OAPEN-CH: More visibility for books thanks to open access

Scientific books that are freely and digitally accessible have a greater reach. The influence of open access on sales figures is limited. These are just two of the insights obtained in the OAPEN-CH pilot project conducted by the SNSF.

Compared to traditional print products, open access monographs have a number of advantages: they enjoy greater visibility, have a wider international reach and are used more frequently. At the same time, statistics show no positive or negative impact on sales figures. The costs of scientific open access publications vary greatly, as a result of differing business models, work processes and budgeting in the industry.

These are some of the key insights presented in the final report of the OAPEN-CH pilot project. The SNSF ran the project in collaboration with academic publishers, libraries and authors between 2014 and 2017. The aim was to gain a better understanding of the publication process for scientific open access books. The SNSF analysed how open access impacts on usage, visibility, reach and sales figures as well as how such publications are viewed by authors.

Quality assurance is key

Many of the authors who published their works as part of the pilot project are in favour of open access as long as the quality of the publication is guaranteed. Most of them therefore support the establishment of a peer-review process for quality assurance. In addition, they are in favour of archiving monographs on various platforms to increase visibility, reach and usage.

Academic publishers have to adapt their business models and work processes in order to make the transition to open access. Print editions of academic monographs are expected to be continued because readers prefer a hard copy when reading longer texts. A key element in the transition are the peer-review processes that the publishers are establishing as a quality control mechanism.

SNSF simplifies publishing

The results of the OAPEN-CH pilot study have already been integrated into the new open access policy of the SNSF, which entered into force on 1 April 2018. The SNSF has set itself the goal of providing free and public access to all SNSF-funded publications by 2020. It covers the production costs for openly accessible monographs (book processing charges). This enables authors to publish books without any embargo periods via the so-called gold road.

The SNSF launched the OAPEN-CH pilot project in summer 2014. At that time, it had introduced new funding policies that only covered books that were published online and openly accessible after an embargo period of no more than 24 months. The pilot study set out to learn more about the changes to academic publishing and pave the way for future adaptations to funding policies.