DOAB Discussion Digest – Wednesday July 18th

What kind of rights are suitable for an OA book?

Dear Heather,

Your analysis of the different rights a user can be given on an open access book (OAB) is very nicely done and illustrative. I understand your suggestion of a minimalistic  definition of OAB (= free to read online) as an attempt to make it inclusive. However, I would like to bring to the discussion two similar situations where an inclusive definition was not the right choice or was not even considered.

The first case is that of learning objects, where the all inclusive definition of learning object as “anything digital that could be used to support (human) learning” was not only useless but even harmful, as it provided nothing to stand up.

The second case is free software. The free software community has made a distinction between what is gratis (free to use), open source (up to sharing source and allowing reuse, even commercial one), and free (share alike). It seems to me that your proposal of “open as free to read online” is basically equivalent to gratis in the free software field. But this was not the definition that pulled the world of free software forward and make it possible to produce Linux, Apache, Firefox, etc.

In conclusion, I am worried by the possibility that by aiming too short we would reach even shorter.


Dr. Rafael Morales. Researcher. IGCAAV @ UDGVirtual, Universidad de Guadalajara. Avenida de la Paz 2453, Colonia Arcos Vallarta, 44130 Guadalajara, Jalisco, México.

Quality and open access books

As director of the OAPEN Foundation and one of the founders of DOAB I’d
like to start by thanking all of you for taking part in this discussion.
I see it as a milestone ‘en route’ to OA books and OA book publishing.

I’d like to carry on with the discussion about quality control for open
access books.

First of all, although I agree with Gabriels’ point that OA and review
are separate issues, I’m afraid we can’t treat them separately if we
want to help establish OA book publishing. There is a lot of confusion
about OA among all stakeholders, and OA will only work if at least a
sizeable portion of authors, libraries, research funders and publishers
understand the benefits and want to make it work. The notion of vanity
publishing and the emergence of so-called predatory publishers are
examples of how OA publishing and quality control get tied together.
With that in mind, I think it is important to address the issue of
quality control and find new ways to establish quality in scholarly
books, especially in OA publishing. I’d agree with Heather that OASPA
can play an important role in helping to establish proper OA academic
publishers. But this is big responsibility and a lot of work, and they
will need help from established stakeholders, in fact from all of us.

I’d say that the question of quality control for individual books is
more complicated. When we started with OAPEN in 2008, our approach was
to ask publishers to describe their peer review process. This process
needs to meet certain standards and it is made transparent by publishing
the description on In doing so we’ve come across many
examples of traditional, well established academic publishers that did
not conduct strict peer review procedures. Let me give some examples:

–         More or less informal types of reviewing, for instance
reviewing conducted in editorial board meetings with or without written

–         A preference for editorial involvement rather than external
reviewing, for instance a senior editor collaborating with a first time
author to develop a proper monograph, often over a long period of time,
or a research group spending a lot of time and effort to make sure a
publication is well reviewed by colleagues rather than trying to get the
opinion from one of the very few (and very busy) outside experts.

–         Autonomous reviewing, in the case of well respected senior
series editors of important book series, who decide how to review
manuscripts by themselves and who’d see a publisher trying to establish
transparent procedures as unjustified interference.

–         Non academic publishing, in the case of authors that are so
well known that they are beyond pre-publication reviewing. These authors
often choose to publish with trade publishers rather than an academic

There is a great diversity among book publishers, perhaps less among the
AAUP presses, but certainly among academic publishers elsewhere. And I
don’t think that the lack of strict peer review procedures means that
these publishers aren’t doing a good job or that their books aren’t
worthwhile scholarly works.

Now in moving to OA book publishing, should we force all publishers
everywhere to adopt the same strict peer review procedures? Or should we
identify a number of adequate forms of quality control and screen OA
publishers on the type of quality control they are conducting? Or should
we primarily aim to make the quality control transparent and expect
publishers to improve their reviewing procedures as they are made
public? Please let me know your thoughts.

Eelco Ferwerda

OAPEN Foundation

I believe you are pointing at something very important, if we are going to make OA monographs work.

The current status of (peer) review of monographs is how journals looked like some decades ago – very varied, as you describe it. I think it will be impossible, in the short run, to impose something akin to the “double-blind peer review” that journals have established as the gold standard, in OA monograph publishing. But some kind of minimum standard, and an absolute requirement that the actual review process is documented/described (either per monograph or per monograph series), should be established.

