Open Research in the Humanities: The Future of Scholarly Communication

Authors: Emma Gilby, Matthias Ammon, Rachel Leow and Sam Moore

This is the second of a series of blog posts, presenting the reflections of the Working Group on Open Research in the Humanities.  Read the opening post here. The working group aimed to reframe open research in a way that was more meaningful to humanities disciplines, and their work will inform the University of Cambridge approach to open research.  This post considers the future of scholarly communication from a humanities perspective. 

PILLAR ONE: THE FUTURE OF SCHOLARLY COMMUNICATION 

This first pillar deals with ‘open access’ narrowly understood: the future of the publication landscape, and the question of the sustainability and viability of different publication models in an open access world.  

Opportunities 

The open access initiative in general values a wide range of contributions to academic life. The arts and humanities thrive on long-term, multi-scale, conversational, collaborative, interdisciplinary projects; all cultural work can be so defined. Any move towards research diversity therefore works in the favour of the arts and humanities.  

Open Research aims first at opening out ‘traditional’ research content, such as that published in journals and monographs. Thus it aims also to demystify the existing publication process. In general, it prioritizes the wide dissemination of public-facing research. Further, it allows us to envisage new forms of publication, such as the use of dynamic images and data visualisation as already undertaken in investigative journalism.1 Other examples of new Open Access formats include semi-public peer-to-peer review and the opportunity for readers to highlight passages and contribute to a crowd-sourced index of terms.2

Support required 

In the immediate and short term, A&H colleagues require institutional support to understand and get to grips with the current routes to open access within academic publishing, which present various advantages and challenges. For more detail see Plan S and the History Journal Landscape, A Royal Historical Society Guidance Paper https://royalhistsoc.org/policy/publication-open-access/plan-s-and-history-journals/ 

Current routes to OA in scholarly publishing include:  

  1. Paying directly for article or book processing charges levied by publishers. This is easy if one’s research falls among the very small percentage of A&H research that is funded by the research councils, who allow for such fees, but otherwise challenging.  
  1. Taking advantage of a ‘read and publish’ deal set up between a publisher and an institution. This is easy if one is at the right institution at the right time, but otherwise challenging. There is also confusion amongst colleagues about what happens when these time-limited, transitional deals expire: will publishers revert to simple processing charges (see above)? Or will all published material by then be fully OA (see below)?  
  1. The self-deposit in an OA institutional repository of a manuscript that is accepted for publication and peer reviewed but that has not been edited or typeset by the publisher in any way. This is easy with the right systems in place, but problematic because it neglects the import of the editing process in A&H research. Without undergoing this process, ‘accepted manuscripts’ are very vulnerable to errors, especially in the case of the very many scholars who regularly work in languages that are not their first, or in the case of early career scholars who are less familiar with critical processes and how to evidence them, or in the case of colleagues with various kinds of disabilities such as dyslexia. Other issues also abound with the deposit of manuscripts in repositories. In cases where scholars receive an acceptance that is subject to improvement, the final ‘date of acceptance’ is ambiguous for legal purposes. And in cases where the work in question uses copyrighted material, further legal issues emerge about when and how it may be possible to circulate this. In all these senses, then, many A&H colleagues simply dislike the thought of their ‘accepted manuscript’ circulating. In the case of institutional repositories, there seems to be a direct and obvious tension between the goals of open research and quality control.  
  1. Publishing with a fully OA journal or academic publisher that does not require a processing charge. This is obviously the most straightforward and therefore best route to OA, but raises the fundamental question of how such work is conducted and funded. The notion of the ‘scholar-led’ press, established and monitored by scholars themselves, presupposes that academics can somehow fit the work of the professional editor, copy editor, translator or type setter etc. into their spare time. In addition, many OA journals rely on charitable donations. Fundraising is also a skilled business: will universities’ development directors and offices be diverted to do the work of seeking these charitable donations? Is it possible for existing publishing houses and presses to construct a sustainable business model that allows for free and open publishing, while overlaying their own professional services onto the scholarly work provided by academics? Can already successful enterprises such as Open Book Publishers in Cambridge3 be ‘scaled up’? The members of the working group have not seen any impact assessments or pilot studies considering which of the current forms of scholarly communication will simply die out in the absence of subscription and royalty income. We would like to see evidence-based impact assessments as a matter of priority. In general, it is unclear whether even the largest and most prestigious scholarly societies will survive the loss of income that will result from a move to OA. As one member of our group put it, ‘the research is not open if it is dead’.  

