Saskia de Vries will speak tomorrow on the ‘Digital Enclosures’ workshop on the Unbound Book conference. This workshop focuses on open vs. closed. Saskia will contribute to this session with her experience as managing director and senior editor of Amsterdam University Press (AUP) and AUP’s role in Open Access Publishing in European Networks (OAPEN). I already spoke with her about The Berlin Declaration, the benefits of and the resistance against Open Access (OA) and the future of academic publishing.
SS: The Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities was initiated in 2003. The goal of the declaration is to make information widely and readily available to society. What is accomplished since then in the area of Open Access?
SdV: When in 2003 the Berlin Declaration started the worldwide discussion on Open Access, it was absolutely unsure what would come of it. Now, 8 years later, it is completely clear that Open Access will become the most important way of disseminating results of academic research. However, the actors in the field (authors/researchers, academic funding bodies, publishers and librarians) do still have to agree on the right financial model for it to be implemented.
SS: Can you tell something about how Amsterdam University Press and OAPEN use Open Access?
SdV: Amsterdam University Press realised in a very early stage that for a University Press (UP), these developments of Open Access were very interesting. As we are not-for-profit, and we already considered ourselves as a service to academia, it was very obvious to start co-operating with our authors and the funding bodies of the universities and the Netherlands to make the transition to an Open Access publisher. However, the Open Access movement started in STM (Science, Technology and Medical Sciences) and therefore mainly in Journal/Article publishing. As AUP (like most University Presses) primarily publishes monographs in the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS), and the EU was interested in an experiment in that area, we started the project Open Access Publishing in European Networks together with 5 other UP’s in Europe. The goal of OAPEN was to find useful, exciting and beneficial ways of publishing scholarly work in Open Access, enhancing access to important peer reviewed research from across Europe. Most importantly it found a financial model which is appropriate to scholarly humanities monographs, a publishing platform which is beneficial to all users and created a network of publishing partners across Europe and the rest of the world.
SS: OAPEN tries to stimulate Open Access for the Humanities and Social Sciences. What are the benefits of Open Access for the Humanities and Social Sciences?
SdV: One can not underestimate the advantages of Open Access for HSS, where the monograph is still the predominant way of disseminating the results of research. First of all, the business model for publishing academic monographs has completely collapsed in the last 30 years, due to the growing costs of Journals in STM with more than 300%. As the budgets of university libraries did not go up accordingly, they had to cut on what they purchased, and so the average sold copies of a monograph in HSS went down from 1500 in the 1970′s to 400 at this time. With a print run of only 400 copies sold of a book, it is not possible to brake even anymore. Hence the decision of all commercial publishers to pull out of monograph publishing in HSS, and focus on the financially very rewarding publication of journals in STM. These developments have led to the so-called monograph crises, and publishers (and authors) in HSS have been turning to foundations for money to remain capable of publishing the results of HSS research as such. The costs of making those results available through Open Access (book) publications is not more expensive than the costs of using the traditional model, and therefore we believe that if the funding agents for research would agree to help disseminate HSS monographs as well as articles in STM in Open Access, this would solve the monograph crises.
There is also a substantial argument: HSS research is very often based on a lot of data and previous publications. In Open Access publishing, linking to the information on which a new publication is based, is very simple. In this way, the data and arguments that underlie a new publication/argument, are easily found and checked. In the future, the whole way of doing research will eventually change, due to the possibilities of Open Access, I am sure.
We actually made a small YouTube film about this at the start of the OAPEN library.
SS: Why is there so much resistance against Open Access?
SdV: Most of the aversion (and all of the advocating!) against Open Access publishing comes from the commercial publishers, who are afraid that the profits they have been making will evaporate and they aren’t too certain they can find a new business model for that. I also think the problem we are encountering in moving into an Open Access world for academic publications lies in the fact that most academics just do not know how much money already goes round in libraries for the use they make of academic publications. There are still academics that actually think that most publications are already freely available, where it’s their library that pays for the subscriptions and they can only find it through their IP computer…. Finally, if academia would move completely over into an Open Access situation, it are the wealthy, big (read Western) research universities that will have to pay most in order to put up all their research results in OA, most probably they will have to pay more than they do in an subscription driven academic society. Some of them are not too eager to make that move …..
SS: The Amsterdam University Press uses Open Access and PoD. How do you see the roles of PoD and Open Access for the future of academic publishing?
SdV: Open Access will become the predominant way of dissemination of academic results, although I do think it will take more than just a couple of years before that is a fact. We really need more international initiatives like that of NWO (Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek), where the boss, Jos Engelen, made a substantial financial fund available for Open Access dissemination of the results of research. Printing on Demand is just a more efficient and cost effective way of printing small print runs in the direct environment where an order for a book is placed.
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