by Emma Di Pasquale, University of Michigan Library

At the University of Michigan Press, open access is one of many ways we strive to deliver the best scholarship to the broadest possible audience. Over the last decade, the Press has been taking steps to continue developing a publishing program that better aligns with our mission and commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. Much of the work we’ve been doing has prepared the Press to shift to an open access monograph program. We’re excited to formally announce the Press’s open access model, Fund to Mission.

Our Journey to Open

The Press joined the university library in 2012, and this merger centered on contributing to the common good as our mission outlines. This was cemented by the University in 2014 when the Press was moved from “auxiliary” to “designated” status. This distinction was significant, as “designated” meant that the success of the Press was judged by how it advances the university’s mission, rather than its financial performance. We further built on this mission later in 2014 by launching Fulcrum, the open-source digital publishing platform. The Fulcrum platform now supports over 10,000 books, including titles from over 125 non-profit presses through the American Council of Learned Societies Humanities Ebook Collection. Fulcrum also hosts over 250 open access books the Press has published over the last decade under Creative Commons licenses. The Press has been able to publish these many open access works thanks to Knowledge Unlatched, the TOME (Toward an Open Monograph Ecosystem) Initiative, research funders, and our own resources. 

Free to Read

While we have been actively working to develop a more open publishing program, the drive to shift to an open model was reaffirmed by the changes we saw in the publishing industry during COVID, particularly in response to a free-to-read initiative that we launched in the spring of 2020. This initiative made all 1,500 titles in the University of Michigan Press Ebook Collection available for public reading for six months, at a time when print distribution and in-person reading were strongly challenged. Not only did the usage of UMP books skyrocket, but it also grew heavily in new geographic areas that we had seen little or no engagement with previously for our title list. Additionally, the reader survey responses were overwhelmingly positive; it really impressed on us the role OA has in democratizing knowledge. Libraries and other funders indicated that they were energized by the free-to-read initiative to invest in more permanent open access approaches as well.

Fund to Mission

Our collective work from the last decade and the data collected from the free-to-read initiative all went into forming Fund to Mission. It is named as such to emphasize the understanding that OA fulfills the inherent mission of our Press and our research university. University presses are non-profit organizations for a reason; their mission is to fill the gaps that commercial organizations do not fill. One of these gaps is that the publications of the best foundational research in the humanities and social sciences are not easily available. The Fund to Mission model recognizes that university presses are humanities infrastructure that need to be funded accordingly: presses matter not just for research, but for teaching, and provide additional visibility, impact, and innovation that benefits the academic publishing community. Investment in this model supports a non-profit organization and community-owned platform that already hosts thousands of university press books.

Through a three-legged approach, the Press is seeking $250,000 from the library community, an additional recurring $400,000 in our budget from the University of Michigan, and $300,000 of other funder payments like subventions and grants. We are incentivizing our library investors by providing unique benefits: supporting libraries will (1) support the conversion to open access of at least half (~45) of University of Michigan Press scholarly monographs in 2022 (we will expand this percentage if we realize our full goal, and will build on it in succeeding years); (2) Receive perpetual access to the remaining restricted frontlist titles and term access to the backlist (~1,500 titles), which will otherwise remain closed to non-purchasers; and (3) Support authors’ ability to publish innovative, digital scholarship leveraging the next-generation, open-source Fulcrum platform.

Opening Content

The Press is committed to being transparent about all aspects of the model, including how much support we are receiving, from who, and how we are approaching decisions around open content. There are three main criteria the Press is using to select books to make open:

  • Is the author excited by the potential of open access?

There are some disciplines (e.g., Classical History) in which authors remain resistant. If we don’t have an author willing to partner on promotion, primarily through their social networks, we won’t see the level of use we desire. 

  • Is the subject matter of the book well-aligned to the benefits that open access will offer?

