Open Access and Academic Publishing

Since 1986, subscription costs for academic journals have risen by 300% above inflation. In addition to exponentially increased research output over this period this has triggered what is known as “the serials crisis”; the inability of library budgets to keep pace with the prices set by publishers.

Simultaneously, it has been realised that putting research behind paywalls is both unjust (especially if the research was funded by the taxpayer) and also unhelpful; scholarly and scientific practices are not advanced by restricting access. This led to the rise of the open access movement. Open access is traditionally schematized into two routes: green and gold. The former means that access is made open through the author depositing a copy of their article in their institution’s repository. The second means that the journal itself is open and free to read.

In 2012 the UK Government accepted the recommendation of The Finch Report that open access should be mandatory for projects funded by the UK Research Councils, including the AHRC. The primary way in which the report recommends that this should be implemented is through gold open access, subsidised by article processing charges (APCs). These are upfront costs that the author must pay in order to compensate the publisher for their labour. The Finch report worked on an average APC of £1500 to £2000 (about $2000 to $3000).

However, the transition phase of this move is set to be a hybrid environment in which subscription fees are also paid. In short: there is a big economic problem here.

The problems are even more pressing for the humanities and social sciences. Poorly funded by comparison to scientific disciplines, these APCs will have the effect of shutting down scholarly communication, particularly for postgraduates, independent scholars and academics at less “research-intensive” institutions. Furthermore, these funds will be shared and internal competition will arise within insitutions to gain access to publication.

The Open Library of Humanities works differently. The OLH publishing platform supports academic journals from across the humanities disciplines, as well as hosting its own multidisciplinary journal. Launched as an international network of scholars, librarians, programmers and publishers in January 2013, the OLH has received two substantial grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to date, and has built a sustainable business model with its partner libraries.

All of our academic articles are subject to rigorous peer review and the scholarship we publish showcases some of the most dynamic research taking place in the humanities disciplines today – from classics, modern languages and cultures, philosophy, theology and history, to political theory, sociology, anthropology, film and new media studies, and digital humanities. Our articles benefit from the latest advances in online journal publishing – with high-quality presentation, annotative functionality, robust digital preservation, strong discoverability and easy-to-share social media buttons.

Unlike many open-access publishers, the Open Library of Humanities does not charge any author fees. This does not mean that we do not have costs. Instead, our costs are paid by an international library consortium.

If your institution is not currently supporting the platform, we request that you ask your librarian to sign up. The OLH is extremely cost effective and is a not-for-profit charity. However, while we cannot function without financial support and we encourage universities to sign up, institutional commitment is not required to publish with us.