This is a report of the Open Access Oxford Week event organised by the Bodleian Libraries and the Humanities Division on 5th March 2019 which focused on open access to monographs and other long-form publications.
Prof Daniel Wakelin, Faculty of English, introduced the event with a reminder of the complexity within the term ‘long-form’, which encompasses monographs, editions, translations, trade press, bibliographies, creative writing, music, catalogues, databases and so on. He coined the term ‘ajar’ publishing as a counterpoint to open and closed, noting that access to digital versions naturally involves costs regardless of publication routes or formats. Policy decisions should be careful not to disadvantage those on the margins of academia such as researchers on career breaks, independent or retired scholars. It is important to maintain open borders between institutions and beyond, and there is a role here for imaginative kinds of open or ajar publications.
Prof Caroline Warman (Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages) [slides]
Prof Warman discussed her experience of publishing long-form works open access, describing an inspiring project prompted by the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack in France in 2015. The French 18th Century Society published an anthology of Voltaire and other eighteenth-century authors in a move to open up discussions about values. The British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies proposed a translation as a gesture of solidarity.
Prof Warman turned this into a collaborative effort with her fellow tutors and students at Oxford, which spread the load and provided a meaningful real life exercise for the students. 102 students and tutors were involved and the resulting book, Tolerance: beacon of the Enlightenment, complete with QR codes, was published on the 1st anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo attack in January 2016. The response exceeded all expectations with 10,000 downloads within the first week. It has continued to be viewed, with over 37,000 downloads.
It was published by Open Book Publishers, an academic-led peer-reviewed OA publisher founded in 2008. Prof Warman had previously worked with OBP on a bilingual edition of Denis Diderot ‘Rameau’s Nephew’ – ‘Le Neveu de Rameau’ and found them to be flexible and imaginative, with rapid turnaround – and the possibility of connecting much more widely by putting works freely on the internet.
Andy Redman, Oxford University Press and Meredith Carroll, Manchester University Press [slides] described their respective OA publishing operations, with both offering dual publication of online and printed versions. They surveyed the wider landscape and considered the challenges including the thorny question of research policy and funding. Influential reports in this area include the Crossick Report: Monographs and Open Access: Jan 2015, JSTOR Reimagining the digital monograph 2017, and the British Academy: Position Paper: May 2018. There was general recognition that the scholarly book publishing market is diverse, complex and needs to be sustainable.
For information about OUP Open Access books please visit their website.
For more information about MUP Open Access books please visit their website.
Prof Roger Kain, Chair of Universities UK Open Access Monographs working group [slides]
Prof Kain explained the role of the UUK OA Monographs group, to monitor progress and consider the perceived barriers and opportunities, with the aim of informing policy. The group’s work plan for 2018/19 comprises three streams: a general overview of research monographs, updating of previous reports (in late 2018 the group hosted events for academics & learned societies and for publishers; report will be published shortly. Update: report published 28 March 2019), and data collection & analysis commissioned with the Arts & Humanities Alliance and the British Academy. This will include interviews with universities, libraries and publishers, and analysis of data from REF 2014 submissions, library acquisitions and publisher sales. The final report is set to be published early summer 2019 and will feed into UKRI review of OA publishing.
Prof Kain stressed that the path of OA for books is not ‘the same as journals but just a bit slower’ and that long-form publication is at the heart of humanities disciplines. He explored opportunities of Open Access for academics as creators of content, such as access, public engagement, multimedia, benefit to niche disciplines, and sales. He then examined challenges faced by academics around academic reward (publisher prestige and career advancement) and funding (royalties, research funding, affordability), as well as unequal access, third party rights, licences, citation of manuscripts in repositories, preservation, discoverability and publisher services. The difference between science and humanities was noted with respect to intellectual property and publication – separate processes in science, but one and the same in humanities.
Prof Kain described Open Access as a shared enterprise between academics, funders, publishers and librarians. Although OA for monographs sets challenges, the prize of knowledge being made available to all makes the goal and effort worthwhile. Policymakers need to understand that the complexity of producing OA monographs is much greater than for journals and don’t simply need time to ‘catch up’. Nevertheless, in the context of declining monograph sales, it is not impossible that OA could be the future.
More information about the UUK Open Access Monographs Working Group.
Dr Helen Snaith, Research England (RE) [slides]
Research England is currently considering the themes raised in its 2017 survey, which will feed into its revised OA policy. There was a strong response and good engagement from early career researchers. Funding was not the only concern; other themes emerged including misconceptions that OA means no peer review, or no print version for an OA book. Dr Snaith addressed these concerns and others such as third party content, discussed examples of work taking place in these areas, and explained how the REF 2021 policy exceptions aim to accommodate them.
How academic monographs might be handled in a future REF policy remains a key question, and forms part of the current UKRI OA review. There was discussion of possible criteria and use of exceptions, and acknowledgement of the issues around trade/crossover books, creative works, and licensing. Regarding cost and payment, it was noted that there is no single model for OA monographs, that a variety of viable business models is needed to avoid jeopardising the future of small society publishers, but that there is also room for innovation. Any future REF policy requires approval of all 4 funding bodies (not just Research England). RE is working with a broad range of stakeholders, welcomes this chance for dialogue and is committed to capturing all views in its report for the UKRI review.
More information about the Research England position on Open Access.
There is clearly a long way to go in this area, but the afternoon provided a useful opportunity for the exchange of information and views between all parties. We thank our speakers and audience members for sharing their expertise and experience in the consideration of open access for long-form works and ways forward.