Open access in the humanities

The context
The event on open access in the humanities (and social sciences) took place on 22 May 2018 in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and was targeted to Slovenian researchers in the humanities and social sciences as well as to editors of Slovenian peer-reviewed journals from these scientific areas. More than 80 participants listened to presentations on collectively funded humanities megajournal, on infrastructure for open scholarly communication in the social sciences and humanities, on data and openness in the arts and humanities as well as on language e-infrastructure. Good Slovenian practices were presented, i.e., humanities open journals and open monographs publishing and Slovenian social sciences data archive. Panel discussion served to exchange opinions on the challenges of open access implementation in Slovenia.

The event was co-organized by the Faculty of Arts of the University of Ljubljana and OpenAIRE National Open Access Desk (NOAD) at the University of Ljubljana. Presentations and videos are available at the event webpage and were used for the preparation of this report.

In his welcome address, Prof Dr Roman Kuhar, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, described his experiences when after two years of reviewing his article was accepted for publication in a distinguished peer-reviewed journal. To ensure immediate openness, fee would have to be paid, additionally to that he was offered to pay for tables in colour, for prints and for poster. Expenses for openness of articles are eligible expenses, but this also means that public funding is paid to private businesses. Alternatives to achieving openness need to be explored.

Open Library of Humanities
Dr Ernesto Priego from City, University of London, presented the Open Library of Humanities (OLH), which is a scholar-led open access not-for-profit peer-reviewed megajournal and multijournal. It is collectively funded by a consortium of more than 240 libraries, each paying a small fee. 23 journals are published on the platform or supported by it. The initial funding for the OLH came from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the University of Lincoln, and Birkbeck, University of London. Currently, OpenAIRE is funding marketing and communication activities for the expansion of the OLH. As an example of repurposing the funds previously used for subscriptions, the University of Lorraine decided to support publishing initiatives led by scholars, among them the OLH, after cancelling Springer Big Deal.

Peer-reviewed journals provide for quality control, validation, dissemination, and preservation, thereby enabling tracing the development of ideas. Legacy academic publishers provide dissemination in exchange for payment, meanwhile content, quality control and validation are based on free labour of authors, peer-reviewers and editors. Research Information Network estimated in 2008 that “the unpaid non-cash costs of peer review undertaken in the main by academics [is] £1.9 bn globally each year”.

Worldwide scholarly communication is still predominantly subscription based. The number of gold open access articles at 20 most prolific publishers worldwide is still low, the majority of peer-reviewed articles are still behind paywall [and can be in most cases openly available as postprints in repositories after lengthy embargoes; MK&MR]. A lot of money is used to maintain control of access to paywall journals/articles.

The Open Library of Humanities is an example of a scholar-led, community funded open access peer-reviewed journal where many small contributions enable covering the production costs, without any profit. The OLH believes that shift is needed from “big deals” to scholar-led initiatives: “Power to the librarian, power to the scholar, power to the humanities”.

Mr Pierre Mounier from École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (Paris) and from publishing platform OpenEdition presented H2020 projects OPERAS (acronym for “Open Access in the European Research Area through Scholarly Communication”) and HIRMEOS (acronym for “High Integration of Research Monographs in the European Open Science Infrastructure”).

OPERAS aims to establish a distributed infrastructure for open scholarly communication in the social sciences and humanities, i.e., a federation of publishing platforms to deliver open science services, and to reclaim control of academic publishing in the social sciences and humanities by uniting researchers, libraries and publishers. With this, findings of different reports and analyses would be remedied or realized:
• Report Putting down roots: Securing the future of open access policies (2016) identified that the fundamental challenge for the implementation of open access policies is development of fully functional open access infrastructures from the current disparate collection of services.
• Report A landscape study on open access and monographs (2018) found out that open access policies already include open monographs, monographs’ publishing models are deeply rooted in national systems and cultures, there is money in the system which is mainly used to subsidise print copies. The viewpoint expressed is that learning from each other will be very helpful.
• OPERAS-D deliverable Landscape Study on Open Access Publishing states that fragmentation is a key characteristic of the academic publishing landscape, many different technical solutions are used for publishing, different metadata schemes are of variable quality.
• Report The Visibility of Open Access Monographs in a European Context (2018) notes that there is a desire for coordination and shared services as well as for infrastructures standards.

Currently 35 partners from 11 countries, serving the researcher’s needs all along the research cycle, participate in projects OPERAS and HIRMEOS. OPERAS is planning to apply to become part of ESFRI Roadmap (European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures).

Project HIRMEOS is a proof of concept for OPERAS collaboration. Five open access books platforms joined forces to implement five services (identifiers, named entity recognition, certification, annotation, open access metrics, and alternative metrics).

