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Digital development: a commitment to OA

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When I joined the IHR in early August, I did so with the challenging assignment of helping to further the Institute’s mission to embrace the opportunities of digital content delivery and enable greater access to knowledge, in line with the School’s Statement on Open Access. As a graduate of the humanities and a professional academic publisher with experience in delivering online products and a preoccupation with open access, it is a task that I am really keen to get my teeth into.

Mandated deposit into institutional repositories, developments in publishing strategies and technology, and the growth of freely accessible content across many disciplines, have been credited as heralding the return of the institutional press. Yet from the perspective of the IHR, when you look at the continued output of this Institute and of SAS, we were certainly never dormant!

IHR books and digital publicationsThe key focus for us as an institutional publisher, but also as champions for the humanities and social sciences, is how we embrace and develop a modern and sustainable approach to digital publication. The humanities retains a strong interest in the long form monograph as a scholarly necessity – but this is somewhat at odds with a growing demand for the rapidly produced, short form, and increasingly ‘born-digital’ research outputs which already hold significant sway across science, technology, engineering and mathematics. In a climate where the monograph is valued, yet the demand upon researchers is tightening, reader habits are shifting and budgets remain acutely stretched, how can publication in this format be encouraged, cost effective and remain impactful?

Led by investigators based in the Department of Information Studies at UCL with funding from the AHRC, the Academic Book of the Future project seeks to explore opinion and provide insights and possible recommendations which could help to answer this question by engaging with a broad range of stakeholders. Indeed, it is a challenge for which researchers, communities, organisations and institutions as the originators of content and curators of humanities resources are keenly placed to take the lead.

Our ambition is to continue to build upon the fantastic academic and educational resources of the IHR, Senate House and the School, to ensure the continued growth in academic research output, digital archiving, preservation, accessibility and the wider dissemination of text, literature, imagery, public and private records, special collections and even datasets. We are firmly committed to enabling the Green route to open access for all authors and originators of research material associated with the School (through SAS-Space) and exploring ethically sound, sustainable methods for delivering valuable content, publications and online platforms (such as British History Online and our other digital resources) which can operate without reliance upon the significant article processing charges which drive the Gold route.

This can only be achieved by our ongoing investment in digital infrastructure, the development of agile processes and publication strategies, and by seeking greater collaborative partnerships with the communities we are comprised of, serve and represent and who share our ideals for open and sustainable access for students, scholars, libraries, societies, institutions and the general public.

I am thrilled to be a part of the IHR and wider School in working towards this continued goal of digital development. I look forward to sharing the occasional slice of information, opinion piece, and updating you on our work towards further engagement with open access and the future of our humanities publications.

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