Vanity publishing is a problem in OA journals (not large in reality, but it’s used for more than its worth by the anti-OA lobby) and also in TA monograph publishing. OA monograph publishing cannot succeed if we can’t manage to keep vanity publishing out of it, or even the suspicion of it.

Good luck!

Jan Erik

Jan Erik Frantsvåg
Open Access adviser
The University Library of Tromsø

Hello All

I have been meaning to delve into the discussion on this list much earlier and have been following it with interest. I am neither a librarian, researcher, publisher or research funder but I work with all groups and manage the projects that we run here at JISC Collections, of which OAPEN-UK is one (

I would like to respond to some of the comments (although Eelco and Janneke already knows what I think) and relate them to the recent results of our survey of HSS researchers.

1.  Open Access – widening access – use – re-use
I agree with Heather and Malcolm here that we need to be careful with regards to being too prescriptive about what open access means. I expect that most of us on this list agree that we would love to see re-use a part of open access definition, but in the current UK HSS scholarly environment and in the current phase we are in – I think this will limit our success and be detrimental towards opening up access which is a key priority. The very fact that almost 80% of the 690 researcher who completed the survey said that their preferred CC licence would be CC BY NC ND is indicative of the nervousness around a move to OA. However if you separate out the NC and ND, the researchers are more concerned about derivatives than commercial use of their work. Over 63% said no to use of CC BY which is what the Research Councils in the UK are mandating for journal articles. If we forged ahead with a definition of open access monographs that mandated re-use, we may alienate the researcher community – the very people we need to get on board. Just one other thing to note – the figures noted above are the same when we analyse the results by those that are were aware of OA and those that were not aware of OA.

2. Peer review
I am by no means an expert on peer review (I am on a learning curve at the moment) but Eelco has been very useful in helping me see the variations in procedures and his email gives a useful example. Although it has been pointed out that peer-review is not just an issue with OA, I agree with Eelco in that in an OA model, it is something that clearly needs to be addressed as there is a perception that OA means no peer review and that quality will therefore be impacted. One of our survey questions asked the researchers to rank what they thought the impact of OA on quality, disseminating etc would be. The results show that they perceive the impact of OA on dissemination to be positive but that the impact on quality and reputation and reward was neither negative nor positive. Now in the current traditional model, peer-review is extremely important – when we asked the researchers who had published a monograph since 2000 what were the reasons they picked their last publisher, the fact that they trust in the publishers quality assurance process was deemed the second most important reason (the first was that they are good at disseminating to the audience required). Peer-review is therefore a critical factor in the decision making process and any negative perceptions will impact on a move to OA.

But again, being prescriptive could exclude some good new OA publishers therefore the system needs to be open enough to account for new methodologies such as open peer review. I would however think it useful and that it would help make really visible to researchers if there was some sort of icon system like Creative Commons use for their different flavours of licensing. This could be quite flexible of the various methods used, but by having an icon there – would enable researchers to see that a. it was part of an agreed peer review classification system and b. link directly to an explanation of that peer review method. This would really help new OA publishers that are trying to establish their brand which as we know is closely linked to quality. It would also encourage publishers to adopt into the system and develop their peer review processes. It’s all about being transparent.

3. An independent organisation should audit and review publishers against set criteria
In an OA environment there is a greater emphasis on public accountability and transparency due to openness of the funding arrangements – stakeholders care more now than they did when it was all behind doors and was the problem of the library to manage subscriptions etc. It would be a mistake to follow the journals market which is now having major challenges in this area – especially with regards to transparency and hybrid journals. What we should be championing from the start is a clear and public way of reviewing publishers (new ones included) and their practices before they are accepted into the DOAB and this could be, as Heather suggested, a role for OASPA or perhaps even people like us at JISC Collections. I’m thinking along the lines of COUNTER who are an independent organisation that review and audit publishers and the usage data they provide. Let me explain my thinking.

Here in JISC Collections, we do a number of things before we finalise an agreement with a publisher and make their offering available to libraries in the UK. We use a model licence to ensure that the terms and conditions of use are clear, we check the publishers compliance with COUNTER, OpenURL, accessibility etc, and we provide this information to our libraries through our catalogue alongside the pricing model and the licence. Libraries then can subscribe safe in the knowledge that it’s a JISC Collections agreement – that we have negotiated the best possible terms and pricing etc. They trust in the JISC Collections brand.

If we are to support new open access monograph publishers and help them become established to foster healthy competition with the big brands – then these small and new OA publishers need something against which to prove they are worth being considered as a viable option for researchers. We need to help them be trusted by the academic community – especially as we know trust in QA is a critical factor.

