Academics are looking to their own Open Access ventures to create new spaces for monograph publishing, a conference on OA in the humanities and social sciences heard last week.
Academic speakers also urged their peers to “take back agency for themselves” by bypassing traditional publishers and setting up their own initiatives for both monographs and journals.
The conference, “Open Access Futures in the Humanities and Social Sciences”, was run by publisher SAGE at the University of London’s Senate House last Thursday (24th).
David Sweeney, director for research, innnovation and skills at the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), said many scholars could not now be published by the traditional houses because of the financial squeeze on libraries. “Even work that is truly excellent and that they [the publishers] would like to publish cannot now be done because there is not enough money in library budgets. OA is an essential part of allowing more work to be published in monograph form,” he said.
Dr Paul Ayris [pictured], acting chief executive of the newly launched Open Access UCL Press, said the digital and print-on-demand venture will shortly be moving into monograph publishing. “Open Access is an opportunity for universities to support research produced by their institution through publishing,” he said. “Digital monographs have been relatively slow to emerge. The traditional business model for monographs is broken, as library budgets are under enormous pressure. Hence universities can help in this space and the university press is an obvious mechanism to drive forward change.” UCL Press will fund its own academic authors from institutional funds, but will charge external authors.
Other academic-run ventures include the journal Alluvium, for which scholars contribute short articles without peer review, open for interactive comment and tied in with Twitter and Facebook. Meanwhile The Open Library of the Humanities project is being run as an international scheme aiming to fund its publishing without the use of Article Processing Charges (APCs).
Several speakers voiced anger at traditional publishers, claiming some were making excessive profits and not rewarding academics properly for their labour in peer-reviewing or editing journals. Professor Steffen Böhm of the University of Essex, who runs independent publishing venture Mayfly Books, said: “The current academic publishing system is broken. Why? All the main stakeholders have lost trust in the system.” He urged academics to self-publish: “Why not come together and set up a joint OA platform?” Böhm claimed that the amount of work in starting a journal was “not much more than editing a journal for standard publishers”.
Paul Kirby, lecturer in international relations at the University of Sussex, said that his research budget, including for APCs, was £500 a year, making self-funding his research publishing [via OA with traditional publishers] a “fantasy”. He urged: “We need to create a pluralistic, high quality, cheaper, more open publishing ecosystem.”