Many questions remain, above and beyond those already evoked:  

  • The situation with respect to the goal of publishing of all academic monographs freely and openly remains extremely fluid, and all the enquiries we were able to make in the working group confirmed that this is an area of great uncertainty. Academic books require considerable up-front investment by publishers, and it is vital that this labour and expertise is properly supported in an open access model. How to ensure that open access books do not entail a race to the bottom in terms of editorial and production standards? 
  • Researchers and publishers will also have to think carefully about content such as book reviews, notices, short discussion pieces, author interviews and so on: content that is useful to the discipline, but peripheral to the article form and that would not generally appear in a repository, for example.   
  • The place of UK debates in the global publishing industry is unclear. Like all scholarly publishing, A&H publishing is international in nature and most journals and presses will draw from as wide an international field as possible. How will the editor of a UK-based journal, responding to the OA requirements of UK decision-making bodies, deal with international authors who are not subject to the same requirements or set of priorities? How will an international editor deal with UK academics?5 These questions come up repeatedly in conversations with colleagues.  
  • Scholarly societies in the arts and humanities do not charge a fortune for their journals, and also offer conferences, communities and support (financial and otherwise) for early-career scholars. To analyse the costs and benefits of access to their publications, it will be necessary to look across cost centres within any given institution. To offer a worked example of library costs from 2019, ‘the bundled UK cost for 2020 the RHS’s Transactions and its Camden book series is £205 (this is a maximum figure, excluding all discounts). In the financial year 1 July 2018-30 June 2019, RHS awarded (for example) £2,781.56 to support ECR researchers at York University and £3,177.16 to support ECR researchers at Oxford.’6 So it would be useful to see studies of the rate of institutional return on investment in publications by university libraries.  
  • Concerns about licensing were already well documented and summarized by Peter Mandler in 2014: ‘For one thing, we do not have full ownership of our texts ourselves – we use others’ words and images, often by permission. For another, we have our own norms of how best to incorporate one work within another – e.g. by quotation – which derivative use denies. Most important is our moral right (long acknowledged in law and ethics) to protect the integrity of our work. By all means read and disseminate our work free of charge, but do not change it as you are doing so – write your own work.’6  
  • Concerns about distortions allowed by CC BY in the reuse of oral history interviews and other sensitive/polemical content are important for many A&H colleagues as they are for our colleagues in the social sciences. 
  • Evidence of predatory publishers simply reusing content from repositories is starting to emerge, seemingly justifying concerns about CC BY as opposed to CC BY- NC-ND or CC BY-ND.7 

Footnotes

1See for instance a project on the takeover of real estate by the Church of Scientology in Clearwater, Florida: https://projects.tampabay.com/projects/2019/investigations/scientology-clearwater-real-estate, or a series of investigative articles on the post-9/11 burgeoning of the US intelligence services collected here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/people/william-m-arkin/

2Matthew Gold & Lauren Klein, eds. Debates in the Digital Humanities (2012), https://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu

3 ‘We are a nonprofit independent publisher with no institutional backing. Open Book relies on sales and donations to continue publishing high-quality and free to read titles. We gratefully acknowledge the generous support of The Polonsky Foundationthe Thriplow Charitable Trust, the Jessica E. Smith and Kevin R. Brine Charitable Trust, The Progress Foundation and the Dutch Research Council (NWO).’ https://www.openbookpublishers.com

4 See the following testimony: ‘The bi-lingual, topic-specific journal I edit…draws articles from authors across the world and is published in Switzerland. Hence, specific OA requirements pertaining to UK-based authors will be considered in setting OA policy but will probably not be a determining factor. Hence, if strict requirements are introduced around OA in relation to UK funders, this may serve to reduce the possibility for UK-based authors to submit articles to my journal. This would obviously be an issue for the journal but would also be one for UK academics also, as it would result a more limited range of potential publication outlets.’ Margot Finn, Plan S and the History Journal Landscape, A Royal Historical Society Guidance Paper, pp. 47-8. 