For example, is it on an international theme that will be interesting in a resource-constrained country? Or is it on a topic that would be of use to public policymakers? Or is it an interdisciplinary book that will be better discovered across disciplines if openly available? Global reach, public policy influence, and interdisciplinarity are three themes we see repeated for the books that do best and familiar to the most motivated authors.

  • Is the author interested in taking advantage of a digital affordance that can be facilitated by open access? For example, by using open commenting via Fulcrum’s hypothes.is annotation overlay or the surfacing of media files that can be used in other contexts, such as OER-based courses. 

Historically, there has also been a financial calculus. Can we afford to make the book OA? Ensuring that we don’t factor in the author’s ability to pay has been crucial for us in accepting a project for publication. However, the Press has had to be creative in finding funding to hedge against the additional risk of sales declines that OA brings when deciding to make the ebook open. With the Fund to Mission model, the Press hopes to avoid those financial considerations and simply factor in the criteria described above. Because most of our books will be OA if we are successful, we are also orienting our future acquisitions program to be more international, more welcoming to precarious or marginalized scholars, more digitally innovative, and more interdisciplinary in scope.

The Impact of OA

The Press is thinking a lot about the impact of open. Because we are in the initial phase of Fund to Mission, we do not have an annual report that shows the impact specifically of opening UMP EBC. However, our direction of travel is consistent, and our most recent Michigan Publishing Impact Report provides some relevant stats. We are building a dedicated website to launch in fall 2021, providing transparency into impact and costs (i.e., how the money is spent). UMP is the pilot site in the USA for the Open Access Usage Data Trust dashboard. The website will include this dashboard which will show impact across the platforms that we host open access books on, including JSTOR Open, Muse Open, and OAPEN/DOAB. The Press is working to prioritize our OA books’ discoverability through various channels. We’re developing a set of metadata best practices and tools for OA titles to ensure consistent representation, especially with DOIs. 

The Future of Open at UMP

The University of Michigan Press Fund to Mission open access model doesn’t just involve our unique funding structure. Rather, it involves three core aspects: (1) our connection to the shared mission of academic publishing; (2) paying attention to the production and distribution of our OA titles; and (3) engaging with our authors to maximize the success of these projects. We are excited to move ahead with this model and openly share our progress and challenges throughout the transition. To learn more about the model, please visit https://www.publishing.umich.edu/features/fund-to-mission.

Central European University Press Announces Innovative Open Access Funding Model

For Immediate Release via Project Muse

Central European University Press

22 October 2020

The Central European University Press (CEUP) announces that it is transitioning to an open access (OA) monograph programme through its new library subscription membership initiative, Opening the Future. The Press will provide access to portions of their highly-regarded backlist and use the revenue from members’ subscriptions to allow the frontlist to be OA from the date of publication. The Press is working with the Community-led Open Publication Infrastructures for Monographs (COPIM) project.

Additional partners on the initiative include Project MUSE, as hosting platform for the subscription packages and new OA titles, along with LYRASIS facilitating library membership participation, and with OAPEN for hosting and dissemination of OA titles.

Established in 1993 to reflect the intellectual strengths and values of its parent institution, the Central European University, CEUP is a leading publisher in the history of the region, communism and transitions to democracy. It is widely recognised as the foremost English-language university press dedicated to research on Central and Eastern Europe and the former communist countries. It publishes approximately 25 new monographs and research-based edited collections a year and has a large backlist of over 450 titles with 300 e-books available through several platforms.

CEUP is creating a sustainable OA publishing model that will give members access to a selection of the extensive backlist, DRM-free and with perpetual access after three years. In return, this membership revenue will then be used to make newly-published books openly accessible to anyone. When the revenue target is met and the entire monograph frontlist is openly accessible, future membership fee rates can be lowered. The model has support from LYRASIS who will assist with organizing library participation in the programme and has support from OAPEN. Project MUSE will host the books, providing MARC records, KBART files and supporting discovery systems, and subscribers will have access to COUNTER compliant statistics. Membership is open to libraries and institutions worldwide.

