Home 9 Featured Posts 9 ATG Newschannel Original: The Future Of Academic Publishing – Part 2: The Academy Foments A Revolution

ATG Newschannel Original: The Future Of Academic Publishing – Part 2: The Academy Foments A Revolution

by | Apr 25, 2017 | 0 comments

by Nancy K. Herther

(This is part 2 of a 2 part series.  Here is the link to Part 1.)

Back in 2003, a group of academics created the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities, focusing on the role of Open Access in providing a foundation for ‘‘new possibilities of knowledge dissemination“ that will provide the foundation for ‘‘a comprehensive source of human knowledge and cultural heritage that has been approved by the scientific community. In order to realize the vision of a global and accessible representation of knowledge, the future Web has to be sustainable, interactive, and transparent. Content and software tools must be openly accessible and compatible.” This declaration has since been endorsed by nearly 600 organizations, universities and libraries across the world. This has since been called “one of the milestones of the Open Access movement.”

The declaration also outlined the pathways that supporting organizations would be using in their transition to a new age of scholarly publishing:

  • “encouraging our researchers/grant recipients to publish their work according to the principles of the open access paradigm.
  • encouraging the holders of cultural heritage to support open access by providing their resources on the Internet.
  • developing means and ways to evaluate open access contributions and online-journals in order to maintain the standards of quality assurance and good scientific practice.
  • advocating that open access publication be recognized in promotion and tenure evaluation.
  • advocating the intrinsic merit of contributions to an open access infrastructure by software tool development, content provision, metadata creation, or the publication of individual articles.“

They also noted that ”the process of moving to open access changes the dissemination of knowledge with respect to legal and financial aspects. Our organizations aim to find solutions that support further development of the existing legal and financial frameworks in order to facilitate optimal use and access.”

Click to make larger.

In March 2017, building on this mission, the signatory institutions initiated OA2020, which “aims to accelerate the transition to open access by transforming the existing corpus of scientific journals from their current subscription system to open access.” This bold statement is based on the understanding that the subscription system that has underpinned scholarly journals will eventually become obsolete:

“Subscription belongs to an era when the challenge for the sharing of knowledge was physical distribution; a journal’s hard copies needed to be laid out, printed and shipped, with payment organized accordingly. The subscription system is clearly no longer in sync with the modern modes of production, distribution and consumption that have emerged with digitization and the Internet. Now that distribution is no longer an obstacle, the challenge is to re-organize journal publishing to avoid the unnecessary access restrictions that are a legacy of the transactions that related to print. While the modernization of the publishing industry has enabled easy distribution in a context of abundant supply, the step that has yet to happen is the cash flow’s shift from the journal level to the article level. Scholarship’s crucial publishing services should be remunerated directly, rather than indirectly through subscriptions. With such a move, the publishing system will be able to engage with the realities and potentials of the 21st century.”

The goal of achieving this infrastructure by 2020 is based “on analysis that shows that there is already enough money within journal publishing to allow for a transition to Open Access that will be—at minimum—cost-neutral” which was developed by the Max Planck Institute in a 2015 white paper.

Foundation Support for Innovation

Raising a child may take a village, but working to change and support the humanities takes a larger community and commitment. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has taken center stage in many of the key events, projects and research being done in working “to strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies. To this end, we support exemplary institutions of higher education and culture as they renew and provide access to an invaluable heritage of ambitious, path-breaking work.”

Philanthropist Andrew Mellon was one of America’s wealthiest people in the 1920s, when he was paying the third-highest income tax (just behind John D. Rockefeller and Henry Ford). He used some of his acquired fortune to fund the building of the National Gallery of Art and other projects. His children merged their individual foundations to establish the foundation and named it in after their father in 1969 (Mellon: An American Life by David Cannadine, Knopf 2006, ISBN 0679450327). In the past nearly 50 years, the foundation has provided well over 15,000 grants to organizations and individuals in 68 countries which have amounted to more than six billion dollars in support. Their support for the future of scholarly funding has been critical.

A part of their efforts in the areas of “humanistic scholarship, liberal arts and doctoral education, and the performing and visual arts,” is their support for scholarly communication, which they describe as their effort to assist “research libraries, archives, museums, universities, presses, and arts organizations that seek to realize this potential, and thereby to further our collective understanding of societies and cultures around the world through the promotion of “the common good by supporting the creation, dissemination, use, and preservation of original sources, interpretive scholarship in the humanities, and other scholarly and artistic materials. The program aims to develop the sustainable tools, organizations, and networks of scholars and other professionals needed for these purposes.” In the area of electronic publishing alone, Mellon has invested in 183 grants totalling 62.22 million dollars to-date.

