Category / Post-award

Thinking about monographs in a world of open access – blog post by Professor Geoffrey Crossick

Original article is published on 22 January 2015 via –

Distinguished Professor of the Humanities, School of Advanced Study, University of London

In this post, Professor Geoffrey Crossick introduces his report on monographs and open access, outlining the key messages of the report and giving his personal take on the issues and the wider contexts. Professor Crossick is Distinguished Professor of the Humanities, School of Advanced Study, University of London and led the HEFCE Monographs and Open Access Project.
Open access to research publications has in recent years emerged as a major issue for academics, publishers and funders. Discussion and policy have, however, overwhelmingly focused on articles in journals. That is where funders, including HEFCE and RCUK, have announced mandates which require open access, and with most academic journals now published in digital format it is easier to think about making them open access.

There has been only limited discussion of how open access might apply to books, even though these are an important way in which academics in the arts, humanities and social sciences communicate their research. This classically means a monograph, but research books also include works such as scholarly editions, books of research essays by different authors, and scholarly exhibition catalogues.

I say only limited discussion, but underneath the surface there has been a great deal of paddling going on. This has meant debates about how monographs (I’ll use the term from now on to refer to all research books) might be made available on an open access basis, and a variety of initiatives to find financially and organisationally viable ways of doing so.

The Finch Report on open access focused above all on journal articles, and acknowledged that more work was needed to understand the issues with respect to monographs. HEFCE explicitly recognised this when it announced that it would not require them to be open access for the next REF.

And that is where I came in. Late in 2012 HEFCE invited me to lead some work on the implications of open access for monographs. The aim was not to come up with Finch-style policy recommendations, because the development of open access for books is at too early a stage for that. What was needed was some consultation, collecting of information and thinking with a view to producing a report that would be helpful to those interested in developing policy though not in itself setting out what policy might be.

I readily accepted the invitation. Book-centred disciplines have been part of my life as an academic (I’m a historian) and in my roles in higher education and research management. The arts, humanities, and social sciences matter to me, and I appreciate the importance of securing the future of the research book in a changing world of scholarly communication.

I put together an Expert Reference Group drawn from academics, librarians, publishers, funders and others to support me in this work. Together we set about a project that from the outset was not about open access alone, but about the whole position of the monograph today. If we didn’t understand the role of the monograph in research activity and communication, if we didn’t understand its function in the cultures of disciplines and departments, if we didn’t know what was happening to the monograph today, then we really couldn’t begin to understand what open access might mean for it.

My report to HEFCE (and to the AHRC and ESRC who supported the project) was published on 22 January. It covers a lot of ground in exploring the key issues that need to be understood by anyone wanting to think about policy in this area. It needs some 70 pages plus annexes to engage with the reality of what books mean, as well as the potential and the challenges of their moving to open access. The report, therefore, has much to say about the world of research and publication in universities.

As a humanities scholar I’m used to reporting complexity where complexity exists, as it does here. Some things are nonetheless clear. Talk of the monograph in crisis is hard to sustain – they’re being published in ever-increasing numbers, academics are writing and reading them, and libraries and individuals are buying them. That doesn’t mean that all is rosy, but it is important to see open access as an opportunity rather than as a response to a crisis.

It is essential that any future for open access monographs sustains their fundamental importance in most arts, humanities and social science disciplines. That means better technology to enable many of the material qualities of the book that go beyond words alone (the format, images, layout, references and much else) to be retained in a digital future. Though few academics told us that they enjoyed reading a whole research monograph on a screen – if they like it they buy or borrow a print edition. Printed books will not disappear.

It also means being flexible about the kind of licences required for books on open access, it means overcoming the potential high charges that owners of third-party rights (to images, texts, bars of music or dance notation) might impose, and it means finding the business models that will make it work. On this last issue there are many experiments underway and it seems to me improbable that any one of them will become dominant – the future will be one with a diversity of business models.

There is much more in the report and I really look forward to its discussion, and to see how HEFCE and others will take the issues forward. Open access carries with it great potential for larger readership and easier access, and also for new ways of engaging with and using the results of research. I was struck by the constructive approach that I found in responses from academics to the question of open access for monographs.

There were, of course, anxieties and policy needs to take these into account, but there was also real recognition of the potential. My advice to HEFCE and other policy makers is that there is much to be gained by working with the grain of academic opinion, and much to be lost by not doing so. I look forward to the debate!

Major HEFCE study of monographs and open access sheds light on complex issues

Original article appeared on 21 January 2015 via –

The Monographs and Open Access Project considers the place of monographs in the arts, humanities and social science disciplines, and how they fit into the developing world of open access to research. It concludes that open access for monographs has a great deal to contribute to scholarly communication, but that the challenges of introducing it will be real and policy should take account of the various issues identified in the report.

