DOAB Discussion Digest – Monday July 16th

What aspects should funders take into account when developing funding schemes for OA books?

I do believe that you could be right that such conversions could be done by readers, using free software.

But observing what little most writers understand about using Word, which their employers provide them, I am quite confident that most of them (us) would prefer to pay a modest sum to be able to download the version we want with no hassle and no need to understand anything technical. I have no belief whatsoever in the technical insight of the common user, I am afraid. A scepticism based on 30 years of working in the combat zone between users and techies, I may add. 🙂

And yes, I believe such a strategy should be based on small sums in the USD 1-4 range – or something along those lines. You cannot sell such a version for USD 25 when another version is freely available.

This may, of course, change over time. If conversions of complicated materials becomes very easy, this will also lower publishing cost.

Jan Erik

Just to add to our reading list – RCUK (the UK research funding agency)
has today announced a new policy for OA publication of all research funded
by them:
a. all journal articles to be made cc-by within 6 months of publication
(12 months for humanities and economics)
b. publication payments allowed as part of research grant only for
immediate cc-by publication

This policy specifically for journal articles and conference proceedings,
it does NOT apply to monographs.

RCUK press release, with links to full docs:


Dr. Rupert Gatti
Open Book Publishers
See our latest catalogue at

Links and Thoughts

Some miscellaneous thoughts on the discussion so far.

First, to introduce myself. I’m a humanities academic (specialising in ancient Greek literature and philosophy). To date I’ve published six academic monographs, and a translation of Aristotle’s Poetics published with Penguin Classics. I have another monograph currently in production, and yet another progressing towards first complete draft. My work on Aristotle means that I make frequent cross-border raids into other Humanities fields (especially philosophy), but also forage further afield in some STEM subjects (especially zoology, psychology, cognitive science), so I have some sense of what goes on outside my own subject area. The total income from my six monographs has been less than my total expenditure on other people’s academic monographs: so I’d benefit from OA financially. On the other hand, I’d lose financially if it extended to the Penguin Classic. On a third hand, OA would be massively beneficial in relieving the constraints that access barriers impose on the conduct of research. It’s true that, at present, if I know I need to read something I can generally get it, even though it might involve considerable time, effort and expense. I also know that I’m fortunate in this respect: I’m an academic employed by a university with a good library is good, and am not far from other good libraries; people who are not in academia, or who are academics in a less well-resourced environment, are not so fortunate. Even for me, there is a problem of how to determine whether I need to read something that I can’t easily get access to: it’s not feasible to invest the same amount of time, effort and expense on preliminary assessment. Since restrictive licensing is making it harder to get sight of material held at other universities, the transition to digital media is making that problem more acute.

From my perspective, the removal of such constraints on the conduct of research is the decisive practical argument for OA (together with the moral argument based on public accessibility). So, though I recognise that OA is likely to have all sorts of other consequences and open up all sorts of new possibilities, those seem to incidental and potentially distracting from the (for me) core issue. In any case, I agree with Jan that we’re not likely to succeed in predicting future opportunities, problems, solutions: so better to let the new consequences and possibilities present themselves.

So, for example, I can see that OA creates interesting possibilities for licensing reuse and the creation of derivatives, but I wouldn’t want the more limited goal of enhancing accessibility to readers tied to that agenda. Likewise, Adam may well be right that there’s an opportunity to critique the ‘single author culture of production’, I wouldn’t want the pressing need for less constrained access to research output to get tied to a culture-change agenda that will be (even!) more difficult to implement than OA (in the basic sense of accessibility to readers). [If I did get side-tracked into that, I’d want to get greater clarity about the distinction between authoring and production, and between production in the sense of getting the authored material to publication and production in the sense of the broader collaborative processes that support authoring. My next single-authored book is the product of a collaborative process, with academic input from series editors, referees, colleagues, students who took a course in which some of the material was developed. The single author is simply a node in a complex of processes that are thoroughly collaborative: for some purposes, the single author is the most efficient and appropriate form for that node to take, in others not.]

Regarding peer review, I agree with Gabriel: neither the transition to digital publication nor the transition to OA *of itself* throws up questions about peer review. Questions about OA and peer review do get thrown up by the *perception* of OA publications as having perhaps not been subject to peer review. This is just a matter of educating potential readers. Alas, this does mean culture change, which isn’t easy to achieve. For that reason, I think the greater culture change needed to get to new models of peer review will be slow (and there will be significant differences between disciplines in what works: e.g. I suspect that open peer-review will be more feasible in a STEM subject with a very large research base than in specialised corner of small Humanities subjects: say, genetics versus late ancient Greek rhetorical theory).

Is it possible to build an OA business model on charges for enhanced format? Possibly. I’ve been known to buy print copies of books that I’ve discovered in OA digital format. When a journal offers me an article in html and pdf, I’ll use the html version for quick preliminary evaluation; if I decide I want to read the article in detail, I’ll download the pdf (the reading experience is better; and if I end up citing the article, my readers will expect references with page numbers). This is true even when the two versions are equally sophisticated in respect of hyperlinking etc: consumers could also be offered a choice between an unenhanced and an enhanced version of the file. So differences in format and added value do matter, and might be worth paying for.

The distinction between research content (we’ve paid for that already) and added value (which people will be willing to pay for, if they are actually valuable) seems to me fundamental.



Quality and Open Access Book

On the question of quality and open access books, some thoughts:

Should we distinguish between open access scholarly monographs and open access books? Books that are not meant to be scholarly monographs can be open access, too. The criteria for quality will be different. In some cases, really different; the criteria for a quality novel, for example. However, there are books that are sources of knowledge and important to scholars, even if they are not scholarly monographs. Reports by government agencies and NGOs, for example, can be book length.

Isn’t one of the key criteria for assessing the quality of a scholarly monograph the reputation of its publisher? It seems to me that one of the issues coming up with “predatory” publishers in open access journals really has more to do with new publishers employing unethical practices such as listing people as being on the Editorial Board without their consent. Based on this experience, I wonder if what we need isn’t so much a statement that a new OA publisher is following certain practices, as a rigorous evaluation of the publisher to ensure that they are following appropriate practices. For example, it is easy to say that your organization practices double-blind peer review. Actually practicing double-blind peer review, and really understanding what the purpose is and whether it is done well, are different matters.

My view is that decisions about whether a new publisher are following appropriate quality-control practices should be decided by senior scholars in the discipline in which the publisher operates, possibly in conjunction with established publishers. OASPA, the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association, is a great start in this direction and worth supporting.

As others on the list have pointed out, there may be differences in what constitutes appropriate quality control, which may vary by discipline. In some cases, double-blind review may be necessary to establish quality. In other cases, a combination of peer review and expert editorial control may be optimal, particularly if an editor with both scholarly and publishing knowledge is available.

One reason to avoid delineating which quality control mechanisms to use is that this could stifle what I see as needed innovation in this area, such as open approaches to peer review and the more open approaches to writing such as liquid peer review.


Heather Morrison


Is there any scope to offer the ability for the readers to comment on,
annotate, and review the material?



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