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Project Working to Improve Open-Access Publishing

open book on library table

A new project has been launched to help universities, researchers, libraries and publishers make more —and better — use of open-access book publishing in humanities and the social sciences. The Community-led Open Publication Infrastructures for Monographs (COPIM) is a partnership led by Coventry University in the United Kingdom and including the University of California Santa Barbara Library, among other institutions. The concept of "open-access publishing" refers to the publication of journal articles, papers and books without requiring payment to view or use them.

The initiative is being funded by a $2.8 million grant from Research England; participating project members have contributed an additional $770,000.

Among the goals of the project are these:

  • To improve the various infrastructures, including business models, preservation structures and governance procedures that are currently used by open-access book publishers and publishers that are making a transition to open access books;
  • To help set up more productive collaborations among librarians, publishers, researchers and others; and
  • To create open source tools for promoting the skills needed to run open-access publishing operations.

UC Santa Barbara participants include Sherri Barnes, the UCSB Library's scholarly communication program coordinator; Eileen Fradenburg Joy, founder and co-director of New York-based Punctum Books, which is an open-access monograph publisher; and the campus's Arnhold-Punctum Publishing Lab, a scholar-led monograph publishing collaboration with the library and UC Santa Barbara's Writing Program.

"The University of California is very committed collectively — not just the libraries, but faculty leadership and administrators, including UC President Janet Napolitano — to opening up scholarship created by UC researchers to be freely available to all to read and make use of," said university librarian Kristin Antelman, in an article about the project. "Making good on that requires the investment of time, effort, money and political capital toward transforming the current, very closed, scholarly publishing system for both journals and books."

While the COPIM project specifically will focus on book publishing, participants said the issues of book and journal publishing are linked. "The rising cost of journal subscriptions has also edged out the budget for books," explained Joy. "More books are being published by more scholars than ever, and libraries are purchasing fewer of them. Some libraries have said maybe we won't even be able to buy books at all if the journal subscriptions keep going up."

Antelman said that when she started as a librarian around 1990, "there was kind of an unspoken goal that you tried to balance your collections budget 50/50 between journals and monographs. The current balance in research libraries is closer to 80/20 in favor of journals. That whole balanced model was thrown out as journals became more and more expensive."

The COPIM project encompasses seven interconnected "work packages," two of which will be handled out of UC Santa Barbara. The first, led by Joy in collaboration with Joe Deville, a lecturer at Lancaster University, will focus on creation of new funding channels for open access book publishing, including coming up with models in which libraries can directly support open-access publishers and creation of content that serves their local constituencies.

The second, led by Barnes in collaboration with Janneke Adema, a researcher at Coventry, will develop new open-access community governance models to support the needs of a "valuably diverse and hybrid community of open-access publishers."

However, workgroups will also reach out to their local campus communities, Barnes insisted. "Many UC Santa Barbara faculty members are also publishers and active members of their respective societies' publishing programs," she said. "Their input will be valuable."

She added that there would be invitations to faculty and students to participate in workshops and public events that will be held at UCSB. "I encourage faculty and graduate students to join UCSB's Scholarly Publishing and Communication Discussion List to stay abreast of developments and related local programming."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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