Open access monographs: supporting bibliodiversity

This blog post was written by Graham Stone, senior programme manager for open access monographs.

Open access (OA) for journal articles is well-established via pure open access publishers and “read and publish” agreements as part of the transition to open led by cOAlition S. Open access for books is less well-developed, although activity has been increasing over the last couple of years. The Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) includes approximately 28,000 OA titles from 380 publishers. However, this is still just a small percentage of the titles published globally and an even smaller percentage of works produced by academics at UK institutions.

Ensuring that students and academics have access to the titles that they need has been brought into sharp focus in recent weeks. Campus closures mean that print book collections are no longer accessible, nor can they be scanned and made available. Furthermore, not all titles are available digitally, and where they are, access is not guaranteed or affordable. Whilst access to many titles may be free for a temporary period, library budgets will not be able to accommodate purchasing thousands of titles when free access ends. Now more than ever, we need to be considering how we can work collectively to increase and embed OA monograph publishing to ensure that institutions can always deliver essential research content online.

The UUK OA monographs working group has been very active in this area, facilitating community engagement and publishing a number of reports in 2019. OA monographs are included in the current UKRI open access consultation and will be included in future Research England policy. cOAlition S are due to issue guidelines regarding OA monographs in 2021.

High level support for infrastructure is integral to driving OA monograph publishing forward, and Jisc is excited to be participating in the Research England and Arcadia Fund supported Community-led Open Publication Infrastructures for Monographs (COPIM) project; an ambitious three-year project to deliver “major improvements in the infrastructures used by OA book publishers and those publishers making a transition to OA books”. Jisc also represents the UK HE sector as a core member of OPERAS (the European Research Infrastructure for the development of open scholarly communication in the social sciences and humanities), which aims “to coordinate and pool university-led scholarly ­communication activities in Europe in the Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH), in view of enabling Open Science as the standard practice”.

The appetite for a new paradigm is not just at the funder level. In recent years, there has been a groundswell in the UK of new university, library-led and scholar-led open access presses, which are contributing to a diverse ecology of open access publishers. This movement, combined with the increased need for online, open and affordable content suggest that 2020 and 2021 are the years where OA monograph publishing will really make progress.

Advancing OA monograph publishing – Jisc’s commitment

During 2020 and beyond we are working to support libraries and academics. In addition, we are leading activity that will inform research funders in the UK and cOAlition S. Our key ambitions are:

  • For authors, we’ll be working with colleagues at UKRI and Research England to support the outcomes of the OA policy consultation. We also have some plans in the pipeline for at least one (digital) workshop with colleagues at a university press on OA monographs myth busting, which we hope to roll out to a wider audience. We’ll be using this great checklist for organising online meetings from the Alan Turing Institute to get the most from digital meetings. We will also liaise with leaned societies as part of our work supporting authors to prepare for policy change.
  • We will be talking to funders about the possibility to provide more written guidance for authors, particularly around third party rights and Creative Commons licences for OA monographs. This will include liaising with OpenGLAM to understand how Jisc may be able to help with the licensing of content after publication of the OpenGLAM green paper. We’ll produce a one-page document to look at the possibility of Jisc licensing agreements in this area to support authors and open access publishers.
  • The UUK open access and monographs evidence review recommended that a “central international site (similar to SHERPA services for journals) should be established to capture funder and publisher policies in one place”. During 2020, we will scope out a SHERPA for books service.
  • We’ll be looking at publisher business models for OA monographs and will work with the COPIM project on their Revenue Infrastructures and Management Platform work package. This will include liaison with library consortia and funders who have OA monograph policies overseas. Jisc is also very pleased to announce that we will be coordinating the OPERAS Special Interest Group on business models, which will kick off at a virtual meeting in June.
  • We will re-run the survey for New University and Library-led Presses based on our 2017 landscape report to understand how the landscape has evolved. We plan to delve deeper into a number of questions to help build a picture for 2020. Furthermore, we will follow our Institution as e-textbook publisher toolkit released in 2018 with a New University Press toolkit, which will offer advice and best practice for this growing community. In order to support a diverse scholarly publishing ecosystem, we have introduced a dynamic purchasing service, which enables new and emerging presses to procure publishing services. We want to encourage suppliers and presses to make use of this service and have plans to engage with both sets of stakeholders during 2020. Look out for further announcements during the year.
  • Regarding infrastructure, expect a scoping report soon as part of our work on the COPIM work package on building an open dissemination system. This will follow on from a successful digital workshop for monograph publishers held in March. We hope to make the link between metadata for discovery and dissemination, and the various projects currently in progress on OA monograph metrics. For example, the OPERAS metrics portal and Mellon funded initiatives in the United States. OPERAS is now a legal entity and will submit an application for the ESFRI roadmap. Jisc is an active member of the Core Group and we hope to increase our participation on behalf of UK members that are OPERAS partners.
  • For libraries we want to liaise with our members to create training and development. We also plan to work with UK and international library organisations, such as the LIBER OA working group and the IFLA library Publishing group. We’ve been working in the cultural change space since our 2018 workshop on OA monographs and the library supply chain. We are working on a paper that will expand on ideas presented at RLUK, National Acquisitions Group and LIBER conferences in 2019.

We’ll update you as we work through our objectives over the coming year and we’ll be in touch directly with stakeholders at UKRI, Research England, SCONUL, RLUK, Guild HE, key publisher groups and colleagues in related projects overseas.

In 2021, we will publish a report on our recommendations and further work required together with a set of life cycle type workflows for OA monographs including where services do/do not exist for authors, libraries, institutions, museums and galleries.

While acknowledging that we can’t change the world in 12 months, we hope to lay the foundations to support new OA monograph policy and encourage researchers, publishers and institutions to become more involved in the transition to OA in an affordable way that protects bibliodiversity in the monographs space, and supports the robust online delivery of critical research monographs.

We welcome your thoughts, so please do get in touch via the comments below.

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