Humanities Digital Library

Researcher awareness and engagement with open access data and sharing is increasing, that is according to a 2017 State of Open Data Report published by Figshare this week. This does not come as a surprise to me and, as a publisher of open access research in a variety of forms, it is something I have witnessed develop first-hand over the last few years. It is fantastic to now see the willingness and endorsement of authors, particularly those outside the sciences, who wholeheartedly support the publication of their research as open access through our own Humanities Digital Library – a place to access and download books published by the School of Advanced Studies, its constituent Institutes and partners within learned societies.

This year’s Open Access Week (23 and 29 October 2017) presents the theme of ‘Open in order to’. From my perspective, we seek to make research open in order to improve discovery and accessibility. As a publisher and member of a research institution, one of my primary objectives is to enable as wide a dissemination of research as possible. I believe it’s critically important for all those who encourage, create and facilitate research to be focused together towards developing open, visible, accessible and adaptable digital infrastructures which will help enable everyone to find and absorb ideas and knowledge. The Humanities Digital Library represents a step forward on our part towards achieving this objective.

Emily Morrell, Publications Officer at the School of Advanced Study, can see the benefits of digital publishing methods as an integral part of established and respected publishing programmes. “Open in order to expand from our traditional hard-copy publishing programme to make the high-quality research we publish available more widely, to a bigger and more international audience, while retaining our high editorial and production standards.”

For Simon Newman, Sir Denis Brogan Professor of American History at the University of Glasgow, Vice President of the Royal Historical Society and Convenor for New Historical Perspectives (a new and upcoming books series), this issue extends further with implications for the global research community. “Open in order to reach every researcher and every student with a computer and internet access” says Simon. The tracking of access and downloads of open access books on our platform from locations and institutions around the world reinforces his point. “At present much research remains largely inaccessible to many members of the potential audience, and OA can take, for example, my research into the transatlantic slave trade and slavery in the Caribbean to students and academics in colleges and universities from Accra and Legon in Ghana to Cave Hill in Barbados and Mona in Jamaica.” Simon believes in the removal of barriers to research. Whilst Research4Life and similar initiatives have been fantastic for taking affordable access to developing countries, truly open access has the possibility to go further. “Knowledge can become truly international,” says Simon, “and new teaching and research collaborations will be fostered by Open Access.”

This is not an impossible ambition but an achievable reality. However, in order to truly embrace these opportunities for access, dissemination and research collaboration we need to make the benefits and potential of open access clear to all. An article published in THE today suggests that many scholars remain unaware of what constitutes copyright infringement and that perhaps a lack of understanding regarding the permissions inherent within the various open access licensing agreements is exasperating the issue. As more research outputs engage with open formats (whether books, articles, data or another form of communication) it is the responsibility of publishers to help scholars, readers and potential partners navigate this changing landscape. For our part, the Institute of Historical Research and School of Advanced Studies hold annual Getting Research Published and Publishing for Historians workshops which aim to help authors and researchers make sense of the editorial and publishing processes as well as licensing and copyright issues – events upcoming in early 2018 are soon to be announced.

I believe in the shared opportunity of open access. Since launch in January of this year, the Humanities Digital Library has grown to contain books from three Institutes within the School of Advanced Study and has several dozen titles upcoming into 2018, including the series New Historical Perspectives which will be published by the Institute of Historical Research in partnership with the Royal Historical Society. Together we aim to continue to delivery open access research with those shared goals of discoverability, quality and accessibility.

Access and download our open access books online at