So I think that we should be creating an agreed set of criteria (which can be updated as we learn more) against which publishers should be reviewed before they enter DOAB. This criteria could include:
– peer review process
– preservation and archiving policies in place
– that they make clear and transparent how revenue from author fees (as one example) is used and that this is reported on annually alongside a revenue generated report
– metadata requirements
– licensing policy for the whole and parts of the work

As Eelco said – this is a lot of work but I think it will be necessary to tackle the negative perceptions associated with OA and also will help with transparency.

Well, that’s enough from me!

Kind Regards

Caren Milloy
Head of Projects
JISC Collections

Peer Review Policies. In Europe there is a debate over the use of a Peer Review Policy for scientific publications (not just OA). As an example you can see the proposal of the European Science Foundation (

Andrea Capaccioni

Università degli Studi di Perugia
Dipartimento di Scienze Storiche


I agree with Caren that ‘If we forged ahead with a definition of open
access monographs that mandated re-use, we may alienate the researcher
community – the very people we need to get on board.’ In my role as part
of an OA book publisher (Open Humanities Press), another question I’m
also concerned with at the moment is, are there other  communities we
may shut ourselves off from if we don’t?

I’m not just thinking of those in the free and open source software and
open education movements and so on I took Adam as possibly nudging us
toward (although I do wonder whether the OA movement doesn’t have
something to gain from being more mutually aligned with such communities
– strength in numbers and all that). I’m also thinking of the way
there’s been a recent shift in OA initiatives and funders mandates
toward libre OA and with it CC-BY licenses that allow such re-use. The
new policy announced by RCUK that Rupert mentioned in his post is one
instance of this turn; Peter Suber identifies a good number of others in
his SPARC Open Access Newsletter of June, 2012

To a large extent this turn toward libre OA can be seen as being
motivated by a concern not just for open access to the research, but
open access to the data to, including the right to mine texts and data.
And as a March 2012 JISC report pointed out, data mining can be blocked
by permission barriers:

‘Current UK copyright restrictions…mean that most text mining in UKFHE
is based on Open Access documents or bespoke arrangements. This means
that the availability of material for text mining is limited….

Even where text mining is allowed within publisher contracts, licensing
terms that require the full attribution of derivative works developed in
the text mining process can effectively prevent text mining usage. For
example, the Open Access publisher BioMed has such a licence, allowing
text mining and the production of derivative works, provided the
relevant attribution is made. However, where text mining is used to
identify new knowledge derived from cross-article analysis of patterns,
it is effectively impossible to identify all relevant attributions that
contributed to the new derived knowledge. This therefore means that such
text mining cannot be undertaken….’

Of course this shift is focused for the most part on journal articles
rather than books. But how long is this likely to remain the case?
(Certainly, all the government and funding agency events on issues
relating to digital media and the internet I go to these days appear to
be dreaming of some kind of seamless convergence between open access,
open data, the internet of things and cloud computing.)

So, I’m wondering, to what extent the publication of OA books in HSS can
afford to remain out of this text and data mining loop, and for how
long? There’s also a part of me wondering to what extent they are going
to be allowed to, and for how long?


Gary Hall
Research Professor of Media and Performing Arts
Director of the Centre for Disruptive Media
School of Art and Design, Coventry University
Co-editor of Culture Machine
Co-founder of the Open Humanities Press

does open access mean read-only


I have found the discussion quite illuminating on many issues regarding what open acess does mean. In particular, it seems to me some of the views are clearly dependant on the kind of books under consideration and the user context of use, so I should clarify these aspects before commenting. I am part of the team working on the Latin American Open Textbook Initiative, a project funded by the European ALFA III programme, so I am concerned with open access to textbooks in the Latin American context.

Textbooks are designed to support courses, and courses on the same topic use to change a lot in between regions, so free to read but not adjustable textbooks do not seem to meet our needs. So one of our initiative absolutes is that teachers/institutions should be able to adjust a textbook to their needs (that depend on their sociocultural and economical context, programme and course design).

Having said that, I am wondering whether the definition of open access should be a layered one. A kind of maturity model with gratis at the bottom and attribution-only (plus share-alike) at the top. I think such an approach would attend to some of the critics made to the CC licenses, commented by Gary Hall, as the aim would be to promote achieving the top level.


Dr. Rafael Morales. Researcher. IGCAAV @ UDGVirtual, Universidad de Guadalajara. Avenida de la Paz 2453, Colonia Arcos Vallarta, 44130 Guadalajara, Jalisco, México.


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