5 Plan S and the History Journal Landscape, A Royal Historical Society Guidance Paper, p. 69, n. 110. 

6 Peter Mandler, ‘Open Access: a Perspective from the Humanities’, Insights 27 (2), 2014, http://doi.org/10.1629/2048-7754.89 

7 Guy Lavender, Jane Secker and Chris Morrison, ‘ What happens when you find your open access PhD thesis for sale on Amazon?’, 8th July 2021, https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2021/07/08/what-happens-when-you-find-your-open-access-phd-thesis-for-sale-on-amazon/ 

Open Research in the Humanities

Authors: Emma Gilby, Matthias Ammon, Rachel Leow and Sam Moore

This is the first in a series of blog posts, presenting the reflections of the Working Group on Open Research in the Humanities. The working group aimed to reframe open research in a way that was more meaningful to humanities disciplines, and their work will inform the University of Cambridge approach to open research. This post introduces the working group and provides a top level overview of the issues the group discussed between July and December 2021.

The Working Group on Open Research in the Humanities was chaired by Prof. Emma Gilby (MMLL) with Dr. Rachel Leow (History), Dr. Amelie Roper (UL), Dr. Matthias Ammon (MMLL and OSC), Dr. Sam Moore (UL), Prof. Alexander Bird (Philosophy), and Prof. Ingo Gildenhard (Classics). We met for four meetings in July, September, October and December 2021, with a view to steering and developing services in support of Open Research in the Humanities. We aimed notably to offer input on how to define Open Research in the Humanities, how to communicate effectively with colleagues in the Arts and Humanities (A&H), and how to reinforce the prestige around Open Research. We hope to add our perspective to the debate on Open Science by providing a view ‘from the ground’ and from the perspective of a select group of humanities researchers. These disciplinary considerations inevitably overlap, in some measure, with the social sciences and indeed some aspects of STEM, and we hope that they will therefore have a broad audience and applicability.

Academics in A&H are, in the main, deeply committed to sharing their research. They consider their main professional contribution to be the instigation and furthering of diverse cultural conversations. They also consider open public access to their work to be a valuable goal, alongside other equally prominent ambitions: aiming at research quality and diversity, and offering support to early career scholars in a challenging and often precarious employment landscape.  

Although A&H cover a diverse range of disciplines, it is possible to discern certain common elements which guide their profile and impact. These common elements also guide the discussion that follows.  

  • A&H colleagues tend to produce longer and more intensively edited books and articles. The in-depth study of 80,000 words+ is still considered to be a particularly useful and therefore prestigious research output. This work is deeply reliant upon the additional work of librarians, translators, copy editors, managing editors, general editors, etc., all of whom are highly skilled professionals in their own right. 
  • A&H scholars would often go further than our STEM colleagues in wanting the open access version of our work to correspond to the final version of record, as opposed to an unformatted (and therefore unfinished) ‘accepted manuscript’ or ‘preprint’. This is because, as just mentioned, editorial activity (the work as process) is a vital part of the end result (the work as product). Moreover, in A&H, citations often refer to individual pages rather than to an article as a whole, so having access to versions with differing pagination is unhelpful for authors and readers. 
  • A&H work can be vastly commercially profitable, especially in the entertainment industries, but often has an indirect commercial use value, and one does not get the sense that profiteering is a discipline-wide issue. Far fewer A&H journals would be owned by for-profit multinational businesses. They tend instead to be closely connected to scholarly societies, who themselves plough their profits back into running conferences and supporting communities and early career scholars, while maintaining a diverse set of publishing arrangements with university or smaller scholarly presses. The complaint from colleagues in STEM that profit-oriented journals ‘take our work and then sell it back to us’ is less frequently heard in A&H contexts; A&H researchers would perhaps tend to have a less antagonistic relationship to publishers than in STEM.  
  • A&H scholars do not tend to produce data from scratch via experiment. The material that we work with would often be available in the form of printed texts or images, or generated via discussion in the case of, say, oral histories or interview pieces. However, we also often deal with data that we do not own. In these cases, we pay to publish from private archives or collections or from other resources that are under copyright.   
  • A much smaller percentage of A&H research is funded by the research councils than is the case in the STEM subjects.  To an extent, this follows from the fact that (notwithstanding the copyright payments mentioned above) A&H research is often less expensive to carry out than STEM research, requiring less equipment, space etc. Even so, there is a significant funding gap in the A&H, often partially filled by registered charities such as the Leverhulme Trust, the British Academy, etc. Department and faculty research budgets are vanishingly small.  
  • Many A&H researchers (often in fields such as music, art history, drama and so on) are located outside the higher education system altogether, working for instance in museums, galleries, private houses or collections, theatres, or charities.  
  • It is less the case in the A&H than in the sciences that English is the international language of communication. Indeed, publication in foreign-language journals or the translation of one’s books into languages other than English would be a particular mark of prestige in the A&H, demonstrating international reach, irrespective of the size of the publics reached.  

