ScholarLed – comprising Mattering Press, meson press, Open Book Publishers, Open Humanities Press, and punctum books – was founded in 2018 as a collective of non-profit, open access book publishers in the Humanities and Social Sciences who share a commitment to opening up scholarly research to diverse readerships, resisting the marketization of academic knowledge production, and working collaboratively rather than in competition. This includes developing systems and practices that allow presses to provide each other with forms of mutual support, ranging from pooled expertise to shared on- and offline infrastructures. Collectively, we are seeking powerful, practical ways for small-scale, scholar-led open access presses to grow and flourish in a publishing landscape that is changing rapidly. We believe publicly-funded research should be openly available to a global readership, without technical or economic barriers. ScholarLed is concerned to build infrastructure for smaller-scale OA book publishers that would prioritise the needs of the creative research community and the values of public research institutions against those for-profit entities who seek to privatise (and also homogenize) knowledge.
We are therefore delighted to announce that, on June 14, Research England confirmed it will award £2.2 million to fund a project explicitly designed to address the need for such open infrastructures.1 ScholarLed will be a key partner in the project, titled Community-led Open Publication Infrastructures for Monographs (COPIM). It is designed to transform open access book publishing by moving away from a model of competing commercial service operations to a more horizontal and cooperative, knowledge-sharing approach. COPIM will be funded from the Research England Development (RED) Fund, which supports innovation in research and knowledge exchange in higher education that offers significant public benefits. The project will be led by Coventry University, with Gary Hall and Janneke Adema of the Centre for Postdigital Cultures serving as co-PIs. Other key project leaders include Sherri Barnes (UCSB Library), Gareth Cole (Loughborough University Library), Joe Deville (Lancaster University and Mattering Press), Martin Eve (Birkbeck, University of London and Open Library of Humanities), Rupert Gatti (Trinity College, Cambridge and Open Book Publishers), and Eileen Joy (punctum books). Key institutional and organisational partners include Birkbeck, University of London; Trinity College, Cambridge; Lancaster University; University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) Library; Loughborough University Library; Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB); Jisc Collections; and the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC).
ScholarLed, representing researcher-led and community-minded open access book publishers whose operations are distributed around Europe, the UK, the US, and Australasia, is committed to global collaborations around the collective stewardship of open access and to removing structural and organisational barriers to innovation in the open books landscape, especially in the Humanities and Social Sciences. This is something that cannot be achieved by any one organisation, but should ideally involve the full range of actors and stakeholders invested in a more progressive and equitable future for scholarly communications. For COPIM, this includes scholar-researchers, publishers, universities, infrastructure providers, membership organisations, university libraries, and research funders, all working together to ensure a more democratically equitable scholarly communications landscape.
COPIM comprises 7 work packages that are rooted in the firm conviction that, in order for open access publishing initiatives to thrive, we have to develop more robust definitions of “open” that go beyond releasing content from behind paywalls. It pilots a range of interventions, from developing open, transparent, sustainable, and community-governed infrastructures for the curation, dissemination, discovery, and long-term preservation of open content and open data, to following the best practices for integrating open content into institutional library, digital learning, and repository systems. ScholarLed believes it is vital to ensure that the mechanisms used by open access publishers are driven by, and responsive to, the varied needs of an international scholarly community, and a key aspect of COPIM is that it privileges close working relationships between publishers, librarians, and other knowledge managers.
As part of seven interconnected work packages, COPIM aims to:
- build capacity among open access presses, enabling them to work better together to address the practical and political challenges of open access while also increasing the production of content at scales that are sustainable;
- create new funding channels for open access book publishing, including devising new consortial funding models designed to maximize the ability of libraries to directly support open access publishers and content that best serves the needs of their highly-localized constituencies;
- pilot diverse business models for open access publishing, with the aim of reducing the dependence of publishers on author-facing book processing charges (BPCs) as well as to better facilitate new open access publishing start-ups;
- help publishers reduce their operating costs by introducing new infrastructures and forms of collaboration focused on maximizing workflow efficiencies through the use of open source tools and open protocols;
- develop new open access community governance models that will be supportive of the needs of a valuably diverse and hybrid community of open access publishers;
- enable open access books to be better integrated into universal research systems valued by libraries and other research-intensive organisations, including repositories and digital learning environments;
- innovate and experiment with the content of open access books, with a special focus on promoting engagement with experimental forms of research, including exploring the potential for the re-use of existing open access content;
- build stronger architectures for archiving complex digital book publications, to include associated data and multimedia content; and
- facilitate knowledge transfer to various stakeholders to ensure that COPIM’s technical, organisational, financial, and relational innovations will scale both horizontally (to other presses) and vertically (to other partners, including universities, libraries, and funding agencies).
COPIM will demonstrate the richly productive synergies of non-competitive collaboration that scholar-led, open book publishing can facilitate. This major strategic international partnership brings together the strengths of established scholar-led presses—well-known for the crucial role they have already played in the development and promotion of OA monographs in the Humanities and Social Sciences—with the long-standing expertise of key institutional partners. It is only when publishers, librarians, and other knowledge managers work together, non-competitively, that a truly open, community-owned ecosystem for open access books can be realized. With Invest in Open Infrastructure, ScholarLed works on behalf of “a world in which communities of researchers, scholars, and knowledge workers across the globe are fully enabled to share, discover, and work together.”
“COPIM is an exciting opportunity to push for open infrastructures, for community-led governance, and for the realignment of relations between not-for-profit institutions in the realm of monograph publishing. It will support the sustainable publication of open access books, delivering major improvements and innovations in the infrastructures, systems, and workflows being used by open access book publishers and by those publishers making a transition to open access books.”
~ Janneke Adema, Coventry University & Open Humanities Press
“This represents something of a watershed moment for open access book publishing. I and my colleagues have long been arguing that diverse scholarly communities should be at the forefront of developing the practices and infrastructures urgently needed to deliver an inclusive and sustainable future for open access. This grant brings that future much closer by creating new partnerships between the increasing number of academics, like me, who are directly involved in open access publishing, and university libraries, infrastructure providers and membership organisations. Collaborations like this are essential to ensure the research produced in and beyond universities reaches the very widest audiences.”
~ Joe Deville, Lancaster University & Mattering Press
“This award comes at a crucial time for open access book publishing: there is growing recognition of the need to create open, community-controlled infrastructures to support OA monograph publication internationally. COPIM will enable us to build the systems and structures that allow diverse, small-scale scholarly publishing initiatives to flourish. Collectively the ScholarLed presses have now published over 500 books, and expect to publish over 80 new titles in the coming year. COPIM prepares the ground for more such presses to thrive, increasing the strength and heterogeneity of open access publishing within a robust, inclusive and community-managed publishing ecosystem: Scaling Small.”
~ Rupert Gatti, Trinity College, Cambridge & Open Book Publishers
For more information about COPIM or to learn more about ScholarLed, please contact us at info[at]scholarled.org.
1 The exact RED Fund award amount for COPIM is £2,202,947.68. COPIM project members have contributed a further £614,830.