must be entered in ORBi as soon as the publication has been accepted by a publisher or as soon as the document can be considered as completed, in the case of oral communications for example.

Documents in the process of being submitted to the publisher, but that have not been accepted, should not be submitted.

Reinforcing the mandatory submission

On 17 September, 2014, the Board of Directors of the University of Liège chose to strengthen the mandatory submission mandate on ORBi. From that time:
•   All references to publications by University of Liège authors have had to be entered into ORBi (no longer only those published since 2002)
•   The submission of the full text of articles published since 2002 as soon as they have been accepted was made mandatory
•    Evaluators have only been allowed to consider lists of publications originating in ORBi for the evaluation of the files for any request for an appointment, promotion or attribution of credit
•   Theses contained in BICTEL/e have been integrated in ORBi

A few facts and figures

50,000 references submitted
Milestone of 60,000 references submitted (60% with the full text). Total of 40,000 full-text publications on ORBi
One million downloads on ORBi achieved
Milestone of 100,000 references submitted (60% with the full text) and 2 million downloads
Total of 50,000 publications with open access
Milestone of 100,000 publications with the full text and 10 million downloads
Ten years of ORBi
ORBi reaches 20 million downloads
Milestone of 200,000 references submitted
Launch of ORBi's new version


10 years of ORBi

To celebrate the 10 years of ORBi, ULiège Library organised a day of conferences on 20 November, 2018.

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Presentations and publications around ORBi


Contact ORBi