The Five Pillars of Open Research in the Arts and Humanities: Opportunities for Cultural Change 

The Working Group set itself the task of revisiting a document produced in 2018 by the League of European Research Universities (LERU): Open Science and its Role in Universities: A Roadmap for Cultural Change. LERU’s ‘eight dimensions of open science’, often referred to as the ‘eight pillars’, are as follows: 

  1. The Future of Scholarly Publishing 
  1. FAIR data (findable, accessible, interoperable and reproducible) 
  1. The European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) 
  1. Education and Skills 
  1. Rewards and Incentives 
  1. Next-generation Metrics 
  1. Research Integrity 
  1. Citizen Science  

The outline and detailed descriptions of the ‘eight pillars’ are often explicitly or implicitly science-based, and reflect assumptions about knowledge production in the STEM disciplines. We have now rewritten these to give the ‘five pillars of open research in the arts and humanities’. A more detailed examination of each pillar follows, as a way to structure our recommendations for the ways in which our institution, and HE institutions in general, can support open research in the A&H. In each of the five sections, detailed in the next five blog posts, opportunities are noted and recommendations for institutional support, development and training are given.  

  1. The Future of Scholarly Communication 
  1. CORE data 
  1. Research Integrity and Care 
  1. Public Engagement  
  1. Research Evaluation 

Rights Retention Pilot

This interview is reposted with agreement from the sOApbox blog. It is one of a series of blog posts outlining how different institutions are introducing rights retention policies to support their researchers in sharing their research as widely as possible.

14/04/2022
In 2008 Harvard’s Faculty of Arts & Sciences voted unanimously to adopt a ground-breaking open access policy. Since then, over 70 other institutions, including other Harvard faculties, Stanford and MIT, have adopted similar policies based on the Harvard model. In Europe such institutional policies have, so far, been slow to get off the ground.

We are beginning to see that situation change.

The University of Cambridge has recently established a pilot rights retention scheme on an opt-in basis, with a view to informing the next revision of the University’s Open Access policy. In the following interview, Niamh Tumelty, Head of Open Research Services at the University of Cambridge, describes the purpose of the pilot, how researchers can benefit from it and shares her tips for any other institution that might consider adopting a similar policy.

cOAlition S: Could you, please, describe the author copyright policy you have adopted at your university?

Niamh Tumelty: We are inviting researchers to participate in a Rights Retention Pilot, which will run for one year starting April 2022. Participating researchers will grant the University a non-exclusive licence to the accepted manuscripts of any articles submitted during the pilot, making it easier for us to support them in meeting their funder requirements by uploading their manuscripts to our institutional repository, Apollo, without needing to apply an embargo. The pilot has launched using a CC BY approach as required by most cOAlition S funders, and we are exploring providing an option for alternative licences for researchers who do not have that specific requirement.

The researcher will notify the journal by including the rights retention statement on submission. When the paper has been accepted, the researcher will upload the accepted manuscript as normal via Symplectic Elements, indicating during the upload process that they have retained their rights. The Open Access team will do their usual checks, advise the researcher on what will happen next and arrange for the article to be made available on Apollo.

We will closely monitor what happens during the pilot and all participating researchers will be able to comment on their experiences. We will review all feedback and use it to inform our next review of our institutional open access policy.

cOAlition S: Why did the idea of adopting an institutional rights retention policy emerge?

