Interest in the form of the scholarly book, or the monograph, has a long history.
Recent projects from Jisc and organisations such as Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) signal that UK policy makers, funders and national bodies are beginning to take a far greater interest in the monograph and its implications for the future of scholarship and research.
For academic libraries the situation is particularly acute
As library print collections age, and the availability and use of digital articles and books increases, libraries are obliged to consider what items should remain on the shelves, what should be digitised and what should be removed from local collections and preserved elsewhere.
Physical space is at a premium within university libraries as students and researchers increasingly occupy collaborative social and working spaces, and the arguments for physical books and journals to remain on shelves becomes ever more difficult to justify. Yet, as studies such as the UK Academic Survey and the recent OAPEN (Open Access Publishing in European Networks) monograph survey of academics demonstrate, researchers and academics still want to have access to the physical book for certain forms of reading and research. There are, it would appear, no simple solutions.
In contrast, scholarly journals have largely been successful in migrating online. Researchers and students have become accustomed to accessing digital journal articles. In the UK projects such as UK Research Reserve have provided a shared service for universities that want to ensure long-term preservation of print journals, while enabling local libraries to reduce their print collections.
At the moment, however, there is no coherent strategy for the monograph, meaning that we risk losing, or at best, not providing adequate access to the thousands of crucial monographs that are currently on the bookshelves in academic libraries across the country.
Until now, that is…
I have been leading an important Jisc project that has worked with the academic, library, publishing and funder communities to better understand the challenges that the scholarly monograph currently faces and how we might, as a community, begin addressing some of those problems.
We’ve looked at the potential for space savings, cost efficiencies and national de-duplication, along with more effective digitisation. The result of this is now available for you to read in the form of the national monograph strategy roadmap.
The roadmap articulates a vision that - within five years - UK researchers and students will have unparalleled access to a distributed national research collection enabled by an open collaborative national infrastructure. It is much more than a vision however. It aims to be a doable, practical framework to bring about action, guide effort and solicit engagement both for individual universities and for the sector as a whole.
Seven core ideas
The roadmap comprises seven core ideas:
A monographs knowledgebase
A comprehensive open bibliographic and holdings knowledgebase enabling the development of a national collection strategy, new services and applications created for and by libraries, systems vendors, publishers and users.
An impact service
Enabling researchers, libraries and publishers to track and manage the impact of their monograph to provide new insights, track influence and inform purchasing.
A shared monograph publishing platform
Enabling innovative, low-cost approaches to academic monograph publishing by moving the management and production of monographs online, helping improve their quality and impact.
New monograph business models
Building on the experimental objectives of the shared publishing platform to pilot, existing initiatives and experiments around the monograph business model, and by developing and piloting its own innovative models.
A national digitisation strategy
Informed by and developed in conjunction with the monograph knowledgebase.
A national license for monographs
Negotiated by a third party on behalf of the UK academic sector for access to digital scholarly monographs, to improve access for researchers and students and reduce management overheads for publishers and libraries.
A monographs ‘think tank’
An international ‘think tank’ providing a systematic view across the disparate parts of the scholarly communications/monograph landscape.
The ideas are responses to the challenges of how we manage our legacy collections and print monographs while also ensuring better access for researchers and students. How do we ensure the monograph is a format fit for the future of teaching, learning and research?
From shared publishing infrastructure, to enable institutions to play a greater role in the scholarly publishing process, through to a comprehensive knowledgebase that provides libraries with intelligence on the collections of other libraries so they can make informed decisions locally within a national context. The ideas are aimed at both meeting immediate needs and providing a platform for future development and innovation. The roadmap is, in essence, a call to action.
Therefore, I don’t want that strategy to sit unread on a shelf. My request is for your time to read and respond to it, so that your view is represented at a national level. Whether you’re a researcher, a librarian, a student or an academic, your experience with monographs is of interest to me and to Jisc.
You don’t have to commit to anything. You may want to tell us about something you’re involved in, or simply keep in touch as things develop. Either way, we would welcome your feedback.
Keep up to date
You can keep up to date with the project and see how we are taking the work forward by following the national monograph strategy blog.