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Open Access in the Humanities Roadshow - highlights

The SPARC Europe road show in Lower College Hall 26 November was a great success attracting interested University staff and students from St Andrews and beyond. It was good to see a number of postgraduate students attending. What unites them is a shared interest in Open Access (OA) and enthusiasm for the possibilities of making research more accessible and to discover new ways of engaging in and with research.

Eelco Ferwerda (OAPEN and DOAB)
Eelco gave an excellent introduction to Open Access for those new to the area and expanded this to talk about particular issues in the Humanities and Social Sciences:
  • Two thirds of research outputs are book chapters compared to one third journal articles
  • Less than 15% of publishers in humanities ask for an APC 
  • There is a traditional and continuing preference for print. Even when e-book formats are provided there is still an expectation that there will be a print version to help cover costs
  • He also dispelled several standard myths about OA publishing, reassuring the audience that OA is compatible with peer review, Creative Commons is compatible with copyright, CC-BY does not endorse plagiarism, and OA does not endanger academic freedom.
Guy Rowlands (St Andrews)
Guy gave an interesting and entertaining talk on his path to online publishing and Open Access. Charting the ups and downs of trying to find a publisher for a 25-50K word long essay (between a journal article and a monograph) he eventually decided to "stuff it" and publish works of this length in a new format dubbed the "midigraph" by his four year-old son. Guy is now the Editor-in-Chief of a series published by the Centre for French History and Culture. It has proved an effective way to disseminate research, e.g. Hold still, Madame: wartime gender and the photography of women in France during the Great War in the St Andrews Studies in French History and Culture series has received 250 page views and been downloaded 120 times just this year. As there is no way of telling where the digital copies have gone it is probably safe to factor in another 50% of readers for the downloads. Guy has had very positive responses from publishers agreeing to review his upcoming titles. This kind of attention is good for the School of History and the University in terms of esteem measures. He concluded by questioning why the long essay form, of which the noted historian Hugh Trevor-Roper had been a master, had died out.

Rupert Gatti (OpenBook Publishers and Cambridge)
Rupert agreed with Guy that "stuff it" is often the starting point for researchers to take an interest in Open Access. He introduced the idea of legacy publishing, i.e. publication in printed books as the primary means of dissemination. Limited print runs of these books make it difficult for researchers in HSS fields to justify relevance to funders leading to the "crisis of dissemination". He suggested that Open Access is part of the solution to this. He explained that legacy publishers have typically missed IT opportunities to change and improve publishing models although he emphasised that traditional rigorous peer review is still in place. He gave a demonstration of an amazing electronic translation of Diderot that included recordings of contemporary music by the Paris Conservatoire embedded in the footnotes (the printed book has QR codes that point to the same recordings on the internet). The recordings are licensed CC-BY by the Conservatoire. This offers new opportunities to develop scholarship and criticism not currently available under the legacy publishing model.

The talks were followed by a lively Q&A session with the speakers as panelists and Lily Neal of SPARC Europe was a warm and gracious guide throughout.


From left: Dr Rupert Gatti, Janet Aucock, Eelco Ferwerda, Lily Neal, Dr Guy Rowlands

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