About IReL


IReL is the Irish Research eLibrary, a nationally funded online research library providing access to leading Science Technology and Medicine (STM) and Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) resources to participating institutions.

What is available?

IReL delivers quality peer-reviewed online research publications: journals, ebooks, databases and index & abstracting services. See our Resources page for a full listing. 

How to access IReL

Staff and students of participating institutions can access IReL resources on or off-campus via their library’s website:


IReL was initially conceived to support researchers in Biotechnology and Information Technology in mid-summer 2004, and following on the success of this, expanded in 2006 to support research in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

High-level research is both an academic and a national economic imperative, the essential component of a strategy to develop a knowledge-based economy and to position Ireland as a world leader in this respect. As a result of initiatives funded by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) through the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI), and projects funded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) there has been a major enhancement in the research profile of the Irish universities.

In response to an invitation from SFI transmitted via the Conference of Heads of Irish Universities (CHIU, since renamed the Irish Universities Association, IUA), the university librarians submitted a proposal in June 2002 for the development of an electronic library, or research information resource. This proposal envisaged that the electronic library would be established on a consortium basis and available to the research community throughout the sector. Following favourable approval, IReL began in the summer of 2004 concentrating on resources to support biotechnology, and information and communications technology. This first (STM) phase of IReL continued until December 2009.

The success of the Science, Technology & Medicine (STM) phase of IReL resulted in the funding by HEA of a second phase of IReL to run from 2006 to 2009 to support the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) a major boost to researchers in these areas.

In 2009 additional funds were made available for the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and the Institutes of Technology to join selected agreements.

Following approximately 10 years based in University College Dublin and a shorter period hosted by HEAnet, IReL moved to Maynooth University in early 2016 and a new governance structure was introduced in 2017 following the formation of the Irish University Libraries Collaboration Centre (IULCC).

In early 2018, Dublin Institute of Technology became a full member of IReL, with representation on the consortium’s governing groups. Following the creation of TU Dublin (merging Dublin, Blanchardstown and Tallaght Institutes of Technology), its three campuses began accessing IReL resources as they are renewed from 2020.

A strategic review of IReL, led by the HEA, was concluded in 2019.  

Why a national approach?

A number of factors support the value of a national as opposed to an institutional approach to acquiring e-resources:

  • the inability of individual institutions to bear the cost of comprehensive information provision;
  • the collaborative cross-institutional and cross-disciplinary nature of the various research initiatives;
  • the advantage of economies of scale from consortium purchasing
  • the advantage of economies of scale from centralised negotiation and administration, especially in view of the highly flexible pricing of the resources;
  • the need to make the resource available to researchers across the sector, regardless of the institution in which they are based

In addition to ensuring Irelands competitive advantage for access to high quality research, the benefits of IReL are available to all students and staff in the universities, RCSI and the Institutes of Technology. This is particularly important in instilling a research culture at undergraduate level and is making a significant contribution to Government policy as recommended by the OECD.

How IReL is managed

IReL is overseen by the Governance Committee of the IULCC comprised of representatives from partners and funders. The Maynooth University President chairs the Governance Committee and MU, as the host of the IULCC, has overall governance responsibility for IReL, providing dedicated financial and professional support through the MU Finance Office and Library.

IReL members’ library directors comprise the Executive Committee, which has operational responsibility for IReL, working in consultation with the funders and the research community. The Executive Committee provides direction and oversight to IReL staff and committees and commits a significant proportion Executive Committee members’ library resources to IReL, including assigning a Library Director to Chair the initiative’s Steering Group, staff for the Steering Group and Monitoring Group and Library Director to act as the IULCC Director.

IReL’s staff are employed by Maynooth University. They negotiate with the publishers on behalf of the consortium and manage agreements.

The IReL Steering Group consists of senior librarians from IReL members’ libraries. The IReL staff and the Steering Group work closely to acquire agreed content at the best possible rates and at the most favourable licensing conditions for IReL member libraries. The members of the Steering Group maintain close relationships with the Schools and Vice Presidents for Research and consult as required on resources considered for inclusion or deselection.

The IReL Monitoring Group evaluates the performance of IReL resources, promotes IReL, and advises the consortium on actions deemed necessary to maintain adequate and appropriate coverage of resources in response to the changing needs of researchers.

Success of IReL

Researchers in Irish universities now have access to a world-class electronic library service comparable to any such service in the international research community. The range and quality of publications available through IReL compares favourably to what is available in some of the leading research libraries, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Columbia University and Imperial College London.

Since the release of the first resources in 2005, millions of journal articles are accessed each year. Researchers and students have also made excellent use of the databases and ebook collections, performing over 16 million searches in 2015 and consulting over 6.5 million ebook sections over the last nine years.

