International Open Access Week, which runs from 25-31 October this year, always provides a good opportunity to reflect on the progress we have made towards open research over the last 12 months. As a mission-driven university press, we strongly support the opening up of research and the benefits for access and inclusion that OA brings. We believe that a more open world should work for everyone. We want to ensure that the transition towards open research is itself an inclusive process—to use the title of OA week, “it matters how we open knowledge.”
Accelerating our open research publishing
During the past year, we have seen significant steps towards open research, both generally, and at OUP specifically. The positive impact of opening research in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has fuelled a push for an even faster transition to open, and funders, publishers, and academic institutions have all accelerated their open research programmes. At OUP, we have greatly expanded our open access publishing in our journals: we now publish more than 90 fully open access journals and more than 20,000 new open access articles a year (the latter an increase of more than 35% on last year). OUP’s journals are themselves a collaborative effort. Of the approximately 450 journals we publish, more than 75% are published on behalf of scholarly societies. The societies we work with vary dramatically in membership, in geography, and in subject. This wide range of organisations naturally leads to a wide range of viewpoints, hopes, and concerns, and drives our eagerness to make sure the transition to open works for all.
Inclusivity in transformative agreements
One of the key drivers opening research is the growth of transformative agreements. Transformative agreements give universities access-to-read journals and allow their authors to publish open access in the same journals. There are now 282 live agreements on the ESAC Registry, covering almost 50 publishers and 40 countries, and (according to ESAC data) making more than 145,000 articles open access each year.
Transformative agreements are a good example of the opportunities and challenges of opening up research. We can see great equity within transformative agreements—for example, looking at our own agreement with Jisc in the UK, we see that the subject split of the articles made open access through that agreement virtually identically correlates with the overall subject spread of our UK publishing. That’s significant, because we have long known that access to funding to cover open access publishing charges has been harder to come by for scholars in SHAPE (Social Sciences, Humanities, and the Arts for People and the Economy) disciplines. The centralised funding arrangement of the OUP and Jisc agreement has helped correct that imbalance.
However, as recognised in UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) new open access policy, announced this summer, transformative agreements run the risk of being exclusionary. Transformative agreements are complex and resource-heavy to negotiate, meaning that academic consortia and publishers naturally will tend to focus on negotiating agreements with the biggest publishers or the biggest consortia. It is important that transformative agreements don’t leave behind smaller publishers and smaller institutions. At OUP, our transformative agreement strategy is focussed around flexibility, transparency, and inclusivity. We want to offer the opportunities of transformative agreements to customers around the world, of all shapes and sizes. Flexibility in particularly is key here—avoiding one-size-fits-all models that might work for one customer but not for others.
Supporting OA monographs
Looking beyond journals, this year we published our 150th OA book. The UKRI’s policy was also notable in this area, mandating OA publication of monographs from 2024 on. As we have noted elsewhere with our colleagues at the University of Oxford, we strongly support the opening of long-form research, just as we do research articles, but we do want to ensure that there is adequate funding and flexibility to support high quality monograph publishing. My colleague Andy Redman, our Director of OA books publishing, has expanded on this topic and the open research world in SHAPE disciplines.
Transparency in the research process
Another accelerating trend is the focus on ensuring we don’t just open up access to research outputs but look at the entire research process. There is great work going on across publishing and research to introduce greater transparency into the research process, to help to reduce unnecessary duplication, and to improve reproducibility, all with the idea of ultimately speeding up research. This doesn’t just mean employing “open” practices on existing journals and books; we should also experiment with publishing non-traditional research outputs, such as protocols, research methodologies, and data. There is still a lot of work to do in this area, but the advantages are clear: opening up research practices will allow research to build open research much more easily.
The open research landscape moves quickly. Even when you are immersed in it every day it can be hard to keep up! As the world’s biggest university press publisher of open research, we will continue moving towards open, while retaining our commitment to quality, and with a focus on making sure open works for everyone.