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British Academy calls for constructive dialogue over open access for books

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The British Academy has today called for a constructive and transparent dialogue about how open access publication can be made to work for books, following HEFCE’s (now Research England) announcements about extending open access to monographs for REF2027.

In a new position paper, Open access and monographs: Where are we now?, the British Academy identifies the key issues that need to be addressed if open access (OA) for monographs is to be a success. The monograph is an important form of publication in the humanities and social sciences, and the Academy is now giving voice to the many expressions of concern it has received in the last few weeks.

The Academy argues that any future model for open access monograph publication needs to be properly funded with additional money. And a generous list of exceptions will need to be defined – for example ‘crossover’ books which merit submission to the REF but which also make an important contribution to the UK’s ‘trade’ publishing industry.

The paper follows the announcements made in February and March by HEFCE’s Head of Research Policy that for REF2027 the policies on open access as applied to journal articles would be extended to include monographs and other ‘long form’ outputs.

In the paper, the Academy says:

  • It is time for a new constructive dialogue on the development of workable policies for extending open access to academic monographs, and the British Academy stands ready to contribute to those discussions
  • The recent HEFCE announcements suggested that an open access mandate might be applied to monographs published from as early as January 2021. No rules should be imposed until appropriate processes for implementation have been worked out
  • Any new open access model should provide fair access to resources for book processing charges for all institutions and for academics at all stages of their careers
  • Academic research and communication have an international context, and it is important that UK-based OA policies should not harm the reputation of UK scholarship or hamper academic mobility, as unintended consequences
  • The decision-making process with regards to the future model for open access monographs should be transparent, and a full consultation is needed on any concrete proposals
  • UKRI’s upcoming ‘internal’ review of open access needs to reach out to stakeholders in the scholarly communications community to inform – and instil confidence in – its findings.

Professor Mary Morgan FBA, British Academy Vice-President for Publications, and Chair of the British Academy’s Open Access working group, said:

‘The British Academy has always supported the principle of extending the access of both specialists and the general public to the fruits of academic research.

‘Monographs are a crucial form of academic dissemination in the humanities and social sciences – the disciplines that the British Academy represents – so the preservation of a sustainable future for this medium is vital.

‘We are particularly concerned that any new mechanism for funding open access monograph publication should not disadvantage the brightest young minds in the country as they start out on their academic careers.

‘That is why we are calling today for a constructive dialogue across all stakeholder groups about the future of open access for monographs.

‘The British Academy is exploring how the possibilities of successful open access might work in respect of its own research funding schemes and its own academic publishing programme, and will be considering practical options during the next few months.’

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