The initiative builds on library journal membership models such as Open Library of the Humanities and ‘Subscribe to Open’ such as being piloted by Annual Reviews, and also on successful book membership programmes such as those at Open Book Publishers and punctum books.

COPIM is an international partnership of researchers, universities, librarians, open access book publishers and infrastructure providers supported by the Research England Development Fund (REDFund) as a major development project in the Higher Education sector with significant public benefits and by Arcadia – a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.

CEUP will be provided with assistance in implementing this model through Work Package 3 of the COPIM programme including documentation of this ‘working model’ as a step towards creating a free, open toolkit and roadmap for other book publishers considering OA.

Frances Pinter, Executive Chair at CEUP said, “We’re pleased to be working with COPIM as this partnership will allow us to not only achieve our goals at CEUP but to also demonstrate a sustainable model that I believe will scale up in ways that provide efficiencies and equity to the benefit of all. I am delighted that Project MUSE, LYRASIS and OAPEN are supporting the project. We’re looking forward to working with many stakeholders to ensure success.”

Martin Paul Eve, Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck, University of London, and one of the COPIM project leads, said, “We are looking forward to working with CEUP over the next two years and will be recording our progress through regular blog posts and reports. This case study collaboration will be a keystone in the COPIM project’s future success. We hope that, with the documented success of Opening the Future, we will have a model that could lead to the widespread transition of university presses worldwide to OA.”

“Participating with initiatives such as CEUP’s Opening the Future aligns strongly with our mission to support university presses and other non-commercial publishers in the sustainable, equitable dissemination of scholarship worldwide,” said Wendy Queen, Director of Project MUSE. “We’re excited by the promise of this model to demonstrate a pathway for more publishers to an open future.”

Celeste Feather, Senior Director of Content and Scholarly Communications Initiatives at LYRASIS, said “The Opening the Future model represents a thoughtful and sustainable approach to making CEUP’s scholarly monographs accessible to the widest possible readership. We are enthused about continuing our work with stakeholders in the library community to develop this very promising route to OA.”

Libraries and other institutions can support the move to full gold OA, without author-facing charges. Visit the project website https://www.openingthefuture.net/.

Updates on the case study and details on CEUP’s progress towards OA will be published on the project website www.copim.ac.uk

Notes to editors:

by Dr. Frances Pinter

About five years ago I ran across a book by UCLA Professor Christine Borgman – Big Data, Little Data, No Data where she draws from a report authored by Paul Edwards, herself and others. They define Knowledge Infrastructures (KI) as:

…robust networks of people, artifacts, and institutions that generate, share, and maintain specific knowledge about the human and natural worlds. In this framing, the distinguishing features of a KI are ubiquity, reliability, and durability: when a KI breaks down, it results in social and organizational chaos. A KI is not one system, it is instead a multi-layered, adaptive effort in which numerous systems, each with unique origins and goals, are made to interoperate by means of standards, socket layers, social practices, norms, and individual behaviours that smooth out the connections among them (Edwards et al). 

Borgman argues that each academic discipline has its own knowledge infrastructure. These include the buildings, the places of activity, the people, the communications networks and, of course, how research is published and disseminated. It’s a complex ecology.

Knowledge infrastructures reinforce and redistribute authority, influence and power – and this has profound impacts both within and outside of these KIs.

As a result of the global pandemic we are about to see some huge changes. Contractions of higher education institutions will make the headlines. There will be redundancies amongst faculty and with that, reductions in library budgets. How much, we do not yet know, but it won’t be evenly spread out. Parts of knowledge infrastructures will contract faster than others: a few may expand, but there will definitely be a scrabble for resources and a chaotic adjustment period. It is likely that the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) will suffer more than STEM – at a time when we need more than ever to learn about ourselves so that we can better cope with the global challenges that threaten the very existence of humankind.

