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Open Access Monographs – new schemes supported by the Library (part 1)


The recent REF results illustrate the significant increase in university research outputs available as open access (OA) journal articles at the university.

The Library plays a key role in supporting this open access research, by developing key mechanisms – including the Open Access Gateway and the Open Access Compliance platform – and by virtue of the teams of specialist staff providing advice and helping to secure compliance.

Whereas we hear lots about open access articles, open access monographs receive much less attention. Since 2019, the Library has run competitions to provide funding for authors to publish or convert their monographs to OA and has also partnered with MUP to convert existing monographs of university authors to OA (as well as providing the metadata for these and other publications on the MUP platform). However, since the UKRI OA policy will now apply to those UKRI-funded monographs, book chapters and edited collections that are published after 1/1/2024, and since we can reasonably assume that this will be reflected in the criteria governing submissions to REF2028, the Library is undertaking scoping work to prepare dedicated support for monograph outputs ahead of this change in policy. This thought piece will not explore the criteria and exclusions within the UKRI OA policy relating to monographs, or the exclusions anticipated for REF2028, but will instead outline some sustainable OA monograph models that eschew (author facing) Book Processing Charges (BPCs) and to which the Library subscribes: we will look at these models from both an acquisitions perspective and a metadata and discovery perspective. 

In terms of acquisitions, the Library supports a number of OA monograph publishing schemes that OAPEN have categorised under the heading of ‘Institutional Crowdfunding’ (a useful summary of business models for OA monographs is available from the Open Research team at Cambridge University). Back in October 2021, we joined the MIT Press Direct to Open (D2O) model, where libraries pay a commitment fee to support making all the scholarly books published in the following year (~90 MIT monographs in 2022) open access on publication; in return each supporting library is granted access to a backfile of the collection that they support (~ 2,300 ebooks on MIT Direct platform if you subscribe to both collections). Once the collective commitment from libraries reaches the financial success threshold that MIT identified for each collection (covering roughly half of the direct publishing costs, the remainder subsidised by MIT) the collection will be open access on publication. Should the target be surpassed, the surplus will be redistributed across supporting libraries. Should the collective commitment fall short of the target, the content will not be made open access but supporting libraries will still receive ‘term access’ to the monograph backfile without being invoiced for the commitment fee. In November 2021, the scheme hit 50% of the set target and MIT committed to publishing it’s entire spring 2022 list (37 titles) open access (12 titles have already been published OA at time of writing). If it meets the full target by June 2022 MIT will release its entire Autumn 2022 list OA.

The Opening the Future model is another ‘Institutional Crowdfunding’ OA monograph scheme that the Library subscribes to (although MIT categorise this model and their D2O model as ‘incentivised collectives’). Under this model, established by workpackage three of the COPIM project, libraries take out a subscription (for one to three years) to backlist content (content available to members only) and, once the level of library support for backlist content reaches a financial threshold, the publisher then uses these funds to publish new titles on an open access basis. Currently, Liverpool University Press and CEU Press use the Opening the Future model to support their open access book publishing. Since Dec. 2021 CEU Press have published five frontlist books as open access; they have recently announced that two more books will be published open access in July. LUP announced on 26/5/22 that collective support for their ‘Opening the Future’ scheme had reached the threshold required to publish its first two books  open access.

The Library also subscribes to two collaborative funding initiatives based on front-list content: the first for packages, the second for individual titles. Under De Gruyter’s ‘Purchase to open ebook’ pilot, we commit to buying three collections of ten titles, which we own on publication (unlimited, multi-user access). If, collectively, libraries reach a specified expenditure threshold for each of these sets, the set will become gold open access immediately on publication (or a proportion of the set if more than half the threshold is reached). We expect to hear the results of the collaborative funding in September, with confirmation as to the number of titles to be published OA. Under CUP’s 18 month ‘Flip it open’ pilot (beginning Aug. 2021), libraries buy individual books via conventional mechanisms (e-books, hardback books etc) and if the total income for that title reaches a certain threshold (~£8000) it flips and is published as an open-access book (as well as a paperback). There are 28 titles (Humanities and Social Sciences only) within this pilot and, so far, three have ‘flipped’ to open.  

Whilst acquisitions managers are accustomed to developing business cases in order to acquire new monograph content a change in approach is required to accommodate these new OA monograph schemes. Whereas, normally, the primary driver is to acquire prestigious content to enhance the Library collection, the primary driver in the first three models listed above was to support innovative OA business models for monographs in Humanities and the Social Sciences. Acquisitions staff are increasingly working with colleagues in the Library’s Office for Open Research to identify community solutions for long form monograph publishing, to develop business cases for these models, and to support them using the Library’s Open Access funds. In supporting these schemes the Library also acquires valuable insights into the strengths and weaknesses of the various models, e.g., how the threshold for OA transformation aligns/differs across these models and how such a threshold is established, etc..

Open Access Monographs – new schemes supported by the Library (part 2)


Although awareness and support for these models is growing, the OA monograph ecosystem is not as mature as that for journals and features many challenges. Workpackage two of the COPIM project focused on ‘how to make it easier for academic libraries to support OA publishers and publishing service providers, thinking beyond Book Processing Charges [i]’ and we eagerly look forward to the outputs from the Open Book Collective, whose online platform is due for release this summer.  The aim is to provide “a single platform where libraries can find, assess, and sign up to support OA book programmes” and one of the key deliverables will be to facilitate consistent metadata for OA books [ii].