The Monographs and Open Access Project was led by Geoffrey Crossick, Distinguished Professor of Humanities at the School of Advanced Study, University of London [Note 1]. It was commissioned by HEFCE in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Important messages in the report are that:

  • Monographs are a vitally important and distinctive vehicle for research communication, and must be sustained in any moves to open access. The availability of printed books alongside the open-access versions will be essential.
  • Contrary to many perceptions, it would not be appropriate to talk of a crisis of the monograph; this does not mean that monographs are not facing challenges, but the arguments for open access would appear to be for broader and more positive reasons than solving some supposed crisis.
  • Open access offers both short- and long-term advantages for monograph publication and use; many of these are bound up with a transition to digital publishing that has not been at the same speed as that for journals.
  • There is no single dominant emerging business model for supporting open-access publishing of monographs; a range of approaches will coexist for some time and it is unlikely that any single model will emerge as dominant. Policies will therefore need to be flexible.

Evidence to support the project was gathered through an extensive programme of consultations, surveys, data-gathering and focused research activities. The research was supported and shaped by an Expert Reference Group of publishers, academics, librarians, funders, open access experts with the additional help of distinguished representatives from overseas.

This project was set up following advice to HEFCE that monographs and other long-form publications should be excluded from requirements for open access in the post-2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF).

Professor Geoffrey Crossick said:

‘This project has demonstrated very clearly the vital importance of monographs to the academic community as a way of developing research thinking, a vehicle for research communication, a demonstrator of academic quality, and much more. Open access offers significant short- and long-term advantages for monograph publishing that should be pursued, but the clear message is that the academically essential qualities of the monograph must be sustained in any moves to open access.

‘The project has shown that, for open access to be achievable, a number of key issues must be tackled. Open access depends on a satisfactory transition to digital publishing that hasn’t yet happened for books in the way that it has for journals, and the various business models that can support open-access monographs are still largely experimental. Furthermore, the potential costs of third-party rights could pose serious problems, and there are issues around licensing that will need careful handling.

I have been encouraged by the very positive way in which academics and others have engaged with this project; it is important that this engagement continues, because there is much to be gained by working with the grain, and much to be lost by not doing so.’

Welcoming the report, David Sweeney, Director, Research, Education and Knowledge Exchange at HEFCE, said:

‘This report makes a huge contribution to the evolving debate around open access, shedding much-needed light on the issues around delivering open access to books. The wealth of evidence and commentary that this project has generated will spark continued debate among academics, learned societies and publishers, as well as provide important guidance to research funders and others interested in developing policies in this area.

‘I am very grateful to Professor Crossick for the open and engaged way that he has handled his investigation into this complex and sensitive area. The report is firmly grounded in the perspectives of the communities that rely so much on monograph publishing, and is all the stronger for it.

‘Monographs sit outside the open-access requirements for the next REF. But the long timescales for book authorship and publishing mean that any policy for open-access monographs in future REF exercises would need to be established soon to give due notice to the sector.’

Read the report

Next steps

HEFCE will consider this report and discuss its policy implications with other research funders including AHRC and ESRC, recognising that any steps towards policies for open-access monographs should be preceded by a thorough process of consultation and engagement.

Tweet #OpenAccess


  1. A monograph is a long academic book on a single research topic, normally written by one or sometimes two authors. For this project, the term was used more broadly to include edited collections of research essays, critical editions of texts and other works, and other longer outputs of research such as scholarly exhibition catalogues.
  2. The HEFCE Monographs and Open Access Project launched in late 2013. It was led by Professor Geoffrey Crossick and was overseen by a steering group, comprising membership from HEFCE, AHRC, ESRC and the British Academy.
  3. In March 2014, the UK higher education funding bodies announced a new policy for open-access in the post-2014 REF, requiring that certain outputs be made available in open-access format to be admissible to the next REF. Monographs and other long-form publications were excluded from these requirements.
  4. The report, setting out the findings of the project and the results of the various strands of research, is available on the HEFCE web-site.
  5. The remit of the HEFCE Monographs and Open Access Project was:
  • To develop an understanding of the scale and nature of the difficulties that are thought to be facing monograph publishing.
  • To develop an understanding of the place, purpose and appropriateness of the scholarly monograph within the overall ecology of scholarly communication in those arts, humanities and social science disciplines where it plays a significant part. This should include, among other issues, the importance of the monograph to scholarly communication and to reputation and career progression.
  • To examine the role that innovation in publishing and access models can play in ensuring that the various benefits and attributes associated with the monograph can be sustained and, where possible, enhanced. This will involve examining a range of opportunities, risks, challenges and solutions, which should include identifying and examining current and emerging models for monograph publishing, with particular reference to open-access models.


