Digital Science Report on OA Monographs

In June, Digital Science released a useful report, providing an overview of The State of Open Access Monographs. Authored by Sara Grimme, Cathy Holland, Peter Potter, Mike Taylor and Charles Watkinson, the report (download it here) recognizes the role and use of monographs in the scholarly community. It satisfies the need of a benchmark for the information community in grappling with the practicalities of how best to integrate OA long-form output with the existing information environment. As Michael A. Elliott, Dean of Emory College of Arts and Sciences, Emory University notes in his Foreword, this is really something of an “opportunity report”. Specifically, he comments, “Each area of challenge -- whether the supply chain or the funding model -- offers a chance to rethink practices and relationships that we have taken for granted for some time.”

The introduction to the report expresses the belief of scholars in the humanities and social sciences that monographs represent a “formative intellectual exercise” – one which cannot be replaced by the shorter article form. The body of the report explains the current landscape, the current volume of output, and the challenges that this places on the existing supply chain. It then goes on to issues of valuation, associated costs of production and the need for sustainable funding models.  

The authors identify three important areas where pioneering stakeholders should to make improvements. 

(1) Incorporating basic and well-established practices of production -- building in XML as part of the workflow, assigning of DOIs to each piece of content (including at the chapter level), and ensuring the assignment of accurate and complete metadata; 

(2) The need for everyone in the supply chain to be collaboratively engaged in developing new practices in support of the monograph; the report specifically notes, “standards organizations have an important linking role to play...and need to engage with the particular challenges of the OA monograph”;

(3) A more rational system for funding the on-going publication of monographs is necessary. Most importantly, they recognize that the authors of these monographs should not be the ones to bear that responsibility. Scholars in the humanities and social sciences should be free to focus on their scholarship. Rather other stakeholders should shoulder responsibility.