At the 2015 Charleston Conference, Mellon Foundation Program Officer Helen Cullyer described Mellon’s goals as supporting “new forms of academic publishing, which researchers say could further legitimize digital scholarship” especially given the difficult financial situation for university presses which make experimentation difficult. “These declines have made it challenging to find the resources that are needed to experiment with new digital work flows and publication models, and to create the business models and the marketing and discoverability strategies that are essential if electronic publication is to become sustainable and support scholarship in the 21st century.” The evolving model has revolved around effort to support new business models focused on collaborative efforts for these presses, especially as new digital/multimedia content is developed. These business models would hopefully address costs and focus on all of the moving part of these future systems from “(a) editing; (b) clearing rights to images and multimedia content; (c) the interaction of the publication on the Web with primary sources and other related materials; (d) production; (e) pre- and post-publication peer review; (f) marketing; (g) distribution; and (h) maintenance and preservation of digital content.”

Donald J. Waters, the new senior program officer for Scholarly Communications at Mellon recently posed the current situation this way: “Is publication in the humanities destined to follow the journals model, which amounts to little more than highly priced, print-derived articles in the Portable Document Format that take advantage of few, if any, of the interactive, annotative, and computational affordances of the web? Shouldn’t scholars and publishers in the humanities address the core issue, which the humanities deans expressed as a profound concern that higher education is failing to reach its core audiences in the online media they are naturally using? Isn’t it time to broaden our view of scholarly publication to include other forms of publication, including monographs?”

Donald J. Waters

A Quick Look at Some Key Innovative Projects

The Mellon Foundation work in this area has truly been, well, foundational to the future of the academic book. Here are just a few of the innovations made possible through their support.

The California Digital Library, working with the University of California Press, is working to create new, types of open source tools and workflows for the authoring, submission, peer review, and production specific to the needs of future digital monographs. The resulting Luminos authoring system is able to merge “the best of digital media—from flexible formats and rich media capabilities to enhanced discoverability [with] the freedom of Open Access,” allowing readers to access the works “in any format they want.”

The Open Annotation Collaboration has created Hypothesis, “a new layer to the web,” which can be used “to discuss, collaborate, organize your research, or take personal notes.”

Mellon funding has allowed the University of Connecticut to establish Greenhouse Studios, “a collaboration-first approach for the creation and communication of scholarship” that is “design-based, inquiry-driven, collaboration-first workflow as a model for other universities.” Housed at the school’s library, the center works by “teaming together faculty, developers, librarians, designers, publishers, and other specialists, Greenhouse Studios brings to bear, at every stage of project development, the diverse expertise required to create, publish, and provide sustained access to scholarly communications expressed in digital and multimedia formats.”

The University of Michigan is working on a project that is focused on creating “a publishing platform built on the Hydra/Fedora framework, to be made available open source reuse as well as in the form of a hosted for-fee solution. While in the short term the primary application of the platform is to address the “companion website” problem (an increasing demand from authors for a way of presenting research data alongside their books), in the longer term it will also provide the infrastructure to enable long form presentations of digital scholarship (the monographs of the future?) to be published.”

The University of Minnesota Press has partnered with City University of New York’s GC Digital Scholarship Lab to launch Manifold Scholarship, a “publishing platform for interactive scholarly monographs.” The platform offers a “responsive platform for interactive books that would help university presses share long-form monographs through an appealing and elegant interface” that is now in beta and allows anyone to experience “a selection of projects from the University of Minnesota Press that may be read, annotated, highlighted, and shared through social media. These include two recently published full-length scholarly books, a selection from the Forerunners: Ideas First series, and four projects just beginning to take shape.”

ARL, AAU, and AAUP Join Forces

A March 2017 joint statement from the Association of American Universities (AAU), Association of Research Libraries (ARL), and Association of American University Presses (AAUP) announced “a new initiative to advance the wide dissemination of scholarship by humanities and humanistic social sciences faculty members by publishing free, open access, digital editions of peer-reviewed and professionally edited monographs.

At the time of the announcement, 12 institutions had signed on to the project, which will each “provide a baseline university publishing grant of $15,000 to support the publication of an open access, digital monograph of 90,000 words or less (with additional funding for works of greater length or complexity to be negotiated by the author, institution, and publisher); set a target of awarding at least three publishing grants per year; and commit to participating in this initiative for five years.”

This initiative is the result of extensive planning conducted by a joint AAU/ARL task force, later joined by AAUP and then by interested, invited institutions. The model is described as:

  • Publishing costs will be met by university-funded grants and other revenue sources. These publication grants will enable open access publishing and will send a strong signal to humanities and social sciences faculties that universities value and wish to promote their scholarship.
  • The expanded dissemination of scholarship within and beyond the academy advances the core mission of universities to create and transmit new knowledge for public benefit.
  • This initiative will enable the incorporation into digital monographs of new capacities, such as the integration of multimedia with text and the application of annotation and commenting tools, and can encourage the development of innovative forms of digital scholarship.
  • The funding model based on publication grants will allow presses to publish important, high-quality scholarship freely accessible to readers and independent of market constraints.

