This post, written by Dr. Erzsébet Tóth-Czifra, the Open Science Officer at DARIAH-EU is an introduction to the next event in the ‘BoOkmArks: Open Conversations About OA Books’ series. A live session, open to all, will be held via this Zoom link on Tuesday 23rd March at 16:00 CET/ 15:00 GMT/11:00 ET, when we will interview Erzsébet about the DARIAH bursary for OA monographs for ECRs in Digital Humanities. If you have questions for Erzsébet, please add them to the comments section below so they can be included in the conversation on 23rd March — and join us at the event if you can! A recording will be available afterwards via our YouTube channel.
“I went to a ‘publishing in the humanities’ day and the panel of academics were very keen on saying that they didn’t rely on impact factors but no one could answer a PhD student in the audience who wanted to know how you knew where to publish apart from ‘you just find out’.” (Em Nunn 2019, tweet)
Exploring and supporting pathways to the open research culture for Arts and Humanities scholars is among the strategic commitments of DARIAH, and therefore we do our best to sufficiently address questions like the one above, and find solutions that fit best the specific circumstances of those who ask them. One of the most complex and most challenging scenarios that we regularly encounter in our open research and Open Access advocacy practice is finding pathways for publishing one’s first monograph Open Access.
One source of difficulties is that in the current European OA funding landscape, we see a big gap that disproportionately and seriously affects those who wish to publish their first monograph Open Access. Although there is an increasing support from science funders to extend their OA mandates to books, and to cover the costs of Book Publishing Charges as parts of research grants, first monographs typically come from PhD dissertations, not externally funded research projects. Likewise, even though some of the research institutions have transformative agreements and/or institutional Open Access funds in place, these are not always available for non-permanent (or non-tenured) faculty members and even if so, they usually do not cover the whole publication charges (BPCs) of a monograph published in the book series that is topically the most relevant to Early Career Researchers (ECRs).
Early Career Researchers under double pressure
This gap in the OA funding structures is not the only difficulty ECRs are facing when they wish to publish their first monograph Open Access. A well-known and frequently voiced challenge is that due to the very strong influence of the prestige economy on the current academic tenure and promotion criteria, in most cases, young scholars still need to choose between their academic career prospects vs. publishing in fair Open Access venues (and all the societal, economic and scholarly benefits that come with it). Therefore, it is clear that in parallel to our ongoing efforts and commitments of different kinds to change this situation for the better and enable the full transition of scholarly communication to responsible and community-driven means of Open Access on a systemic level, we also need to provide immediate help to ECRs to enable them to start from a strong position in terms of formal assessment but also to practice their ethical devotion and establish themselves as scholars who significantly contribute to the fair and open research culture.
The DARIAH OA monograph bursary aims to serve as a modest but immediate contribution to ease the current anomalies and support those who are the less privileged in this respect but could possibly achieve the biggest change in academic culture and beyond.
The planned bursary is a very small step to this direction as we are planning to fund one monograph per year but hopefully in the future, other actors will be willing to form a coalition to support the initiative and make it bigger.
Small but immediate help with safeguards for fair Open Access
To help scholars balance these conflicting expectations, we also need to strive for a balance between giving them freedom to publish their work OA at a venue of their choice based on topical relevance (e.g. in the book series their work would most naturally belong) vs. preventing the DARIAH OA monograph fund from feeding profits of big, commercial players. To achieve this.
- We decided on a price cap of 7000 EUR per book that clearly keeps publishing service providers operating with huge profit out of eligibility but does not exclude venues that are interesting for scholars due to the topical relevance. Detailed funding conditions and eligibility criteria will be discussed during the OABN meeting and will be published afterwards in early April.
- We need to prepare recommendations, advocacy materials (e.g. blog posts with both scholars and publishers reporting their own experiences) to connect scholars with innovative and fair players as well as a white list of fair and scholar-led publishers whose operation and pricing is transparent. Innovative publishing solutions, eg. networked monographs, data sharing, XML format, the integration of TEI encodings etc. will also be encouraged.
Opening the discourse and coordinating with allies
It is important to highlight that DARIAH’s efforts to help optimizing Open Access publishing to Arts and Humanities scholars’ needs are not becoming realized in an isolated space but instead, are embedded in a support network where sister infrastructures like OPERAS and actors from different sectors are joining forces and coordinate to make the most from both their individual and collective contributions to the responsible and open scholarly communication in the Social Science and Humanities.
In a dedicated OA Books Network meeting, we would be honoured to lend the rich expertise of the OABN network and open up a consultation about specific details of the bursary to make sure that we do it right. In the broader context of challenges around publishing first monographs OA we wish to discuss:
- The best possible implementation of the bursary (e.g. how to define fairness in the context of OA monograph publishing; whether the price cap is sensible; whether our implementation framework is sensible and is close to publishing realities; which advocacy materials and infrastructural components that might be worthwhile to refer to in the campaign (such as the OAPEN toolkit)
- Exploring other, complementary support structures (e.g. if publishers have special offers to ECRs in place, or landscaping other funding frameworks)
- If time allows, it might be worthwhile to continue the ongoing discussion taking place in the OA Books Network about openness and PhD theses.
Implementation plan and the eligibility criteria of the funding program is expected to be published with the official call, to be launched in early April 2021.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.