The chart below shows the aggregated usage of all monitored (approximately 94% by value) IReL resources (including ebooks, ejournals and databases, both HSS and STM resources) between 2007 and 2015, combining searches and downloads.

Impact factors

The following table shows how many of the top 20 highest ranked journals, based on their 2012 ISI Journal Impact Factors, IReL offers for a selection of research areas (as at June 2013).

Research interest area:Of the top 20 highest ranked titles IReL offers:% top 20 titles accessible
Biomedical Engineering1890%
Biochemical Research Methods1890%
Biotechnology and Applied Microbiology1680%
Chemical Engineering1890%
Computer Science – Information Systems & Software Engineering1785%
Psychology – Multidisciplinary1680%

Findings of the Impact Survey 2009

The IReL Monitoring Group conducted a survey between 25th of March and 9th of April 2009, targeting researchers and students at the seven Irish universities and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. The aim of this study was to gain a deeper understanding of the impact that IReL has had on research, the nature of usage and any suggestions for improvement.

This representative survey (with a response rate of 37%, twice the 2007 response rate) highlighted the paramount role IReL plays in the everyday life of researchers in Ireland. IReL has enabled faster access to a wider range of publications, enhanced research in a multidisciplinary context and had a positive effect on the competitiveness of research output as a whole. Beyond the primary purpose of research, respondents felt that the service has helped them to enhance teaching and undergraduate learning, and helped institutions forge successful partnerships.

It has also become clear from the survey, that IReL has evolved into a tool without which it is impossible to conduct research effectively in Ireland. Invited to comment on how any discontinuation of IReL would affect their work, respondents expressed grave concern at such a possibility.

To read the full report, click here.


“The IReL service has been a key element in transforming the landscape for scientific research in Ireland. In terms of value for money it is hard to think of a better investment”

Prof. Ray O’Neill, Vice President for Research, Maynooth University

“The availability of this reference tool is vital for our research, for writing reviews and papers and for the development of concepts for new research initiatives”

Prof. Richard O’Kennedy, Dublin City University

“This is absolutely essential. Without it we will be severely affected and research will suffer tremendously. I can’t emphasise enough how important it is that this be continued even if it were to be at the expense of other things.”

Prof. Luke O’Neill, TCD (Biochemistry and Immunology)

“IReL has transformed research support in Ireland. It provides access to primary and secondary source material that is now indispensable to research. It is essential the service be maintained as a vital component of our national research infrastructure.”

Prof. Alan Titley, UCC (Modern Irish)

IReL Publications

IReL groups

IULCC Governance Committee

  • Cathal McCauley, Maynooth University and IULCC Director
  • Garry Purcell, Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation
  • Gobnait O’Riordan, University of Limerick
  • Jack Hyland, IReL, IULCC secretary
  • John Cox, NUI Galway
  • Keith Burke, University College Cork
  • Prof Philip Nolan, Maynooth University & Chair
  • Prof Ray O’Neill, Maynooth University
  • Professor Brian O’Neill, TU Dublin
  • Sharon Bailey, NUI Galway
  • Tim Conlon, Higher Education Authority

IULCC Executive Committee

  • Gobnait O’Riordain, UL
  • John Howard, UCD
  • Helen Shention, TCD
  • John Cox, NUI Galway
  • Colette McKenna, UCC, Chair
  • Cathal McCauley, MU, Secretary
  • Jack Hyland, IReL
  • Allison Kavanagh, TU Dublin
  • John McDonough, DCU

IReL Staff

  • Jack Hyland, IReL Manager
  • Aaron Binchy, IReL Officer
  • Michelle McGuane, Financial Controller
  • Dr. Catherine Ferris, Open Scholarship Officer

IReL Steering Group

  • John Cox, NUI Galway, Chair
  • Amanda Halpin, DCU
  • Ann McSweeney, TU Dublin
  • Hugh Murphy, MU
  • Monica Crump, NUI Galway
  • Kathryn Smith, RCSI
  • Arlene Healy, TCD
  • Ronan Madden, UCC
  • Rose Buttimer, UCC (representing Monitoring Group)
  • Julia Christopher, UCD
  • Cora Gleeson, UL
  • Jack Hyland, IReL
  • Aaron Binchy, Secretary

IReL Monitoring Group

  • Amanda Halpin, DCU
  • Val Payne, MU
  • Ronán Kennedy, NUI Galway
  • Eliska Komarkova, RCSI
  • Rose Buttimer, UCC, Chair
  • J.P. Kiernan, UCD
  • Anne McMahon, UL
  • Aaron Binchy, IReL 
  • Fiona Rigney, TU Dublin