Within the world of publishing, we are seeing some new trends emerge. Born from a desire to change the current publishing landscape, dominated by a handful of large commercial publishers, there is an increase in new publishing models, being led by universities and academics
Our publishing study
To get a sense of the scale of these new publishing models, we recently completed an in-depth study; changing publishing ecologies: a landscape study of new university presses and academic-led publishing, which revealed a growing trend in alternative publishing, both globally, and within UK higher education in particular.
The report was inspired by a white paper from the Northern Collaboration, made up of 27 higher education libraries in England, which called on us to fund a study, collecting hard evidence on the extent to which these new publishing ventures support the sector.
The last study of its kind1 took place in 2004, and showed a shrinking number of university presses (UPs) in the UK. However, the study was positive about a future for UPs and since then there has been a surge in new university presses (NUPs) and also academic-led publishing (ALPs) - especially in Australia, the United States, Germany, and now the UK.
The incentives for a new approach
One of the key findings from the latest landscape report is that the open access (OA) agenda is shifting publishing preferences - new models are becoming more desirable for research academics, and enable people to share their work with the wider world.
There are motivations and challenges which are pushing for changes in publishing processes – among them is a desire to move away from the existing model and the huge profits made in the sector.
As a result of challenges to get research published, ALPs and NUPs are now more widespread within the UK and, judging by our primary research, the reasons are as follows:
- Demand from/for early career researchers and academics, including encouraging first-time publishing
- Developing OA publishing
- Supporting the university’s strategy/objectives
- Funder mandates/research excellence framework (REF) compliance
- Undergraduate research journals to give post-graduates practice in peer reviews
- Hosting facilities for journals/conference proceedings
- Moving print to online OA
- Monograph crisis
- To enhance the reputation of the university
- The policy landscape
We're likely to see more NUPs and academic-lead publishing across UK higher education as they offer an alternative and less onerous route to publishing research, while maintaining the academic rigour required for scholarly work.
The Research Excellence Framework calls on research and higher education institutes to ensure open access publishing becomes the norm. In addition, there is the possibility that UK funding bodies will extend the current open access policy to include monographs2 in a future REF. With rising publishing costs, and budgets that don’t follow suit, the sector is taking an innovative approach to ensuring it is prepared.
The government is hugely aware of the value of the research sector and recent investments demonstrate this; from the £229 million earmarked for science and innovation, as part of the industrial strategy, to the recent announcement of the National Innovation Centre for Data. The weight of policy is behind this shift in publishing, and the technology is widely available to make it happen.
Driving forward change
The idea of new university presses is not a new one, but what is new about the current models is that they differ from the legacy model - they are niche, collaborative and often 100% digital. Academics are also able to group together to publish work on platforms that didn’t previously exist.
These new methods we’re seeing today have also responded to calls3 who feel that open access is not enough of a change. They would like to create a system where publishing research is not-for-profit, community-first, in collectives or coalitions, and bottom-up, with opportunities for more visibility for the authors themselves.
Looking to the future, we would like to increase our offer in this space, through supporting a network of alternative publishers and our expertise in digital data management.
Find out more
Keen to find out more about our support for new university presses and academic-led publishing? Contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
A further research report from the Knowledge Exchange on open access monograph publishing, within eight European countries, will be published this autumn.
- 1 Research on university presses: An overview of UK university presses https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs12109-004-0021-2
- 2 Read more in the LSE Impact blog post: The starting pistol has been fired – now is the time to heed the drive towards open access books http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2017/03/07/the-starting-pi...
- 3 Read more in the LSE Impact blog post: scholarly communications shouldn’t just be open, but non-profit too - http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2017/08/15/scholarly-commu...