UCL backs full OA press model

UCL backs full OA press model

Open Access monographs and textbooks will be in the spotlight at University College London’s newly relaunched UCL Press, now established as the UK’s first fully OA university press.

UCL has made a three-year funding commitment to support the publishing unit, which enables UCL Press to offer OA publication free to its own staff (monographs will be charged at a relatively low £5,000 to external academics), and without any article processing charges at present for submissions to its journals. 

The new venture will have a staff of seven, led by publishing manager Lara Speicher, formerly of the British Library’s publishing division, and will publish around 10 monographs this year, rising to 30–35 in 2017. The publisher also has two journals, and is involved in a pilot project to try out Open Access textbooks. 

New Beginning
Paul Ayris, head of UCL Library Services and c.e.o. of the press, thought up UCL Press’ rebirth with support from David Price, vice-provost of research, and UCL’s governing body. Ayris declined to specify the level of the institution’s investment in its publishing arm, but said it was “a small percentage of the total UCL research budget, but enough to cover staffing infrastructure, technical infrastructure and production—operational costs.” 

The purpose is “to develop a publishing arm that is innovative and sets the trend for publishing going forward—the first fully OA press in the UK”. Ayris said UCL wants to take on the role “for the good of UCL and the good of publishing”, adding: “Our belief is that all research universities down the line will develop something like this—this is the future of publishing, not the current publishing model which ties [research] behind a locked door”. Though not in its three-year plan, Ayris envisages future developments in shared publishing with other universities: “Imagine a shared service at a national level, where unit costs are shared between a number of universities.”

Now is the right time for OA to open up content in monographs, Ayris said. “It’s a field which has been slower to see the advantages of OA. That’s why we’ve gone for an OA monograph programme now—the time is right to start the discussion in a really serious way,” he said, referencing January’s Higher Educational Funding Council for England-commissioned Crossick Report, which emphasised the need for the OA movement to be sustained into monograph publishing.
Its titles for 2015 are led by a contribution from high-profile UCL academic Lisa Jardine, professor of renaissance studies, entitled Temptation in the Archives: Essays in Golden Age Dutch Culture, as well as Gillian Furlong’s Treasures from UCL, an illustrated exploration of the university’s Special Collection. In the autumn there will be a translation of the poetry of Herman Gorter by Paul Vincent, and a study of the high street (Suburban Urbanities, edited by Laura Vaughan). 
The texts are free to download from the UCL website and from the site of OAPEN (Open Access Publishing in European Networks). An enhanced edition of Furlong’s book—web-based and compatible on any browser and device, and featuring video and images that can de viewed in great detail—is also available without charge. Monographs will also be available as paid-for print-on-demand editions, or traditionally printed in the case of some illustrated titles, with trade sales via NBM International. 

Alternate Strategy
A second area UCL Press is thinking of developing is OA textbooks. Ayris said: “It seems to me, as c.e.o. of the press, that since these textbooks are produced by academics—often from courses they teach—it is a relatively small step to publish it as OA output . . . I’m keen for UCL Press to have a textbook strategy; our new education strategy [for UCL] is currently out for consultation, but it’s expected to have an emphasis on open educational resources.” 

The two textbooks UCL Press is publishing next year as part of the OA textbook pilot funded by JISC [the educational and research support body] will be on archaeology and plastic surgery respectively; Speicher said three other textbook proposals have already been received. 
Meanwhile its current OA journals—25-year-old Canadian Studies and three-year-old OA journal Architecture Media Politics Society—look set to be joined by others, with several ideas mooted.
Ayris says UCL’s “strong stance” on OA is attracting academics. However, the institution is less interested in whether the press will ever become self-sustaining financially. “It’ll always be an OA press, that is core to its mission, but I can’t say it is a goal to be self-sustaining,” said Ayris.