In terms of metadata, there can be a perception that all OA monographs are inherently discoverable and accessible to all, because many of them are available digitally and can be accessed online. However, our Metadata Manager for Content Management is only too aware of the challenges that ensuring the discoverability of OA monographs can pose for libraries. Whilst working to improve the integration and discoverability of OA monograph collections into the Library’s discovery layer (Library Search) the Metadata and Discovery Team has found that existing workflows and technologies for managing licensed or paid-for content are not particularly helpful for managing open content nor for ensuring its discoverability. This is primarily due to a lack of readily available, high quality bibliographic metadata for OA monograph collections being provided by publishers to libraries as either a direct download or an automated data-feed.

The Metadata and Discovery Team has also found that, even when an OA book has been indexed by the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB), the metadata that is available via content aggregators or via our library management system and discovery service provider often falls short of our quality standards: it can be limited to partial title and publication information; it often lacks identifiers (such as DOIs and ISBNs), subject headings, or creator/editor details; it rarely includes keyword-searchable contents notes, book-chapter listings or abstracts. This is particularly true for OA books that have been published by small university/scholar-led presses as these organisations may not have an established relationship with commercial library system providers. This lack of optimum metadata quality for OA books can be due to the source data from the publisher having to be parsed between different formats and schema, resulting in a loss of accuracy or detail. However, it can also be due to a lack of understanding by publishers as to the granularity and detail of the metadata that libraries require for making resources fully discoverable.

A final challenge for enabling discovery and access for ‘Institutional Crowdfunding’ OA monograph models is that these schemes can involve subscribing to a combination of gated backlists and open front-lists. They can also include book titles that change or flip from gated to open once a community-funding target is reached. This mixture of access models complicates the metadata management processes for the library, as we must ensure that the URLs for the gated content redirect via a federated authentication service, whereas access to the OA content should not require authentication with University credentials. Therefore, if a particular book ‘flips’ from gated to open, this needs to be reflected in the metadata in the library’s systems, ensuring the application of an Open Access identifier in Library Search and seamless access to the content.

We would like to conclude by drawing out the theme common to all these tasks: doing things differently. We are witnessing greater interconnectivity within Library teams (including Acquisitions, Discovery and Metadata, Subscriptions, Research Services), working in different ways to support the acquisition and discoverability of content that will benefit stakeholders far beyond the university. We are witnessing long-term declining sales in long-form scholarly monograph publishing (MIT Press reported a decline from 1,500 to 500 in average print runs over the last decade) and a traditional model that is increasingly viewed as broken. We are noticing that whilst BPCs “appear to be the most prevalent model for supporting individual OA monographs” they can also be considered as “inequitable in terms of author access, as well as for being expensive and administratively cumbersome” and we are witnessing demand for a range of sustainable alternative models [iii].

In a recent blog post, Caroline Mackay provides a great bang-for-your-buck comparison between supporting one open access book via a BPC and providing access to a plethora of OA titles via Jisc-supported OA monograph community agreements. The library is subscribing to these mechanisms in order to support the breadth of innovative, sustainable OA models available in the market, in order to provide feedback that will help to secure more efficient metadata workflows and higher quality metadata, and in order to maximise the openness and discoverability of content that is inherent to our strategic goals of open research and social responsibility. We wholeheartedly agree with the summary to the MIT white paper on D2O that ‘the success of D2O and other open monograph models will largely depend on academic libraries acting with enlightened self-interest to pursue collective support approaches that provide viable alternatives to conventional market models”.

  • Des Coyle is the Acquisitions Manager at the University of Manchester Library
  • Emma Booth is the Metadata Manager for Content Management at the University of Manchester Library


[i] Introducing the Open Book Collective: marking the start of our outreach work / Judith Fathallah:

[iii] Crow, Raym. “MIT Press Open Monograph Model (Direct to Open).” Chain Bridge Group and the MIT Press. Last modified 02 February 2022.

Office for Open Research launch event video

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  • video

We are pleased to share a video of the launch event for The University of Manchester Office for Open Research.

The launch event was held on Monday, 4 April 2022.


During the event we heard future plans for the Office, as well as from a panel of speakers who spoke about the importance of universities fully embedding open research into institutional practice.

The panel

  • Sara Rouhi, Director of Strategic Partnerships at PLOS (Public Library of Science)
  • Mark Hahnel, CEO and founder of FigShare
  • Professor Caroline Jay, Dept of Computer Science
  • Professor Carole Goble, Dept of Computer Science

Event: Reproducibility Bootcamp

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NCRM logo

26 April-24 May 2022: online

Live calls: every Tuesday 9:45am - 12pm (UK Time)

Ideally, research is collaborative, well-documented, sharable, and can be reproduced by others (or by the original researchers at a later point in time). Not only does this make a researcher’s job much easier, it makes their work more valuable, citable and extensible.

This training series, provided by the UK Data Service, walks you through how to:

  • make your research ready for open science;
  • apply reproducibility to social science and other 'tricky' topics; and
  • collaborate, document and share research in diverse contexts.

Each week of activity in this bootcamp will comprise a range of components, some synchronous (eg. workshop sessions led by the instructors and delivered over Zoom) and some asynchronous (eg. video-recorded talks, contributing to discussion boards, completing work independently/in small groups, etc).

Further information

This course requires a solid commitment of four to six hours each week.  Bursaries are available to cover the cost of the fee for NCRM courses.