Open Access

Founded in 1904, MUP is the third largest University Press in England and publishes monographs and textbooks in the Humanities and Social Sciences by authors from all over the world. Currently publishing over 150 new books a year and managing a portfolio of 14 journals as well as an extensive backlist of over 1000 titles, the Press sells more than 150,000 books each year to a global audience. MUP has well-established editorial, production, design and marketing department and employs twenty-three staff.  

Challenge

In the context of the current shift towards Digital Scholarship and the need for more and more research outputs to be made available for free (open Access), there are questions around the role of academic publishers in supporting the scholarly community, especially in light of the offerings from University Libraries.  MUP has funding for a digital platform, allowing the hosting of scholarly content across all digital formats, and the linking and tagging of this content to make it as discoverable, searchable and generally useful to researchers and other interested parties as possible. MUP is looking for a better understanding of the market to inform decisions about the future of its digital distribution platform.

Project team

Christopher Fairless, Ph.D. candidate, Environmental Science. 

Chunyuan Liu, Ph.D. candidate, School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering.

Solution

The research used a mixed method research approach to:

  • ascertain the number of scholars creating digital outputs within the University of Manchester and, several other universities in the North West.
  • critically evaluate competitors’ use of digital platforms from the point of view of scholars and end users (including students and librarians) and assess the current role and importance of publishers in creating, evaluating and making available these outputs.

A final report put forward a set of recommendations for key points to consider when planning a digital content platform, based on the evidence gathered. Key points included:

  • Most academics still prefer to read monographs in print, but like to have access to both print and digital versions. Digital versions are used for searching for key information, reading short passages and chapters, and portable and off-site access.
  • Monographs and journal articles will remain established formats, as academics see them as necessary for promotion and to score well in the REF. Most digital output published by MUP in the next decade will be in one of these forms.
  • Early-career academics are more likely to consume digital material, but in order to progress their career are more likely to publish in established formats. More established academics feel they can experiment a little more.
  • Academics are concerned about the long-term preservation of digital output as standards, technologies and publishers come and go. MUP should create output in several formats, maintain convertability between them, and ensure that any data and supplementary materials that aren’t hosted locally are stored in trusted repositories.
  • Peer review is the gold-standard of academia. This means that when publishing digital media, publishers need to be clear about exactly what content is and isn’t peer reviewed (e.g. datasets, supplementary materials).
  • HEFCE is encouraging the publication of research data to repositories. MUP may wish to consider publishing data articles, in which datasets are described, peer-reviewed, archived in a repository and made citeable.
  • Academics submit very few datasets, websites, or software to the REF. This is partly due to a perception that the REF is inhospitable to such submissions. Our interviews suggest this is due to a conservatism in university management, rather than REF management, and due to the need to publish monographs and journal articles for promotion.
  • Publishers will be probably find themselves working much more closely with academic libraries in the future, since libraries will be providing the funding for a lot of open access publishing, will be assisting with the preparation of digital materials, and will be acting as repositories for most academic output.
  • Open access publishing is gaining increasingly more traction. Academics largely consider it important, though still consider it difficult. Libraries are adjusting their budgets for APCs and HEFCE requires open access publishing of the output it funds by 2016. MUP needs to stay abreast of new open access funding methods, assist authors in securing funds from their institutions for open access publications, and to promote open access output when possible.