“It takes work on the part of both the press and library to change the way the university administration sees its press,” a recent ARL document states. ”A university press is a key component of the university’s academic reputation, a tool to support and advance the university mission. Titles with the press imprint market the university worldwide. The library leadership is positioned to advocate for the press, and the work of the press and library should reflect the way the university thinks of itself. Both need to be seen as strategic mission-driven advantages. And it’s key that their strategic goals be both integrated and complementary.”

“The institutions and individuals who have come together under the AAU/ARL/AAUP banners,” Virginia Tech’s Tyler Walter explains, “recognize that new approaches must be undertaken for scholarly monograph publishing to be sustained and thrive. Due to these pressures, as well as seeing the considerable advances made with OA journal publishing and repositories, the time does feel right to collaborate broadly and advance our model.”

Seeking Innovations in Monographic Publishing

“Obviously, print monograph publishing makes it very difficult to incorporate digital media,” Virginia Tech’s Tyler Walters notes. “While we are all aware of the potential for new forms of digital scholarship, and we have discussed these possibilities, our focus is on developing a sustainable business model and promoting openness, making the academy’s research productivity in book form easily available to the public at no direct cost to them, whenever possible.

Through collaborations, experimentation and support from Mellon and their home universities, the future of university presses and humanities monographs are being developed. “In my own research,” Walters reflects, “I have found that faculty are more motivated to experiment with new publishing approaches if they are dissatisfied with their current publishing experiences. So, you can see where some faculty can be keenly aware of the current and impending challenges in monograph publishing, while others don’t see problems due to their own satisfactory experiences. Our goal is to work with faculty authors and university presses who are interested and willing to initiate new publishing models. Clearly there are many presses, libraries, and university leaders in general who are motivated to embrace a change strategy. I’m also quite pleased that the leadership of my own institution—Virginia Tech—embraces new, exploratory approaches.”


In order to acknowledge the role of books and learning in our world, UNESCO proclaimed April 23rd of each year as World Book and Copyright Day. UNESCO publishes data each year of the numbers of books published each year by all the world’s countries as an index of the standard of living and education across the globe. In 2015-2016, an estimated 2,200,000 books were recorded by the International Publishers Association. But what of the future of the ‘book’?

University of Utah’s Rick Anderson sees inherent transitory issues for the future of the ‘book’ as we know it today. “Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what seems to be a division between forward-thinking librarians and publishers who are frustrated that we haven’t yet managed to move “beyond the .pdf,” and readers who really seem to like .pdfs just fine. I wonder if a similar dynamic is going on with books. I hear constant complaints about ebook platforms, many of which are so innovative, so creatively designed, and so forward-thinking that readers find them impossible to use. I honestly wonder if we’d see more widespread adoption of ebooks if they were all published in .pdf format. Would doing so permit us to realize all the potential of ebooks? Of course not. But what if our users aren’t that interested in realizing the full potential of ebooks, and instead just want to read them on their phones and laptops wherever they are, with a minimum of fuss and bother? I’m not making any assertions here, just thinking out loud.”

Donna Shear

Donna Shear, Director of the University of Nebraska Press tells ATG that “most scholarly authors value the imprimatur of a university press because it’s proof to their administration and department that the manuscript underwent rigorous peer review and editing. They know, also, that we are experienced in promoting their book to the correct audiences.” Nebraska’s book program remains strong through innovation and strategic planning. “We have partnered with our own Center for Research in the Digital Humanities on a few projects, but 99% of our scholarly monograph authors want their book in print and don’t request additional enhancement. It’s our policy to do a simultaneous e-book and print book for all new titles, and we make almost all of our scholarly titles available on Project MUSE and JSTOR Books.”

As the late astronomer Carl Sagan noted, “a book is made from a tree. It is an assemblage of flat, flexible parts (still called “leaves”) imprinted with dark pigmented squiggles. One glance at it and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, the author is speaking, clearly and silently, inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people, citizens of distant epochs, who never knew one another. Books break the shackles of time—proof that humans can work magic.” (Cosmos, Part 11: The Persistence of Memory, 1980)

Books, reading and learning have become industries and the value of knowledge has become perhaps the most important commodity in our world today—so important that ideals like privacy, freedom to read, and universal access have been lost. However, this increasing dystopian vision is being confronted by winds of change, and given all of the political negativity today, developments like these monographic initiatives are good news indeed.

Still, most library directors are very positive about moves to innovate university publishing and the involvement of our associations and others as partners in this process. “When universities come together—their provosts, college and library deans, university press directors, and faculties—there is a lot of power and potential for change in that,” Walters believes. “We are happy to have our associations in AAU, ARL, and AAUP facilitate and bring us together for this important initiative.”

Nancy K. Herther is librarian for Sociology & Anthropology at the University of Minnesota Libraries, Twin Cities campus. herther@umn.edu




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