Open Library of Humanities Launched

Press Release | Open Library of Humanities (OLH) | January 15, 2013

The Open Library of Humanities (OHL) Model

We are establishing a company structure for a non-profit organisation called Open Library of Humanities (OLH). This will be an open access “megajournal” in the style of the US-run Public Library of Science (PLOS) and; which will publish thoroughly peer reviewed humanities and social science research under Open Access conditions at a financially fair rate.

Our organizational structure will consist of the Founding Members team directing the project, which in its initial stages will be developed through a series of independent committees whose recommendations will shape OLH prior to launching. These committees are:

Background and Rationale

Since 1986, inequality in the scholarly publishing landscape has rapidly intensified with subscription costs for academic journals have risen by 300% above inflation. 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. The recent publication of the Finch Report, which mandates Open Access for research funded by Research Councils, will have further catastrophic results upon the publishing environment in the humanities, switching the financial inequality and ability to access to the supply side.

Indeed, as of next year all journal publishers will be considering OA (as per the UK's Finch Report recommendations) and to cover their profit losses will charge authors article processing charges (APCs) of around £2000 per article. This means we'll be saddled with a horrendously unfair system of academic publishing where academics at less wealthy/prestigious universities, or those without stable employment, won't be able to afford to publish their work. This is, of course, the mere flipside of the current situation where these institutions cannot read that work, but it is clearly problematic.

We intend to establish a model of mega-journal publishing for the Humanities that will pose a solution to this crisis. The model off which we’d like to template our project is the PLOS initiative. Their flagship publication, PLOS ONE, is an Article Processing Charge-funded Open Access mega-journal (no disciplinary bounds, no subject categorisation but peer review is still performed by disciplinary specialists), but it is a non-profit entity that works only to sustain itself. In the case of an author being unable to pay, PLOS waive their charges. The truly interesting thing about the PLOS model though is that PLOS ONE publishes not based upon importance, but upon accuracy and then lets the scientific community decide what research stands out. This “ready to publish” criterion met with great resistance in the sciences and the same can be anticipated in the humanities and social sciences. The only problem for the critics was that it has worked.

We want to build a system like this in the humanities, backed by prominent academics across the spectrum so that, from the very beginning, the project has the academic capital needed to succeed; the area where other similar projects fail.