At LIBER 2015, our upcoming Annual Conference, Dr Martin Paul Eve will feature as a keynote speaker.
He is a Lecturer in English at the University of Lincoln, the author of Open Access and the Humanities: Contexts, Controversies and the Future and a founder and co-director of the Open Library of Humanities. LIBER recently spoke to Dr Martin Paul Eve about his vision for Open Access and what he hopes the audience at LIBER 2015 will take away from his talk.
1. How did you become involved in the world of Open Access? What about the movement initially appealed to you?
My interest in OA was sparked when I was a student, both at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. I had enjoyed my time at the university and planned, from fairly early on, to do a Ph.D. I was all too aware, though, that getting an academic job is the exception, not the norm. In terms of self-interest: I feared that, without open access, I would not be able to continue to engage with the material that I found so interesting while I was studying if I didn’t end up working in the university. In a broader, more altruistic sense, though, I was also very frustrated that academics seemed to be one of the few social groups who were paid to give their work away without being paid to sell it (research articles). That they gave these articles to entities who then sold them was a bizarre economic cycle and I wanted to know more about it.
2. Your book Open Access and the Humanities: Contexts, Controversies and the Future explains why you think academic research should be freely available and re-usable. Can you explain your reasoning behind this belief?
Copyright does not, in my view, serve academics well at present. Researchers do not, in many cases, use the economic copyright protections for financial gain: they want a reputational gain from publishing in places that will do their career good (the rare runaway-success monograph is the exception). At the same time, though, academics frequently need to make use of third-party, copyrighted material in their own
publications, a source of ongoing frustration and expenditure. It makes no sense to me, then, to forbid others from reusing our works, as we often seek to reuse the works of others. Why make the lives of others harder? Likewise, at the moment universities have to pay extra for licenses to photocopy material for teaching; academics are not allowed to put the final copies of our own work online for other colleagues to use; we cannot put large chunks of our work on Wikipedia; in some jurisdictions, computational analyses are legally difficult; the list goes on. In short: if you think there is a social benefit to having research available, letting others more broadly re-use it is a logical next step.
3. One of the ways you’ve been working to make more research available is via the Open Library of the Humanities. How did this initiative come about and how does it help to make more research freely available in a way that wasn’t already addressed by other projects or channels?
I’ve written a lot about the OLH elsewhere, so I won’t harp on about the project too much here. That said, what is important about this initiative, for me, is the new economic model and the invitation for other journals to share in it. Article processing charges don’t work very well in the humanities and also tend to mean that some institutions pay a lot more than others.
Our model, a little like Knowledge Unlatched, is one where many institutions all pay a small amount into a cost pool, from which we then cover the costs of gold open access. This model means that researchers without institutional funds can still publish (one of the huge fears in the humanities). Existing journals can move on to our platform if they pass a vote from the academic and library boards. In this way, we provide equitable gold open access and also move towards a transition when journals leave their previous subscription environments and join us.
We start at an extremely affordable rate of $1000 per paying institution, so hopefully we don’t end up making an unreasonable or naïve demand on library budgets in a time of transition (banding is also available in many jurisdictions). We are currently moving towards 100 institutions participating from which we will be able to publish around 150 articles per year ($1.50 per OA article per institution!) The more institutions that join, the better the value proposition and the more articles we can publish.
4. In general, how would you say that your vision for the future of Open Access compares to the current reality? What have been the main achievements so far compared to, say, 5 or 10 years ago and what are the main areas that still need to be tackled?
Technological optimists feel disappointed about current levels of OA uptake. Why, they ask, are we not there yet? The trouble is that social norms in the academy take decades to change and are often self-reinforcing, compounding the problem. We are seeing progress, especially through strong funder mandates for green OA, which normalise the idea of self-archiving/deposit. There is still a very long way to go, though, before OA is accepted by the broader humanities community. Finding models for OA that save libraries money (rather than just replicating the current economic dysfunction), is the key shift that we need, in my opinion.
5. What do you want people to take away from your keynote address Open Access in the Humanities Disciplines: Why is it so hard and how can we fix it?
Beyond giving an overview of the landscape in the humanities for OA and the multiple roles that the library must play here, the core aspect that I would like people to take away, without feeling pessimistic, is the scale of the challenge in social terms. Advocacy efforts are not winning the humanities communities over at the moment and so we need more radical solutions. This involves differentiating these disciplines from the sciences, particularly in economic terms.
If the humanities can’t afford gold OA through the same routes at the sciences and this is turning researchers off, then why try to force it to work that way? If the humanities are not switching to publish in new OA venues in droves, then how can we change the venues so that they are OA? What is to be done about learned societies who draw revenue from subscriptions? How can we get books OA?
These are the types of questions that I will be exploring and I don’t promise an easy set of next steps but rather an opening: a provocation to think pragmatically about what would get us to universal open access in the humanities.
More about Dr Martin Paul Eve can be found on his website. You can also follow him on Twitter. The LIBER 2015 conference will take place from 24-26 June 2015 and will explore the theme ‘Towards open science’. Register now.