RKEO Coffee Morning – Today!

The RKEO coffee morning is today in the RKE Office on the 4th Floor Melbury House (Lansdowne Campus) starting at 9.30am. The morning will concentrate on the wonders of the Project Delivery Team within RKEO, its personnel, the work they do and how they can help you with live surgeries and demonstrations on open access, BRIAN, the online ethics checklist and RED so please come along!

The Team has three specialist areas: Finance, Outputs and Governance which feed into Faculty dedicated teams. So if you want to know more about managing projects, applying for ethics approval, how to use BRIAN, Open Access or anything else Research and Knowledge Exchange focused please come along and have a chat with us, or just to enjoy a coffee and cake.


The coffee morning will be held in the RKE Office on the 4th Floor Melbury House (Lansdowne Campus) starting at 9.30am on Wednesday 4th February.


We look forward to seeing you!

Introducing Laura Zisa-Swann, your Project Delivery Officer.

I am the Project Officer within the Research and Knowledge Exchange Office covering the Faculty of Science and Technology.

I am responsible for providing professional and specialist advice and support to academic colleagues on all aspects of post-award R&KE activity, including advising on contracts and project deliverables, management of budgets and project management.

In metrics we trust?

Back in May HEFCE launched a Call for Evidence on the role of metrics in research assessment. The Independent review chaired by by Professor James Wilsdon,  University of Sussex and supported by an independent steering group, is tasked with building on the previous 2008/9 pilot exercise to explore the current use of metrics for research assessment, consider the robustness of metrics across different disciplines, and assess their potential contribution to the development of research excellence and impact.

HEFCE received 153 responses (44% from HEIs, 27% individuals, 18% learned societies, 7% providers, 2% mission groups, 2% other). With the majority – 57% – of those who responded expressed overall scepticism about the further introduction of metrics into research assessment.

As part of the review three stakeholder workshops have been held/scheduled on key areas of interest and debate:

To date, all have been well attended and very lively. I was able to attend the I workshop in Sussex with some 150 odd other delegates including members of the metrics review panel, metrics developers and providers, researchers, university managers, and a range of stakeholders from across the research and HE community.

The day contained many thoughtful contributions from a range of speakers including: Dr Philip Campbell, Editor-in-Chief, Nature; Professor Stephen Curry, Department of Life Sciences, Imperial College; and Dr Steven Hill, Head of Research Policy, HEFCE. There was lively discussion about the value, potential role, and unintended consequences of metrics in research evaluation. If you are interested in the future role of metrics in research assessment, I would particularly recommend reviewing the presentations from David Colquhoun, Emeritus Professor of Pharmacology at UCL and Dorothy Bishop, Professor of Developmental Neuropsychology, the University of Oxford.

For further insight you could also check out the Twitter discussion, which has over 1000 tweets tagged with #HEFCEmetrics, Impact story have also helpfully encapsulated much of the story/discussion via Storify.

The results of the review will be announced at the end of March and published in the summer. The report will make recommendation againsts three time horizons:

(1) What can HEIs do to improve research management now;

(2) Suggestions for the next REF;

(3) The longer term, including identification of programmes for further work.

Introducing Eva Papadopoulou the New Research Ethics and Governance Advisor

Hi, for those who do not know me, I am Eva Papadopoulou and I have been since September 2014, the new Research Ethics and Governance Advisor.

I am responsible for providing support and advice to students and academic colleagues on all aspects of ethics queries, process and governance. I am part of the Project Delivery Team, for more info of the team, see Shelly’s yesterday post

I look after the Online Ethics Checklist, which filters all ethics applications and collaborate with students and colleagues of all Faculties for the progress of their ethics relating to Undergraduate, Masters, PhD and staff studies/research. I am also the secretary of the Science, Technology & Health Research Ethics Panel, the Social Science & Humanities Panel and the University Research Ethics Committee.

I have been working at BU for the last 9 years, first at HSC as the administrator of the PDU scheme, then moved on to be the HSC Research Administrator and two years ago moved to the R&KEOps and worked with Business School, SciTec and finally EU projects. I am a BU School of Tourism Graduate and received my MSc in Tourism Management at 2003.

Outside of work I am a happily busy mama to 4,5 year old Kally and trying unsuccessfully to teach her Greek, latest approach is to find all words that derive from Greek, so far so good, hmm. I like to travel, usually back home to Greece and the East of England to see the family and also enjoy reading, my Kindle is like my second child, cooking and watching films.


Third time lucky in Bangkok


Group photo of the delegates at the opening of the Researcher Links Workshop in Bangkok on November 2

Working with partners at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, a team from BU led and participated in a British Council Researcher Links Workshop in Bangkok from November 2 to 4.