Data and openness in the arts and humanities
Mr Martin Donnelly from Digital Curation Centre of the University of Edinburgh explained that open access was introduced first, followed by research data management (RDM), which was then morphed into open research data. European policies on research data are now about FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable), and they are expressed in science-centric language, not using broad expressions applicable both to science and arts. This causes the arts and humanities researchers to feel marginalised and disengaged.

The terms “science” and “research” are being used interchangeably, but research includes science and arts. There are differences between art and science methodologies, e.g., defined in Wikipedia (scientific method, art methodology), and differences between definitions of data in science and arts. Broadly speaking, data can be defined as “anything which can be used to validate or reproduce/replicate a research conclusion, or enrich understanding of the research process”.

Data re-use in the arts and humanities has always been an integral part of the culture and method. Artists and humanists do not always naturally think of their sources, influences and outputs as data. The value, referencing systems and norms in the arts and humanities may differ significantly in comparison to science.

The latest funder policies take more holistic approach towards research outputs. A medical funder The Wellcome Trust’s Policy on data, software and materials management and sharing also covers non-digital data, such as samples. The Commission recommendation of 25. 4. 2018 on access to and preservation of scientific information covers all components of open science (data, publications, software, methods, protocols, etc.).

Assist Prof Dr Darja Fišer from the Faculty of Arts of the University of Ljubljana acts as the CLARIN ERIC Director of User Involvement. CLARIN is the Common Language Resources and Technology Infrastructure that provides easy and sustainable access to digital language data as well as to advanced tools, to scholars in the humanities and social sciences and beyond in order to discover, explore, exploit, annotate, analyse or combine them.

CLARIN ERIC consists of 20 members (among them CLARIN.SI), two observers, in total more than 40 centres, and is part of the European Open Science Cloud.

Ljubljana University Press at the Faculty of Arts
Dr Matevž Rudolf and Mrs Eva Vrbnjak, MA, from the Ljubljana University Press at the Faculty of Arts of the University of Ljubljana presented the use of Open Journals System for publishing 14 peer-reviewed journals and Open Monographs Press for yearly publishing approximately 70 peer-reviewed monographs.

ADP – Social Science Data Archives
Mrs Irena Vipavc Brvar, MA, and Dr Sonja Bezjak, told that Social Science Data Archives (ADP) was established in 1997 and is member of CESSDA ERIC. It has recently obtained Trusted Data repository certification. Data acquired by ADP are acknowledged as scientific publications in quantitative research assessment of the national research funder Slovenian Research Agency.

Publication of research data should be properly documented with metadata, data should be reviewed for quality, searchable and discoverable in catalogues (or databases), and citable in articles. There are different data publishing routes like journal supplementary material service, institutional data repository, general purpose repository, and (trusted) domain specific data repository, among others.

CESSDA archives are (trusted) domain specific data repositories, deposited data are accessible or protected when needed, experts are available to help and ensure quality of deposited data.

Panel discussion
Director of Slovenian Research Agency Prof Dr József Györkös, Head of Science Unit of the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport Dr Meta Dobnikar, Mr Pierre Mounier, Dr Ernesto Priego, and Dr Matevž Rudolf exchanged opinions under the guidance of panel chair Prof Dr Damjan Popič. Following is the excerpt of discussion.

To support reaching the goals of the national open access strategy, Slovenian Research Agency will include open access provisions into calls for projects and programmes, this is also in line with Science Europe recommendations. A joint approach is needed in Europe to attain relevant and publicly disclosed contracts with for-profit academic publishers. The question is not whether open access but rather at what cost.

Non-for-profit academic publishers have to step together to exchange experiences on open access publishing. Humanities researchers in Slovenia are fond of open access since it is online and contents are immediately available.

Regarding research data we should not be to idealistic, it will not be possible to build data repositories for all scientific disciplines in Slovenia. Within Pilot Programme Open Access to Research Data in Slovenia, a model will be prepared for different levels of data openness, as judged appropriate by different disciplines.

Serials crisis with 400% price increase since the year 1986 was one of the reasons for the development of open access. Academic publishing is very profitable. Research evaluation should stop asking for publications in journals with impact factors.

All knowledge from the social sciences and humanities must be accessible to society itself to support solving the societal challenges. Diversity of publication outlets in the social sciences and humanities must be preserved.


Mojca Kotar, University of Ljubljana, University Office of Library Services, and OpenAIRE NOAD
Matevž Rudolf, University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Arts, Ljubljana University Press

Photo Credits: Jure Preglau, Matevž Rudolf

Mojca Kotar

Mojca Kotar, Assistant Secretary General of the University of Ljubljana in the University Office of Library Services. OpenAIRE National Open Access Desk for Slovenia.

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