235 open-access books already funded

Since April 2018, the SNSF has covered the costs of the immediate open-access publication of books. This makes researchers more visible and their research results easily reusable.

The SNSF has set itself a target of 100 per cent open access. It is convinced that research results obtained with public money belong to the public. This principle applies not only to articles but also to books. As one of the first research funders in Europe, the SNSF included books in its open access funding. Researchers can apply for coverage of the open access publication costs incurred by their publishers. The SNSF reimburses so-called book processing charges (BPCs) - irrespective of whether the results published in the book are the outcome of an SNSF-funded research project.

15,000 francs on average

The SNSF offer for books has met with interest: researchers applied for 11 grants per month in 2018, and for 15 per month in 2019. By the end of last year, the SNSF had awarded 3.6 million francs' worth of funding for 235 open access books, or 15,400 francs per book on average. Most of the grants were awarded in the humanities, where books remain an important medium for the spread of knowledge.

"The rising demand is very encouraging," says Regula Graf, who is responsible for open-access book funding at the SNSF. "An increasing number of researchers are publishing their results in an open access format from the very beginning. In other words, they are using the gold road, facilitated by the SNSF grant."

The funding is modular. The basic module covers costs of up to 15,000 francs and is sufficient for half of the publications. If the books are very long or if their layout is particularly intricate, supplementary funds can be requested. There is a module for funding books that include audio and video files or interactive functions. This is relevant for 6 per cent of the applications. Finally, the SNSF also finances the more time-consuming proofreading of books written in a foreign language, particularly English, thereby giving them greater international reach.

73 publishing houses in eight countries

The open-access books funded by the SNSF were published by 73 science publishers in eight countries. Most of the chosen publishers were in Switzerland (45%) or in Germany (43%). Three quarters of the books are in either German (54%) or French (24%).

"The high number of publishers reflects the diverse nature of the market and shows that a wide range of open access publishing opportunities is already on offer," says Regula Graf. "This is a positive development for authors, as it allows them to select the most suitable publisher for their book."

Freely accessible publications enable scientific publishers to tap new markets. But first they need to meet certain challenges. As is the case for journal articles, books need to be peer-reviewed. This form of quality assurance is becoming increasingly important. The SNSF expects publishers to conduct a peer-review process and to document it as a prerequisite for financial support. Overall, open-access and digital publications make it necessary for publishers to adjust their business models and work processes.

Book chapter in anthologies

Researchers also receive financial support for book chapters, provided their findings are an outcome of SNSF-funded research projects. The SNSF has so far awarded six grants for so-called book-chapter processing charges (BCPCs). "We expect that number to rise," says Regula Graf. "Free access to a digital version is of great importance, especially for anthologies. It gives the book chapters greater visibility so that they can command the attention they deserve."