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Students in the University of Nottingham library.

Geoffrey Crossick, Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at the School of Advanced Study, University of London, is leading this work. Professor Crossick was formerly Vice-Chancellor of the University of London and Warden of Goldsmiths, University of London.

We have convened an expert reference group to establish what evidence is needed in this area, and to provide advice on an appropriate programme of work to gather this evidence.

The group brings together key representatives from interested organisations to improve understanding of the challenges and opportunities for open-access monograph publishing.

A steering group comprising representatives from HEFCE, the two research councils and the British Academy will govern the project. The British Academy is the leading academic body representing the humanities and social sciences and has been active in promoting discussion and analysis of issues around open access, including for monographs. We expect the project to run until mid-2014.

Professor Crossick said:

‘The monograph and other book publications have long been a key way for academics in many humanities and social science disciplines to communicate their research. We know that both digital publication and open access will become increasingly prominent over the next decade, and it is essential that the implications of these trends are considered for those disciplines where the book holds an important place. This means understanding the current situation of the monograph. Is it in crisis, as some claim? And what are the scholarly and cultural forces that make it so important? Only if we set consideration of open access and monographs in that context can we think about the future, and think about the different publishing and business models that are being proposed for open access monographs.

I was very pleased to be asked by HEFCE to lead this work, and I'm impressed by the quality of the Reference Group that will be supporting it. It is premature to think about a clear map for the years ahead, but I hope that this project will enable us to understand better the key issues involved and to identify some of the options for the future.’

David Sweeney, HEFCE’s Director for Research, Innovation and Skills, said:

‘Monographs, edited collections and other long-form publications are a very important part of the academic publishing world, and they hold particular importance for scholars in the humanities and social sciences. But many people tell us that monograph publishing is facing difficulties: sales are falling, costs are increasing, and scholars are finding it harder to locate outlets for their work.

‘This new project will be of vital importance in helping HEFCE, the research councils and the wider community to identify what more we can all do to support sustainable book publishing in the humanities and social sciences. We believe there is a pressing need to examine closely the myriad opportunities presented by open access publishing to sustain and enhance scholarly communication in these disciplines.’

Notes

  1. In planning an approach for open access and the post-2014 Research Excellence Framework, HEFCE and the UK’s other higher education funding bodies received clear advice that the monograph publishing world is not yet ready to support an open-access requirement. We have therefore proposed that monographs need not be published in an open-access form to be eligible for the next Research Excellence Framework.
  2. Further information on the project, including discussion papers and terms of reference for the expert reference group, can be obtained on the HEFCE web-site and from Ben Johnson (e-mail b.johnson@hefce.ac.uk, tel 0117 931 7038).