I believe that with some much overdue changes to the way the we publish monographs, we can use this crisis to mark a commitment to reducing costs while improving dissemination of these specialist monographs that provide the foundational basis for development in the HSS subjects.

The key to this is Open Access (OA). For that to succeed, we need to work on four aspects of monograph publishing. The first aspect is the funding – which will come if we can demonstrate that the demand is there, that monographs are good value for the money, and that costs can be reduced significantly. The second aspect is that we need business models through which funding can be channelled efficiently and cost effectively. The third aspect is to produce the right kind of metadata that stays constant throughout the life cycle of a book. Finally, we need to find ways in which OA can sit visibly alongside other formats, such as print, that should continue to be available where there is a demand.

The first is easy. When over 80 publishers allowed their books to be freely accessed from mid-March to the end of July 2020, usage rates skyrocketed. Here are just a couple of examples from the MUSE platform:

  • Johns Hopkins University Press made 1553 titles across the range of monographs, professional, reference, and academic trade books open on the MUSE platform – usage each month grew to 3000% before reverting to closed access.
  • CEU Press, with its narrower range of predominantly monographs, experienced a massive 315,000 visits on the MUSE platform alone for its 300 titles – accessed in 129 countries.

These sorts of figures need to be championed around institutions so they can see the benefit of OA. Mandates are also an important factor. While Plan S comes into force for publicly funded research resulting in journal articles throughout much of Europe in 2021, it is expected that monographs and edited collections will fall under the same mandate by 2024. In the US, the Office of Science & Technology Policy  is looking at OA as a way to enhance public access to federally funded research. While OA mandates remain controversial, they are not likely to disappear, especially with evidence of the benefits having become clearer over the past few months.

At the same time, publishers are looking for ways to reduce the cost of producing monographs without sacrificing quality. An example here is the Sustainable History Monograph Project .

Next, there are several business models that work for OA monographs. Just as there is great variety in the types of monographs published, we have a number of sources for funding and ways of channelling those funds into OA programs. Some examples are listed here:

  1. Research Funding Bodies – see Plan S
  2. Institutions – central funds to support OA – Lever Press
  3. University Departments – many small hidden pockets of money
  4. Crowdfunding – Knowledge Unlatched , Unglue.it
  5. Foundations – Wellcome Trust
  6. Membership – Open Book Publishers
  7. Collective models – Luminos

One area where there is much work to do is improving metadata. We need to agree on standards and apply them consistently. Metadata is often altered on its way through the system to serve the particular needs of anyone along the road to discovery. This can clog the system and result in poor search results. If everyone agreed on a core set of minimal metadata, then success in discovery and finding monographs would show a huge increase. This would also help improve usage data — another essential part of feedback on scholarly publications.

Everyone along the supply chain needs to better understand what role the intermediaries can and perhaps should play in the dissemination of OA content. But to get to that point, we need a better understanding of what their charges are buying currently. The light green box in the diagram below indicates where we lack sufficient information about the costs being applied, and therefore, the price of the book at its final destination.

Too often, OA content resides behind a bush and its full value cannot be achieved. Because the availability of OA books is often unknown, already stretched library budgets are sometimes spent unnecessarily. There is little incentive to intermediaries who make a living selling content, yet there could be a role for them in effectively distributing metadata in this new OA world.  We also need ways of selling books to those who want and can afford the printed text. This should be encouraged as print sales help to provide support for sustainable OA.

The period ahead of us will be one of great changes to the academic knowledge infrastructures. It could also be a period when having grasped the value of OA for HSS, all stakeholders contribute to making the changes necessary to provide cost effective and easily discoverable Open Access monographs.

The pie may well be smaller, but we have a choice. Either all sectors fight one another for larger parts of the smaller pie, or we get smarter about how we do things. And for this, Open Access is the way to go.


Dr. Frances Pinter is Executive Chair for the Central European University Press. Learn more about Dr. Pinter’s work and projects here: http://www.pinter.org.uk/.