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Library will fund publishing of open access scholarly books

Library to fund open access book publishingThe Library is expanding the Berkeley Research Impact Initiative (BRII) program so that Berkeley authors can publish scholarly books open access at zero or substantially reduced costs—making these books free and accessible to readers around the globe.

The BRII program fosters broad public access to the work of Berkeley scholars by encouraging the Berkeley community to take advantage of open access (OA) publishing opportunities. OA literature is free, digital, and available to anyone online. With barrier-free access, researchers and decision-makers from anywhere in the world can read the scholarly output of UC Berkeley authors.

“OA publishing is helping us advance the relevance and reach of our science so that it can get in front of the people who need to be seeing it, and who are in a position to act upon the results of our research in ways that we as scientists alone can’t,” says Rachel Morello-Frosch, UC Berkeley Professor of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. “BRII helped me make access to my research affordable and it wiped away a lot of barriers.”  

Morello-Frosch has published several articles OA using BRII funds. The funds are applied toward article processing charges (APCs), which many journal publishers impose on authors and which can range from $750-$3500 or more. These fees serve to replace revenue the publisher would have generated via library subscriptions if access to the journal had been licensed by the library for campus readers. BRII began in 2008 by redirecting a small amount of Library collections funds to help authors cover these APCs for open access journals so that Berkeley authors could participate in the wider dissemination that OA publishing offers.

While many scholars in the humanities and social sciences publish in OA journals, they also publish scholarly books, termed “monographs”. These books become a critical component of professional credentialing, yet their readership is limited by the same kinds of access barriers endemic to subscription-based journals: The scholarly books are quite expensive, and increasingly fewer libraries can afford to purchase them. By expanding BRII to also cover the publishing fees for OA books, BRII can help Berkeley authors publish long-form scholarship that can be read by anyone at no cost.

These digital editions of peer-reviewed and professionally edited OA books typically offer readers more than just the text itself. Digital monographs can also incorporate multimedia with the text, include annotation and commenting tools, and provide platforms that further encourage the development of innovative scholarship.

University presses’ funding models for financing OA books are innovative and evolving. UC Press’ Luminos program, for instance, is formulated as a partnership in which costs and benefits are shared by member organizations. Many academic publishers also offer a print or print-on-demand version of the book for sale to readers who prefer hard copies, further enabling cost recovery through traditional print sales. Some publishers have found that making the book available OA not only drives up digital readership but also print sales, too.

At their core, most OA book funding models typically charge academic authors the equivalent of an APC. Yet, given the greater investment needed to create and edit longer and more complex manuscripts, the book processing charges (BPCs) can range upwards of $7000. This sum can be out-of-reach for humanities and social sciences authors if available funding sources do not adequately cover research and publication needs.

To address this situation, in this first pilot year of funding BPCs, BRII will offer $7500 a piece in publishing fees for up to three OA scholarly books.

The expanded BRII program will support increased OA publishing by Berkeley humanists and social scientists, and augment the reach of their work,” explains University Librarian Jeffrey MacKie-Mason. “We aim to democratize scholarly publishing by lowering access barriers and increasing Berkeley impact, and subvention funding for OA books allows us to do just that.”

To learn more about the expanded BRII program, please see the updated BRII guide. With questions about obtaining BRII funding, contact openaccess@lists.berkeley.edu.

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