Niamh Tumelty: The introduction of the requirement for immediate open access to research supported by cOAlition S funders has proven challenging in practice, with some publishers offering no compliant publishing route and others charging unsustainable prices for immediate open access to the final published version. Unless researchers want to move exclusively to publishing in journals that are diamond, fully gold or included within read & publish agreements, they need a way to retain sufficient rights, so that they always have the option to post their accepted paper online to achieve open sharing of their scholarship. Some disciplines have been left with little or no choice about where they can publish their research while meeting their funder requirements and their own goals for open research.

“The rights retention strategy is a key tool to enable researchers to openly publish in whatever journal will reach the most appropriate audience.”

cOAlition S: How was consensus reached across the institution?

Niamh Tumelty: The fact that immediate OA is now a funder requirement for the majority of our researchers made the conversation relatively easy. We held a number of discussions at the Open Research Steering Committee to ensure that we had as full an understanding as possible, providing examples of issues that were arising in the first year of the Wellcome Trust rights retention requirement in the absence of an institutional policy.

We considered developing an institutional opt-out policy as others have done but concluded that the highly devolved nature of the University of Cambridge would have made it extremely difficult to conduct a thorough consultation and reach consensus by the deadline of 1 April 2022. We agreed that the most appropriate next step at Cambridge was to run a pilot on an opt-in basis. A working group was established to design this pilot and included researchers from across a range of disciplines along with open access and scholarly communication experts from Cambridge University Libraries. The working group met every two weeks from mid-January to the end of March to consider the issue from different disciplinary perspectives and to develop the approach for the pilot. We drew heavily on the policy that was introduced at the University of Edinburgh earlier this year, learning also from the UK Scholarly Communications Licence and Model Policy and recommendations that have been publicly shared by Harvard University. We brought the proposed pilot to the University’s Research Policy Committee for comment and took legal advice on the detail of how we would approach this before launching.

The beauty of a pilot approach is that no researcher has to participate – they have a choice about whether or not to opt in and will have the opportunity to influence whatever policy is ultimately introduced across the university. We can take this year to really understand the issues in detail and to build consensus about the best approach for Cambridge.

cOAlition S: What challenges had to be overcome before it was agreed to adopt the policy?

Niamh Tumelty: The biggest challenge in the lead up to the pilot has been understanding and developing confidence in the rights retention strategy. The expert legal advice we received following the announcement of the Wellcome Trust requirements and again as we designed the detail of our approach was critical in enabling us to develop the pilot. Now, our challenge is to clearly communicate and explain rights retention to our many researchers as a route they can choose when publishing and to grapple with any issues that arise during the pilot year before developing any full institutional policy.

cOAlition S: What are the advantages of adopting the policy for your researchers and your institution?

Niamh Tumelty: The rights retention strategy is a key tool to enable researchers to openly publish in whatever journal will reach the most appropriate audience. It may be that some publishers decide to reject any papers in which the author has retained their rights, but this seems an unsustainable position given the growing number of authors whose funders require immediate open access for all outputs.

The advantage of a pilot approach rather than a full institutional policy is that it provides space and time for deep engagement across our highly devolved university. It creates a framework for the researchers that wanted to have an early route to support them in retaining their rights and for the open access team that advises and supports them. It enables us to generate evidence from our own researchers, to build confidence and trust and to refine the approach ahead of shaping a full institutional policy.

Researchers are in a stronger position than they realise – if publishers want to continue getting this free content from our researchers, they will need to develop publishing routes that meet the needs of their academic communities.”

cOAlition S: As a conclusion, what are your three top tips for any other university considering adopting a similar permissions-based Open Access policy to yours?

Niamh Tumelty: 1) Include a range of disciplinary perspectives from the earliest stages of planning. This early consideration will make it easier to tailor the messaging to different parts of the university, taking into account the different drivers and concerns that come into play. Make sure that the humanities perspective is included – too often in open research initiatives the humanities appear to be an afterthought, if considered at all.

2) Anticipate the questions that will be asked and make sure that you have clear and honest answers to those questions. Be honest and open about the fact that we are learning through the process (while building on the experiences of those who have gone before) and that there will be challenges. This enhances credibility and manages expectations as the policy beds in.

3) Have confidence in this approach! This is not new – researchers have been retaining their rights in this way for over a decade and it is becoming increasingly common practice across a range of institutions. Researchers are in a stronger position than they realise – if publishers want to continue getting this free content from our researchers, they will need to develop publishing routes that meet the needs of their academic communities.