Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Open access monographs: what have we learnt?

During my first UKSG conference, I was excited to see the wide variety of sessions on offer. One which really stood out for me was ‘Open access monographs: what have we learnt?’ having previously worked on the marketing of Palgrave Macmillan’s first open access monograph, Fungal Disease in Britain and the United States, 1850 – 2000, and having started my career in open access publishing.

Ellen Collins impressively provided a comprehensive overview of OAPEN-UK’s work in her lightning talk, offering a snapshot of the ways in which open access fits into the monograph environment, as well as the changing attitudes of all stakeholders involved in the process. In an industry where open access has traditionally been associated with those working in the STM arena, it is encouraging to now see those working in the HSS communities beginning to embrace this option.

Key themes of Ellen’s talk included:

A change for all stakeholders involved in the process of publishing an open access monograph

Whilst the fundamental editorial, production and writing processes will no doubt stay the same, the attitudes of researchers, funders and publishers should change, when concerning how they should engage with the open access model.

Supply chain issues

The publication of open access monographs creates a number of problems – how should the publisher deal with DRM issues, work around creative commons in metadata to encourage the best discoverability and access, and work around the zero price of the title in systems used by librarians?

An enthusiasm for change, but no concrete roadmap

Ellen noted that humanities researchers are beginning to now recognize that the open access monograph could present a real solution to issues surrounding the visibility of their research. Likewise, funders and publishers are willing to experiment and explore various model types. How can we now integrate open access with other changes in the monograph environment in the least disruptive way, for all involved?

The key point to come out of Ellen’s talk was the need for continued experimentation and diversity of the open access model.

One issue that has become clear is that one size doesn’t fit all for open access. What works for those in the STM community isn’t necessarily the best model for humanities and social sciences researchers. Whilst open access monographs may receive a high number of downloads, will HSS researchers embrace a POD print option? As an increasing number of publishers begin to explore open access options, it will be interesting to see the various open access options on offer, and how these fit and complement the traditional monograph.

I look forward to seeing OAPEN-UK’s findings next year, especially when concerning usage and the impact of open access, at a time where so much emphasis is placed upon visibility, measurability and impact of research. In such a fast-paced environment, I wonder what conversations we will be having around open access monographs at UKSG in Glasgow next year?

Emma Hedington
Assistant Marketing Manager

Nature Publishing Group/ Palgrave Macmillan 

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