For Professor Tom Watson of the Media School and Associate Professor Jirayudh Sinthuphan of Chula’s Faculty of Communication Arts, it was ‘mission accomplished’, as the Workshop had been postponed twice in February and May because of Thailand’s febrile politics.

“This time, there were no problems as Bangkok was about as quiet as it will ever be,” said Professor Watson. “As a result, the Workshop was attended by representatives of four UK and seven Thai universities who worked very well together”.

From the three days of collaborative working, four projects related the Workshop theme of ‘the impact of social media upon corporate and marketing communication in Thailand and UK’ emerged. They will be developed over the coming months into research actions, bids for funding and publications.

With Professor Watson were Associate Professor John Oliver (Senior Researcher), Dr Ana Adi (Deputy Workshop Coordinator), Dr Tauheed Ramjaun and Mona Esfahani, all from the Corporate & Marketing Communications academic group. Among the Thai participants was Dr Waraporn Chatratichart of the University of the Thailand Chamber of Commerce, who is a PhD alumna from the Media School.

“The Workshop also reinforced the existing relationship between BU and Chulalongkorn University as the Dean of the Faculty of Communication Arts, Dr Duangkamol Chartprasert, and Professor Parichart Sthapitanonda both took part as Senior Researchers,” said Professor Watson. “The BU-Chula relationship has great potential for research collaboration and staff exchanges. I hope that other BU staff will follow the opportunity that the Workshop has opened up.”


Signs of hope for getting interdisciplinary work published!

Phil Ward, the Deputy Director of Research Services at the University of Kent attended a British Academy funded workshop for early career researchers and promised signs of hope for interdisciplinarity in publishing.

Focusing on the work of Sarah Campbell, the Editorial Director of Rowman and Littlefield International(RLI), a small scale academic publisher, Phil wrote the following in a blog post on Research Fundermental:

Traditional Academic Publishing

Traditionally, academic publishing has replicated the silos of academia. Book lists mirror university departments, so you have lists for Philosophy, Sociology, Politics, Linguistics, and so forth. Each of those has a Commissioning Editor – somewhat akin to a Head of Department. The list is integrated into (and dependent on) the community it serves: the authors, reviewers and buyers are all, essentially, one and the same. As such, it tends to be quite inward looking: they know who will be interested in their titles, they know the conferences they go to, and if they happen to attract a reader from outside of the community it is (as Sarah says) ‘a fluke’. This insularity is exacerbated by university libraries. Academic publishing is expensive; it doesn’t have the economies of scale of mainstream publishing, and as a result it tends to be only the institutional libraries that buy the volumes. Thus, the publishers cater for the needs, the demands and the categorisation of the libraries.

The Times, They Are A-Changin’

RLI Core Disciplines and themes

However, technology is changing this, and RLI are taking the opportunity to rethink things. Rather than setting up twelve distinct lists, it has set up four ‘core disciplines’ (Philosophy, Politics, Cultural Studies and Economics), around which other disciplines and themes overlap, merge and rub. You have gender and anthropology, but also postcolonialism, social movements and the environment. This has inevitably created some problems internally amongst the commissioning editors as to what their remit is, but this shouldn’t be visible externally. What has made this possible is technology. Social media has allowed RLI to identify and advertise to people across and outside traditional silos, using key words, and ebooks, open access, and print-on-demand have all drastically brought down publishing costs and have made smaller communities, and cross-disciplinary ones, viable.

Getting Interdisciplinary Works Published

This is all very positive, and give me hope for the future of interdisciplinarity. But that doesn’t mean that those working across disciplinary boundaries have been given a golden publishing ticket. You still have to work at it, and Sarah offered the following tips to preparing your book proposal:

  • Define your book and your potential audience. Is it: 
    • an interdisciplinary work for a multidisciplinary audience? That, suggested Sarah, is hard to pull off; 
    • an interdisciplinary book for a multidisciplinary audience? Easier to make the case, but the potential market is smaller and more niche; 
    • an interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary work for a single disciplinary audience? This fits more easily with the traditional publishing model, and would thus be easier to market; 
    • or a single discipline book with the potential to appeal to more than one audience?
  • Define your overall theme and objective. It might be interdisciplinary, but it still needs to cohere. 
  • Think about keywords. How will an interested audience discover your book? 
  • What are the existing networks? Are there conferences, or groups on social media? Demonstrate that they exist. 
  • How advanced is the dialogue within the network? Is it just beginning, feeling its way, and establishing parameters, or is it more established? If your planning an edited collection, this is even more important, as they tend to be, by their very nature, looser and less focussed.

**The full programme, including recording and powerpoint slides of sessions of British Academy sponsored workshop ‘Pushing the Boundaries: Early Career Research and Interdisciplinarity can be found through this link.