This year UCL Press is celebrating Open Access Week with the news that the 52 books we have published since launching two-and-a-half years ago have been downloaded over 500,000 times in over 200 countries around the world. This is wonderful evidence of the potential of scholarly monographs to travel when they are made freely available. The evidence is similar from other open access publishers as two reports due out in the next two weeks will show: one from Knowledge Unlatched Research and JSTOR, about the usage of open access books on its open access monograph platform, and the other from Springer Nature on its OA books usage.
Universities and other organisations around the world are celebrating Open Access Week with events to raise awareness among stakeholders of the benefits of publishing scholarly research as open access. Today I spoke at an event at Cambridge University aimed at helping researchers understand the open access publishing landscape. Speakers included publishers (Cambridge University Press, Open Humanities Press, Open Book Publishers, UCL Press), SocArxiv (a preprints platform), and The Conversation (a free online news site featuring articles written by academics). For researchers grappling with open access it was useful to hear such a range of publishing options, many of which demonstrated that authors are achieving considerable global reach with different OA models.
The questions from the floor indicated that many misconceptions and concerns about open access still persist: early career researchers are still advised by their supervisors to publish with well-known traditional presses; worry that REF panels are influenced by publisher brand; and concern that open access publishing is lower quality.
There is much work still to be done but Open Access Week is a good opportunity to focus on the positives. Cambridge University Library was celebrating a particular success – it had just released Stephen Hawking’s PhD thesis as open access on its repository. In just a few days it has had over 750,000 unique views and received media attention from far and wide. A great open access success story.