Covid-19 has thrown many aspects of university research culture into acute relief. As the reality of the virus dawned and campuses worldwide went into lockdown, publishers rushed to open their publications by removing paywalls. Physical collections became inaccessible and demand for openly accessible research skyrocketed. Many publishers made topical works and more general material openly available, through their own sites or collective platforms. Researchers, libraries and students worldwide keenly felt the benefits of such open access. However, the challenge now is to cement these open publication practices with sustainable business models.
In late 2020, COPIM, an Arcadia and Research England funded project, announced an innovative model to sustainably fund open access (OA) monographs, Opening the Future. This initiative is an attempt to use the window of opportunity opened by Covid and is designed to be part of a new infrastructure that will facilitate a more open future for scholarly comms.
The model harnesses the power of collective library funding: increasing collections through special access to highly-regarded backlists, and expanding the global shared OA collection while providing a less risky path for smaller publishers to make frontlist monographs OA. We introduced this model at UKSG and RLUK in 2021 but this is no ‘story so far’ conference presentation proposal. Since Opening the Future launched, we’ve seen several other collective library funding models emerge in quick succession, including MIT’s Direct 2 Open, Michigan’s Fund to Mission, and Cambridge University Press’ Flip it Open. In the same year, UKRI’s new policy was announced and it included OA requirements for
monographs. The landscape is changing rapidly – in this presentation we will appraise our model in the context of the changing environment.
The programme has had success since its launch. Within a few months the first publisher to adopt the model, CEU Press, had accrued enough library support to fund their first three OA monographs. Soon thereafter the initiative was recognised by the publishing community and nominated for an ALPSP Award for Innovation in Publishing. And in June a second well-respected publisher, Liverpool University Press, launched with Opening the Future. COPIM has now begun to turn its focus to the thorny problem of scaling up. But herein lies a tension.
OA monograph publishing needs to be sustainable not just for publishers, but also for libraries. Opening the Future was designed to be low-cost and simple, slotting into acquisitions budgets and existing library purchasing workflows. However, as we bring the programme to more university presses and libraries, how do we ensure we are not just adding to the OA labyrinth that libraries are attempting to navigate? How do we scale without increasing the administrative burden already on collections and scholarly communications teams, who are already picking through a tangle of transformative agreements, pay-to-publish deals, author affiliations, and legacy subscriptions?
In this session, we will engage the audience through these questions, as well as discuss the role of the programme in the wider policy landscape and how it is positioned alongside other emerging OA collective funding initiatives.
Martin has appeared before the UK House of Commons Select Committee BIS Inquiry into Open Access, and been a steering-group member of the OAPEN-UK project, the Jisc National Monograph Strategy Group, the SCONUL Strategy Group on Academic Content and Communications, and the HEFCE Open Access Monographs Expert Reference Panel (2014), and the Universities UK OA Monographs Working Group (2016-). Martin is also an Executive Board Officer for punctum books, a Plan S Ambassador, and he co-founded the Open Library of Humanities.
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