- Research and innovation
White Rose University Press (WRUP) is the library-led university press of the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York. It opened for proposals in 2016. Two years later, WRUP has made considerable progress from a standing start. Open Access (OA) Week 2018 seems a good opportunity to reflect on this progress and why new academic-led and university presses like WRUP are becoming more important in the HE environment.
Why an Open Access Press?
The White Rose Libraries (WRL) work together on different projects. WRUP is a product of this collaboration. One driver behind its creation was feedback from academics across Leeds, Sheffield and York universities who flagged that there were limited options for academics who wanted to publish their research OA. This coincided with institutional concern about the costs of buying content from traditional commercial publishers, and the growing focus on OA by funders and the government. WRL developed a not-for-profit university press to offer an OA publishing solution.
As a library-led press, WRUP operates in an area used to providing support to academics, and also with a focus on collaborative working. OA makes publishing evolve into an academic service, and WRUP enjoys working closely with its academic authors and editors. They have input into production choices, licensing, design, distribution and marketing for their publication. Feedback shows that academics appreciate the opportunity to work closely with the publisher in this way.
How does it work?
As with other academic publishers, books and new journals go through a formal proposal and full peer review process. Commissioning decisions are made by the WRUP Editorial Board, consisting of academics from across the three universities. Commissioned publications are produced to a high standard, with all the expected design elements and processes such as copyediting, typesetting, indexing etc. available.
What is different about OA?
OA publishing is different in some key ways, notably in the areas of dissemination, rights and funding.
OA books and journals are free for everyone to access online. You don’t need to be associated with an institution that can afford a subscription or to buy a copy of a book to access the research. The primary OA product is digital. WRUP offers its books and journals free to read online or downloaded in a variety of formats. This free global access means that academics, practitioners, policy-makers and the public all have the same access to high-quality academic research. WRUP also offers books for purchase via print-on-demand as OA publishers understand that people still want the option of a printed volume.
In traditional publishing, authors commonly sign their copyright over to the publisher. This can make it difficult for them to reuse sections of their own work. It is also a barrier to other academics freely sharing and building on that research. OA content is published under Creative Commons Licences. Authors retain the copyright to their work, and can use the licence to set the conditions around which others can copy, distribute, and make use of their work. This opens the research up in a way that traditional “all rights reserved” publishing does not. OA maximises the value of that work in terms of how it can be shared, but also how it can be built on and combined with other research in an evolving discussion.
This is a key source of contention around OA publishing. It’s a divisive issue and one that OA sceptics use to predict the long-term failure of the model. Many describe Gold OA (the WRUP model) as “author pays”. There are costs associated with the publication process and these have to be covered. In the case of WRUP these costs have been met through grant funding, funding from societies, or funding from the author’s own institution – the authors themselves have not had to pay.. A scalable solution is needed, however. Latest discussions include proposals from Science Europe’s cOAlition S. Their Plan S details 10 principles, some of which address fees (who should pay these, potential capping). It will be interesting to see how that conversation develops.
What are the benefits of OA?
There are many benefits to authors who publish in OA journals. OA articles tend to be viewed more than those that need a subscription, which often results in higher citation rates. OA articles can also reach a wider audience as they are not dependent on those who can afford the subscription cost. OA increases your visibility within your field and helps you build upon your academic reputation. It brings research to new audiences, inside and outside academia, and because of this there is likely to be greater public engagement. OA publishing also makes your research easy to find through Google and other general and academic search services.
How is WRUP doing?
WRUP currently has four live journals, each with its own editorial structure and peer review process. Two were “born” with WRUP, and two flipped from other publishing models. These journals have a mix of publishing patterns (from rolling publication of content to regularly publishing a defined volume) and cover a range of subject areas.
WRUP has also published three monographs since April:
- Star Carr Volumes 1 and 2, Prof Nicky Milner, Dr Chantal Conneller, Dr Barry Taylor (eds.)
- 320 rue St Jacques: The Diary of Madeleine Blaess, translated and edited by Dr Wendy Michallat
- Oysters, nightingales and cooking pots: Selected poetry and prose in translation. By Tristan Corbière, translated by Christopher Pilling, edited by Dr Richard Hibbitt and Dr Katherine Lunn-Rockliffe
Star Carr, WRUP’s first monograph, was downloaded nearly 1000 times in its first three days of release in April. Five months on and it has been downloaded over 4100 times by a global audience. 140 print volumes have also been sold via print on demand. The Madeleine Blaess diary, released a couple of weeks ago in September, has been downloaded over 230 times already. For context, the average commercial print run for monographs is now reported to be 150 copies, many of which sit on the shelves of HE libraries. The OA figures represent active engagement with the research.
The OA debate increasingly focuses on monographs. The expected expansion of OA requirements to monographs in the third Research Excellence Framework (REF) was flagged in 2016. Research England continues to move this forward and explore how policy could work. It is an advantage for academics of Leeds, Sheffield and York to have a “friendly” OA University Press to offer support and information. WRUP colleagues are happy to answer any questions about OA in general, or to discuss potential proposals for journals or monographs. To get in touch email firstname.lastname@example.org or ring 01904 323803.
WRUP has more publications in the pipeline, including monographs on Capability Brown, the ongoing cultural legacy of Charles Dickens, and the prehistoric development of human social emotions. It’s exciting to see so much fantastic work made freely available to all, and add to the growing pool of OA scholarship.
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