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Birkbeck plays leading role in project set to increase access of valuable research to the general public

Birkbeck is set to receive approximately £900,000 as part of a £5.8 million project to deliver a more sustainable future for Open Access books, which can be accessed and used online free of charge.

Open Book Futures (OBF) is a new project working to increase access to valuable research through developing and supporting organisations, tools and practices that will enable both academics and the wider public to make more and better use of books published on an Open Access basis. In particular, the project aims to achieve a step change in how community-owned Open Access book publishing is delivered. 

Funded by Arcadia and the Research England Development (RED) Fund, the project marks a shift in the ambition, scope and impact of community-owned Open Access book publishing. It will significantly increase and improve the quantity, discoverability, preservation and accessibility of academic content freely and easily available to all.  

This will be done by building the infrastructures, business models, networks and resources that are needed to deliver a future for Open Access books, led not by large commercial operations but by communities of scholars, small-to-medium-sized publishers, not-for-profit infrastructure providers, and scholarly libraries.  

This includes expanding the work of the recently launched Open Book Collective, which makes it easier for academic libraries to provide direct financial support to Open Access publishing initiatives, as well as the Thoth metadata management platform; the Opening the Future revenue model, piloted with Central European University Press and Liverpool University Press; and the forthcoming Experimental Publishing Compendium. 

Open Book Futures, due to start on 1 May, builds on the pioneering work of the Community-Led Open Publication Infrastructures for Monographs (COPIM) project. COPIM, a strategic international partnership led by Coventry University, began the work of establishing the key open, community-led solutions required to address barriers to the wider impact of Open Access books. COPIM was also jointly funded by Arcadia and the RED Fund. Arcadia supports work to preserve endangered cultural heritage, protect endangered ecosystems, and promote access to knowledge. RED supports innovation in research and knowledge exchange in higher education that offers significant public benefits.  

A particular aim of the Open Book Futures project is to deepen COPIM’s long term impact and to make sure a wide range of voices have the opportunity to shape the future of Open Access book publishing. It aims not just to strengthen existing networks in the UK and North America, but also to engage further with publishers, universities, and infrastructure providers in a diverse set of national and linguistic contexts, including in Africa, Australasia, Continental Europe, and Latin America.  

Martin Eve, Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck, commented: "With this generous funding from Arcadia and Research England, Birkbeck and our partners in the project will be able to continue and extend the work that we did on the COPIM project. In that project we implemented "Opening the Future" at two well-regarded and well-established publishers, CEU Press and Liverpool University Press, who believed in our vision and were prepared to offer their content and reputation in launching a pilot scheme to fund Open Access books. Two years on and between them they have already released over 14 new monographs, and have accrued enough funding through the scheme for approximately 45 titles to be published Open Access. We are thrilled to continue this work with them under the Open Book Futures project, but we're also excited now to have the opportunity to widen this work and implement the model at more presses, internationally." 

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