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.
New Historical Perspectives will seek to publish works produced by early career scholars, and senior scholars who are collaborating with early career scholars. The new series will be defined by mentoring, extensive editing and support for contributors to the series through editorial panels and monograph workshops, ensuring high standards of peer-reviewed scholarship.
As a joint venture, the series will be published by the IHR and the RHS will provide editorial management and expertise. Books will be published in free digital formats and available for print purchase.
The RHS currently seeks a series Convenor to work closely with the series Board, authors and editors to provide mentoring and feedback.
More information regarding New Historical Perspectives and the opening date for submissions will be released shortly.
As the first publishing partnership of our rapidly developing open access initiative, the IHR and RHS share a vision of utilising open access as a means to disseminate high quality research which fulfils the needs of scholars and is accessible to as wide a readership as possible.
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!
The 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.