Progress toward OA in the social sciences and humanities

June 5, 2008 at 7:37 am | Posted in Electronic Publishing, Journals Publishing, Monographs, Open Access | Comments Off on Progress toward OA in the social sciences and humanities

Progress toward OA in the social sciences and humanities: ”

Tracey Caldwell, OA in the humanities badlands, Information World Review, June 4, 2008. Excerpt:

The field of social sciences and humanities (SSH)…faces a…crisis in publishing [similar to that in the STM fields]. In STM, this crisis has been one of the drivers for open access, but this has not been the case in SSH so far.

The dearth of funding in the SSH sector has been one the main reasons it has lagged behind in getting research online and embracing open access. There is not a lot of money around to finance author-pays models of open access (OA), although there has also been an absence of drive on the part of researchers towards open access, backed by a cultural resistance in some disciplines to any sharing of research at all.

But recently, there has been a dawning of understanding among researchers that OA can bring benefits much broader than simple speed and ease of access to research.

At the same time, publishers facing demands for open access have started to make their concerns known, citing the long tail of access to research in this sector that would threaten their business model. Compared with the STM sector, there is a much higher proportion of journal articles accessed for the first time over a year after publication in SSH….

The launch of the Open Humanities Press (OHP), an international OA publishing collective in critical and cultural theory, at the end of April is one sign of the growing realisation of the need for OA in humanities….

The EU has put its weight behind moves to hasten OA in SSH through the so-called Action 32 of the STM-based COST (Co-operation in the field of Scientific and Technical Research) European programme. Action 32 aims to create a digital infrastructure for collaborative humanities research on the web….

[Jonathan Gray of the Open Knowledge Foundation (OKF)] believes the first step to OA in the SSH sector is to provide better access to research that is already in the public domain….

Many researchers in this sector simply do not know how to go about making their research open access. A survey by RIN showed that only 14% of arts and humanities researchers (compared with 30% in the physical sciences and 36% in the life sciences) think they are familiar with the options for making their research outputs open access.

[David Green, global journals publishing director for Taylor & Francis] believes it is too early to tell what the true impact of OA would be on the SSH sector.

‘One of the big American medical journals found a one-time drop of around 5-10% of subscriptions when it made its back archive free to access after a couple of years. We saw something similar, if less marked, with two of our journals when they introduced their 12- and 24-month embargo postprint policies. Renewals since have been good. This seems a common experience: a small loss in the first year after introducing some form of OA, followed by a large increase in usage.’

So would it hold more widely in SSH? ‘Hard to say, but we would remain concerned that SSH material has a much longer half-life and much longer usage tail than STM….

[Michael Jubb, director of the Research Information Network (RIN)] is part of a concerted effort to guide institutions towards centralised arrangements to pay publishing fees. He says: ‘I see no sign at all that research councils have much enthusiasm for meeting the costs of publishing. I am chairing a meeting on payment of publication fees and the practicalities of how institutions might take a more strategic approach to payment for publication….

The idea of providing a quality assurance layer to open access articles deposited in institutional repositories [sometimes called ‘overlay journals’] may be of especial interest to the fragmented and cash-strapped social sciences and humanities communities….

(Via Open Access News.)

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