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The Monographs and Open Access Project was led by Geoffrey Crossick, Distinguished Professor of Humanities at the School of Advanced Study, University of London [Note 1]. It was commissioned by HEFCE in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
Important messages in the report are that:
Evidence to support the project was gathered through an extensive programme of consultations, surveys, data-gathering and focused research activities. The research was supported and shaped by an Expert Reference Group of publishers, academics, librarians, funders, open access experts with the additional help of distinguished representatives from overseas.
This project was set up following advice to HEFCE that monographs and other long-form publications should be excluded from requirements for open access in the post-2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF).
Professor Geoffrey Crossick said:
‘This project has demonstrated very clearly the vital importance of monographs to the academic community as a way of developing research thinking, a vehicle for research communication, a demonstrator of academic quality, and much more. Open access offers significant short- and long-term advantages for monograph publishing that should be pursued, but the clear message is that the academically essential qualities of the monograph must be sustained in any moves to open access.
‘The project has shown that, for open access to be achievable, a number of key issues must be tackled. Open access depends on a satisfactory transition to digital publishing that hasn’t yet happened for books in the way that it has for journals, and the various business models that can support open-access monographs are still largely experimental. Furthermore, the potential costs of third-party rights could pose serious problems, and there are issues around licensing that will need careful handling.
I have been encouraged by the very positive way in which academics and others have engaged with this project; it is important that this engagement continues, because there is much to be gained by working with the grain, and much to be lost by not doing so.’
Welcoming the report, David Sweeney, Director, Research, Education and Knowledge Exchange at HEFCE, said:
‘This report makes a huge contribution to the evolving debate around open access, shedding much-needed light on the issues around delivering open access to books. The wealth of evidence and commentary that this project has generated will spark continued debate among academics, learned societies and publishers, as well as provide important guidance to research funders and others interested in developing policies in this area.
‘I am very grateful to Professor Crossick for the open and engaged way that he has handled his investigation into this complex and sensitive area. The report is firmly grounded in the perspectives of the communities that rely so much on monograph publishing, and is all the stronger for it.
‘Monographs sit outside the open-access requirements for the next REF. But the long timescales for book authorship and publishing mean that any policy for open-access monographs in future REF exercises would need to be established soon to give due notice to the sector.’
HEFCE will consider this report and discuss its policy implications with other research funders including AHRC and ESRC, recognising that any steps towards policies for open-access monographs should be preceded by a thorough process of consultation and engagement.