In the UK, the push towards open access (OA) monograph publishing dates back to at least 2013. That was the year the Wellcome Trust included monographs and book chapters in its OA policy and the former higher education funding body for England, HEFCE, posed a number of questions relating to open access monographs in its Research Excellence Framework consultation.
The trend since then has been clear. The revised guidance on Plan S, the international push towards OA mandates, published on 31 May, states that:
“cOAlition S will, by the end of 2021, issue a statement on Plan S principles as they apply to monographs and book chapters, together with related implementation guidance”.
The four UK HE funding bodies have signalled the intent to mandate OA for monographs submitted to the Research Excellence Framework beyond the 2021 assessment and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), a signatory of Plan S, has launched its own open access policy review, which will include monographs and book chapters.
Therefore, by 2021, the major UK funders will have implemented policies and mandates on OA monographs, joining a growing international list. But each country in Europe is at a different stage of enabling OA for monographs. As yet, there is no unified solution for this transition, but we can learn from each other, coordinate activities and help to build a better system.
The Knowledge Exchange (KE) partnership of six national organisations in Germany, the Netherlands, Finland, France, Denmark and the UK is behind an effort to provide just such coordinated support for open access monographs.
One of the key questions that remains is how to encourage more authors to publish their monographs OA. The Jisc KE survey (pdf) revealed that concerns over sustainability, copyright and third-party rights, quality issues and trade and crossover titles are high on authors’ agendas. It is key to engage authors in a debate around these issues.
In May, the partnership published its latest report, towards a roadmap for open access monographs (pdf). The new report includes recommendations and best practices around the themes of policy development, author engagement, technical infrastructure and the monitoring of OA monographs. The UUK monographs working group (of which Jisc is a member) has recently reported on two events, the first for arts and humanities learned societies and subject associations, the second was a workshop for publishers.
There is a major concern among authors that funder mandates will require them to publish OA without the funding to do so. For example, a model where book processing charges (BPCs) are made to the author, funder, or institution to cover the publishing costs. It is important to explore different types of models and to think carefully about the pros and cons of each of them and the effects this might have on the scholarly monograph. A single business model is not desirable for a diverse ecosystem of OA publishing. What we need most are policies supported by sustainable business models and clear paths for researchers to apply for the necessary funds.
The KE initiative and the recent flurry in funder activity show that open access is important to the future of long-form scholarly communication. To encourage further take-up and to support policymaking it is also important to articulate the benefits of open access monographs. To this end, Jisc has started a new project (part of our open metrics lab) that aims to show how mining references from OA monographs can help researchers to understand new research fields.
The project is also put in context by a review of existing related initiatives (pdf). We are also very pleased to be part of the Community-led Open Publication Infrastructures for Monographs (COPIM) partnership led by Coventry University, which has been awarded £2.2m by Research England to improve and increase OA publishing.
For many academics, OA might present an opportunity to rethink their approach, rather than viewing it merely as something that is happening to their research disciplines. However, there is still much work to do in defining policy and addressing misunderstandings and concerns.
Join our free event, OA monographs: policy and practice for supporting researchers, taking place on 4 July 2019 in York.