Eelco Ferwerda (OAPEN), Lucy Montgomery (Knowledge Unlatched Research), and Christina Emery (Springer Nature) recently joined OASPA and Knowledge Exchange for a webinar to discuss new developments in Open Access monographs in the humanities and social sciences. Jeroen Sondervan (Knowledge Exchange) chaired the discussion. The Copyright Clearance Center hosted the webinar.
Opening the joint webinar with Knowledge Exchange on December 14, 2017, chair Jeroen Sondervan welcomed speakers and listeners by giving a brief introduction to the recent history of Open Access monographs in the humanities and social sciences. The possibilities and feasibilities of monograph publishing were first explored by various parties - including the European Union - around ten years ago, which was followed by the development of archiving and discovery services by organisations such as OAPEN.org and the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB). Today, according to the DOAB, there are over 240 publishers experimenting with Open Access Monographs.
The first speaker, Eelco Ferwerda, discussed a recently published report 'A Landscape Study on Open Access and Monographs (October 2017),' a first-of-a-kind mapping of the landscape for Open Access books in the Knowledge Exchange countries: Finland, Netherlands, UK, France, Denmark, Germany, Norway and Austria. Initiated by Knowledge Exchange and financed by Knowledge Exchange, FWF, CRIStin and Couperin, the report demonstrates that 'although the main OA policies do not include monographs, conversations about Open Access and monographs are surfacing and are expected to be accelerating over the next few years.
The next speaker, Lucy Montgomery, looked at two recent studies on Open Access monograph usage data: Exploring the Uses of OA Books via the JSTOR Platform, and Getting the Best out of Usage Data for Small OA Monograph Presses. The first, commissioned and funded by four university presses - UCL, Michigan, Cornell, and California - came about thanks to these presses noticing that usage of Open Access books made available by JSTOR was far in excess of usage that each publisher had previously recorded through other distribution channels, and wanted to understand more about how their Open Access content was being used. Data collected by JSTOR between August 2015 and August 2017, along with publisher questionnaires and interviews, revealed that usage of Open Access books exceeds usage of gated Open Access books by the same publisher on JSTOR. This became particularly clear, explained Montgomery, when the researchers considered each publisher's downloads according to license type; Open Access book chapters account for those publishers making books available both Open Access and gated via the JSTOR platform.
The second study, Montgomery continued, was a collaboration between UCL Press, Knowledge Unlatched Research, and the Center for Culture and Technology at Curtin University, and explored usage data for small Open Access monograph presses by conducting a case study of UCL Press. Small Open Access monograph publishers, the study found, face a number of challenges in the way of resource constraints and a lack of in-house expertise, but they do already have an abundance of data that can provide them highly useful strategic information, such as how well particular titles are doing and which promotion strategies are most effective. This usage data can be better made use of by these presses; this might include provision of guidance to staff on best practices around social media promotion or how to engage with new and ongoing community initiatives such as OPERAS-D and HIRMEOS.
The final speaker, Christina Emery, explored the findings of Springer Nature's recent white paper, The OA Effect: How does Open Access affect the usage of scholarly books? A mixed qualitative and quantitative study, the study benchmarked Open Access book metrics against those of equivalent non-Open Access books, as well as conducting interviews with authors and funders to understand their experiences of the effect of Open Access on books. Springer Nature found that, on average, there were just under 30,000 chapter downloads per Open Access book within the first year of publication, which was seven times more than the average non-Open Access book. Citations, moreover, were 50% higher for Open Access books than non-Open Access books over a four year period; an Open Access book is cited on average twelve times within the first four years of its life, as compared with eight times for a non-Open Access book. While the research didn't find a correlation between downloads and citations, a trend was identified: books are usually downloaded within the first year of publication, while citations 'build up over time' - older books tend to see higher numbers of citations. Open Access books, Emery continued, are mentioned on average ten times more than non-Open Access books in the first three years after publication.
Motivations for authors publishing Open Access were varied; it enables easy access to, and dissemination of, research globally, and ethical reasons were important to authors interviewed - many authors wanted readers around the world to be able to access their work, no matter where they were living or their financial circumstances. However, there was a general lack of knowledge of authors and funders as to the implications of publishing an Open Access book, or the real effects of Open Access; they often felt 'reluctant to attribute high downloads solely to Open Access.'
Moving into a panel discussion, the speakers answered questions from webinar listeners. Panel chair Jeroen Sondervan began by commenting that quantitative studies on open access usage and metrics benefit hugely from open, verifiable data in order to benchmark and make comparisons, but noted that until recently, these studies have been scarce. In answer to his question of whether panelists had ideas on how to persuade publishers to open their user statistics, Ferwerda cited HIRMEOS as encouraging the sharing of usage data amongst different platforms, using a common functionality to collect and present this data. In the future, this may also include the collection of data from repositories and platforms such as JSTOR. Emery added that there is no standardisation for measuring impact; different publishers track full book downloads or chapter downloads and/or page views, and argued that more collaboration is needed in considering what kinds of starting points publishers can work from in collecting data. Montgomery pointed out that the challenge of benchmarking is not necessarily the same for different presses, and that researchers could consider which kind of (non-standardised) data is already available for analysis, and consider new ways of approaching this data.
Asked if her study included looking at the effect of a book being made available Open Access had on print sales of the same book, since scholars might still buy the print version if an Open Access version is available, Emery answered that more Open Access book downloads can lead to more print sales, but that more research needs to be conducted on this. Ferwerda, answering a question around whether challenges within open access book and monograph publishing present themselves differently in different disciplines, commented that with regards to funding, while most monographs are published within the humanities, most books being funded by the Wellcome Trust are on subjects such as medical history. Noting the importance of considering researchers and authors, Emery added that different motivations correlate with different subject areas within research; the reasons why different authors might publish Open Access books differ widely. Montgomery further commented that, in her study, subject-specific downloads were analysed and the most popular subject classifications within downloaded Open Access books were quite distinct from the most popular subject classifications within downloaded gated books.
Panelists were also asked to consider the transparency of APC costing and their ideas on the current BPC market and its 'non-transparency.' Ferwerda reflected that Open Access book publishers are still finding their way within the scholarly publishing landscape and the services they're providing to authors, and that it's perhaps too early to point fingers at publishers still experiencing a steep learning curve.
Asked where they see the Open Access book and monograph publishing landscape in five years time, Emery responded that while she thinks we'll still see it in an experimental phase, alternative business models will be more established. There's no one route to Open Access, she noted, but continuing a collaborative approach to solutions and challenges within publishing will be beneficial for all. Montgomery answered that given the time and effort it's taken to get Open Access monographs this far, five years seems like a close horizon; like Emery, she hoped we will still see experimentation and innovation among publishers, and that diversity can continue to be maintained. Ferwerda added that the number of books in DOAB has increased by 50% year on year since its launch, arguing that this large Open Access books growth is likely to continue.
Wrapping up the webinar, panelists reflected on innovators within open access books and monographs publishing. Ferwerda cited Open Book Publishers and Open Humanities Press as early innovators with new models, and Language Science Press as an excellent example of a community-driven press. Montgomery pointed to Ferwerda for creating an important infrastructure for Open Access books with DOAB, making it possible for other Open Access monograph publishing initiatives to emerge.
The recording of this webinar, along with the accompanying slides from the discussion, is freely available for the public at https://oaspa.org/information-resources/oaspa-webinars/.
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